Transmen, female-to-male transexuals, continue to be barred from membership in Chicago’s Hellfire BD/SM club, the largest of some 400 such clubs in the nation. Despite some internal dissent, including the resignation of the club’s newletter editor, the membership recently voted to maintain their 10-year policy that “there must be a penal [sic] attachment.” Hellfire is one of the few BD/SM clubs in country to have an active policy against FTMs.
Trans activists are questioning the legality of such a policy, citing Hellfire’s open invitation to membership on their website and that the club is licensed by the city of Chicago, which has a gender identity ordinance. Transmen often do not have complete gender reassignment surgery, for a variety of reasons. Many leather transmen will be in Chicago this weekend for the International Mister Leather pageant, when Hellfire will be hosting several events of their own.
In a related story, Frameline, San Francisco’s gay film festival, has yanked a screening of lesbian filmmaker Catherine Crouch’s The Gendercator, after local trans activists complained that the film was transphobic. Crouch say her film is a “short satirical take on female body modification and gender,” adding, “If this film is a flashpoint between lesbians and trans people, shouldn’t it happen at Frameline? Shouldn’t it happen in San Francisco?” Crouch, who describes her film as science fiction, says she is alarmed by the number of lesbians she sees transitioning into men and “how fast it is happening.” Frameline has never removed a film from its schedule due to content in its 31-year history.
My take is that both Hellfire and Frameline are wrong. Transmen deserve the chance to be ignored at sex parties just like the rest of us. And while I haven’t seen The Gendercator, censoring a film that seems to speak to a real sense of alarm among some lesbians only stifles the needed conversation as transmen continue to gain visibility.