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Riley Dennis is a feminist, transgender activist and YouTuber. She identifies as a non-binary woman, and a lesbian, and has been making videos for the website Everyday Feminism since 2015, and maintains an active YouTube channel which has about 51,000 subscribers as of May 2018.
She has covered a range of subjects in depth, including rape culture, fat acceptance, homophobia, the friendzone, sex-shaming of women, whataboutism, Islamophobia, non-binary gender and child abuse.
Trans-exclusionary dating preference debate
In November 2016, Dennis posted a video entitled "Your Dating Preferences May Be Discriminatory", in which she opined that trans-exclusionary sexual preferences may be socially conditioned and could be unlearned, kicking off an explosion of online conversations, as well as a large amount of negative attention: this and other videos from Dennis have been inundated with many thousands of downvotes and abusive transphobic comments (often of the misgendering kind), partly instigated by campaigns and partly by negative video responses from popular YouTubers with many times larger subscriber bases than she has.
These responses have arguably misrepresented Dennis' argument,[note 1] which is essentially a call for her audience to reflect on whether the categorical exclusion of transgender people from one's dating pool may be partly influenced by transphobia - or in other words, to avoid conflating innate sexuality with socially conditioned prejudice, in a manner comparable to sexual racism. "It is discriminatory to categorically rule out all trans people as partners based solely on the fact that they are trans" is a far cry from "You must go out of your way to date a trans person or else you're discriminatory", which is the distorted and nuance-free version that her critics promote, interpreting her argument as an outright attack on gay and lesbian identity and likening it to conversion therapy. Some have even petitioned Everyday Feminism to drop her.
Dennis later doubled down on her position with another video, "Can Having Genital Preferences for Dating Mean You're Anti-Trans?" Once again, the responses show that her calls for self-reflection may have been very optimistic.
In a 2017 video called "No, Trans Women Are NOT ‘Biologically Male’", she broke down the concept of biological sex and asserted that it is a social construct, albeit in a different way from gender, and at the very least not a clear dichotomy. This similarly caused controversy; among her critics on this issue was biologist Jerry Coyne.
Dennis was also critical of Laci Green "reaching out" to her political adversaries in May 2017, saying "…she seems more interested in pandering to anti-feminists, complimenting them, and making them feel good than she does protecting the people who are at the receiving end of anti-feminist harassment campaigns."
- Riley J. Dennis, Author at Everyday Feminism
- Riley Dennis on YouTube
- Your Rape Joke Isn't Funny (And Your First Amendment Right Isn't Being Attacked) – Here’s Exactly Why
- Unpacking What 'Fat' Really Means (And Why How We Use It Is F*cked Up)
- Here Are 5 Ways You Might Still Be Perpetuating Homophobia, Even If You’re Not a Homophobe
- Yes, the Concept of 'Friend Zoning' Is Harmful – And Here’s Why
- Sex-Shaming Is Ridiculous and Harmful – Here's Why
- Why You Should Stop Asking 'Aren't There More Important Issues to Care About?'
- Why Would a Queer Person Support Muslims?
- 3 Simple Steps to Recognizing the Existence of Non-Binary People
- Science Doesn’t Support the Sex Binary (Pssst: Not Everyone Is Male or Female)
- 6 Misleading Myths That Make It Hard to Recognize Child Abuse
- Your Dating Preferences May Be Discriminatory
- Abigail Curlew (February 24, 2018). What’s Wrong With the ‘No Trans’ Dating Preference Debate. Vice.
- Finkelman, Byrgen. The Pride Center needs an intervention (a guest post by Teela Jewel Wild)
- Yardley, Miranda. Transgender, Transtrender, Identity and Validity
- Petition - Everyday Feminism: Drop Riley J. Dennis from your team of contributors
- Can Having Genital Preferences for Dating Mean You're Anti-Trans?
- No, Trans Women Are NOT ‘Biologically Male'
- Coyne, Jerry. Is sex a social construct like gender? Nope.
- Mamone, Trav. Is Biological Sex a Social Construct? It's Complicated
- Riley Dennis' Tumblr