The Cotton Ceiling

| Apr 20, 2015
Amanda Farren


A new year being trans, a new term learned. “The Cotton Ceiling.” I have experienced this first hand in life and on OKCupid, and think that it describes the rift between cis lesbian women and transwomen pretty accurately, although it drives TERFs crrrazyyy. (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists)

The definition: “The cotton ceiling is a theory proposed by trans porn star and activist Drew DeVeaux to explain the experiences queer trans women have with simultaneous social inclusion and sexual exclusion within the broader queer women’s communities. Basically, it means that cis queer or lesbian women will be friends with us and talk day and night about trans rights and ending transmisogyny, but will still not consider us viable sexual partners.

The term Cotton Ceiling is a reference to the “glass ceiling” that second wave feminists identified in the workforce, wherein women could only advance so high in the workforce but could not break through into positions of power and authority. The cotton represents underwear, signifying sex.”

I am a transwoman in her 4th year of transition. I have done all of the newbie stuff. I have been living life pretty normally now for a while. I am full time and am on my 3rd job as a female. I have “passing privilege.” I do very well in this world just being able to walk around living life. It’s pretty damn cool actually. However, there comes a time in everyone’s life where they need more. They seek a partner, a person which they will share their lives with and grow together with. It may be a few months, a few years, or a few decades. It’s called love, and I seek it.

I had love in my life. I was married for 15 years and knew my ex-wife for 21 total years. That was almost half of my life. That ended in divorce as transition began in late 2011. I had a partner after I transitioned for two and a half years. I probably fell victim to the “dating in the first year of transition’” no-no. I had never heard this, but my partner had. We pushed thru it. I became antsy and felt held back after a while. I needed to sow my wild oats, my girl oats. Life was all new. Being an attractive female changes the game. I chased after cis women, thinking that they were the prize. They were what I still wanted. In my mind, I thought, I look good, I can blend in. I think I can get myself a cis women again.

Fast forward to today and I am a different person. I have lived as a female for a while now. Things are smoothing out and I am in for the long haul. I feel more relaxed about my transition. I am not quite done though. I still have body issues. I want GRS. I am also afraid of it. I am afraid of the surgery. I am afraid of the thought of mutilating perfectly healthy tissue. People tell me that lesbians may be more open to date you if you get it. I am skeptical, hence my new search.

I identify as a pansexual. I have newly classified myself as this having thought about who I like to date and who I am attracted to. That being said, I lean heavily toward women. Women were there before, women are here in my thoughts now. I am a walking example of how gender identity and sexual preference are separate. I like it. I relish being a mind changer. I come from a long line of rebels. I like and/or have dated, men, women, tranwomen, transmen, lesbians, bisexuals, and other pansexuals. Cis women always seem to come out on the top of the heap though. The look and feel of their bodies is just plain magical.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area now. I made a long cross country trip to come to my dream destination after escaping the clutches of South Carolina. I followed my partner there from my hometown of Pittsburgh. Pa. in 2011. I regretted ever being in South Carolina. It is one of the worst places for LGBT people. I sought to travel to a place that I knew was a trans and gay Mecca. San Francisco is definitely that. The Castro, with its huge rainbow flag, is probably ground zero. The surrounding areas vary in their people and tolerances, but overall, it is the complete polar opposite of The South.

While this area is a Mecca, it is no panacea. It’s not a dream…it has its stark realities. One of them is its people. There are a crapload of people here. 8.5 million in the three city area of SF, Oakland and San Jose. It gets crowded. It is very diverse though. In SC you have basically two races. Here, you have a plethora. There is also diversity in sexual preference. It is a wide spectrum of straight, gay, lesbian, bi, pan, poly, kink, queer, etc. It can be quite daunting to the uninitiated. With people, comes the traffic and the attitudes. People here are very self-involved, ambivalent, and kinda kooky at times. Some are REALLY kooky.

I joined OKCupid about a month ago. I was hoping to take full advantage of the progressive attitudes and trans tolerance of the great San Francisco Bay Area. I was hoping to find an open minded cis-lesbian woman who would be open to date and explore a relationship. I thought, what better place than here, what better time than now? So far, I have been sorely disappointed. It’s The Cotton Ceiling. No one told me about this when I signed up. Its nowhere in the Trans Manual. Maybe its just not talked about, or maybe I was just not listening yet. Cis gender lesbians do…not…want…us. This point is further driven home by the presence of an exclusionary haven, Michfest. [Annual event in Michigan closed to trans women.] It is an all women music festival that happens annually. The people who run and attend this “festival” do their best to put transwomen in their place. To them, we are not women. We are not real women. To them, we are men in dresses, trying to infiltrate “women’s only” spaces and ruin it with patriarchal dominance.

They resist the penis. The penis to them is the Devil. Anything having to do with penises, they unequivocally oppose, regardless of whether it is exclusionary or irrational. They are gold star rad-fems hellbent on taking back the world from oppressive men. Oh, some may say they support trans rights. Some may say that they have trans friends and are sympathetic to the trans cause. However, when it comes time to open themselves up to dating us and put their money where their mouth is…the answer is NO WAY. We are icky, icky transwomen with…gasp… penises. Some of us don’t have penises. We went through a painful process to correct our defect. It still is not a vagina to them. In one TERF space, I read some truly despicable remarks about how lesbians feel about transwomen. It was rough to read. “Men in dresses with f**kholes” was one particularly vulgar term used. My friend Sophie likes to say “This is the GOP.” Well, this is trans dating.

I have dated and loved transwomen. They are like me. We have things in common. Lesbians are foreign to me. I have a lesbian friend. I asked her a question once. I asked something to the effect of “ As a lesbian, do you think you could open your heart to date a transwoman?” She said she couldn’t answer the question. I asked her why lesbians don’t like to date transwomen. Again, she had no answer. I pondered this. I asked this question BEFORE I started dating recently. I still thought that maybe she was just an aberration and that this area, for sure, would have lesbian women open enough to date an attractive transwomen with passing privilege. So far, I was wrong. Attitudes here are pretty much no different than in Michigan or Washington or South Carolina or Pennsylvania. I may eat my words someday, but for now, it is what it is.

I have been on OKCupid for a month. The tally: zero cis interaction. Only a few messages by transwomen praising my open and honest profile. I went on 4 dates with two transwomen. Both ended after the second date. I recently changed my profile to erase all trans-related information. Wouldn’t you know it, cis interaction. I did change up my photo but the ones who already viewed me in the last month already know and pass me by. But, I am getting messages from women. Lesbians do not want us. It is a clear and sobering fact. It is like finding a needle in a haystack if you find a bisexual or lesbian cis woman who accepts transwomen. I know of one friend who found a lesbian and one who is married to a bisexual woman. That is out of ALL of the transpeople I know or have made the acquaintance of. It takes a damn near miracle.

I will press on, however. I am no quitter. I am a rebel. I don’t accept things just because that’s “the way they are.” I will continue the quest for my fair maiden. The Cotton Ceiling must be broken. We are not perverted men seeking to rape lesbians and turn them into slaves to the patriarchy. We — ARE women. We ARE females. We ARE people. We have feelings. If you cut us, we bleed, just like you. We are beautiful and strong. We have desirable bodies. We need love like everyone else. We are society evolving. Maybe this is scary or goes against the moral fiber of your beliefs. All we ask for is a chance to love who we want to love and be who we want to be…and for many transwomen — that is a woman. We are women. Love us like one.

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Category: Body & Soul, Opinion

About the Author ()

I am a transwoman originally from Pittsburgh, PA. I have been living full time for 4 years. I work in retail but am an artist/Graphic Designer and aspiring writer. I tend to address the controversial in my writing. I would love to change the world one article at a time. I moved here to The San Francisco Bay Area to start over, again. The adventure continues...

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