I think it's a great post for so many reasons, and I'll probably be back to discuss it more later. There was one thing, though, that jumped out and bit me. Probably because I'm too self-absorbed, it was the only part that was at all connected to me. I feel kind of guilty about this, because as wonderfully important Heather's video was, I'm not really going to be talking about radical feminism or transphobia right now. Later, definitely; there are so many good things in this video, and I do think it's a good for both the transphobic radfems and the feminists who hate radfems because they think they're all transphobic to watch.
Right now, however, I'm just going to limit this to what I have personal experience with: fuckability.
(Starting at 2:23) The sex classing of women and requisite caste system of the class (more commonly known as varying degrees of fuckability, or even more commonly as a scale from 1 to 10) has inhumanely relegated trans women with a certain remaining organ to the undesirables. They are expected to be content with either fetishization or pity fucking, along with cis women of the overweight and differently abled varieties. This particular problem has recently been the birth of a massive online “cotton ceiling” debate. We’ll get back to that.
Yes, we will definitely be getting back to the "cotton ceiling" debate, but it will have to be in another post. I have some very strong opinions, again, as a cis lesbian radfem (gah, labels), but I hope it doesn't surprise people that the majority of the time I come down firmly on the side of trans women in this debate. Actually, it was reading some back and forth between trans women and radfem activists on the whole cotton ceiling debate that first made me want to give up the label "radical feminist" in the first place. I do not want to be associated with those people...but I also don't want to give up on the feminist philosophy and theory of activism that most meshes with what I see, how I feel, and what I believe will actually transform the world. But that is a discussion for another time.
Today, in what will probably be a self-indulgent, perhaps self-pitying post (you've been warned), we're going to talk about fuckability.
I posted a version of this in the comments section of Zinnia Jones's blog.
As an overweight disabled woman, this is something I really struggle with. I've lost weight in the past, I've gained it back. I know what it was like to be 340lbs, and I know what it was like to be 130. Of course, the only time I reached 130 was when I was literally dying and hadn't eaten in six months. I'm getting to the weight my doctors want me to be, but I feel disgusting. I got so many compliments on how I looked when I was near-death, even when it took all the energy I had just to walk from my car to the restaurant to meet friends. Now I'm back to getting the, "Have you tried Atkins? Do you want to go to Curves with me? You know, I gave up all white food and lost 15 pounds!" comments. I've written elsewhere about my struggle with weight. I'm trying to just focus on staying healthy, but I'm reminded every day, in so many ways, how unattractive I am, how I'm never going to find real love if I don't change my body.
But losing weight isn't even close to enough. Those who can't see under my clothes don't know this, but my family, my close friends, they know what's under there after I take off my shirt. I look at my body, have been told by friends, even, that no normal person would ever want to sleep with me. Why would they? After 14 surgeries--with the guarantee of more surgeries to come--I have thick, ugly, raised red scars that criss-cross my abdomen. I have bulges of skin where my body didn’t get put back together right after the surgeries that reconnected my organs and muscles. There are indents from tubes that were in place for months that will never go away. Right now, I have at least two hernias that like to pop out (I've named them Ralph and Amy), and the only way to keep them in is to either wear a thick medical binder or lie back with my legs up and stay still. Not very conducive to a romantic evening. Very occasionally I even have a stomach tube or other medical equipment protruding from my body. I'm free of all tubes, wires, and lines right now, but that's probably a temporary situation. They're already talking about putting an implant in my back, maybe inserting another stomach tube for a while because I'm not eating so well right now. It’s objectively disgusting and is not going to go away. Oh, it may change, now and then, but I'm permanently disabled, and without reconstructive surgery (which I will never be able to afford) my abdomen will look like this forever.
Only a freak would want me, only someone who would want to use my body. I know that there are people who fetishize the disabled, I know there are "chubby-chasers" (though people who are usually attracted to fat women are attracted, like most people, to symmetry, and I am far from symmetrical). And if I did find someone who actually wants a relationship, well, I’m told that of course I can’t be picky and I better be prepared to do everything I need to do to keep her happy, to make up for my hideous body. Because that’s the ticket to a healthy relationship. I have to take what I can get. It's never going to be about me finding someone attractive. I know the looks, I've seen them since high school, that come over people's faces when they realize that fat person has the nerve to be attracted to someone. To me, it seems like my choices are between celibacy and being used for sex (I chose celibacy, thanks), and my friends and family have only confirmed this. Well, except for Mom, who is sure that “God will bring someone special into your life," but forgive me for not taking that too seriously.
To be honest, celibacy really doesn't bother me. I don't have much of a sex drive, at all, and I don't see the need for one. Friends, some therapists, have all tried to push me to find the reasons why I don't want sex so I can "heal" but I'm perfectly happy the way I am, thanks. From conversations with my mother, I've learned that she doesn't have much of a sex drive, either, so maybe it's genetic. I've been identifying as asexual for awhile now, and I find the label suits me just fine. (I don't, however, engage much with the online asexual community because for the most part they're a bunch of entitled wankers. Just my impression, mind; there might be some very nice people and communities, but I haven't taken the time to sift through and find them.)
But I still want love. I still fantasize about having someone to cuddle with in front of movie, someone to talk to, to make dinner with, to hold me when I'm sad, to raise children with, to love forever and ever amen. Years ago I joked on facebook that "even my fantasies are codependent" but it's kind of true...the last woman I really crushed hard on was a beautiful mother of two hyperactive boys, her life kind of a mess, and all my dreams revolved around becoming a family, taking care of those lovely boys, holding her when she was sad, going on nature walks and reading books in front of the fire (after I cleaned up her living room). She talked to me because she knew I was a lesbian, and told me how she was starting to allow herself to experience her bisexuality. She asked me advice about the women she liked and dated (even though I have next to know experience). It was very clear, however, that she never even considered me someone to be attracted to, to love. Why would she? Really, who could love someone who looks like me?
I'm not trying to be self-pitying, truly. I have made peace with my life. I'm open to being shown wrong, but that hasn't happened yet. But the words of a friend from way back keep ringing in my head. She has CP, and years ago she said, "I can't go out with anyone who asks me, because I know that anyone who wants to go out with me has to be a freak." At the time, I tried to reassure her that it wasn't true, that she was a wonderful girl, and she told me I didn't understand. And it's true. I didn't understand, then.
I understand, now. I feel the same way.
As I mentioned in the comments, I have no idea if this is similar to what trans women feel. I know that there's a lot more fetishization in porn of trans women's bodies, and that makes a difference. I know that there is a self-loathing that comes from people--even people who should be allies!--telling trans people over and over that they're sick, deformed, malfunctioning, sinful, evil, predatory. I also know that with the sickeningly high rates of murder, trans women have a fear that I will never know.
I hesitate to ever say to someone, "I understand," when I haven't walked in their shoes, but maybe, in this, the best thing I can say, "I hear you."