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Ralph Leonard and transgender people

Ralph Leonard is a British-Nigerian writer who writes on international politics, religion, culture, and humanism.

2020 UnHerd article

Using a question India Willoughby posed on Big Brother about dating transgender people, Leonard wrote for anti-transgender publication UnHerd about the so-called “cotton ceiling” debate about cisgender women who won’t date trans women.

Unfortunately, two years on, the ethics of refusing transsexual people as dating partners remains a fraught subject: questions such as “Is it transphobic for lesbians not to date trans women?” are being discussed online. Again, they tend to arouse strong reactions. Some lesbians, for instance, have expressed concerns that raising the question of whether they ‘should’ be attracted to trans women is a surreptitious attempt to pressure, manipulate and guilt trip them into shifting their sexual boundaries into unwanted sex in the name of being more ‘open’.

Of course, there are lesbians who are reluctant to date trans women because they believe they are not actually women (or at least not women in the same way biologically born women are) . But it’s worth remembering that lesbians have endured a long history of attempts to control their sexuality, whether through hideous practices such as religious indoctrination, conversion therapy or ‘corrective’ rape to “make them straight”. And why focus the attack on lesbians, when many straight men would also reject trans women as a potential mate?

This obviously provokes a wider question: when does a preference become a convenient cover for bigotry and prejudice? On some level, as this tweet declares, “dating is discrimination”. But the question provoked by that Big Brother episode was: when is discrimination acceptable, and when is it unacceptable?


Leonard, Ralph (October 7, 2020). Is dating discrimination? UnHerd


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