CW: Discussion of Transphobia
This post has been written based on my own experiences, enriched by conversations with trans sex bloggers Mx Nillin, Kelvin Sparks, and Quinn Rhodes. I’d also like to thank Victoria Blisse for supporting me through the writing process.
I have not named and shamed any specific bloggers or groups in this piece. This is not because I’m afraid of backlash, or because I don’t have any specific examples. It’s because that’s not the story I want to tell. This post is not about a few people being shitty, it’s about the sex blogging community as a whole.
This is not a fun or sexy read, but it’s something which needed to be written.
Sex blogging is a space where parts of me have been accepted. A space where different kinks and sexualities are broadly accepted, and there’s (relatively) little stigma around sex and differences in body type. I have found people I love very dearly within this community. But as much as I wish it were, the sex writing community is not some utopia of acceptance. We are not isolated from the broader issues in society, this is a community (and an industry) which remains dominated by cis people, and it shows. We need to talk about transphobia in the sex blogger community.
So what is transphobia? In the broadest sense it means discrimination against trans people (anyone who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth). And, as is true of any form of discrimination, it can take many forms. Direct transphobia, which we see perpetuated in the mainstream media and by openly transphobic groups and activists, can be violent and hugely damaging. I’ve seen relatively little of this in sex blogging (though Kelvin in particular has received transphobic emails because of his writing), but that’s not to say there’s no transphobia. Passive transphobia dominates this environment, this is characterised less by direct hatred of trans people, and more by a willingness to look the other way. It means thoughtlessly misgendering people over and over again. It means using language which very clearly excludes trans people. And it means criticising the way in which people speak up for themselves rather than criticising the people who hurt them. And this passive transphobia can hurt just as much, especially when it comes from people we thought we could trust.
We are treated as an afterthought. As outsiders, intruding in a space which is not meant for us, and rarely makes us feel welcome. Our position in the world of sex blogging is precarious, we are constantly reminded that this is not a space intended for us. We don’t belong here, and our inclusion is a privilege that can be revoked the moment we make you uncomfortable.
Recently a well-known sex writing website posted something on twitter equating women with vaginas. When I responded to point out that was incorrect, dozens of accounts jumped on my reply and responded with transphobic vitriol. The OP’s response? Silence. Because recognising a mistake and speaking out against people denying the humanity of a marginalised community was inconvenient.
Mx Nillin has been a sex blogger for years, they’ve written about gender countless time and do just about everything possible to clarify their pronouns, and still they get misgendered by fellow bloggers every few weeks. When I asked their thoughts on this they responded that “People need to do better. A LOT better, and they need to first start doing that work themselves … So many of us already know how shitty it feels to have their identity, sexuality, and bodily autonomy consistently undermined, disrespected, and devalued, so why perpetuate that toward other marginalized creators in this community? I’m genuinely just tired of it”. And no wonder, its exhausting constantly being on guard, constantly having to do emotional labour to justify our existence. And with the well-deserved success that Nillin has earned, this pressure only grows.
And what happens when we’ve had enough? How do people respond if we do speak up about transphobia? When one of us uses even the gentlest language to call out repeated misgendering, people attack them for being aggressive and hurting the person who denies their identity. Again and again trans sex bloggers are faced with the choice to be silent in the face of transphobia, or be treated as trouble makers for speaking out. We are made to look like the assholes for speaking out against transphobia in a way that makes people uncomfortable.
The current pattern seems to be:
- Somebody does something transphobic
- a trans blogger politely points out what they did wrong
- a) they are completely ignored or b) they focus the conversation on how awful they feel, their friends reassure them that it’s ok
- nothing changes
I don’t think that sex bloggers hate trans people, I don’t think you wish we didn’t exist. But I don’t think you care. I don’t think you care enough to put in the basic effort to not repeatedly hurt us. I don’t think you care enough to stand in solidarity with us when it’s inconvenient (and it is never going to be easy). And in the current climate of rising transphobia, that means you are complicit in our dehumanisation.
This post will probably piss people off. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of criticism for my tone, for being too aggressive, too divisive, that I’m harming the sex blogger community. But I don’t care anymore. I am tired, I am angry, and I am done being polite. Politeness is a tool which maintains the status quo by perpetuating silence. Silence filled with suppressed pain and unspoken anger. Silence which grows thicker and thicker until it suffocates us.
Something needs to change, because these patterns harm trans sex bloggers. And more than that, our voices are worth listening to. We bring value and fresh perspectives to the community, and at present it offers little incentive to remain. You need to do better, because the status quo isn’t working for us.
For anyone doubting that transphobia is real, it is backed by statistical analyses looking at this issue. In 2018 Stonewall found that 41% of trans people experienced a hate crime related to their gender identity over a 12-month period, while 44% reported that they avoided some public areas because of their gender identity. It is important to note that this is not a new phenomenon; trans people, especially trans women, have been at risk of violence throughout the 20th and 21st century. Violence is such a prevalent theme within the trans community that the Trans Day Of Remembrance was established to help draw attention to this issue, as well as providing support to the community. Home Office statistics show that transphobic hate crimes have risen 645% in the last 7 years, compared to a 156% rise in all hate crimes over the same time period. While some of this rise can be attributed to improved reporting procedures, it is suggestive of a worrying trend in transphobic hate crimes, and in transphobia more generally.