Cotton Ceiling Experiences

This was actually the Blog Post that caused me to think deeply about this issue.  I might have not taken notice of the issue had it not been for the way this post points out the numerous ways the Cotton Ceiling impacts the lives of  all people whose lives have at some point been impacted by one trans-prefixed word or another.

From Sable’s Blog:  http://sabletwilight.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/cotton-ceiling-experiences/

By Sable
Posted on March 27, 2012

Reposted with permission

For those who do not know, the Cotton Ceiling is a term developed by Drew DeVeaux to talk about the experience trans* women encounter in various queer and sexual liberation communities – while our participation in progressive communities as social and activist members is accepted (sometimes tentatively so), trans* women participation as romantic and sexual members of the community is often fraught with systematic, individual, and cultural challenges and oppressions.  As an effort to start a dialog about our experiences, Morgan M Page is hosting a conversation at an upcoming Planned Parenthood Confrence in Toronto about the Cotton Ceiling and how trans women can overcome some of the challenges facing our sexual empowerment and sexual liberation.  Of course, this desire by trans* women to engage in dialog about the cultural influences which impact our sexual agency has been taken by the anti-trans radfems to mean trans women are wanting to engage in non-consensual sex acts with their dear, precious, vulnerable cis lesbians.  But then, radfems try to equate anything trans women do to rape.

Personally, I am tired about arguing about my right to talk about certain my experiences. I am tired about arguing about my right to engage in discourse about a cultural phenomenon impacts me and my life. And I tired about trying to get a small, vocal segment of the internet community to respect the language I use for myself.

I want to actually talk about the Cotton Ceiling.  And since there is no way I can make it out to Toronto to participate in the conversation Morgan Page is planning on hosting there – being a poor, middle-aged, unknown trans woman in Denver means I never get to out to where the cool kids are doing their things – I figure I can start a conversation here.

And the only way I know how to start one is to talk about my experiences with the Cotton Ceiling, and where it has impacted my life.  So because of the Cotton Ceiling:

  • I resisted accepting a trans identity for myself for years because I knew of no examples of trans women involved with other women.
  • I have avoided participating in women’s events because I did not want to “invade.”  I have avoided them even when directly invited.  When I did participate at an event I was invited, my participation created a community wide upset and conversation about trans women’s inclusion, and what sort of trans women should be allowed.
  • I do not go to women’s bars because I assume I am not wanted there.
  • When I do go to women’s spaces or events, I make sure to only flirt ot interact with other trans women or women who came with me to the event.
  • At a recent national level conference which included a sexual liberation track, there were no trans women who were part of the presentation lineup.
  • Because of my lack of participation in women’s spaces, I do not have a very strong network with other queer activists in my communities.  I know my stuff.  I am really good at analysis and seeing the larger picture.  I am an amazing presenter and public speaker.  I know how to facilitate conversation.  And I am amazing when it comes to promoting awareness and point out issues in supportive, non-confrontational ways.  Very few people outside those I have worked, lived and been friends with know this about me.
  • I feel guilty about not finding the bodies of some trans women attractive.  I do not feel a similar guilt about not finding the bodies of some cis men, trans men, or cis women attractive.
  • I do not believe I am attractive.  I do not believe my body is desirable.  If someone finds me attractive, I have to repeatedly make sure they know I am a trans woman.  If a straight man or lesbian woman does do, I make sure they are “okay” with trans women multiple times.
  • I have allowed myself to be pressured into relationships and pressured into sexual acts because I felt at least I was desired.
  • I do not even know when someone is flirting with me anymore or simply being nice.  Because I assume I am undesirable, untouchable, and no one would care to have sex with me, I assume that no one would flirt with me.
  • I rarely approach potential sex or play partners.  When I do, I only approach people who in some way identify themselves as bisexual, pansexual or in some way not interested in exclusively one gender or “sex.”  If I do not know a person’s orientation, I will not at all.
  • If I do plan on seeing out possible long term or casual partners, I know I will have to fetishize myself and “market” myself as something exotic.
  • Because I do not want to be seen as “another one of those trans women” to people in my potential dating pool, I do my best to appear I have everything calm, collected, my life in order, and that I am without need.  I have begun to suspect this contributes to me appearing aloof and unapproachable.
  • Because of some of my experiences, I tend to be exceeding cautious when it to dealing with men expressing their attraction to me.  In the back of my mind there is the thought that they are expecting sex from me.  And some of the sex they desire and expect is not the sort of sex I want to provide.  In my mind, they always seem to come on too strong, too creepy, not strong enough, or some combination.
  • I do not see mainstream porn which features people such as myself related to topics I find most appealing.  Trans women really seem to have only two roles in porn – being anally or orally penetrated by men, or anally or orally penetrating men.
  • I do not see inclusive, queer porn which includes people I feel I can relate in terms of my body identity, at least not without expending a great deal of effort searching for it.  Even then, with the exception of two titles, I cannot simply purchase a DVD of queer porn which includes trans women.  I must sign up for a membership and download the content.  Even then, I doubt I will find kinky, BDSM, sex positive, trans porn.
  • If I question the naming choice of a certain queer porn production company or talk about its effect on trans women, I get magical intent thrown at me.
  • I do not feel like I can participate in the sex industry – films, modeling, pro domming, tantric energy work – because I feel I am too overweight and too old to be considered desirable or marketable as a trans women.  In fact, I have been told I am too fat to be marketable.
  • If I were to do porn, it would likely have to be mainstream porn, as queer, sex positive porn is only done in a few, select places, and there is little to no attempt to reach out or engage trans women talent.
  • If I decide to become a pro in any manner – pro domme, tantrika, etc. – I will likely have to accept that I will be expected to have sex with clients, even if cis women in these fields do not.  I will never be able to find a mentor because of this expectation.  And I have been told no one would hire a trans woman pro domme they could not have sex with.
  • I do not feel I have a right to my own sexual agency or own sexual liberation.
  • I did not have near this many sexual challenges or hang-ups before transition.  I was a pretty boy.  I was desired.  If it were really about access to women’s bodies, I would have never transitioned.
  • I feel my feelings are silly, overblown, unfounded, and I am being selfish and oversensitive.  I feel as though expressing them will open me up to harassment, derision and ridicule.  Or they will be used as excuses as to why trans women should be dehumanized and excluded from certain spaces.  There is part of me which feels I should keep silent least my words be used as a weapon against other trans women.
  • I feel isolated and on my own when it comes to my sexual liberation.
  • And I do not see any of this changing.

For those looking for additional dialog on the Cotton Ceiling:

Additional Reading:

10 Responses to “Cotton Ceiling Experiences”

  1. Flow In Says:

    reading this certainly got to me. i’ve experience similar feeling.
    however, is it really due to outside infulences (the cotton ceiling, as suggested) or is it more due to the destructive influence of the TG idea into TS women’s minds?

    all the feelings of ‘not being woman enough’ or ‘not being attractive’ etc. stem from within. i had them. i thought i was ugly. i wasn’t, and i’m not, i was stuck in the TG nonsense that men can become women, and hadn’t shed the last layer of self doubt.

    at any rate, perhaps sable is pre-op?

    • Suzan Says:

      I don’t know, nor do I care. I didn’t come out as lesbian until a couple of years after SRS and Yet I’ve seen this in action. I watched a couple of women I knew get trashed.

      It isn’t everyone doing this and I’m not willing to blame people even more victimized than I am, such as pre-ops or for that matter women more involved with the lesbian community than I am.

      I enjoy certain luxuries not because I am less wedded to the “Lesbian Community” than many. I haven’t the slightest hesitation against telling someone to fuck off because they are abusive insulting bigots.

      I don’t need that community, indeed I don’t really feel all that comfortable in the lesbian community and prefer the hip communities and art world.

      I’m not affected by all of Sable’s points but I could find a half dozen or so that click and cause me to think, “Yes that has happened to me or yes I’ve felt that.

      This isn’t a bunch of stogy transgender theory one hears from the rationalizers. This is stuff that is coming from the heart.

      I read it and I can say I too have felt hurt by this crap when it was laid on me.

  2. Cotton Ceiling Experiences | Sable's Blog Says:

    […] Cotton Ceiling Experiencs […]

  3. deena17 Says:

    Interesting. Sable certainly presents a collage of ideas. I’m not sure what to make of it. I’ll watch how it all evolves.

    • Suzan Says:

      This isn’t the only thing happening and I must admit the resurgence of all the radical feminist bullshit makes me just plain sad. I thought we were beyond all this.

      It doesn’t sound any less hatefull coming from radical feminists than it sounds coming from Focus on the Family or any other of the Christo-fascists organizations.

  4. mizknowitall Says:

    Susan,
    I’m rather surprised you’d fall for this! While I have little to no understanding as a straight woman of lesbian sexual dynamics. I do know men, and what I am seeing here are people with intact male genitalia acting pretty much as most men do in insisting that the women they desire must desire them back!

    Mind you, these are not post operative women, women who like you paid the price of admission. Were that the case this would be a very different argument. But they haven’t yet ahad surgery, and it seems by what they write they’ve no intent to ever do so. Which to me begs the question what are they doing in women’s spaces, much less insisting that they be granted the penultimate male fantasy, to “turn a lesbian!”

    • Suzan Says:

      While that is the knee jerk reaction of a bunch of bigoted people including some the “I’m special post-op” crowd and self proclaimed radical feminists, the cotton ceiling extends to the authenticity of of post-op transsexual peoples genitals too.

      Further being heterosexual doesn’t exempt one, as men can and do reject post-transsexual women for the repulsiveness of our genitals.

      As for your surprise that I would “fall for this”… Why do you presume to think I “fell for” anything?

      Point of information… I didn’t fall for Sable’s piece. It struck a chord. Maybe as many as a dozen of her bullet points mentioned things I have had happen or have felt at time in the years since SRS. That is why I contacted her and requested permission to repost her piece here. It is why I also wrote what I wrote.

      Julia Serano was still pre-op when she wrote “Whipping girl”, another piece of writing I found incisive.

      When it comes to paying the “price of admission”… The last half dozen years or so the ability to pay the”price of admission” has become more and more limited to people on the top rungs of the socio-economic food chain. I’m glad I was young during the 1960s and 1970s when I had my SRS rather than being young today. Today the level of poverty I lived in would have me living in squats, back then I had some pretty neat apartments.

      There are a lot of Transgender Borg ideological points and group think that I consider beyond stupid, but there are also a lot of neat transgender people, not every one is a Christan Williams.

      BTW I’ve had TG sisters as lovers on a couple of occasions in the past as well as other TG sisters as friends.

      As for that crack about “the price of admission” I’ve been struggling to keep my head above water, scraping together even an extra five hundred dollars for anything is a chore, with airfare even surgery in Thailand is around 10K these days. Pretty hard to come up with if someone is working as a barista or has a part time job on the concrete floor of a big box store.

  5. tinagrrl Says:

    “I do know men, and what I am seeing here are people with intact male genitalia acting pretty much as most men do in insisting that the women they desire must desire them back”

    I think there are at least two problems with your “analysis”.

    First you say, “I have little to no understanding as a straight woman of lesbian sexual dynamics.”, followed by the statement “I do know men” — thus assuming everyone who has had such experiences is a MAN. No matter if they are pre-op, post-op, etc., etc.

    Second, you also seem to assume stuff like this NEVER happens to post-ops, even long term post-ops.

    In other words, in your haste to negate what was said — I suspect you end up telling us much more about yourself than about the issue at hand.

    You are FAR from “mizknowitall”.

  6. tinagrrl Says:

    Oh, by the way, are you aware of your cloaking yourself in “The Mantle of Heteronormitive Privilege” with your opening declaration “as a straight woman”?

    Do you think you are REALLY, REALLY able to comment on the mating rituals of the “exotic lesbian culture”?

    Can you explain to us the role of the flannel shirt in such rituals? How about bad poetry, obscure folk songs, etc., etc.?

    By the way — I also know men, and all the “cotton ceiling” stuff seems to apply to many interactions between men and various trans and post-trans folks also.

    I suspect that the moment anyone starts living full time as the sex opposite to that assigned at birth they have made a hefty down payment on “the price of admission”.

    By this, I mean 24/7. Transvestites are another thing entirely.

  7. saphirenz Says:

    Why does it have to be so bloody complicated? I am reminded of a phrase I heard several years ago, “Nobody said it was going to be easy” and for most I suspect it isn’t. For me, I guess, “the price of admission” includes most of the foregoing submissions anyway……or am I the too passive “little woman” ? I think not but I am (hopefully) realistic. Radfems and dykes come and go, so do testo. driven guys, who always seem to come back for more. I think I am over it and, like Suzan , not averse to telling them to “piss off” …….However, having said that it was, none the less, food for thought.


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