Should the transgender community be exempt from practicing consent?

By Kylie Kiunguyu 

Trigger Warning: physical violence

(Editor’s Note: As HOLAA! we are sensitive to a diversity of opinions but also understand how something like this can be triggering. This is a very delicate topic and we invite responses in the comments or in article form. This post is a reblog.)

Consent is the basis for any sexual interaction and should include all necessary information for parties to make an informed decision. It only stands that if equality is for all then every person, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, should be held to similar standards.

Anyone outside the Transgender community including members under the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) banner cannot claim to be fully versed in transgender issues and or politics. And of times due to the unique and severely violent reality this community undergoes it is important to be sensitive whilst addressing matters that concern them so as not to worsen their ordeal.

So first, a brief on what transgender means:

A transgender person, (not “transgendered”) is someone whose sex assigned at birth is different from whom they know they are on the inside. It includes people who have medically transitioned to align their internal knowledge of gender with their physical presentation. But it also includes those who have not transitioned, and genderqueer or gender expansive people who do not fit in the distinct and opposite binary of male and female. Preferred usage is “transgender people,” “transgender person,” “transgender woman,” “transgender man,” “trans people,” “trans person,” “trans woman,” and “trans man.”

Anti-transgender violence

As stated above, the reality of transgender people is plagued with violence making interactions that are common in heteronormative relationships not only difficult but potentially dangerous.

For further insight on how prevalent violence against transgender people is, statistics show that in the United States at least 13 transgender women were murdered in 2014, and the numbers are steadily rising. These women were stabbed, shot, strangled, and burned; killed violently by intimate partners or strangers.

According to the 2013 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) report on hate violence against lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected (LGBTQH) communities, 72 percent of the victims of LGBTQ or HIV-motivated hate violence homicides in 2013 were transgender women, and 67 percent were transgender women of color.

To make matters even more unbearable, transgender people have few options for protecting themselves from violence or seeking justice. The NTDS found that 22 percent of transgender people who had interacted with police experienced bias-based harassment, with transgender people of color reporting much higher rates. Six percent reported physical assault; 2 percent reported sexual assault by police; and 20 percent reported having been denied equal service by law enforcement. Nearly half of the transgender people surveyed in the study said that they were uncomfortable turning to police for help.

Is consent only mandatory in the heteronormative context?

Earlier this week comedian Lil’ Duval was interviewed on the breakfast club; a morning radio show in the United States. When asked what he would do if he found out he had unknowingly had a sexual experience with a trans-woman he responded, “This might sound messed up but I don’t care, she dying.”

Outside of the unacceptable violent declaration and undertones his argument has however been taken up by heterosexual people who feel the omission robs them of their right to choose and is actually a form of sexual assault as sexual behaviour is only legal when it is safe and “entirely” consensual. The person must be conscious (both literally and figuratively) and readily capable of making and communicating an objection and knows or expects that an objection will be honoured.

Failing to disclose ones gender identity (not to be confused by ones sexual orientation) is purposefully deceiving and exposes the other party to possible psychological or mental distress once the information is revealed. A persons sexual orientation is not a choice and should therefore not be treated as something flexible. The LGBTQ community fights constantly to dispel this ideology of choice which makes the issue even more loaded.

On the one hand trans peoples identity is their reality, “if I identify a woman/man/gender queer, I am a woman/man/gender queer” therefore revealing their gender identity is moot as the attraction and interaction still stands within that context. This coupled with the extent of violence against trans people makes the admission difficult.

On the other hand heteronormative people should have the right to maintain their sexual identity and orientation without being labelled homophobic or prejudice. Wanting a trans person to identify themselves prior to a sexual encounter isn’t a matter of prejudice it is a matter of orientation and identity. The two concepts that are the cornerstone of the tolerance movement.

Because safe spaces are yet to be created for trans people it would be inhumane that consent be enforced for a community that struggles to protect themselves from violence or find justice. But consent is the basis for any sexual interaction and should include all necessary information for parties to make an informed decision. It only stands that if equality is for all then every community should be held to similar standards and disclosure should extended to gender identity no?

For more on consent take a glance at this infographic on when to stop, or this piece looking at consent and how rape culture manifests in random spaces.

This was first published on This Is Africa.

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Consent is mandatory for every human being that is sexually active. Rape and sexual assault still happen in the LGBTQ+ community all over the world.

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