What Transmisogyny Looks Like

This is a topic that has been vital to my understanding of the world over the past few years, but it’s still relatively unknown outside certain circles of activists. When I mention it as an area of my work, I almost invariably have to explain what it is. The short answer is that it is the intersection of transphobia and misogyny that specifically targets trans women. But that dry academic answer never communicates the visceral and intense experience that it is.

Here’s a limited list of examples of what transmisogyny looks like. Every example on this list has a story (or dozens of stories) behind it.

Relationship and Sexual Violence

When trans women desperately in need of sexual assault or domestic violence services are turned away because their needs are considered less important than the hypothetical discomfort their presence might cause for others, that’s transmisogyny.

When activists encourage people not even to try to fight for trans women’s access to sexual assault and domestic violence services because of the possibility that it could leave trans men unable to access those services, that’s transmisogyny.

When I, personally, sought out support after being abused by my trans male partner and was told by a prominent genderqueer activist that because I’m a trans woman and felt validation in talking with cis women who have experienced abuse, I must have invented the abuse in an attempt to feel more like a woman by having an abusive boyfriend, that’s transmisogyny.

When a trans woman is brave enough to talk openly about surviving childhood violence and experiencing rape, only to be told that her pain is less valid or important than cis women’s experience of sexism, that’s transmisogyny.

Gender Expression

When trans women who present femininely or assert a binary identity are blamed for perpetuating binary gender roles, while it’s forgotten that many or even more cis women do the same, that’s transmisogyny. (When cis women who present femininely are also blamed for perpetuating binary gender roles, that’s femmephobia)

When trans women have every aspect of their presentation examined and labeled either hyperfeminine and therefore fake or not feminine enough and therefore male, while the same traits would be seen as normal in cis women, that’s transmisogyny.

When trans masculine spaces allows cis butch women to attend but turn away trans butch women, that’s transmisogyny. (When femme trans men are also turned away from those spaces, that’s femmephobia.)

Politics and Activism

When trans women and transfeminine genderqueers are assumed to be conformist, apolitical, and weak while trans men and transmasculine genderqueers are assumed to be radical, with it, and hip, that’s transmisogyny (and femmephobia, and subversivism).

Specifically, when I present in a butch or genderfuck way and people assume I’m radical, politically knowledgeable and pay attention to me, but when I present femininely I am ignored, that’s transmisogyny (and femmephobia and subversivism).

When trans women are told that they are politically ignorant when they object to trans men “reclaiming” a derogatory term that has been used specifically against trans women and not against trans men, that’s transmisogyny.

When almost every local trans group in my state (and likely a majority in other states) are run by trans men and attended by a significant majority of trans men, yet people still complain about trans women dominating groups and point to inappropriate behavior by Virginia Prince and other transfeminine activists from decades ago as if it’s representative of what’s happening today, that’s transmisogyny.

When there’s only one trans support group in town and it’s for transmale folks only, or only one comprehensive online network to discuss surgery results and it’s for transmale folks only, or only one foundation offering financial help accessing surgery and it’s for transmale folks only, that’s transmisogyny.

“Male Privilege”

When trans women are told that they need to stop being assertive and strong because it is a sign of male privilege – invariably by “feminists” who, of course, encourage cis women to be assertive and strong – that’s transmisogyny.

When trans women are pressured into being silent, rarely offering their opinion, and refusing leadership roles for fear of being seen as male or accused of having male privilege, that’s transmisogyny.

When trans women are afraid to analyze or discuss the role of male privilege in their life because of the way accusations of male privilege have been used as weapons to silence, shame, and misgender trans women, that’s transmisogyny.

When trans women do analyze and discuss the role of male privilege in their lives and come to different conclusions than the dominant cis feminist perspective and are told it is because they simply don’t understand privilege or are ignorant of feminism, that’s transmisogyny.

Community and relationships

When “women and trans” space allows everyone on a transmale spectrum to attend unquestioned (because even if their trans status is not respected, they would still be welcomed as a woman) yet people on a transfemale spectrum are subjected to scrutiny and those who are not “trans enough” are asked to leave, that’s transmisogyny.

When those same “women and trans” spaces, or even the ones that don’t police entrance, are attended by a dozen or so trans men yet zero or only one or two trans women, that’s transmisogyny. (It obviously indicates that they don’t feel welcome, don’t trust the organizers, or weren’t outreached to.)

When queer women’s spaces have trans women inclusive policies, yet any trans women who attend are generally ignored or not included in discussions, that’s transmisogyny.

While it’s true that individual preferences in partners are complicated, when large swaths of queer women’s community exotify trans men or identify as trans-sensual or even “tranny chasers” while being clear that they will not consider trans women as potential partners, that’s transmisogyny (and in some cases, general transphobia or cissexist exotification as well).

When people who are attracted to women and have met only a few trans women announce that they would never date a trans women, that’s transmisogyny. (Think about it, if a white person announced that they’d never date a black woman, especially if they had only met 2-3 black women in their life, we’d name that as being influenced by racism.)

Sexualization

When the main way to diagnose fetishistic transvestitism or autogynophilia is to look for the presence of sexual enjoyment, and trans women who enjoy their sexuality risk being given one of those diagnoses and denied trans related health care, that’s transmisogyny.

When being sexually available to men and not interested in your own sexual gratification is another way to prove that you are not a fetishistic transvestite or autogynophile, that’s transmisogyny.

When doctors encourage target testosterone levels significantly lower than cis women’s average levels requiring high doses of testosterone blockers, and when the most common testosterone blocker reduces sexuality in addition to blocking testosterone, that’s transmisogyny. (When that’s something that trans women are asking for themselves, it’s more complex, but probably still influenced by transmisogyny somewhere.)

And that’s just what I came up with last night. I haven’t even mentioned issues around law enforcement and prisons. What other experiences of transmisogyny have you seen or experienced?

27 Responses to What Transmisogyny Looks Like

  • GallingGalla says:

    When doctors encourage target testosterone levels significantly lower than cis women’s average levels requiring high doses of testosterone blockers, and when the most common testosterone blocker reduces sexuality in addition to blocking testosterone, that’s transmisogyny.

    THANK YOU for this point, and the entire article.

    i’ll add, from my own experience: when a trans masculine person waxes unpoetic with misogynist statements and is looked upon as “transgressive” by the other trans masculine people and cis women in the group, while the *lone* trans woman gets absolutely no support when calling him out, that’s trans-misogyny.

    when, in an online space that is supposed to be safe for people of all non-cis identities, a trans man refers to trans feminine people as “mtf’s”, using the term as a noun, that’s trans-misogyny.

    when a trans masculine genderqueer person tells a trans feminine genderqueer person (i identified as such as part of my path towards transition) that “it’s very unusual for a maab person to identify as genderqueer”, as if that is an identity permitted only to those on the trans masculine spectrum, that’s trans-misogyny.

  • Aria says:

    I agree entirely too much. I strikes a chord how much of this I’ve seen and dealt with, and that’s in spaces I’ve felt almost entirely safe in.

    Eloquently said. Thank you.

  • something2be says:

    THANK YOU for this article! My partner and I thought it was great!

    A couple of things I’d like to add:

    When parts of the lesbian community welcome cisgender women who almost exclusively date trans men but declare that I am “not a real lesbian” because my partner is a trans woman, that’s transmisogyny.

    When parts of the lesbian community tell my partner that she has no right to identify as lesbian because she happens to be trans, that’s transmisogyny.

  • Sarah Brown says:

    I think this post is absolutely fantastic. Thank you for writing this. Mind if I link to it?

  • Tina Russell says:

    I remember being frustrated about all the press “The L Word” got for having a transsexual male character. I mean, it’s only realistic, considering transsexual men often identify as lesbians before transition. It seemed to me, though, that one could safely assume adding a transsexual to the cast of “The L Word” would mean adding a transsexual lesbian, right? I mean… ’cause it’s a lesbian show? …No luck. (I hear it did have a trans woman as a recurring character, and that’s cool.)

    It’s the same way whenever I read articles or discussions about women’s colleges dealing with the presence of transsexual students. Invariably, they’re discussing trans men exclusively. Obviously, they have good reason to be discussing trans men, since they might have begun attending the college before ever deciding to transition. (Plus, it strikes at the issue of “betrayal,” the manufactured accusation leveled at trans men by cis women time and again.) I just die a little inside when they never mention the issue of transsexual women who want to attend women’s colleges.

    Also, here’s something that trans men and trans women have in common: we’re often perceived as being gayer than gay. The truth is almost the exact opposite; a trans man, obviously, is going to be more comfortable being considered a “queer man” than a trans woman. The belief persists, though, that somehow we’re so gay we want to be the opposite sex. This is strange, since I can identify much more closely with a butch woman than an effeminate man.

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  • Sarah,

    Certainly, I’d appreciate being linked too. Also if you’re interested there’s some interesting discussion happening over at Bilerico, where I also posted it. Mostly very positive, the only critical folks are coming at it from a questioning place and are open to learning more.

  • Cheshire says:

    gg, the no binary trans people who really helped me when I was struggling where trans feminine* people. I am glad to have known them

    I really hate the f/maab because it seems to once again make trans identities less important than what a doctor said 20+ years ago.

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  • Hypatia says:

    I wanted to pingback but my LJ account doesn’t support that feature. Anyway, I linked to this great analysis from my LJ post that it inspired, Challenging femmephobia http://johanna-hypatia.livejournal.com/153753.html

  • Lynn says:

    When I felt like I had to be femme and fuck guys and not be attracted to women, because I was male assigned at birth. I used to describe it as internalized homophobia and gender conformity. But really it was internalized misogyny. Because I never had that attitude towards cis butches.

  • Seda says:

    Thanks, ND, good points, good post. I also like the discussion Julia Serano has on it in “Whipping Girl.”

  • orion says:

    You realy went for it there with that article! I identify as a lesbian and i am not attracted to transmen, but i am attracted to transwomen. I think dating a transwoman would be the hottest thing ever. I have also had gender issues myself and have in the past questioned my own gender. I could be gender queer as i feel like i have both a masculine and feminine side, but when i tell people they do not understand just simply because i do not appear masculine in there eyes. I have given great thought to what kind of a man i would want to be if i was a man and i know that i would want to be one of the more feminine types, i would wear medium length hair and dress more like a metro, and yes i would probably be a transwoman chaser. Longer hair can be worn in a masculine or feminine way just like anything can and probably had been at some time in history. Men used to wear long skirts as men in roman times, victorian men used to wear more decrotive clothes as men. Women can wear short hair as women and trousers as women without them seeing it as becoming masculine. But when i tell people i have a masuline side or that i have in the past questioned my gender i get asked why i have long hair. People can be very narrow minded when it comes to gender expression, people within the LGBT community are no different. I have decided that over the coming years i am going to try and explore the gender queer scene more, at least if there is one i will. I am not going to dividemyself into either being butch or femme and if i get the oppotunity to date a transwoman i will go for it. X

  • That is a lot of thought in the above definition, which I had never heard of before. I am female since 2007, and would never present as male again even though a couple of cis-women would like me to. For about a week after my epiphany I thought maybe I was bi-gendered, found out very quickly I am all female. But lesbian and bi could be a future possibility but I can’t see it now.

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  • Asher says:

    Thank you. That was an incredibly articulate and thorough overview of some of the issues that face trans women specifically, which I as a trans man tend to overlook. Fantastic piece.

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