- Ginuwine, R’n’B singer and star in United Kingdom’s reality television show Celebrity Big Brother, was filmed saying he would not want to date a transgender woman and refusing to share a kiss with trans woman and fellow housemate India Willoughby.
- The footage sparked a debate on social media whether Ginuwine’s actions and words can be characterized as his right to dating preferences or discrimination.
The United Kingdom reality television show Celebrity Big Brother sparked the debate on dating transgender individuals, particularly on whether refusing to date them constitutes transphobia.
According to BBC transgender latest news on January 12, the show, which films 24/7 the lives of celebrities living in one house, started the conversation on discrimination against transgender women when India Willoughby, a trans housemate, asked the dating preference of R’n’B singer Ginuwe.
Willoughby asked, “Would you go out with a transsexual woman?”
“I believe it’s your choice… I would choose not to,” Ginuwine replied. “That doesn’t make me scared.”
“You would go out with a woman?”
“But you wouldn’t go out with a transsexual woman?”
A short while after, Willoughby suggested that they share a kiss, but Ginuwine refused and turned away from her.
She was then seen explaining to a guest, “All this superficial stuff that you are a woman and all that sounds great and is the right thing to say. But it makes no difference if people don’t believe it – that’s the problem.”
Preference or transphobia?
The exchange initiated discussion on social media, with people divided between defending Ginuwine’s action as preference and accusing him of discrimination.
Some of the audience asserted that not wanting to date a trans woman is discrimination, specifically transphobia – a dislike or fear of trans individuals.
On Twitter, user @CityTerrorism wrote, “If you have a sexual preference that discriminates against transgender men or transgender women, you are transphobic… This is a fact.”
Others though said that the singer has the right to his dating preference without being subjected to criticism.
The conversation spread in other social media sites and outside of the country. On YouTube, disc jockey Charlamagne Tha God’s video arguing that Ginuwine was entitled to his choice of a date has been watched 350,000 times.
Trans woman, model, and songwriter Ms SaHHara said that the action and statement of Ginuwine were not transphobic.
“I do not want to call it transphobic,” she said. “When someone is transphobic they don’t sit next to them. Ginuwine was having a very comfortable conversation with India.”
Defining the concept of transphobia, she explained, “If you are afraid of trans people, if you are excluding trans women from womanhood then you are being transphobic.”
However, she characterized Ginuwine’s comments as ignorant.
“What Ginuwine said was that of an ignorant person who has not been with a trans woman before. It was more of an ignorance, fed by a media that often depicts trans women in a sensationalised way, with strong bone structure and husky low-baritone voices,” she continued.
“The majority of straight men are worried about what society thinks of them if they date a trans woman,” she said. “Toxic masculinity makes them violent and rude about their attraction. When you don’t fancy someone you should talk about their characteristics. It’s not as black and white as many people think it is because whether you are attracted to someone or not is about being attracted to a fellow human being.”
Discrimination against trans people
Dr. Liadh Timmins, who specializes in sexual orientation and gender identity at King’s College London, believed that Ginuwine’s statements were discriminatory.
“Sexual attraction is a response to stimuli – that can be based on any number of things for example waist to hip ratio, certain behaviours, or breast size,” Dr. Timmins said. “If you have a trans woman who transitions very early on, she may be physically identical to a cis woman at a surface level.”
A cis woman is someone whose gender identity coincides with the gender assigned at birth.
“There are hormonal sweet spots where trans women can transition and be effectively indistinguishable at a certain level from cisgender women,” Dr Timmins said. “So being unwilling to date on the basis of someone being trans, rather than on the basis of individual stimuli is something I would personally call transphobic.”
“This is a philosophical rather than empirical discussion because there is not a lot of nuanced research into this area yet,” Dr. Timmins explained. “Grouping all transgender women as the same and all cis gender women as the same is effectively prejudice.”