I don’t think a day goes by I don’t read somewhere, “Lesbians are reducing women to their genitals!!” This whole genitals argument reminds me of seventh grade, when a kid speaking the word “penis” aloud brought gasps to the classroom. Any time genitals are invoked a distraction is created by their mere mention: oh boy, we’re talking about private parts! That distraction is being used to stifle rational statements made by lesbians again and again and again.
Yes, lesbians like vulvas and dislike penises. But vulvas and penises are part of a bigger picture. We need to focus on the bigger picture.
While I’ve been watching this old TV movie of Phantom of the Opera, I’ve still found myself drawn to the Phantom. He’s wearing a cape and a broad-brimmed black hat, for heaven’s sake, and white gloves with a ruffled shirt and a silken bow at the neck. He moves like a ghost, so elegant and restrained; he speaks in low, gentle tones and says everything poetically: “When you sing I live in the heavens; when you do not, down below.” Be still my heart, Erik. His character is so very sympathetic and at the same time awesome in his own way. When I was thirteen I stayed home from school to pause a frame of the VHS tape over and over to draw his portrait. I don’t blame myself at all.
I was fascinated by him. By the clothing. By the character, the personality. But the clothes and the personality don’t make the man. There is very little to be noticed in the dim lighting of the film – a hint of sideburn beyond the edge of the mask, perhaps – that would denote masculinity. But even those little bits were enough. As much as I loved him, he irritated me, frustrated me in some way I couldn’t put my finger on or put into words. I was supposed to love men, after all. Why didn’t I love him enough? He became one in a string of male characters I was fascinated by but always disappointed with in the end. I loved the costume. I loved the personality. I just couldn’t embrace the whole package.
This is where, I think, a lot of straight people miss the point of homosexuality. A straight woman probably never finds another woman enjoyable, likes her clothing, her smile and her personality, then asks herself, “But why aren’t I attracted to her more?” After all, in our society, women aren’t supposed to love other women. If a woman finds another woman overwhelmingly attractive, well then, you’ve just stepped into another realm.
But growing up gay, I was constantly lost in the realm of “Why aren’t I more attracted to this man?” Men I met, men I saw, men all around me I was supposed to fall in love with. It was confounding. I just could never seem to like them the way I was supposed to, the way I was meant to. It would have remained confounding if being same-sex attracted had never dawned on me.
Enter our knight in shining armor.
I started playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was eight-years-old. Knights in shining armor have been in my life a very long time. In fact, I always used to roll a Fighter, and later with a new rule set, a Cavalier. I did a report on knights and the Crusades in 8th Grade including a large, intricate drawing of a knight with his lance on horseback. I still find myself fascinated by medieval armor and weaponry and wish there was a HEMA or SCA chapter nearby.
But all of these knights in my life were male, even my own characters. Knighthood seemed to me to be the realm of men, in every historical image and in my brother’s eyerolls when I’d roll my knightly characters. Perhaps it was that personal chastisement that disillusioned me; perhaps it was that the only female knights I ever saw were wane and sacrificial depictions of Joan of Arc looking like a frail girl in armor going to meet her God – but I never could really grasp the idea of a female knight, no matter how much I loved the armor and the role. As I got older, knights lost a bit of their shine. I had a friend who absolutely fell for Aragorn when the Lord of the Rings movies came out. You couldn’t find a more noble, stately, glorious knight than Aragorn in Return of the King. But he didn’t do anything at all for me.
Then came Brienne of Tarth.
I have not watched Game of Thrones, but in every Brienne clip I’ve seen on YouTube she embodies that Knight in Shining Armor ideal. She is brave, and self-sacrificing, and skilled, and noble. She wears the armor and carries the sword and looks fantastic on horseback. The costume and the personality are the same as every knight I’ve ever known but with one difference: there’s a woman inside. And I am left swooning on the floor.
Have I reduced this Knight in Shining Armor to her genitals alone? If we’re to invoke female genitals I would assume she has them, as she’s defined by a body with two X chromosomes. That embodiment is the key. She could be shorter or softer or thinner or have darker skin and eyes, curly hair or no hair at all. She could have a beard on her face and hair on her chest; she could have higher than average testosterone levels and an enlarged clitoris that could be mistaken as a penis. She could have lost both breasts to injury or disease; she could have been subject to female genital mutilation and now have no clitoris or vulva at all – but she would still be a woman, she would still be the embodiment of the expression of two X chromosomes in an adult human being, with all that entails, body and soul. And I would still be on the floor swooning over her.
But what if, what if she was cursed by a wizard, and must now live in a male body, until she could be changed back into a woman? Would I still so love her then?
Game of Thrones might take place in a fantasy world, but we do not exist in one. That is not the reality we live in.
But that’s the fantasy world the trans activists keep pushing upon us, that one sex can change into the other, that appearance and personality are all that matters in attraction because the underlying body is mutable through transition. But it is not. We do not live in a fantasy world. People cannot change sex at will, not through years of hormone therapy and surgeries and certainly not through a mental decision and a dress. It is simply not a reality.
That is why this tension exists between homosexual people and the transgender movement, and it’s focused on lesbians because of the power men hold over women. As Magdelen Berns asserts, “If you accept the mantra ‘Trans women are women’, lesbianism doesn’t exist.” Likewise, to reverse the thought, if you accept lesbianism as existent, then trans women can never be considered women. The truth of the matter just happens to be on the side of lesbianism, as lesbians have always existed throughout the natural world and human history, and changing one’s sex is simply an unrealistic fantasy.
I have all the sympathy in the world for people who cannot live the role of their birth sex and transition allows them a way of life free from psychological pain. I have tasted that pain, and though I’m grateful I’ve found another way, I believe for some transition to living as the opposite sex may be their best option. But there is a difference between living as the opposite sex in order to cope with psychological issues and believing you actually are the opposite sex, which is a psychological issue in itself.
For society at large to understand this, perhaps they also need to understand – at last – the nature of same-sex attraction, through the experiences and needs of LGB people. As much as the transgender movement looks like a civil rights movement in itself, in another way it is merely the catalyst for a greater gay rights movement underneath. If we are to maintain our ground, we must be understood in a deeper sense than ever before. If that understanding can come about, it will engender a culture that is more fully accepting of all expressions of humanity, male and female. It is ugly on the surface now, but the truth remains indelible underneath. It is only a matter of time until it rises to the clear light of day, like a knight in shining armor riding up from the battlefield.