In current anti-transgender activism one popular strategy is to reduce the identities of trans people to “fetishes”. Research shows, however, that the sexual fantasies of trans people are not different from the ones of cisgender (non-transgender) people.
Since the 19th century bigots have often used sex to stigmatize and marginalize minorities. They have, for instance, present black men as simpleminded sexual predators, independent women as “hysterical nymphomaniacs”, homosexual men as creepy child molesters, lesbian women as seducers of innocent girls and trans women as perverted men.
If a cis woman has a kink, it is because she is sexually liberated. If a lesbian woman or trans woman has a kink, she is that kink.
Note that transphobic narratives like “autogynephilia” and “rapid onset gender dysphoria” rest on the idea that the sexualities of transgender people are fundamentally different from the ones of cis people.
Well, they are not!
New research on the sexual fantasies of cis men and women show that they share many of the scenarios imagined by trans women and trans men.
One survey indicates, for instance, that as many as one third of cisgender people, men and women, have had cross-gender crossdreaming fantasies (as in dressing up as the “opposite gender” or having the body of the “opposite sex”).
The psychologist Ray Blanchard (the man behind the “autogynephilia” theory) has made a big point out of trans women dreaming about having sex with “faceless men”, arguing that this proves that they were not real women. It turns out many cis women have the exact same fantasies.
He has also argued that no women get aroused by the idea of being a man — the underpinning logic, I guess, that women are pure and demure and only men have dirty minds–while the fact is that those assigned female are as likely to have such fantasies as those assigned male.
The old 19th century views of male and female sexuality is alive and well in transphobic circles, even among those who call themselves “radical feminists”. Trans-exclusionary radical feminists, known as TERFs, are actively using Blanchard’s debunked science in their attacks on trans women.
Some of them have found domination and submission fantasies in transgender erotica, arguing that this is proof of trans women being sexists perverts. They ignore the fact that the BDSM scene is completely dominated by cis people, and that sex fantasies and role playing do not say much about what anyone thinks about real life morality or behavior anyway.
Many cis women fantasize about being an attractive and sexy woman desired by others, so it should come as no surprise that trans women do so too. There are several billion dollar industries out exploiting women’s desire to be attractive — in fashion, cosmetics, health products and surgery.
You can criticize the sexualization of women, but you cannot use this side of modern culture to invalidate trans women. In fact, it proves that they are very much like many non-transgender women as regards the need to adapt to the current media vision of “the perfect woman.”
And yes, cis people may, like some trans people, fetishize clothes, objects and body parts. This is what most people do.
The more we learn about human sexuality, the more we realize that nearly everyone has kinky fantasies. This applies to cis people and trans people alike.
I have written a comprehensive article that presents, discusses and documents recent research on sexual fantasies and what it means for our understanding of transgender lives and identities. Refer to it whenever someone tries to reduce the identities of trans people to a fetish.