The Whitney Museum chooses silence in an effort to displace, downplay, and negate valid public outrage regarding their policies, ethics and leadership. By Jamara Wakefield May 17th marked the start of the 79th Whitney Biennial. The Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, featuring typically young and lesser-known artists, at the Whitney Museum of American Art […]
Don’t Be A TERF: Transmisogyny 101
We cannot divorce transmisogyny from its roots in both transmisia and misogyny, nor can we ignore the ways in which the patriarchy significantly and tangibly impacts trans women.
Time and time again cis folks, including cis women, will invalidate trans women’s womanhood by claiming we do not experience oppression under cisheteropatriarchy. Cis women, for example, will dismiss trans women’s concerns and lived experiences as “crying wolf” and re-center their experiences in all spaces as though they aren’t already saturated with cis experiences.
To define womanhood as dependent on experiencing patriarchal oppression has many pitfalls, but in addition, this argument is simply false. Trans women do experience misogyny. In particular, trans women and femmes are hypervisible, fetishized, objectified, invalidated, and abused, facing a confluence of oppressions like transmisia and misogyny. In this, trans women face a specific intersection of these known as transmisogyny.
And to disconnect transmisogyny and define other manifestations of misogyny as more “real” is in itself a form of gender-based violence. To assert that transmisogyny or any experience of trans womanhood is less than or isn’t as “real” is cissexist violence and is often weaponized to enact more violence.
Although often erased or invalidated, all trans women experience misogyny. Trans women of all ages, all types of presentation/expression, and through all different stages of transitioning (or not transitioning) do in fact experience misogyny in addition to transmisia, often in the form of transmisogyny specifically.
It’s in the way autonomy is stolen systemically such as by the medical-industrial complex in gatekeeping life-saving medical procedures or by the state in withholding access to social institutions through so-called “bathroom bills” or “bathroom laws”. It’s present interpersonally in cis people asking invasive and inappropriate questions or touching our bodies without consent to see if they are “real”. Even simply navigating life and existing often means trans women, including those who present more conventionally masculine, experience transmisogyny such as by being constantly misgendered.
Related: ON PUSSY HATS AND TRANSMISOGYNY
And yes many of these actions and structures indeed impact trans men, transmasculine, and non-binary people. Trans men and non-binary people face incredible marginalization in other ways that should not be erased, but these aforementioned forms are also weaponized and leveled in a way that is specific against folks who are both women and trans, trans women. That is, they are structurally transmisic and misogynistic, or, transmisogynistic
This is apparent for example in the way the numerous constructed roles associated with genders are applied to trans women specifically, who are then vilified and marginalized for failing to achieve those expectations. All too often a trans woman who doesn’t wear dresses or make-up is asked, “Well why are you a woman if you don’t wear dresses?”
Thus trans women are simultaneously invalidated based on deeply misogynistic gender roles and beauty standards that dictate how women should act and dress as well as transmisic tropes and stereotypes like the so-called “man in a dress”.
The legal system of the carceral state then criminalizes trans women and femmes under “indecent exposure” laws. Black, Indigenous and women and femmes of Color in particular, are maliciously profiled under solicitation laws. “Bathroom laws” on the other hand limit access to spaces and society in general when trans people cannot use the bathroom in public. And the wording and applications of these laws often rely on transmisic and transmisogynistic stereotypes of trans women such as “man in a dress”.
Gate-keeping, that is, denying access to healthcare, as well has transmisogynistic roots often requiring trans women and femmes to present and express themselves in very stereotypical, caricatured ways in order to access any care because otherwise our womanhood and trans-ness is not seen as “real”.
As well the very acts of attempting to enforce gender roles or misgendering a young trans female children as male, are also both forms of violence that are transmisic and fundamentally misogynistic in the specific way they are leveled at trans women and girls, even at young ages. This intentional (mis)gendering without consent is often very violent for trans people who already face gender dysphoria and all too often it relies on and intersects with deeply misogynistic expectations and ideals.
Now none of this is to say that trans women cannot internalize toxic and harmful messages. Nor does this imply that different women, including those who are trans, cannot be differently positioned under power structures and systems of oppression. But we can recognize these truths without invalidating anyone’s experiences nor anyone’s womanhood. And while it is unquestionable that trans and cis women are different in some ways, as all women are different from each other, neither is that difference a cause for invalidating trans women’s womanhood nor the oppression and marginalization all trans women experience under patriarchy.
And to then weaponize this as means to delegitimize a woman’s experience because it also happens to be a trans experience is transmisic, transmisogynistic, and gender-based violence. It contributes to the terrible violence trans women, especially Black, Indigenous, and women and femmes of Color experience. And it ignores the reality that transmisogyny in fact harms all women.
In truth, trans women of all ages, of all different presentations, at all stages of transitioning or not transitioning, whether they are “out” or not, face deep and real systemic misogyny and oppression under cisheteropatriarchy, often manifesting specifically as transmisogyny. And we cannot divorce transmisogyny from its roots in both transmisia and misogyny, nor can we ignore the ways in which the patriarchy significantly and tangibly impacts trans women.
We cannot continue to ignore transmisogynistic violence and its consequences, tangibly felt and costing lives. We cannot continue to ignore the value and humanity of each and every trans woman and femme, and all trans people. Ultimately, we cannot allow this violence to continue.
Featured Image: Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash