I realise that the few posts I have made so far have been quite abstract. I have been thinking about what I mean by “anti-transphobic feminism”, and a lot of the posts I have lined up seem to be commenting on transphobic fail elsewhere on the Internet, so I have decided that that will be the main point of this blog.
A while back, a post was made on Feministing entitled “Having Sex While Stealth Is Not Sexual Assault”. The post itself was very well-written and had some very good points to make, but the comment thread was, to use the Internet term, Epic Fail.
I managed to read through all the comments without spontaneously combusting, but only just. I don’t recommend it unless you have a very high tolerance for transphobia, transmisogyny, trolling etc. (although there are a *few* very good comments as well.)
The comments can be broadly classified into three types. 1.) Concern trolling, 2.) Treating the whole thing as an intellectual excercise, and 3.) “I’m-not-transphobic-but…”, which was by far the most common.
The concern trolling consisted of comments along the lines of “Well we’re only trying to *help* you, if you don’t come out to people and then something bad happens then don’t come running to us”. This is incredibly patronising on several levels, one of which is that trans people are fully aware that their gender status makes them vulnerable to harrasment, assault and even murder, at a rate which far exceeds that of cis people(1). They certainly don’t need cis people advising them on who to come out to, how or when.
The second type of fail was from people who treated the entire thing as an intellectual excercise and mused on hypothetical situations, and then wondered why trans people were replying and explaining that it isn’t just a philosophical debate, real people and real emotions are involved. They then replied very snootily, asking why people were getting so upset as they were just speaking *hypothetically*. I personally think that it is never acceptable to reduce the lives and experiences of an entire group of people to just some kind of academic subject to be debated and discussed, mostly by people who do not belong to that group, but that is just my opinion.
The third and most common type of fail I have left until last. Heterosexual cis people were arguing that they were a special type of straight which only found cis people attractive (indeed, several people attempted to coin the phrase “heterocissexual”) and therefore if they found a trans person attractive that trans person should tell them of their trans status so they could explain that actually they were not attracted to them.
This is a lot of fail to disentangle, but I will take it point by point. Firstly, is it only me that notices the logic fail in “I only find cis people attractive so if I find a trans person attractive…”? Either there is a subset of heterosexuality that only finds cis people attractive (which I personally doubt) or there are a large number of people out there who would find somebody attractive until they discovered their trans status. This is, in my opinion, transphobia pure and simple.
I may end up being flamed like a piece of chicken at KFC for saying this, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it’s a duck. If a person has a passport, birth certificate and all necessary documentation that states she is female, if she has breasts and a vagina, then she is female (2). If somebody finds her attractive, but would not do if they knew her trans status, then that is transphobia, and transmisogyny to boot.
Indeed, why are there so many cis people (I believe it is mainly the heterosexual cis people, but please feel free to correct me) who do not find trans people attractive if they know of their trans status?
It all comes down to two things. One is that society as a whole does not accept the gender of trans people. “Used to be a…” “Born a…” “Really a…” “What is it?” “What was your name before?” “What is your real name?” All these and many more hurtful and damaging comments highlight the failure of society to accept people for who they really are.
The second is that society trains heterosexual men to be hyper-vigilant of their straightness. No looking, no touching, insults such as queer, poof, bender, batty boy, men are brought up to be so uber-straight that they feel they must guard against anything that might damage their heterosexuality.
And until society changes, trans people will always come off the worse for it.
(1) Estimates of the number of trans people in the UK are about 5000, of a total population of around 63 million. In the UK in 2008/09 there were fewer than 700 murders. Two of these were trans people. The numbers speak for themselves.
(2) Indeed, I would further argue that anyone who considers herself female is. Many trans women cannot afford surgery, cannot have it for medical reasons or choose for any other number of reasons, all of which are valid, not to have surgery. Similary they may live in a country which does not allow them to change their documentation. The example above was given to make my point clearer.