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.
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.
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.)
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?