Transgender lesbians? Whatever

What happens when a husband decides to become a wife? It depends where you live, according to a really interesting story in the New York Times.

Improbably, Tina Kelley’s story from New Millford, New Jersey reminds me of a vortex of confusion that engulfed me in Jakarta, early in our research into transgender sex workers. In a story about two women who have been married since one of them was a man, Tina writes about the impossible confusion of laws relating to same-sex marriage and sex changes in the U.S.

Lawyers for Christie Lee Littleton, a Texas male-to-female transsexual suing her husband’s doctors for wrongful death, noted the confused landscape: “Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Texas, is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Texas, and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”

When we were training researchers for a study of transgender sex workers, or waria, in Jakarta, I was explaining questions about sexual partnerships. It’s a wee bit complicated, because most waria are transgender (they live as women) but not transsexual (they still have all their male tackle). This obviously racks up the sexual possibilities. “Ok, Section E is about sex with another waria who is paying you,” I intoned. Resty, one of the waria on the study team (pictured below), raised her hand. “What if you’re getting paid, but not by the other waria?” Patiently, I explained that we’d already covered payment by male clients in section C. Impatiently, Resty corrected me. “I know that. But I mean, what if a client pays me to have lesbian sex with another waria?”


So now we have a straight guy who is paying two people with penises and XY chromosomes to pretend they are women having lesbian sex. Isn’t the world a wonderfully varied place?

This post was published on 27/04/08 in Men, women and others.

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  1. Comment by J, 29/07/10, 07:38:

    Having female gender identity does not mean someone is necessarily attracted to males, gender identity is a seperate issue than sexual orientation. The author of this article should definately educate herself about human sexual differentiation, not everybody who is assumed to have a penis has XY chromosomes, some people are intersexed. There is too many variations in human nature to make such assumptions. Why should the chromosomes matter in categorising people’s gender anyway? There are even women out there born anatomically female but with XY chromosomes. Gender is a complex issue, chromosomes or other bits are not sufficient enough on their on to determine someones true gender or their gender identity. And putting transgendered people’s private parts on the table and ‘tackling’ with them so much is very deragatory, there is negativity attached to it by referring to it as the ‘male tackle’ and it sounds very belittling. Maybe the author should post a picture of her c*** so the readers can find names for it and analyse every detail about it. This person needs to stop writing up transphobic articles about the transgender community, I dare you to put down other communities like Jews and the Blacks because you just couldn’t coz your shitty books just wouldn’t sell.

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