This Is an Essay About Penises

When I was a toddler I would push on the head of my penis until it disappeared inside itself. I would watch in fascination as it slowly unraveled into its usual form and again in fascination how easily I could make it disappear. I thought it looked like a rose blossoming and — more miraculously — unblossoming.

This is the kind of story I grasped onto and shared when I was first accepting my identity as a trans woman. It seemed to confirm that I was different and had always been different. I told myself this memory proved my transness and therefore proved my womanhood. Of course, I could just have easily been a curious little boy exploring his body.

Last week during the Senate hearing on the Equality Act, Senator Kennedy began by saying that he believes gender dysphoria is real. He then directed a series of questions to the witness, renowned transphobe Abigail Shrier. “Would this bill require schools to open up a junior high school women’s locker room to a boy who identifies as a girl?” he asked. “Would this bill prohibit the boy with gender dysphoria from exposing his penis to the girls?”

If you’re a cis woman reading this in good faith, your response to these questions is likely disgust. You think of yourself as trans-inclusive; you have trans friends, you date trans people. Maybe you’re my friend, maybe you’re dating me. You recognize and protest against this obvious transphobia. But conflating genitalia and gender is not exclusive to the Senate — nor is it exclusive to intentional, obviously malicious transphobia. It’s ingrained in you. It’s ingrained in me. It’s why I felt like I needed proof of bottom dysphoria to be a woman. It’s why you carelessly say things that make the dysphoria I have so much worse.

I spent years not thinking about my penis — or, at least, thinking about it as little as possible. I did not share the dick obsessions of the other boys my age. I didn’t partake in the measuring contests or the group masturbation sessions or any of the other super gay things supposedly straight boys do with their hormones. When I did start masturbating, I always watched cis lesbian porn — or more esoteric penis-free content like the opening moments of Barbarella. I came directly into the toilet desperate to reduce the length of the experience — and the clean-up. My sex dreams never involved genitalia. One moment my body was pressed against another body and the next I was waking up covered in shame.

When I started having sex, my penis maintained this same level of importance. My first girlfriend and I mostly had what straight people call foreplay and I’d call one-sided lesbian sex. We’d make out and grind against each other and then I’d go down on her until she came. The end was mere obligation — I’d put my penis inside her to quickly release my desire while dissociating away from the moment itself.

The specifics changed slightly, but this is pretty much how I had sex until I came out. I wanted the intimacy and the release and to do a good job. But I didn’t care about my own pleasure beyond a drive to appear normal. I continued to masturbate directly into the toilet.

After I transitioned, my penis became the most important part of my body — at least, to other people. The disinterest I’d felt all my life disappeared with my self-ignorance. Suddenly, my detachment turned into active disdain. This increased dysphoria was made worse by the watchful eyes and invasive questions of those around me. I wanted to shove my difference in people’s faces with a punk defiance, but sometimes I just felt like hiding. I’d wear tight pants that showed off my bulge all the while oscillating between feeling rebellious and feeling insecure. In the four years I’ve lived openly as a trans woman I’ve struggled between proudly declaring myself a chick with a dick — even saying the phrase “chick with a dick” — and wanting to pivot my life choices so I could get rid of that identity as soon as possible. There is a difference between one’s politics and one’s feelings.

The fraught nature of my body increased once I was single. Dating as a trans woman in the lesbian community is challenging. But it would be more accurate to say that I have dated adjacent to the lesbian community. I don’t date lesbians. Or, rather, they don’t date me. I’ve had sex with one lesbian and our pants stayed on — if you call that sex. Of course, that doesn’t mean cis lesbians aren’t interested in me. But if cis men are likely to fuck a trans woman in secret, the cis lesbian counterpart is drawn out emotional affairs with no follow through. There’s just… something… missing. Wonder what that could be.

This is not exclusive to cis lesbians. Plenty of other cis queer women and AFAB non-binary people are perplexed by my body. Some avoid me, others fetishize me. And while the obvious answer is to just date other trans women, there’s no guarantee with those experiences either. The most fetishized I’ve ever felt was with another trans woman. We’ve all been raised with the same transphobia.

To quote the prophet Mitski: I don’t want your pity. I’ve also had a lot of great experiences — relationships, flings, one-night stands — that have allowed me to uncover new parts of myself while connecting with others. I feel totally confident in my ability to find love and sex and chaos and anything else I seek. But this essay isn’t about any of that. This essay is about penises.

The most frequent microaggressions I experience involve AFAB people talking about how they don’t like dicks. Or how they don’t like men and expressing that by referencing dicks. Or talking about how they do like dicks but immediately associating those dicks with cis men. Everyone may be obsessed with the genitalia of trans people, but AFAB queers are obsessed with the genitalia of cis men. I get it. It’s easier to talk about “dicks” than it is to talk about patriarchy. It’s easier to lament a body part than confront the trauma of compulsory heterosexuality or the trauma of sexual assault. It’s easier to say you “miss dick” than to admit that as a bisexual person you are still drawn to cis men despite the harm other cis men have caused you. But as cathartic as it may be to blame penises for abuse and desire, these feelings are misguided. They allow cis men to evade responsibility for their actions, blaming innate biology for their harm. And they imply that trans women are not only men, but men to be feared.

You can learn people’s pronouns and post things on Trans Visibility Day and tweet all about how Trans Women Are Women, but if you are still associating genitalia with gender then you have done a whole lot of surface work and changed none of your core beliefs. And so, when I hear these comments, it’s unsurprising when you don’t want to date me. And so, when I hear these comments, it concerns me when you do.

It’s exhausting to spend so much time defending a part of my body I don’t even want. People stifle their feelings for me because of my penis without realizing they might never even see it. The only dick I’m fucking you with is my strap-on. And if I do eventually trust you enough to let you interact with my penis it certainly won’t be the same as whatever experiences you’ve had with cis men.

But this would never be my rebuttal, because my loyalties do not lie with some cis woman and my desire to get laid. I will always care more about trans women who will never have access to surgery. I will always care more about trans women who don’t even want surgery. I will always care more about trans women who do want their dicks sucked. Because discomfort with one part of your body does not make you trans and does not make you a woman. The same way a cis man is still a man if he doesn’t like getting head. The same way a cis woman’s gender is not changed by wanting someone to deep throat her realistic strap-on. Trans and cis, our bodies vary, our relationships to our bodies vary. Sex is about discovering and connecting across those variations. Good sex anyway.

The fact is I don’t think any of the discrimination and fetishization I experience is really about my penis. No body part is that powerful. My penis is simply a representation of my transness, of my difference. Some people feel it invalidates their queer identity. Other people feel it validates their queer identity too much. And most frequently it just makes people uncomfortable when attached to someone with such good tits because that goes against the cis white heteropatriarchal worldview that was forced upon us all.

I am tired of educating people on this history. I am tired of educating people on the most basic principles of biology. I am tired of first dates turning into gender studies classes. I am tired of not knowing why things didn’t work out with someone and then finding evidence in their microaggressions months later. I am tired.

As the transphobia in media loses its subtlety and an unprecedented number of bills targeting trans people — especially trans youth — arise across the country, I feel more certain than ever that visibility and mere acceptance are not enough. The only way to fight transphobia in a way that’s substantial, effective, and permanent, is for our culture to shift its very notion of gender. That is not going to start with transphobes. That’s going to start with people who consider themselves trans-inclusive, but have so much internal work left to do. That’s going to start with a queer woman who respects my pronouns, but is still uncomfortable at the thought of my penis.

I’m not asking for perfection. But I am asking for effort. Not for my sex life — I wouldn’t date most of you anyway — but for my humanity, for the humanity of so many. Don’t repeat platitudes. Really unlearn your binary connections between genitalia and gender. Really unlearn the associations you bring to bodies you’ve yet known. Really unlearn these things and start seeing trans people as individuals, as people. Unlearn these things because if you don’t trans lives will continue to be debated in the Senate and I will not fuck you.

Those things are not of equal importance but I know at least some of you care about both.

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 521 articles for us.


  1. this is so generous, lucid and clear about both interpersonal responsibility to each other and the relationship that has to the systems that materially impact us all – thank you drew, so grateful to read and share this <3

    • “ You can learn people’s pronouns and post things on Trans Visibility Day and tweet all about how Trans Women Are Women, but if you are still associating genitalia with gender then you have done a whole lot of surface work and changed none of your core beliefs. ”

      Thank you for putting words to this.

  2. Drew, thank you. This is stunning and vulnerable and powerful and generous and just so very you. Thank you.

  3. This is my first comment on autostraddle, even though I’ve been reading for years.

    This was really important for me to read today – my partner just began exploring their gender identity (Maybe transmasc? Who knows! That’s okay!) and I am digging in on my own perceptions around gender as an AFAB person. I’m so grateful that you were so willing to share this with the AS community. I’m going to be thinking about this piece for a long time. I hope this gets shared far and wide because it is fantastic.

      • You really seem to think you’re clever. I’m taking petty satisfaction in the typo, jsyk

        Maybe one day it will occur to you that when you have to make up half a dozen imaginary profiles to say the kinds of things you *think* a trans woman would say, that means you’re not actually on the side of truth and reality. I won’t hold my breath though

  4. I’m a trans lesbian and wow yeah this is so good. I don’t know how else to say it besides this: I relate to this so much that I’m a little stunned to read it. I’ve been trying to turn thoughts into words about a number of these subjects, and you’ve done it all right here.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go forward this to every cis queer woman and afab nonbinary person I know.

  5. I’m a trans lesbian and wow yeah this is so good. I don’t know how else to say it besides this: I relate to this so much that I’m a little stunned to read it. I’ve been trying to turn thoughts into words about a number of these subjects, and you’ve done it all right here.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to send this to every cis queer woman and afab nonbinary person I know.

  6. Wow those last two sentences, powerful stuff!

    I think – partly thanks to your incredible writing Drew – I have been slowly unlearning the harmful association between gender and genitals over the past year or two and I have actually found it so liberating as a cis lesbian.

    This might sound weird or random but since you write the RDPR recaps as well… I think watching Drag race and other queer male/AMAB content like It’s a Sin, Chemsex and others, and being attracted to some of the stars on those shows (shoutout to Naomi Smalls in particular) has made me question why I am drawn to these men and non binary people when most straight cis dudes repel me so strongly. These crushes tell me my sexuality is not about the genitals. I have come to the conclusion that I am attracted exclusively to a certain level of femininity, which so happens to encompass maybe 5% of cis men, a lot of non binary people and maybe 80% of cis and trans women… it falls off again at the hyper feminine end of the spectrum. Like if masculine-feminine is a scale across all genders, from 1 to 100 I am attracted to people in the 50-85 bracket.

    Coming to this realisation – still identifying as a lesbian because wtf else would you call that and I don’t care to try – has let me forget a lot of the toxic fear I had as a teen/young adult/baby gay about different genitals and what it would mean to interact with them. We’re all just people with different junk trying to get off, and heteronormativity sucks. Those are my life principles for now.

    Not to say that I’m all the way cured of transphobia I’ve absorbed from society yet or that I deserve a fuck but I just thought I would share what I’ve been thinking about gender and genitals lately, maybe on a slight tangent. Thanks for a really thought-provoking piece. I will keep trying.

  7. This writing here is about so much more than sex, but I just wanted to share with other readers that the book Girl Sex 101 helped me start unlearning the conflation of genitalia/gender and think about how sex works with all women. I remember being introduced to the idea of non-op (not pre-op) transgender people and it seems obvious now but it wasn’t at the time.

    • This is an amazing essay. Thank you for being such an awesome and brave woman!!! It has me confronting more work that I still need to do to be a better ally and human. Due to past trauma I think I still feel a little afraid of certain genitals, because pretty much all of my experiences with them came unwanted. That said all of those experiences were also with Cis dudes, and its time to work on keeping the blame with the individuals (and potentially Cis dudes and the society that built them as they are in general). Is it is not the fault of what is in their pants, but rather what is in their brains. Thank you for doing this work and helping to educate us all even though it should not be your job to do so.

  8. This really is how I feel too as a trans lesbian. Even as I am one year post op it resonates strongly within me. Yeah I don’t have a penis anymore but I still feel extremely insecure since I’ve had so many bad experiences dating and microaggressions about how my neovagina is a “poor substitute for the real thing”. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. I don’t care. It helps me feel like myself.

    I don’t know what to do. Sometimes even the strongest (on a superficial level at least) allies I know still feel some kind of disgust at the idea of trans women’s genitals in a sexual context. And moving forward requires us to actively change this. It’s also hard when I have to actively always say that genital preferences are okay constantly (if I don’t I get spammed with comments on how I reproduce rape culture).

    It’s not because I wanna date anyone that I say these things. These days I don’t date (partly because of the pandemic and partly because I am tired of being hyper aware of myself constantly). As a lesbian trans woman dating is a minefield. And that’s putting it mildly.

    I don’t want anyone to have sex they don’t want to. No matter the reason. But I also don’t want people to be disgusted by trans women for having genitals. Because that disgust is very much fueling the hatred society have for us.

    • Despite being almost four years post-op, I still struggle a lot with vaginal imposter syndrome. The degree to which repulsiveness is engrained in societal perceptions of trans women’s genitals–regardless of their configurations–is exhausting.

      • these comments made me cry; that you would have to endure such intolerant pathology perpetrated against your beautiful bodies. i cannot imagine what you went through to take care of yourselves, and i wish a hug from a random internet stranger could help at all, but you deserve so much more.

  9. I really appreciate this post. I am a cishet woman who is still learning, which can be hard to do sometimes because I certainly never want to ask questions that could be too personal. It’s great to read things from people who are being so open when they certainly don’t owe people anything.

    My question is…what happens if someone has a genital preference in sex partners? Is that transphobic? Or is it okay?

    What about asexual people? I often wonder about trans asexual people especially since so many trans conversations do seem to end up about sex instead of gender.

      • Woah, that link was such a good read!!!

        I am starting to realize that what I used to describe as only wanting to have sex with folks with vulvas is more about not wanting to do certain things with humans who have penises due to trauma from cishit men. I think that is valid, and consent should be a thing no matter what the sex act might be and what genitals are involved.

        This feels so complex tho!!

        • And even though its not fair for trans women to have to deal with a cis male legacy, I feel like due to the number of assaults that involve penises (not perpetrated by trans women but by cis men) maybe affirmative and specific consent is really really important when it comes to sex that involves penises? Conscent should always be there, but since there is so much trauma among people who aren’t cis men, and even some cis men, this seems especially important. But maybe I need to rethink this as I’m worried it could be problematic to think about it this way.

          • Just sharing my perspective as a fellow cis woman and survivor of sexual assault. I totally agree that a lot of people have specific negative experiences of p-in-v and p-in-a and that those are also the acts we’re conditioned to see as “real” sex and that people therefore might view as more intimate. I think in general society it’s more or less commonly accepted that those specific acts require an extra level of care. That said, this essay points out that not all sex with someone who has a penis involves a penis and plenty of sex with people with any genitals does involve a strap-on. So even if you believe that specific acts are more important to obtain consent on than others, you can’t predict who is going to be participating in those acts. Further, trans women experience the highest rates of sexual assault and it feels problematic to imply that people are likely to feel victimized by the presence of a trans woman’s body just because they also have a history of trauma not perpetrated by trans women. Trans women have women’s bodies and cis men have men’s bodies, so even if you think men (or just cis men) need to be more careful about what they do with their bodies than women do, that absolutely doesn’t apply to trans women. Also, I guess I don’t really see the point in saying people with penises need to be more conscientious about consent when we all need to be constantly vigilant about consent.

        • I agree Taylor! Trans women experience such high rates of sequel assault and it is not talked about enough. It’s also horrible reading many comments before they are deleted and seeing how many folks in this community are openly hateful.

          I definitely phrased that wrong. I guess as a survivor of sexual assault that involves penises some of which was p in mouth and p in hand, I am thinking about myself in a personal level and the extra layers of consent I would need around sex acts involving a penis in any way. The way I said it above it sounds like it would be all sex with someone with a penis but I don’t believe that to be true. I also need extra consent with anything that involves penetration even if thats with a dildo. Moderators, please remove the comment above if it is harmful because im still learning and stumbling along the way but the last thing I want to do is harm my trans sisters and siblings!

          • Oh my gosh! And when I said remove the comment above if problematic I meant my comment above, not others! Language is hard!

      • Thank you! SO much! I have had such a huge struggle for years about this. I have had a long term relationship with, and dated, trans guys, cis women, and a cis man. My first long term partner came out as trans and transitioned while we were together. Since then I go in circles feeling completely unable to come to terms with the fact that it’s not transphobic to have feelings of attraction. The physical body is part of that but genitals are kind of secondary… I just get really hung up on it being ok to be attracted to a specific kind of person. These essays just really put into words that it is ok to feel attraction and still be a decent and affirming person, almost like giving permission? I forwarded it to a few friends.

    • Let me ask you – why do you think it’s okay to tell trans women about your ~genital preference? Why do you think it’s okay to go up to someone and say, “Your body, your genitals are disgusting to me; I find you unfuckable, now tell me what a good person I am?”

      This is sexual harassment. I don’t *want* to know whether you find me fuckable. Keep that shit to yourself. It is objectification. My body is not a novelty sex toy – neither for chasers to use, nor for you to loudly announce that you do not want to use, and see as disgusting.

      I’ve had this conversation, or heard your side without having the energy to engage, so many times. I’m so tired.

      • So, to be fair, please consider the context. People aren’t just “going up to someone”—this is literally an essay about penises! And trauma and sex and so on. This conversation isn’t taking place on, say, one of Drew’s movie reviews.

    • This essay is magnificent both in subject matter and in writing – going to be thinking about it for a long time

  10. This is one of the most generous articles I’ve ever read. Thank you for your vulnerability, Drew.

  11. drew your writing is so accessible and beautiful and honest and i love you. (also this is such a good important well-articulated point: ” The same way a cis woman’s gender is not changed by wanting someone to deep throat her realistic strap-on.”)

  12. Sorry my comment was cut. I think staying with binaries and insisting on some preferences for genitals is kind of lazy and actually a way to miss out on reality. People with all kind of gender expressions, genders and genitals exists and in different combinations. It is nobodies places to have an opinion about others and even if you have one, it won’t change that everyone is as they are, just because someone doesn’t recognize or appreciate the existence of someone, it doesn’t mean that person dosn’t exist. It just makes life more difficult for them. The categorizing is just lazy, because you can stay with your assumptions and just ignore what doesn’t fit them instead of challening your assumptions which is actually much more difficult to do.

    • You know, of all the comments on this thread (except the TERFs’, which were removed by the time I got here) I think this one bugs me the most.

      Maybe for some people it’s a lazy, unexamined preference. But I think it could be equally true for others that’s it’s a hard-fought, hard-won piece of self insight.

      Seems like you might be the one making lazy binary assumptions about others!

      • sorry, i don’t buy that “genital preferences” can be hard-fought or hard-won any more than i believe any other purely physical preference in partners can be. for trans people who only want to have sex with other trans people, i totally understand how that can be crucial and affirming, but that’s about shared identity. same with cis queer people who have sex with trans people of a certain gender but not cis people of that same gender. if you don’t want to have sex with trans people, that’s just conforming to a transphobic society and maybe it genuinely is just a physical preference for you but it still isn’t hard or especially insightful. and cis straight people who only want to have sex with trans people are gross bye

      • I wasn’t talking about personal sexual preference, but about the link between gender and genitals. Women who have penises exist. While some might prefer having vaginas others don’t they might be very happy with their penis or at least okay with it. And it is their personal desicion. They will have happy relationships with people who they love and find attractive and who they love and find attractive. They won’t fall in love with everyone and won’t be attracted to everyone as not everyone will fall in love with them or will be attracted to them which is totally fine and otherwise life would be quite complicated. Some people won’t want to have sex with them because even thought they are attracted to women they have a personal sexual preference against penises. But this personal preference of someone they won’t even ever have or want a relationship with doesn’t make women with penises less of a woman or invalidates their existence, actually their existence is independent of the opinion of others. It only becomes a problem if a sexual preference becomes an opinion about how a women should be and excludes them from ressources or puts them in danger. So personal preferences aren’t a problem. Being straight is not a problem but denying queer people equal rights because you cannot identify with their attractions is. But even this won’t change that queer people exist.

  13. Hell yeah. Thank you, Drew. This piece is super resonant and I needed this today. I appreciate you sharing.

  14. There is so much I could say here, but at the end of the day it all ends up the same: This is incredible writing as always; you’ve managed to express thoughts I’ve never been able to say that eloquently; I wish everyone would read this.

    So kudos, hear hear, and thank you, Drew! <3

  15. I’m so grateful to be alive at the same time as Drew Gregory and to be an Autostraddle reader receiving your writing in real time, Drew. What an extraordinary privilege.

    • Thank you, Drew. Not only is this an incredible piece of writing, I hope it marks the beginning of more pieces like this on AS. The only articles that directly call out (in?) readers are those about white supremacy, and that’s pretty much it. The largely cis readers of this site needs to be reminded to examine and work on our own transphobic biases more often.

  16. Thank you for being so generous with your words, thoughtfulness, and intelligence Drew. What a gift!!

  17. I don’t get why so many humans think that genitals = gender. A female who was born with a penis? I don’t see why that’s “weird” or “undesirable”, seeing as all female spotted hyenas and spider monkeys have (pseudo) penises. A male who was born with a vagina? Whatever, only 3% of species of bird have males with penises. The vast majority of males have cloacas (sort of like a vagina, except feces, urates, urine, and eggs/semen are all expelled through this opening).

    • i’m sure this is well-meaning but please put some thought into when you choose to compare trans people to animals

      • Are you saying I should compare humans to plants, fungi, protists, archaebacteria, or eubacteria instead? Humans aren’t gods or supernatural beings. Trans* people are great apes. Black people are great apes. White people are great apes. Asians are great apes. Natives are great apes. Spotted hyenas are equally intelligent as great apes. Birds are as intellectually advanced as primates, except they don’t murder and rape each other as often as primates do. Unlike 99% of humans, I have chosen to NOT compare trans-females to cis-males, to the mentally ill, or to sexual predators. I also chose not to call trans-men effeminate, confused, lesbians, or women who want to have male privilege. Also, unlike 87.5% of the population, I would definitely date a trans-woman. I make no assumptions about the genitals of trans* or cis people, nor do I make any assumptions about what they would like to do/have done with their genitals during sex. If someone cares that much about genitals, then they should just date a dildo or something.

        Non-human species tend to have greater social intelligence when compared to humans. Non-human animals tend to communicate in a universal language so that not only animals belonging to their own social group can understand how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking, but so other species can understand as well. Prey animals will actually warn animals of other species when they see a predator on the hunt. Honeyguides have even come up unique vocalisations in order to tell a human or a honey badger to follow them when they’ve found a beehive so that they can work together to get to the honey. Animals don’t wantonly kill and torture those who are different from themselves.

        Bisexuality and homosexuality has been recorded in nearly every species of animal, and many birds form monogamous same-sex pair bonds and raise young together. Humans are the only species to exhibit aggression or violence towards individuals who appear different from them (animals don’t harass, kill, or ostracize members of their social group due to a difference in pigmentation/colouration). Animals also don’t become irrationally violent if they see another member of their social group engaging in same-sex relationships. It’s also not uncommon for non-humans to adopt orphans, even orphans of other species.

        Non-human society is inclusive, whereas human societies seeks uniformity and do all they can to exclude and eliminate all “outsiders”. Christians of different denominations sought to exterminate one another, despite worshipping the same God. Christians committing genocide against non-humans, and raping and enslaving non-whites. Jews vs Christians. Hindus vs Buddhists. Rich vs poor. Men subjugating women for hundreds of years. The genocide of Natives. Mixed race people being shunned by both races because they aren’t “pure”. Heck, girls and women being publicly executed after being victims of rape because they’re no longer “pure” or because they “seduced” their abusers. Imagine if the ancestors of bats killed any individual who was born with the ability to fly or use echolocation. Or if spotted hyenas shunned female infants born with pseudo-penises or mutilated their genitals, like humans do with intersex infants. Or if male birds decided childcare was for females and “limp wristed” males.

        Humans intentionally caused the extinction of over a dozen species, and continue to claim moral superiority over all non-human species. Have you heard about Pony the orangutan? Her mother was murdered (yes, it qualifies as murder since orangutans meet the requirements for personhood, even if governments refuse to acknowledge their personhood) and she was sold to a brothel where she was shaved and forced to wear makeup and perfume. She attracted hundreds of customers who travelled for miles who were eager to pay for the chance to rape a juvenile orangutan. It took a YEAR for the orangutan rescue to save her, because armed villagers came to kill them when they tried to bring her to the rehabilitation centre. They had to come back with 35 armed soldiers in order to save her from her rapists.

        Non-human animals are more evolutionarily fit than humans. They are also in tune with the natural world. If humans weren’t able to pass on knowledge from one generation to the next through symbols (writing, for example) or complex verbal languages, we would go extinct. Oh, and non-human species who display parental care truly love their infants and don’t use fear or violence to “teach” their infants. They gently nurture their infants and teach them important life skills.

  18. Trans lesbian, presents male. I’d prefer a different body, but I don’t experience dysphoria. I’m not motivated to change how I appear to the world and usually, I’m satisfied with that decision.

    I couldn’t read this. I got through the first few paragraphs and then I couldn’t anymore. I assume it was too close to things that I’m not ready for.

  19. Drew, very important article. I would also like to point out that this dick-phobia phenomenon doesn’t go away after SRS. I expected it to, but the microaggressions and gender studies lectures don’t go away. If anything it gets worse because the chasers aren’t interested either. People who weren’t interested in me when I had a penis didn’t magically become interested post-op; they just had different excuses (or just straight up ghost with no explanation).

    I used to not understand “stealth”, but I kind of get it. I’m a boring Kinsey 1 trans woman who passes for cis, and dating is still really hard. I don’t like having to justify why it’s ok for a guy to date me. It would be so much easier if I hid my trans identity the way so many straight trans women do, but it feels like betraying part of who I am. But similarly I’m tired of the only sex I get being one night stands with guys who want to check “post op trans woman” off their sexual bingo card.

    I have no answers, only agreement and I feel very heard by this article. <3

    • Wow, that kind of comment is not helpful to anyone. If you aren’t ready or willing to engage with the ideas in the post then don’t, but this is unjustified and unproductive. As you can see from all of the other comments, the autostraddle community appreciates and respects Drew and is glad to have this conversation. Maybe you should take some quiet time to think about why discussion of transphobia makes you act so angry and rude.

    • Drew specifically said she does not want to have sex with anyone who expresses these sorts of views. She’s not trying to violate anyone’s sexual boundaries, just trying to get people to be respectful and to not reduce human beings to a single body part.

      People are attracted to what they are attracted to, and that’s fine. No one should feel obligated to sleep with someone if they don’t want to. However, you should still talk about people respectfully and not conflate body parts with gender – plenty of lesbians have no issue with penises, because they don’t determine whetheror not someone is a woman. If that’s not you, fine, but don’t make assumptions about everyone else.

      Everyone has preferences, but there is need to go around talking loudly about how you don’t find someone attractive because they have certain genitals, or because are too short, tall, fat, thin, etc. – it is unnecessarily hurtful and rude. Just be kind in how you speak about others, and be mindful that words can hurt.

  20. This is an amazing essay. Thank you for being such an awesome and brave woman!!! It has me confronting more work that I still need to do to be a better ally and human. Due to past trauma I think I still feel a little afraid of certain genitals, because pretty much all of my experiences with them came unwanted. That said all of those experiences were also with Cis dudes, and its time to work on keeping the blame with the individuals (and potentially Cis dudes and the society that built them as they are in general). Is it is not the fault of what is in their pants, but rather what is in their brains. Thank you for doing this work and helping to educate us all even though it should not be your job to do so.

    • Hey Tortuga. I’ve been thinking about your comment a lot.

      It got me thinking about my experience as a cis bi woman and a survivor of sexual violence by a cis man.

      I spent much of my 20s working on getting over my fear of sex with cis men – because I didn’t want my abuser to have that much power over me. I didn’t want to be making choices based on his abuse instead of my desires.

      • Interesting. I definitely respect that choice if anyone else makes it. For me, though, it was like, “X makes me feel bad, I’ve spent a lot of therapy and mental energy trying to feel better about X, but it still makes me feel like like curling up into a little ball and dying, and honestly, it isn’t so hard to avoid X, I’ll just avoid X!”

        I think that’s an okay choice too, for people who want. We spend so much time talking about working on ourselves; I think sometimes our time would be better spend declaring something a block and accepting it.

    • Due to your vile, angry, disrespectful, and intentional comments you should (if you have any self-respect) delete your own comment.

      Next, why don’t you head on over to the new AfterEllen Reddit, you’ll find a lot of likeminded people over there who are ready to shit on people who are trying to live their lives. If that’s the kind of thing you’re into.

        • If you’d like to know, one. I found I wasn’t interested and moved on. Yet, here I am today as a butch lesbian, reading this article, and yet…I’m not moved to leave disparaging comments to the author. Instead, I’m learning about someone else’s experience and thinking about how I think. Join me.

  21. Drew, you are breathtaking. A vision. So much insight, so much bravery. I am honored beyond these simple, humble little words. I do sincerely apologize for all these silly cis trolls you’re forced to deal with. You deserve a kingdom, nay, a queendom.

  22. Drew, you are breathtaking. A vision. So much insight, so much bravery. I am honored beyond these simple, humble little words. I do sincerely apologize for all these silly cis trolls you’re forced to deal with. You deserve a kingdom, nay, a queendom.

  23. Drew, I read this essay yesterday. Then again this morning. It’s brilliantly written and deeply affecting. I loved the structure and flow of the essay, as well, and came back, in part, to watch the play of how the piece flows from the one (you) to all, back and forth, into an arresting final form.

    Thank you for sharing this with the world, and I’m so, so sorry about how horribly the comments section has devolved in the intervening hours. (Quoth the prophet: It’s funny how they’re all the same.)

    Love your writing–so many must-reads over the past year alone–and am grateful for your calling-in here.

  24. i’ve read this twice and will probably read it many more times. you helped me access a new lens today. thank you for your candor

    • Of course Rowling’s army of TERFs would have usernames like FannyFuntime. You guys really excel at self-parody.

  25. This is a brilliant essay, and thank you for writing it. The degree to which disgust is engrained in societal perceptions of trans women’s genitalia–regardless of configuration–is exhausting.

    (Also, thank you for pointing out that fetishizing trans people isn’t the sole domain of cis people–I’ve had experiences of dealing with chasers who were trans women, and somehow them being trans made it so much worse)

  26. Just want to add to the positivity, because woooooooooooow to all of the bullshit going on here. 1000000% support to you, Drew, and to the community Autostraddle is building.

  27. Well, it didn’t take long for one of Drew’s main points to be proven in the comments section. I wish I could say I was shocked. I hope at the very least this serves to further illustrate why the work of unlearning biases is so important.

    Sending love to all the women reading this and feeling exhausted or othered by the transphobic hate. You belong here. You have the same right as everyone else to a space to talk about your bodies and your experiences without vicious and invasive attacks. I believe that there are many more of us who stand in solidarity with you than the loud and fearful people who feel the need to make multiple fake accounts to lash out. We see and hear you.

    • this is exactly what I wanted to say but I was too busy being angry so I swore instead. 😂

    • there’s not really a way to say how sorry i am that some people feel the need to come here to be hateful, at all but also notably anonymously. it’s really painful and someone else noted shame at sharing some part of the same community that is supposed to love women.

      for other cis people, whether you can read the hate comment content or not, noting the number should really be taken in full measure. we have an obligation to address this as pollution. dilution is noted in some areas as the ‘solution to pollution’; there is probably little to be done to convince people to stop hating, but we can loudly show them they are a minority and not tolerated. please try.

  28. Thank you for writing this! I am glad to be able to hear your voice on Autostraddle.

    “—if you even call that sex.” There have been times in my life where the jam was clothes on because I wanted it that way. Other times where sex happened clothes on without consent. Just wanted to add this because I felt judged.

    Thank you and please continue to elevate the dialogue.

  29. I agree with another commenter who said more pieces educating / calling out/in people from privileged groups would be great on Autostraddle. And I know how risky it is as a writer to do that. So, thank you, Drew.

  30. This is less for Drew and more for some in the comments—I agree with everything Drew says about binaries, etc, and yet—

    I don’t think it’s okay to call people lazy or unevolved or needing to do more work for not liking penises in their own personal bedrooms. Insisting that there’s some wrong with you if you don’t love penises, and you need to give them a chance, gets uncomfortably close to a lot of things homophobes and compulsory heretosexualizers say.

    People can dislike penises and men independently!

    • I don’t know if you read the article linked above, but it addresses this very well:

      This is not about anyone’s personal, private preferences for any particular bodily characteristic. It’s about people publicly declaring “genital preference” as a way to avoid doing the internal work of questioning their own biases and assumptions around gender and genitals. This does not mean, despite what the trolls will try to imply, that anyone EVER has to take part in sexual activity that they’re not comfortable with. Literally nobody wants that! If it seems “uncomfortably close” to that to you, that’s because there are transphobic groups trying to push that narrative to scare you.

      Asking people to examine their biases is literally just that – asking them to spend time, by themselves, figuring out if their preference is truly innate and genuine, or if they have been taught by society to feel disgust and/or believe things that aren’t true about people who have that quality. It’s worth pointing out that this also applies to many other stigmatized physical characteristics (body size, race, disability), not just genitals. We ALL have biases of some kind – and no, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us, it’s the human condition. But if we want to collectively evolve towards a more just society, this internal work is absolutely necessary.

      • Yeah for sure! It’s not nice to go around shouting random about genitals. But this is an article about genitals, where people are discussing how others should feel about genitals.

        • This article and comments wouldn’t need to exist in the first place if not for the people who “go around shouting about genitals”. If that doesn’t apply to you, there’s no need for you to worry about how others are responding to it. Nobody is telling anyone how they should feel, they’re reacting understandably to an enormous amount of vocal disgust that affects an already-marginalized group of people. Maybe those reactions are sometimes less than perfectly graceful, but I personally can cut them some slack for that given the context.

          When straight people loudly proclaim that they’re disgusted by the idea of gay sex, we call them out on that too. Doesn’t mean we’re trying to convince them to sleep with us, or that we don’t believe that they have whatever personal preferences they have. We just want them to stop trying to pass off their homophobia as “just an opinion”.

      • Chandra, thanks for this. Sometimes I find I get a bit confused with what is being asked of me as a cis lesbian and start to feel defensive. This reminder of the transphobic narrative, which has clearly permeated my thinking on this topic, despite my efforts not to let it was exactly what I needed to help me understand better. The way you worded it was very helpful. Thank you.

    • I understand how for people who have historically been pressured to enjoy and tolerate sex they don’t want, this discussion touches a wound. Like, obviously no one should feel compelled to sleep with anyone they aren’t attracted to. And I get that for those of us who are constantly told that sex without a penis doesn’t count, or our lack of interest in penises is pathological, there’s a knee jerk reaction to a trans woman challenging our reactions to that culture.

      There’s also a tendency on the part of cis lesbians to publicly proclaim an aversion to penises that goes way beyond protecting personal boundaries and negatively impacts people who have penises and people who are in fact attracted to them. I would be unbelievably relieved if I never had to hear a gay person express disdain for genitals they aren’t attracted to ever again.

      • I dunno that I’d describe that as historical pressure, seems to me to be alive and well. I’m a bi trans man, intersex, and was often read as a lesbian before transition. People still assume I transitioned to avoid unasked for pressure of amab dick partnered ‘overtures’ despite that not being the case.

        I had some other issues with the essay; the ‘if it even is sex’ (for keeping clothes on during sex;reminds me of all the bullshit lgbt afab trans people who prefer to keep their pants on in the bedroom get from others, particularly people with society-acknowledged penises; if a dick ain’t involved it ain’t sex, is a common perception), then there’s the automatic labelling of others’ sexualities by an outside party when she’s describing others sexual exploration as gay due to mere experimentation (I can’t be the only one who noticed those graves commas).


        “And I get that for those of us who are constantly told that sex without a penis doesn’t count, or our lack of interest in penises is pathological, there’s a knee jerk reaction to a trans woman challenging our reactions to that culture.”

        -personally, I think I could go for some recognition that other people may have dicks besides people in the amab category when talking about whose penis problems count in the trans community – there’s a long, long history of amab trans people disparaging and discounting penises and similar issues not focusing on amab people. Maybe some discussion of phallocentrism could stand to be had. That’s often absent in these discussions of penis.

        • Just to clarify, the phrase ‘people who have historically been pressured’ definitely means the problem is alive and well, as ‘have been’ is present perfect, meaning it began in the past, continues in the present, and may continue into the future.

          But I do get your point about sex with clothes on and appreciate your other points. (There’s a whole discussion to be had about nonsense like ‘big dick energy’ and how that impacts us all in different negative ways…) For me it’s a fine line because I get why people react to phallocentrism in the way that they do, I just don’t like when the pendulum swings toward stigmatizing other people’s bodies or desires.

  31. generally i stay out of things these days, but idk, i really hate that the essay is literally asking people to recognize the humanity of trans women, and people (not trolls, real AS readers) are still in the comments remarking on their individual feelings about and experiences with cis men! this essay is not about cis men! it just seems very, very weird to me that someone would read “i am asking for effort…for my humanity, for the humanity of so many” and decide that the best thing to say in response is still “ok but i think it’s fine not to like certain genitals?” like that’s the thing you choose to say?

  32. I loved this essay so much, for so many reasons, not least of which because of Drew’s clear and poignant writing. What a gift to be shown a wider lens, a more expansive universe, a more complex and vibrant understanding of life. Thank you for your humanity and your art.

    • i am a cis lesbian and i can see that you are trying to miss the point. you are unwilling to see that your claim to oppression can’t ever immunize you from bigotry. this is bigotry because you misrepresent the point – it’s false to say that the author asked anyone to be attracted her. nothing stated would compel you to do anything other than recognize someone’s humanity, but you prefer to ignore that so many will suffer when you refuse.

    • Please explain how it is progressive, radical, feminist or hell, even fundamentally humane to ground your personal identity in expressions of disgust for other people’s bodies, and how that’s any different from straight people grounding their identity in disgust for same-sex attraction. Explain how that’s not shaming people for their bodies or their attractions.

      Explain how you’re not manipulating, coercing, or gaslighting lesbians by telling them their identity isn’t valid because it doesn’t happen to conform to your own personal preferences.

      You’re right about one thing, which is that lesbians are stronger. We’re stronger than the sad little world of ignorance and antipathy that you seem to think we should be confining ourselves to. We’re here for queer joy in all its incredible forms, and that will always make us stronger.

        • you made several untrue accusations to support a disingenuous argument about how cis lesbians were being targeted. it’s not a positive message if you punch down to make it, and it’s dishonest to say otherwise when your words are right there. especially disingenuous when you fail to acknowledge the basic point – which is the humanity of beautiful members of our community who need our support. comparatively, we cis lesbians are fine. you’ll have to take your sickend-ness elsewhere if you try to use this platform to indoctrinate young members of our community with your bigotry.

          • the commenter admits the motivation was actually being sickened by a post that explains the harm caused by refusing to accept one’s humanity. any compassion that person feels certainly misses the trans women who are due.

        • Oh right, you’re not expressing disgust for anyone’s body. You’re only expressing how “sickened” you are by this article where a woman talks about her body and asks for understanding about how it affects her life when people express disgust for bodies like hers. Right, huge difference there, my bad.

          I have plenty of faith that young people will be able to see for themselves what’s actually manipulative and what isn’t.

  33. Drew, I love this essay intensely. your words are so powerful and so generous. thank you <3

    • perhaps you could consider that trans women can also be victims of sexual assault before you pursue that argument when the discussion is actually about humanity.

        • i took the point as asking folks to stop equating genitalia with gender in this regard. it feels the same to me as the point that it doesn’t protect cis women by not allowing trans women to use the bathroom they need to – when cis men are the issue.

          this discourse is an adjustment for me, and i have to keep working on it, so my points are likely clumsy, but i think there’s a distinction between considering trans women the same way as cis men, and also examining the potential for transphobia to be an underlying issue. i wouldn’t advocate anything that causes harm, but there’s so much of it being directing at trans women right now, i wish we could all find compassion and offer gentle support.

  34. I want to make a couple of important points clear for anyone reading this through the lens of a history of sexual assault.

    I am also a survivor of multiple kinds of sexual trauma. I understand the hypervigilance that goes along with that. But it is very important to understand that this hypervigilance and fear can be used as a weapon against other marginalized people.

    The reason sexual assault was even mentioned in this article is because people already turn it into the focus of basically every single public conversation that ever happens about trans women’s bodies. And this constant hyperfocus on sexual assault in this context is harmful to trans women. It fuels transphobic panic that has real-life consequences of violence and oppression.

    Bigots know this, and they intentionally use misleading wording in their comments to trigger fear and spread this panic further. Nobody is asking you to go to therapy so you can change who you have sex with. That is not what this is about. If that’s what you’re hearing, you are being influenced by those intentionally misleading interpretations, instead of taking in the real message of this article.

    The point is that if people do genuinely have a deep-seated need to talk about body part triggers, which many seem to do, they should be having those conversations with a therapist, not in the comments section of an article about trans women who have nothing to do with it and who will suffer from the associations being made. If you don’t want to go to therapy, that is certainly your choice, but don’t make your trauma the problem of other people who are not responsible for it.

    • Trauma was directly brought up in this article though, that’s the only reason I even mentioned it in the first place. The author implied that survivors of sexual assault were placing blame on the penis rather than the offender. This is highly insensitive in my opinion, as sexual assault survivors may have visual triggers and should not be told to direct their anger elsewhere.

      • this is a hard issue. there are two positions in opposition, both expressing pain, by parties who should otherwise get unconditional support. i can appreciate you are commenting thoughtfully, Hunter. but your point seems to subjugate the pain this essay also expresses. as i understand it, the request is to recognize that trans women are not predators and are not similar to them just because they may have a penis. i don’t know how to solve the issue given that there is harm felt on both sides, but i don’t think trans women are wrong to make clear they have no relation to the trauma survivors feel.

        • Of course, I don’t think any trauma survivor would actively compare someone to the person who assaulted them based on their genitals. However, if you are asking someone to enter a sexual setting with someone who’s genitals may be a visual trigger for them, I don’t think its very thoughtful to tell that person that they’re just misplacing blame. Triggers don’t work that way.

          • it must feel exhausting to feel challenged to defend assault survivors, Hunter, and it’s certainly not something i meant. as i said, this is new for me as way to consider things, and i’m not graceful about it. hopefully this is a better way to say it: i appreciate your point that some survivors in the wlw community might not be able to consider the request in the essay, but i also think it’s fair for the trans wlw community to make the point, given how much hurt they experience.

            wishing you peace, Hunter.

          • Not asking someone to enter a sexual situation. Reacting to people who keep inflicting harm by bringing up their trauma in an inappropriate context, and trying to find ways to help them reframe that trauma so that they will stop doing that to her.

            This is actually a perfect example of why people should seek out answers from qualified therapists instead. Drew is not a therapist, so when someone comes into her space and makes her story about their trauma, of course she is not going to have all the background knowledge needed to know how to adequately respond to it. She is a woman experiencing her own trauma, trying to articulate it, and simultaneously having to defend herself from the harmful associations other people are making by continuously changing the narrative.

      • People DO focus on the penis rather than the offender. Obviously no one should have sex that they don’t want to have, ever, and Drew herself explicitly states that she’s not interested in having sex with people who don’t want to have sex with her. She’s also not wrong that a lot of assumptions made about penises cause harm to trans women.

        Speaking as a cis lesbian who has been sexually violated by cis men, I think it is time that we reevaluate our narratives about trauma, sexual violation, and penises, as they tend to make trans women responsible for patriarchal violence when in fact they are also vulnerable (in some cases more vulnerable) to it. They also render sexual violence committed by cis women invisible, which harms people in the wlw spaces allegedly in need of protection from trans women.

        How do we account for the trauma inflicted by people with vulvas, and the potentially homophobic responses that could/do come out of a woman who had a bad experience with a cis woman actively working to harm queer women in the name of protecting the public? Lesbians ought to know better than to replicate this because this happens to us too.

        Take the case of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, Moira Greyland, who she sexually abused for years; Greyland is an advocate against gay marriage, and against gay people having children, because she blames homosexuality for what happened to her. Her trauma has no doubt informed these bigoted positions, but that doesn’t make them any less bigoted. Her writing about homosexuality is eerily similar to transphobic texts asserting that every single person who has or ever had a penis is dangerous and therefore trans women should be excluded from women’s spaces.

        To most cis wlw, Greyland’s bigotry is evidently harmful and should be publicly opposed, even as we feel terrible about the violence she endured as a child. It’s not that trans women don’t empathize with cis women’s trauma (many have indeed had the same experiences), they are asking us to avoid making the same reactive mistake and reminding us what that mistake costs them.

  35. I thought this article was brilliant, and beautifully written, and I’m really angry to see the bad faith “radfems” out in force who don’t seem to understand that condemning individuals for their individual choice to transition or not transition, or to be a lesbian dating a trans woman, goes completely against the ACTUAL radical feminist idea of fighting patriarchy as an overarching power structure rather than a handful of individuals, but whatever.

    I do have one thing I wish could be talked about more, because I think there’s some genuine nuance to it and I really hope you don’t think I’m engaging in bad faith because of other people – society at large is incredibly transphobic and homophobic, and unfortunately, the people who say to lesbians “you’ve just not had the right dick yet” are not clarifying “cis male dick” because they’re also transphobes. So for a lot of lesbians, before trans representation started improving and lovely sites like autostraddle came along and actually allowed trans people to speak for themselves, talking explicitly about rejecting dick was almost a reclamation – being able to explicitly reject the thing cis men tell us we couldn’t possibly live without. I think sometimes it can be hard to let go of statements that have felt politically powerful for you in the past – and for some women in the present, because unfortunately society is still a homophobic transphobic mess – and I think some space needs to be given for women for whom previously radical and possibly deeply personally important statements no longer ring true.

    The other thing I’d say – and I hope this doesn’t come off as more scaremongering, but denying these things happen won’t make them less true – is that sometimes when cis women come out as lesbians later in life, they have a lot of trauma around penises which they try to discuss in LGBT friendly spaces, only to be met with “good trans allies” politely chastising them for their microaggressions – I can’t be the only person who thinks there’s nuance required when talking about this stuff, and picking the moment a cis woman talks about not wanting to endure any more cis man sex and wondering how she’s going to rebuild after long term trauma…isn’t the time? I guess I wish “good trans allies” would be sensitive to the fact that there’s sometimes a time and a place for these discussions – to correct someone who hasn’t even been exposed to “gender 101” while they’re discussing their trauma feels ignorant at best, cruel at worst. I wish I hadn’t seen this, but unfortunately I have – I kind of hope all of these instances are a weird 4chan psyop but I can’t not mention it in the context of this article, which is really wonderful, but might inspire some people to go out and correct traumatised cis women who are brand new to all this stuff. (I mean, on the flip side, it would ALSO be really great if a gender critical person didn’t appear every time a lesbian mentioned being a lesbian to tell them that they’re the last of a dying species and then grilling them about if they’ve ever been attracted to a trans woman. F*ck off with your weird obsession with other women’s sex lives and requiring them to disclose their entire history and experience of attraction, you utter weirdos)

    • Thank you, this gets at something I wasn’t quite able to articulate—

      When I talk (in appropriate settings) about how I hate dick, it’s pretty similar to what I mean when I say, I can’t stand white people, or ugh, men. I don’t actually hate all white people and men.

      And I think most people on this site would understand what I meant by those latter two. And it’s the same for the first.

      (And no, I don’t mean I’m conflating men and penises here, I mean they’re both easy for me to flippantly say I don’t like.)

      • Yes this is exactly it! Thank you, you’ve said in a couple of lines what I was trying to say in an essay. It’s not something I know what to do with, because it’s ultimately about balancing different experiences of homophobia and transphobia.

        I guess the point I’m trying to make is the importance of balancing the many ways in which different groups are hurt by the homophobic/transphobic society we live in – I don’t have a solution, and I wish it was possible to discuss openly without 1) potential harm to those for whom the subject matter is triggering, 2) inviting bad faith responses (see: this entire comments section comprised of people who appear not to have read the article and are just determined to reach whatever conclusion they want to see – I don’t understand what’s being achieved by this)

  36. Here I am, a person with no penis and zero prior interest in penises, re-reading an essay about penises, hungry to learn and unlearn, and to reconstruct everything about gender and sexuality, including my own. “And if I do eventually trust you enough to let you interact with my penis it certainly won’t be the same as whatever experiences you’ve had with cis men.” The “if… eventually… trust… let… interact” is everything and the sentence would sound right also about other genitalia and genders, I think? It also sounds revolutionary and comforting, in relation to how I have learned to think about sex for most of my life. Thank you so much for the gift of your writing, Drew.

      • Can I ask why you find it sinister? It’s the exact opposite of what the scaremongerers say – the writer is basically making it clear that they have no intention to force their penis on anyone, and in fact to allow anyone to interact with it is a gesture of huge trust. It’s not the “touch my penis or you’re a bigot” line that people are afraid of. Could you let me know what about it you find so sinister? I’m deeply confused and worried that some people are determined to come away with incredibly bad faith readings despite this clearly not being the writer’s intentions – given the number of caveats about how she doesn’t care if you want to fuck her.

  37. Thank you, Drew, for this work. I recognize the space I still have to grow, and I grieve the harms that not un-learning has surely done to trans women and femmes in my life.

    To the trans women and femmes reading the comments, I’m sorry that here in the comments and in many other places any expression of your truth gets spoken over by cis folks and transphobes.

    To the cis folks who are trying to add nuance, can we please please just listen and express gratitude for the gift of this essay and not recenter our trauma, which as Chandra so clearly pointed out, is so off topic from the humanity of our trans siblings?

    To the TERFs, fuck off. You dont belong here.

  38. I didn’t think I had anything worthwhile to add here, but, seeing the comments just makes me want to be here to add in my voice as a buffer.
    I’m not sure if the people coming here to voice hatred really think that they will change opinions, or if they have just been encouraged to direct their anger here so that they are less of a threat to the patriarchy, or both.
    What I’m certain though, is that there is not a single man invested in the patriarchy who will question themselves even slightly from these reactions – indeed if they are aware of them, I would imagine if anything it would be more likely to boost how they feel about their importance. All we are doing is hurting each other and wasting energy that actually really could instigate change. For all women. For the better.

  39. Great essay, I keep coming back to reread it. Sorry you have to endure the daggers in the comments section. But you knew that– you wrote in shields just to lay them down. Bold. Thanks for saying.

  40. What an incredible essay. I’ve never understood the fixation on genitalia (other than as a tool of oppressors). You don’t have to have experience with that many genitals to realize the incredible variation among individuals—even just among ciswomen. Possibly most of these terf are just the lesbian equivalent of Incels?

    • Certainly reads that way. Nothing screams entitlement to women’s bodies like coming into spaces and complaining that they personally don’t want to fuck a specific group of people and therefore that group should be excluded. It’s almost like when men think they shouldn’t have to hire or even acknowledge women who don’t smile or wear makeup.

  41. Thank you Drew for your beautiful writing, and breathtaking vunerability. Grateful to get to read your work, everytime! :)

  42. This is a well-written article and explains what she has experienced, but it’s also one person’s viewpoint of a lived experience.

    As a cis lesbian and an anti-TERF, I will fight for the rights of trans women. I’m not questioning Drew’s lesbianism or womanhood here and appreciate her perspective.

    BUT breaking down one’s perception of penises and accusing cis lesbians of being transphobic if they don’t want to engage in a sexual situation with a penis basically sounds like the patriarchy has won. Not wanting to have to touch a penis shouldn’t be labeled as transphobic. Celebrating vaginas shouldn’t be labeled as transphobic. Part of our identity as lesbians is about loving pussy, plain and simple. We shouldn’t need to apologize for our love of cunts and our disdain for penises, if that’s how we feel sexually.

    Similarly, watch what happens when an AMAB person who identifies now as a trans gay man writes a piece like this, about his genitals. The gay boys would NOT be having it. Notice how women – specifically cis lesbians – are the ones that are targeted in this article and how we are being told that our own natural sexual desires are inherently wrong (or in this case, labeled as “transphobic”) and have to be okay with penises if they are attached to trans women or nonbinary people.

    I can see how exhausting it must be for Drew to deal with microaggressions and appreciated her thoughts, but telling me that my identity is inherently wrong is something that the patriarchy, the church, and my family had been telling me for years simply, because I didn’t want to be sexual with someone who has a penis. So now, I’m wrong by my own community for saying that as well? That doesn’t sit right with me. There should be enough room for all of our experiences.

    • The point has now been expressed, repeatedly, in multiple ways, in both this article and in several comments, that none of this has anything to do with making people engage in a sexual situation with a penis.

      You are not a trans ally if you refuse to listen to trans people.

      • I can listen and have my opinions on not wanting penises involved.

        Drew says “AFAB queers are obsessed with genitalia of cis men” – no the fuck I am not. And this is part of the issue. I don’t want to think about a penis. Opposite of obsessed. That is a patriarchal viewpoint of what someone assumes lesbians think about. She’s speaking from a very specific AMAB experience. I agree with a lot of what she has to say — I’m not invalidating her identity as a woman or a lesbian. But why am I not allowed to say no penis for me, as a lesbian? I DONT even ID as queer, I tell people I’m an anti-terf lesbian – specifically bc lesbians are getting a bad rap. But how are we even supposed to survive when we are attacked like this, by our own? I can want trans lesbians to live full happy lives and at the same time want to be a lesbian who doesn’t want a penis involved. AMAB people telling me I need to get conversion therapy so I will start liking penises is why I don’t have a family anymore.

        You can come back and say “she didnt say that” but she really really implied that cis AFAB queers who don’t want penises involved are somehow wrong or transphobic and that’s not the case. There are lots of queers who don’t care what’s in your panties but some lesbians really do. And to tell me otherwise is invalidating my experience. And it does not make me a terf. There’s got to be a middle ground here. AMAB people have got to stop making all the damn rules! You don’t see AFAB people out here doing this shit!

    • Well, that’s exactly the problem. They will call you a “terf” for having this viewpoint. You’re a “terf” whether you like it or not.

    • this article does not accuse cis lesbians of being transphobic if they don’t want to engage in a sexual situation with a penis! Like you can’t just come here and be like “i don’t agree with this point that nobody actually made.”

      Speaking of men on the internet and how they act — when a woman who identifies as fat writes an article on the internet about dating while fat and the fatphobia she faces in the dating world, and maybe even suggests that it’s worth a minute for the readers of the piece to question their learned bias against fat women, men PILE into the comments to yell at her, remind her that she is fat and that they do not want to date her, feign concern for her health, declare that it’s not fatphobic to just not be attracted to fat women. And we hate those men, don’t we? We hate it when they do that? You’re doing it here!

      Drew clearly explains here that we should stop correlating gender with genitalia. Genitalia is just another body part that you may or may not be into, and various genitalia show up on people of various genders and various trans statuses. The need to shout over and over and over at every available trans woman with a penis that you are not attracted to this part of her body is what is transphobic here. Just keep it to yourself, like you might regarding any other thing you’re not personally sexually attracted to! Keep it to yourself and then nobody will call you a TERF!! My God.

      • Ok no one is yelling here but you, Riece. I’m not yelling over and over at this specific trans woman that I don’t like her body. I’m responding to this article and to the comments thread. But it seems like the article very much DOES accuse lesbians who aren’t into penises of being transphobic. It doesn’t say that verbatim, but it is VERY much implied. And this comment thread is full of those accusations.

        “Keep it to yourself” is what my homophobic parents begged me to do when I came out in a catholic upbringing in Alabama. They begged me to keep it to myself because I fantasized about having sex with women… with vaginas! And that’s ok, it’s great, it’s natural as a lesbian and I won’t apologize for it. I got kicked out of my family before I could fucking drive because of my love of women and vaginas. That’s a fact. So where’s the balance here? Why should we be forced to accept Drew’s point of view as fact? It is erasing MY identity for one. It does not make me a TERF by default. Accusing allies of being TERFs because we disagree with a verrry specific point of view that invalidates our own sexual preferences doesn’t help anyone.

        Holding space for trans women is very important, now more than ever!! But yelling at cis women, who are trans allies, that our identities are invalid because we don’t personally want penises involved is counterproductive.

        And I’m sorry, but not wanting to have a penis involved is totally a part of being a lesbian. Are there other ways of being a lesbian? Sure. But the old fashioned way shouldn’t be seen as a SIN in the gay community cause we like vag! My god.

      • “this article does not accuse cis lesbians of being transphobic if they don’t want to engage in a sexual situation with a penis!”

        It doesn’t accuse cis lesbians of being transphobic, no. Drew states that lesbians won’t sleep with her because she has a penis, and then says that not being able to accept penises means that you’ve only done “surface work”. It challenges queer women to be able to maintain their queer sexuality, whilst being able to date and have sex with someone with a penis. It implies that people who can’t do this are denying the humanity of transwoman.

        I think that’s a fair summary and representation of what this article says. I also think that anyone who acts like they don’t understand why this would genuinely upset lesbians is being obtuse. Lesbians are specifically mentioned in this essay as being particularly invalidating to Drew’s lesbian identity and womanhood. I can understand why that hurts, but a woman’s sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic. It should be protected as much as someone’s trans status. Lesbians should not have to accept being told that we’re denying someone’s humanity by not wanting to sleep with them for any reason whatsoever. You’re paying lip service to consent. It’s not just about that – it’s about you and many of the commenters here thinking you have the right to comment on who lesbians are attracted to. Or telling us to shut up about it. Respect should flow both ways, no?

        Nobody is anyone else’s validation tool. Why do you think it’s okay to tell lesbians or queer women to be quiet about who we’re attracted to? And how do you think it would go down if we told transwomen to keep their discussions about genitals to themselves, like you just did? This is an article about penis, remember?

        • I really didn’t interpret it this way at all! Drew repeats multiple times throughout that she isn’t writing this so we’ll all go out and fuck a trans woman to prove we’re not bad allies – I read it as, she’s describing her experiences as a trans woman and talking about the ways in which her having a penis doesn’t and shouldn’t define her, and the ways in which people subconsciously still associate genitals with gender. She’s not saying you need to decouple those things so that trans women can have sex with lesbians – she’s even repeated in the comments that not wanting to interact with dick is perfectly fine and no one should have sex they don’t want to have (she talks about her own experiences having uncomfortable sex, I think it’s fair to assume she wouldn’t wish that on others). I read it as, she’s asking you to decouple genitals and gender in your head so that trans women don’t continue to be demonised and dehumanised. There’s a big difference between thinking “I personally would not want to sleep with you, but I acknowledge your humanity and your womanhood and you’re welcome here, and I’ll sense check my language to make this clear” and “this person has a dick but I’ll tolerate it I guess”. The former is how I feel about most women in lesbian spaces, and I strive to ensure I don’t treat trans women differently. That’s the message I got from this article. I struggle to read it the way you’ve described without assuming a lot of bad intentions, which I have sympathy for, especially given the way trans women have been portrayed in the press lately, especially in the UK. But Drew makes it clear throughout that she isn’t addressing this article specifically to lesbians, and that she does not care who you want to have sex with.

          Also I’m really sorry to read about your awful coming out experiences, I really hope you’re doing better now.

  43. You think if you just keep repeating your twisted falsehoods about this essay and couching them in increasingly earnest-sounding pseudo-appeals for understanding, you will be able to drown out the powerful words of this author who is speaking her truth and sharing her private pain in an effort to help others learn and grow. This degree and type of backlash only happens when something is so clear and heartfelt that it can cut through all the noise and truly reach people. You’re scared of that.

    I hope, I so profoundly hope that every ugly comment, and every deceitful one with its obvious and intentional misrepresentations, makes the truth click for one more person reading this essay with a clear mind. I hope that the more garbage this article attracts, the more clear it becomes why our trans sisters need us to show up for them.

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