Weekend Convo: TransMisogyny

This weekend I will be exploring the topic of transmisogyny, which can never be understated since its urgency is literally a life and death matter, especially for black trans women. It is a part of the larger fabric of emergency re-education that must take place to curb this violent trend (and perhaps along the way quell the transphobic trolls that periodically show up on my newsfeed, and maybe yours).

Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women and girls, as is transmisogyny. Its manifestations are horrible, and they are exaggerated 10-fold when it comes to trans women and black trans women in particular: objectification, sexual discrimination, and violence. Add other factors such as unemployment and lack of housing, sex work, poor healthcare, and documentation issues and you have a formula for disaster.

The more macho the culture, I have found, the greater the misogyny, but what are the other factors responsible for this rise in violence and general antipathy for trans people by practicing transphobes and their close cousins, the low-education critics?

Model Geena Rocero Photo by Steer Jurvetson Flickr/creative commons

Model Geena Rocero
Photo by Steer Jurvetson
Flickr/creative commons

One culprit could be the last couple of years of a high-profile media frenzy over all things trans. This conjoins misogynistic objectifications of women in general with the prurient fascination with sexuality and the genitalia of trans people. It sells soap but this greater visibility for trans people, without universal human rights protections in place and enforced, actually increases risks for the rank and file: losing jobs or housing, increased discrimination, and more violence and murder.

From my own experience working with activists in Washington, D.C., we saw the city’s early and broad human rights protections attracting more and more trans people from less trans-hospitable neighboring states. I, and many before me and since, advocated and used other tactics to demand that D.C. live up to its lofty LGBT protections because they were only barely being enforced by the police and government agency employees. Even its Office of Human Rights at the time did not reflect the interests of trans people, although we’ve been able to change that for the better, and crimes against trans people are no more routinely ignored by police.

One thing we discovered applies to the search for answers to increased violence against trans people nationally. We found that unless highly trained, the average police officer reacts first and always to his (or her) internalized transmisogyny upon encountering a trans woman under any circumstances, not just when observing, questioning, or arresting them. Being confronted by a trans person threatens his/her internalized sexual identity, and this deeply personal discomfort automatically and unfairly recalibrates that trans person to a triggering object deserving of punishment.

Increased media visibility, more vocal demands for LGBT protections nationally, and the deeply held transmisogyny of most Americans are fueling more crime against trans people. Many of these transmysogynists are, unfortunately, women who mistakenly or purposefully conclude that trans women can only be seen as deceitful men. This dissonance became a the founding principle of radical feminism in the 1980s, a movement that bears little resemblance to actual feminism which aims for equality among all people, and a world where every child is free to define their own sexual orientation and gender identity without judgment.

If you’ve visited this blog over the last month or more, you will find I have been focusing on the radical religious right’s influence in and on the U.S. government, and how that negatively affects society’s minorities — women, the poor, the undocumented, and lesbian, and gay, bisexual, and particularly trans folks (LGBT). Talking about the emergence of christian sharia in America is not tangential to transmisogyny, it reveals the driving force behind misogyny in all its expressions.

Let me know your thoughts, here, or on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #transmisogyny, and I will incorporate them into this weekend’s posts.


The weekend convo continues: The Violent Threat of Transmisogyny; and Intersex and Trans Children Counter Misogyny.


Alison Gardner