An Open Letter to the National Center for Transgende​r Equality on the Cotton Ceiling Debacle

by Badhbh Catha

mkeisling@transequality.org

afaucette@transequality.org

hjtobin@transequality.org

vvillano@transequality.org

dking@transequality.org

eames@transequality.org

Dear Mara,

Hope you are well. I am writing to ask the National Center for Transgender Equality to weigh in on a controversy that has pitted Lesbians, many of whom have been “good” allies to the Transgender community, and Transgender women. I am sure you have heard of it – the “Cotton Ceiling,” a term porn actress Drew DeVeaux and other Transgender women use to “challenge lesbians’ tendency to support Transgender causes generally but draw the line at sleeping with Transgender women or including Transgender lesbians in their sexual communities.”

Lesbians and Feminists object to the “Cotton Ceiling” metaphor as ahistorical and rape invoking.  The metaphor cheapens the struggles of Females to shatter the glass ceiling in the workplace by suggesting that the right to sexual access to Females is on par with the struggle for equality in the workplace.  The metaphor suggests that Females are a barrier to be broken, or that Females owe some obligation to “penetrate” the veil of Transgender Women’s underwear (God, I wish I was making this up). Lesbians and Feminists also object to the metaphor because it suggests that Lesbians (i.e., Female homosexuals) need to open themselves sexually to Transgender women in to demonstrate that we are “good” Transgender allies.  Consequently, the metaphor dictates that Lesbians are bigots for not wanting to consider sex with male-bodied persons.

Now, I am well known as a transphobic bigot, despite the fact that I supported House Bill 235 in Maryland in 2011 (even with its stereotyping definition of gender identity) and helped stage a rally to support Chrissy Polis after she was beaten at a Rosedale McDonald’s. I am not writing you to be recognized as a Transgender ally, because, quite frankly, I could care less about that. What I do care about is the blatant Lesbophobia promulgated by your organization through Avory Faucette, your Director of Operations.  Hir actions contribute to the further marginalization of Lesbians in the GLBT Community and raise serious questions as to why any Lesbian or Lesbian ally should support the work of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

On hir apparently personal blog (where zie identifies hirself as an employee of the National Center for Transgender Equality), Faucette weighs in on the “Cotton Ceiling” metaphor with numerous Lesbophobic gems. I shall quote them at length!

The narcissism in the radfem community is somewhat hilarious. Why would a trans woman WANT to sleep with you? How boring it must be to have sex with someone who reduces your body, your sexual creativity, and your capacity to a penis. How hurtful to engage sexually with someone who denies your humanity. No, thanks.

I am astonished that someone who claims to be a Feminist would really think that this discussion over the dreadful “Cotton Ceiling” metaphor turns on whether or not any Female is personally fuckable or desirable. Is Faucette a teenage boy? Perhaps that is hir gender identity, but most human adults can recognize a sexist putdown when they see it.  Please rest assured that no one in the Radical Feminist community is personally concerned or worried about whether a Transgender woman wants to fuck them.  I am embarrassed for hir that zie even wrote those words.

Radfems, you’re not just missing out on great sex. You’re confused about what it means to be a lesbian, or a woman. I don’t care what your physical preferences are or what gender identity you prefer. I do care that you confuse those two things, and thereby insult trans women. I care that you don’t bother to interrogate the origins of your phallus-based distaste for trans women, and think about whether it’s actually a dislike of the organ that’s happening here or whether transphobia and a refusal to view trans women as women is involved. I care that you assume describing yourself as a lesbian tells others that you prefer what you call a pussy, as if everyone has the same definition of lesbian, woman, or pussy.

Mara, I ask you – do you think Lesbians owe a duty to have sex with Transgender women? Do you think Lesbians are “confused”? Lesbian means “female homosexual.”  Lesbians desire sex with Females. I recognize Trans women as women, but I do not recognize them as Female – if they were Female, this entire conversation would be wholly unnecessary.  Does the National Center for Transgender Equality support the right of Lesbians to have sex with other Lesbians, exclusively?  Or, rather, do you embrace Faucette’s view that in order to be a good Transgender ally (and, apparently, a good Lesbian), Lesbians must “deconstruct” their sexuality in order to accommodate penis?  That is, Lesbians cannot solely desire sex with other Females unless they wish to face the wrath of a movement that says such desire is bigoted?  If the latter is true, what makes Faucette – and you – any different from anti-gay reparative therapy clinics such as the one run by Marcus Bachman? Faucette apparently believes – like Marcus Bachman – that Lesbians can get rid of our homosexual urges and become “re-oriented.”  It apparently worked for hir! Faucette is promulgating the same rhetoric used by P-FOX and other anti-gay organizations to deny Lesbian reality.  Is this really something the National Center for Transgender Equality believes?

Sit down, shut up, and read a book (or a blog). We will be over here, having fabulous queer sex without you.

I leave Faucette to hir “fabulous queer sex,” as zie seems a little porn sick. I will note, also, that telling Lesbians they need more “education” around Transgender issues is getting a little boring. I think most of us know exactly what Transgender means for us:  Close your eyes and think of England.

Looking forward to your reply,

Cathy Brennan

Zie wears a lot of makeup and does a lot of plucking to look this androgynous.

34 Responses to “An Open Letter to the National Center for Transgende​r Equality on the Cotton Ceiling Debacle”

  1. Readers, if you object to the cotton ceiling workshop, please sign this petition here http://www.thepetitionsite.com/917/570/206/support-womens-sexual-autonomy/

  2. I have to agree that “telling Lesbians they need more “education” around Transgender issues is getting a little boring.”

    Lesbians and other females know as well as transwomen do what it is like to have bepenised persons explain everything to them from a male perspective. Sadly, some of those bepenised “experts” are transwomen, or at least say they are.

    Sexual space is private space, nobody has the “right” to invade it. A male culture dominated by the exploitation of females suggests that men should have access to women at every level despite their objections. Let’s not let that culture extend to the trans world. For those transwomen who think they have a “right” to anyone’s space, I suggest they rethink their womanhood, “man-up,” as it were.

  3. Thanks Dana. Lesbians have been asked to bite lip around these issues for at least 15 years, lest our concerns hurt anyone’s feelings. I would suggest Lesbians might consider stop doing that. Lesbians are more than willing to be “supportive,” but Lesbian Vaginas are not community property. We’ve had enough.

  4. Thank you for writing this Cathy Brennan. This “Cotton Ceiling” phenomenon is an important conversation and one that you responded to with consideration and thought. The trans community continues to throw lesbian under the bus.

  5. I understand cotton ceiling metaphor to mean-ways and means to enjoy sex-appreciating any and all structure and function of human anatomy. However, when a metaphor is the title of a workshop, it simply represents a boundary that even children must have enforced for them- Of course we are adults and consenting is the name of the game “go”. Are there one’s who understand the concern of “educating and promoting ways to get into “sacred sex space” is not a wrong….workshop or life’s mission….but rape is an ability to break the cotton ceiling even when men, women, children,and trans-say no. so what is the problem with comprehending the disrespect such a metaphor implies, the workshop needs a fresh name, a clearer meaning-than t’s cultural slang-Planned Parent hood missed the simple yet profound mis use so many have suffered-because of lack of respect for such a thing as a cotton ceiling- come on T’s don’t you understand the purpose- rapists have around cotton ceiling- not calling you such a thing- just trying to see the forest for the trees and be an ally for honest truth. thanks for listening to a lesbian in the woods. lol for real-in KY.

  6. Thanks Cathy 🙂

    I also suggest that penis-eschewing girls and women – well I wish all women and girls – stop worrying about male feelings when it comes to their female lives.

    Eagerly awaiting the responses.

  7. Hey sargasso sea, as a 5’4″ she….don’t envy the penis, but damn if my hands were an inch longer in diameter, and my spine thicker and somewhat longer, i could hold my chain saw with one hand, but hell it’s ok, i’m just glad the tree came down i was cutting _and not on me-off a 10 ft ladder-not my brightest idea, but i survived it. Women and girls-will indeed stop worrying about male feelings… I agree with you on that, but to stop eschewing we need to experience(couple generations at least of) not getting top dog-ed in the 3 primary positions we can not physically defend as girls or women. 1.rape 2. girlhood dictation of what girls and women are by fear riddled others 3. dysfunct. coping skills for 1 and2. We’re fucked up and you’re sounding pissy about women and girls being co-depend.(worry about male feelings first and always)- a clue to why women and girls can behave in such a way, and your attitude would change to keeping it real, til we live beyond reaction-toward others…ugh- i’m mostly free from it now.(took long time to unlearn-i’m old but free at last). Help yourself first. hope you are drinking water or tea and enjoy the pop up posts on this machine. ttyl ?

  8. Fatdove –

    Not sure where you got the idea that I’m being “pissy” about women and girls being “fucked up” – quite the contrary. I was trying to include women and girls who do not *identify* as Lesbians but who have no interest in being sexual with male persons in this dialogue is all…

    I’m glad that you are beyond others’ reactions.

  9. heres what i see in this letter: first, its a request for a statement of position from a political organization. fair game. i hope they do respond, so at least its clear. they should probably do this without asking, but keeping their *actual* political positions hidden is kinda trans MO and they get quite pissy when you insist. they call it BAITING. LOL as if. a statement of position is needed so that we can see what we are dealing with, and take sides and support the correct party. not that hard. or is it? if so, why?

    next, i see language in this letter that is 100% capitulation: zie/hirself etc. this kind of pandering to trans politickers, and capitulation in general, does not work. what are you getting in return for the capitulation, if anything? im just asking. its something we all need to think about. radical feminists know that capitulation doesnt work, so we dont do it. orwell knew it too.

    Winston roused himself and sat up straighter. He let out a belch. The gin was rising from his stomach.

    His eyes re-focused on the page. He discovered that while he sat helplessly musing he had also been writing, as though by automatic action. And it was no longer the same cramped, awkward handwriting as before. His pen had slid voluptuously over the smooth paper, printing in large neat capitals –

    DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER

    DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER

    DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER

    DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER

    DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER

    over and over again, filling half a page.

    He could not help feeling a twinge of panic. It was absurd, since the writing of those particular words was not more dangerous than the initial act of opening the diary, but for a moment he was tempted to tear out the spoiled pages and abandon the enterprise altogether.

    He did not do so, however, because he knew that it was useless. Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed — would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper — the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed for ever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.

    http://www.george-orwell.org/1984/0.html

  10. I love 1984!

    Manners, I tells ya. I will call you whatever pronoun you like.

    NOTE: I don’t think anyone is wrong, however, to have their own manners system!

  11. ok fair enough., if you are part of that “community” and agree to play by their manners system…okay? i guess? they are still slaughtering language though. and thats something that effects everyone. you literally cannot even tell who or what you are dealing with when you use language like that. for example, just today, you had 2 people threaten you. one was a cis straight male, another was (presumably?) a transwoman. the cis straight male threatened to slap you, the transwoman threatened to kill you. if both things came to pass (and i hope they dont! sheesh) what would the stats say about this violence? the male perp slapped CB. the female one killed her. see the problem? or, if you called both of the perps “ZIE” it would just look like CB (also a ZIE) had a really bad — but completely gender-neutral — day.

    link to threats here:

    http://factcheckme.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/peak-fun/#comment-10214

    but anyway! i think its become more obvious that trans politics are at odds with feminist and lesbian politics. i think this cotton ceiling debacle has forced that issue, and one way it did that is by forcing an actual statement of position from morgan page. i think its time to force the issue MOAR and to get MOAR statements of position, and that this letter does that. so, i think its a good thing. 🙂

  12. I agree 100% with this: “trans politics are at odds with feminist and lesbian politics.”

    Yes.

  13. oh dear, did i say morgan page? i meant “redacted trans.” redacted trans did the RIGHT THING btw, by giving a statement of opinion (although he probably wishes he hadnt, and broke off communications due to alleged “baiting” but not before it was too late). but we need more of this. more, more, more. let it all hang out, and let the chips fall where they may. enough of this black-ops shit.

    also, is there any way to keep the slaughtered-language language INSIDE the community where those who want to use it can, but where it doesnt disrupt and confuse the real world where SEX is still relevant? this is a serious question. i mean, there are communities of (extremely dorky) people who speak klingon to each other in private, but they switch over to english (or whatever) as soon as they need to talk to someone who doesnt bc klingon is a made up language that doesnt convey critical information and the people who speak it know that.

  14. *statement of POSITION, not opinion

  15. Good letter, Cathy, and I really appreciate how much you fight this BS despite all the shit you get for doing so.

    (I will say though, that when I see the words “hir” and “zie” and all that made up psuedo/neo/scene kid transspeak, I can’t help but wonder if those words are being used for no other reason than to mock the person they refer to.) Or maybe I’m just evil… 😉

  16. Thanks. Avory identifies as genderqueer and I am happy to use the pronouns zie prefers. I still think zie is out of line and touting a regressive vision for Females.

  17. I can see both Cathy’s and FCM’s position.

    I like the letter’s intent. It correctly frames the issues in respectful language and asks for a response.

    As someone who has ignored the transexual drama, it took me a moment to figure out those two words. I’m still not clear on the zie though. I can see if you’re trying to persuade someone, you would use language they feel comfortable with, but it also cedes to them important points about women’s rights.

    We have the right to be regarded as unique from other sexual beings. We have the right to not be forced further down the sex class ladder by transexuals. WE have the right to control our bodies. We have the right to make our own sexual choices, define who we are as a sexual being and control every part of those choices.

    They do not have the right to proclaim themselves above us anymore than men do. That attempt clearly reveals their clinging to patriarchal male privilege, which in turn clearly reveals they are not women. They do not have the right to demand sex from us — another male privilege patriarchal trait.

    Because transexuals are insistant upon using patriarchal tenets against women, FCM is also right they are threats to all women.

    FCM is correct in her theories of power and control. Also in how the world at large will view this. Unfortunately, they’ll look at this as a spat between women if we allow that to happen. Of course, that keeps it marginalized. Do we want that to happen, or do we want the rest of the world to understand the stakes here?

    As all of you know, I really hate unnecessary drama, which is why I’ve ignored the transexual drama. It is unnecessary and reeks of male privilege. I have better things to do than pump up their egos by listening for even a moment. But now they’ve moved into serious terroristic threats and violence. Again, that’s very patriarchal. We need to take a hard stance against this wherever we find it.

    As I said, I have not been paying much attention, but I am firmly in your corner. If anyone needs me to help on these issues, I’m willing to do so. You may have to kick me with an email to get my attention though. I get very involved in what I’m doing and miss a lot of things.

    lore

  18. Thanks. And I agree with you.

  19. I love this–except that I won’t call them “trans women” or refer to them by terms such as “actress” or “she.” If I’m trying to be polite I’ll say “men who identifiy as trans women” or something like that, but I won’t call them women. They’re not women.

  20. I agree with FCM about the capitulating language. I think we should be polite, but we shouldn’t call them “trans women” or adopt their language. I refuse to do so.

  21. Very well said and as a biological born intersex person. I have to agree on this one.

  22. Yes! ” Lesbian vaginas are not community property”.. Omg, yes. Only a male would act like our bodies are theirs to take at will. trans “women” take note. We aren’t stupid.

    I agree with FCM about capitulating language, too. It’s dangerous even to cede “woman” to them. The jendahqweers can keep their silly zies

  23. “Radfems, you’re not just missing out on great sex. You’re confused about what it means to be a lesbian, or a woman. I don’t care what your physical preferences are or what gender identity you prefer. I do care that you confuse those two things, and thereby insult trans women.”

    I feel so deprived that I’m missing out on great sex with Avory! *Retch*

    He is so much less confused about womanhood than we are.

    He don’t care about your preferences, you gotta have sex or risk insulting transwomen. (How do they masturbate, anyway?) I hope lesbians insult them 100%.

    I agree with Loretta. I wasn’t paying attention, and got bored at Twisty’s site when the comments became completely about the proper pronouns to use when referring to transes. The posts here about “cotton ceiling” have clarified things for me, and I signed that petition to PP.

    The entitled attitude clearly outs them as male, which no surgery or clothes can hide.

  24. The transgendered demand to access women’s bodies is not a “metaphor”. It is quite literal. Considering that their demand for sexual access grows more vehement in response to a few thousand politely worded “no thank you”, it is also literally rape apologia — a justification for rape.

    It is no stretch to assume that one who excuses rape, one who demands rape, and one who fails to understand the basic criteria of rape, is a person who either is already guilty of rape or will commit rape. I want to know why those “social justice activists” are harboring rapists in their midst.

    Thanks for the post, Cathy!

  25. Great post! It is ridiculous for The National Center for Transgender Equality, transwomen, and others to assert that we (lesbians) should totally ‘re-orient’ ourselves and welcome penises to invade yet another precious space, our very own vaginas. I wholly believe that transgender people have the right to live their lives absent harassment, ridicule, degradation, abuse, etc, as the rest of us have the right to. However, lesbians do not need to “penetrate the veil of Transgender Women’s underwear” to prove that we are “good allies.” That’s absolutely absurd. And yes the whole lesbians need more education about transgender issues commentary has definitely gotten old. Transwomen would benefit from more education around lesbian sexuality, and then maybe they would understand why we are not interested in having sex with a ‘woman’ born with an actual real penis. Wake up transwomen “lesbian vaginas are not community property” contrary to popular belief.

  26. Well said. No one with a penis has a right to my vagina.

  27. I am horrified at this. I have always thought that MtoT are men, but my girlfriend has always been more sympathetic and thought that recognising MtoT doesn’t do any harm. This has totally changed her mind and I think will change a lot of lesbians’s minds who have been sympathetic and supportive of transgender rights. It really is a spectacular own goal.

  28. I agree with supportive transsexual rights, but no one has a right to put a claim on our experience (does giving yourself boobs at age 30 make you understand what it was like to have to live as a woman from age 0?)

    And no one has a right to tell a woman or anyone else who she must have sex with. it’s just a little fishy that there’s this being with a penis telling someone with a vagina she has to have sex with them. It kind of mirrors regular old straight sexual encounters when you take all the window dressing away.

    Let lesbians be lesbians. No one has a right to force anyone to change their taste in partners any more than they have a right to try to make them like artichokes.

  29. What actual woman wouldn’t find “cotton ceiling” abhorrent? At every turn transgender males fall into the same exact misogynist traps any non-trans male does when promoting themselves as allies. We’ve all seen it before with progressive liberal men, and transgender males never appear any different, ever.

    I am sick of seeing women having to bend over backwards to explain to men why such-and-such a thing they are saying is sickeningly misogynist and demeaning to female people—hence the need for female space. I never see actual women rattle off such insulting things at a most basic level. Even misguided fun feminist women that learned making money is always empowering for women do not spout the revolting bullshit i hear from dudes in progressive circles and transmales; it is just a categorically different experience and transmales are indistinguishable from any other dude. Why do women have to put up with this? Misogyny & male entitlement know no bounds.

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