Two dressed up gay men pose in the streets of Brussels. About 80,000 participants at the Belgian Pride Parade to celebrate the LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community and demand equal rights.

Source: Frank Camp

On December 14, transgender activist Brynn Tannehill penned an op-ed for The Advocate, an LGBTQ publication. The op-ed is titled: “Is Refusing to Date Trans People Transphobic?”

Tannehill makes several arguments in the piece pertaining to alleged transphobia, which you can read here if you want further insight into such thinking, however, one argument Tannehill makes stands out because it completely contradicts itself.

After admitting that “most transgender people have not had ‘bottom’ surgery,” meaning the surgical procedures that would restructure male or female genitalia into an approximation of the other, Tannehill suggests that it is not “transphobic to have a genital preference.”

…this rule can theoretically be applied neutrally across cisgender and transgender people. Thus, the rule of, “I am not attracted to people with a vagina” or, “I am not attracted to people with a penis” can be equally applied to both cisgender women and transgender men.

Tannehill continues, offering an example of how one can discern transphobic behavior:

The legal realm also provides insight into whether a something is inherently transphobic in and of itself. There is a legal concept call the “but for test,” where but for a certain fact or action, something would not have happened. It is also referred to as the sine qua non rule, which means “without which not.” In civil rights cases, this is a crucial test to see if individuals are being discriminated against.

Tannehill says that if a woman is fired from her job for wearing pants like those of her male colleagues, and she wouldn’t have been fired for wearing pants if she had not been a woman, that is a “but for” scenario.

Similarly, imagine a date that’s going well. There’s mutual physical attraction and definite chemistry. Then you find out they’re transgender via conversation (yes, everyone still has their clothes on), and end the date right then and there. But for the fact that the other person was transgender, this would have been a really good date, and you probably would have seen them again. This is discrimination against the transgender person for being transgender.

Obviously, this isn’t illegal, nor should it be. But, from a logical standpoint, yes, this is discriminatory and transphobic.

So, having a “genital preference” isn’t transphobic except for when it is. Tannehill’s arguments contradict each other. In the world Tannehill has created, an individual is allowed to state their attraction limits – but only prior to engaging with another person to whom they might be attracted.

For example, a male can say that he is only attracted to someone who has a vagina, e.g. a female, and that’s acceptable. However, this very same male cannot go out on a date with a biological male masquerading as a female, then, upon the revelation that this biological male is not a female and does not posses natural female genitalia, end the date due to his genital preference.

Embedded in Tannehill’s argument is a deconstruction of what it means to be male and female.

Tannehill implies that if a man is physically attracted to and has chemistry with a female-presenting biological male prior to the disclosure that this female-presenting biological male is indeed a biological male, any unwillingness to proceed romantically following the revelation would be “transphobic.”

This scenario suggests that biology and physical presentation are the same thing; that once any kind of physical attraction is established between two parties, the genitalia of either party ceases to matter. Tannehill’s assertion disregards the fact that built into an individual’s physical attraction to another person is the presupposition that the person to whom they are attracted has the preferred genitalia.

If an individual who loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches sees one sitting on a plate, then bites into it only to find that what he believed to be peanut butter was actually wet sand, should he be faulted for not wanting to continue to eat the sandwich? While he is initially attracted to the sandwich’s physical presentation with the presupposition that the ingredients are peanut butter and jelly, once he discovers that a key ingredient is missing, that changes his perception of the entire sandwich.

To suggest that visual presentation should supersede the fundamental ingredients that make up what it definitionally means to be something specific is absurd.