Cotton ceiling

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When I proposed the notion of the cotton ceiling a few years back, the violent backlash against me was profound. Not just death threats, but, even more awful were the accusations of rape, of being “a rapist”. As a survivor of sexual assault this cut deeper than anything. The cotton ceiling was meant as a means to question why certain bodiestrans or fat or disabled or racialized bodies for starters – are sometimes seen as undesirable, unfuckable, unlovable. It was not a violent term, but as is almost always the case, cis activists violently attacked the struggle for trans equality through making our bodies and identities intrinsically violent.

—Drew DeVeaux[1]

Queer porn star Drew DeVeaux coined "cotton ceiling".[2]

Cotton ceiling is the tendency of trans women to be excluded from the higher echelons of (cis-dominated) women's and queer spaces — specifically within the porn industry, but also society in general.[3] It is a manifestation of transmisogyny at the intersection of cissexism, misogyny, and the glass ceiling.

It was coined by Canadian trans woman and activist Drew DeVeaux.[3] The "cotton" refers to underwear, implying that the contents of a trans woman's underwear (i.e., whether she has a penis) are of importance. The contents of her underwear act as an axis to oppress and marginalise her. The "ceiling" refers to the glass ceiling, a related phrase that denotes women's position within kyriarchy regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth. Both ceilings contribute to society-level inequalities such as the gender pay gap.

Complementing definitions

A trans-exclusionary radical feminist website quotes a "[redacted trans]" woman giving her 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 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 feminist 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.[4]

Avory Faucette explains its value in trans feminism praxis further:

[T]he cotton ceiling [is] us[ed] to challenge cis lesbians’ tendency to support trans causes generally but draw the line at sleeping with trans women or including trans lesbians in their sexual communities.[5]

Trans-exclusionary radical feminism

See the main article on this topic: Trans-exclusionary radical feminism

Unfortunately, trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) have attempted to use "cotton ceiling" to smear trans women.[6][7] Apart from abuse, and typical TERF tactics, they have also managed to almost completely take over the Google search results for the query, filling it with misinformation and extreme transmisogyny.[8]

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