Tobi Hill-Meyer

What Transmisogyny Looks Like

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | March 25, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: misogyny, subversivism, trans women, transmisogyny, transphobia

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.)


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?

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When trans women who participate in mainstream pornography and sex work are blamed for the misrepresentation of all trans people. Whereas cis women in pornography don't face nearly the same level of scrutiny on this issue. Furthermore, where all alt-porn is trans male fixated and tokenizing of trans women.

You partially covered this one already, but there is an extension of it...when its uncool to be a shemale, but rad to be a trannyfag.

A thousand times yes. That right there. We had a queer arts festival installation show in my city last month with a lot of installations featuring Buck Angel. (trans man adult film star) No way that group would have seen a trans woman's porn as subversive.

When transgenders (those who aren't classic transsexuals) use demeaning terms specifically aimed at corrected genital configuration, that's neo-gynophobia, a specific type of gynophobia rampant within transgender circles. When this is never denounced by "allies" who's venues this is allowed in, that's REAL transphobia AND neogynophobic and gynophobic combined.

When inclusion of trans women among the women presenters of an even is denounced as "diluting" and "detracting from" women's representation at the event, that's transmysogyny.

That one happened at a queer church I occasionally attend. No one in a three part discussion on gender—primarily attended by queer people I might add—bothered to call that one out. So I did. It was extremely frustrating.

Thanks so much for your exploration of this topic, Tobi.

And yeah, there's only one active trans support group in the Twin Cities and it's for trans masculine folks. I was expecting so much more when I moved here, given the Twin Cities' reputation as being so queer friendly.

Dapper Ninja | December 11, 2009 9:42 PM

Thank you. I've seen this very language used to deny a transsexual woman a teaching position in a women's studies department - it was by the same professors who thought that the history of immigrant women would detract from the Canadian focus.

As a straight mother of 3 kids, I believe EVERYONE deserves love, care and consideration. Womens' Domestic violence services should be offered to ALL, not just straight or lesbian women. Any discomfort should be pushed aside so that the transgender woman can get HELP, feel safe. Feelings of discomfort can be best treated, along with the domestic violence, by the therapeutic staff of the facility. But trans women deserve care, no questions asked.

Saturday, I was a volunteer for an event celebrating the "Whole Woman", protesting violence against women, and a presentation of The Vagina Monologues that included "They Beat the Girl..."

Since some of the money raised during the day was going to help two local groups that help women victims of violence, I went up to each booth and asked their representives, "Do you help transwomen like me if we become victims?" The people for Safe Haven were friendly and sympathetic, but they did not have an answer and told me to call their administrative office. The guy at the other booth, however, just said, "I can't help you, Pard", turned his back on me and walked away.

If you think someone out there is prepared to help you in a crisis, you better find out now!

(Disclaimer: I'm a transguy.) I agree with the majority of your points, and while I was aware of misogyny within the trans community and specifically targeting trans women, there were certainly things here that I had not previously considered. Thank you.

However, I'm a bit confused at the "only one trans support group in town and it's for transmale folks only" and the "only one comprehensive online network to discuss surgery results and it's for transmale folks only". Are we not allowed to set up spaces for ourselves? Is there something preventing transfeminine people setting up their own groups/website? Was the support group in question started as inclusive and then the transguys ran the women out, or was it started by transmen for transmen (as the website I believe your referencing was)?

I'm really asking this honestly; I'm not trying to be snarky and I would like to understand where you're coming from.

There are plenty of good reasons for a resource (and those are all resources) to be made exclusive for a particular identity, but whenever that is done it's important to examine why. Is it necessary? Is it beneficial? What impact will it have on the community as a whole? I mean, is there any reason why transter can't have a separate forum or sub-directory for transfemale surgeries?

In these cases, I blame larger circumstances at work for the overall situation, but it's important to question why such resources are chosen to exclude trans women if they are the only functioning resources around. Hypothetically, trans women could create their own, but if that is not happening then transmisogyny is probably at play.

As for how this dynamic occurs, I've seen it play out a couple times like this. A city has one trans support group, which is largely populated by older white trans women with access to class and other forms of privilege. The discussion never address larger power dynamics or systemic change, focuses on passing tips, and alienates people of color, working class folks, and anti-oppression activists of all stripes.

A few trans guys assume this is a gender thing and create their own support group for trans guys only, not realizing that the original group doesn't meet the needs of the majority of trans women either. Then the original group dies out because new folks tend to stay for only a meeting or two, and the only group in town in the group for trans men only. A lot of complicated systemic forces created that situation, but one is the decision to place the focus on getting away from the women as opposed to getting away from the unchecked race and class privilege. And that is definitely influenced by misogyny.

older white trans women with access to class and other forms of privilege

Sometimes this is true. But as an older white trans woman, I resent the knee-jerk assumption that people know a lot about me based on that information alone.

It's probably hard for you to imagine what life was like growing up with no visible models of gender variant people, never having met another trans person (that didn't happen until I was in my 40s), no information, and no idea where to get any.

Even if I'd had access to information, my own biology was such that I would have had to have begun transition at about age 11 to be really passable. And I get sneered at by cute young women who were born after the internet was created and can't imagine the fear and isolation that some of us grew up with. But I'm just seen as an example of what they don't want to be and, because they're prettier than I, they're real women and I'm just a guy in drag.

And please, don't jump to conclusions about class or economic privilege, either.


I honestly don't know anything about you and I wasn't trying to apply this to any specific people. Let me clarify my grammar here. I do not intend to say that older white trans women have class and other privileges by virtue of being older white trans women. I'm talking about folks who have a specific combination of privileges. And more specifically I'm talking about people who have not learned to check their privileges.

If a group consists mainly of white folks who can't help but leak out their racist training now and then, it's not going to be a place people of color want to hang out, regardless of what type of group that is. Same for other oppressed communities. That doesn't mean that older white trans women with economic privilege don't suffer horrible injustices via transphobia, it just means that they won't be able to meet the needs of young trans women of color unless they've done at least some basic work on racism and ageism.

I've got some great stories of working with such folks who have done that work. But I've also got a few horrible failures of trying to work with those who don't.

I think one of the worst **headdesk** moments was when a group of older trans women came to talk to a group of trans youth (high school and college age) and they explained that they could help us because they've "all been where [we've] are before," and one exclaimed that she's been out for three years -- and that was at a point where I had been out for four years. Sigh. Not to mention instances of outright racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, and disbelief that anyone wouldn't be able to afford a therapist. My comment was trying to reference and describe that situation.

Alex, I don't think that having a trans male-only spaces or trans-male focus resources are inherently transmisogynistic.

But there can be situations where resources evolve out of women's health resources that are overtly unfriendly to trans-feminine people. I personally know of a health center that goes out of its way be inclusive of trans men on their websites, fliers, etc. and does reminders that trans men who haven't had bottom surgery still need to get pap smears, etc. Conspicuously absent is any mention of trans woman, nor have they ever sent out fliers reminding trans women to get breast exam. It's not out of ignorance, since the omission has been pointed out them on multiple occasions.

Even in trans-friendly San Francisco, there have been issues around the Trans March -- which is largely organized by trans-masculine people. Yes, trans-feminine people could get involved but frankly I haven't felt particularly welcome at the last two marches I attended (because femininity in general seemed to be a bit of dirty word). Which is really fucking sad when you think about -- it's the Trans March. And when the organizers don't seem to want understand why it might be problematic having people who perform at the MichFest involved in the official program, some of the trans-feminine people involve just decided it wasn't worth banging their heads against the wall.

I definitely don't want to tar all trans men with the same brush -- there's plenty of trans guys aren't part of this. But the sorts of problems are out there.

Here in Georgia, the Decatur Women's Crisis Center actually had some of us in the trans community to come in and train their staff on the specific issues for trans women. One of the people who was on this team was a trans man, which was very helpful in providing their viewpoint. The center will help all trans people.

That's awesome. I've worked with a couple local groups that want to provide services to trans people of all genders. Unfortunately, when I've needed those services myself, I've had a hard time working with their systems. It's been much better for me to contact one of the few folks I know who work there and are very trans-knowledgeable.

The time I went through the front door I had people mispronouned me and assume I was there to volunteer even though I had made an appointment asking for trans-competant support (in fairness, the last time I was in that office was years ago and I was persenting as male and volunteering). They then apologized and sent me to a person who listened to what I had to say then gave me a resource list and sent me on my way without giving any feedback, answers to my questions, and only minimal emotional support.

Access to services is big, quality of services is the next step after that.

quite frankly, i'm coming to this from a place of ignorance, but i'm trying to learn...

(for what it's worth, i would note that ignorance can come from a friendly place. i wrote the guest story yesterday on gladys bentley's life, and it was pointed out to me that i had confused gender and sexuality in the story, hence the need for the learning process.)

to that end, i'm looking at the terminology guide from lifelines rhode island.

so here's my two-part question: have you seen the guide, and if yes, does it present its information in a way that you would consider to be accurate and complete?

this was a fascinating story, and i appreciate your efforts in giving me something to think about.

I haven't seen it before but I skimmed it and it certainly covers a lot more than most terminology lists I've seen. For the most part I think it's just fine. Although, I always toss out the conition that a lot of this language is in flux. I wrote a terms list a year ago and recently read over it and I found some parts I don't agree with. With that in mind, the concept and the meaning is more important than dissecting every term. That you can pick up from stories, theory, news, politics, etc. I'd recommend hunkering down to do a lot of reading. You'll find some excellent blogs around, one of my favorite is Questioning Transphobia.

thanks for getting back to me on this--and between having to study up on health care bills and this new element of social courtesy...well, i'm just glad i can take the laptop outside and work while enjoying great weather.

Alex, I can't speak to the history behind the Twin Cities' lack of support groups for trans feminine people because I just moved here. I was intrigued by Tobi's observation and figured I'd mention the lack of support groups here in my new home.

Nevertheless, I can speak to an evolving pattern that has been observed by other trans women. I've read several accounts that discuss events that are billed as existing for the benefit of all transgender people and quite ironically, have little representation of trans women in either the event presentations or the event attendees. I've also read of women-only events and organizations that are hostile to trans women but are far more welcoming of trans masculine people.

So, there is some evidence for asserting that a prejudice specifically aimed at trans feminine people exists on a larger systemic level—one that manifests even in quarters of society that are friendly to trans masculine people. I believe Tobi was positioning the contrast between a dearth of trans feminine groups with the more widespread existence of trans masculine groups within that particular context.

In actuality, it's a transgender variation of a feminist argument that society at large tends to favor the interests of (cis) men over (cis) women and that this bias tends to play out in all kinds of ways. While the existence of an organization or group that caters specifically to men isn't necessarily a problem in and of itself, it may very well represent a manifestation of a much larger, society-wide bias against women. Even if there is no evidence of any malice against women by the founders of the organization, the general existence of greater resources for men indicates a set of conditions in society that are sexist. I'm speaking of discrimination on an institutional, systemic level as opposed to an individual, person-to-person level.

This argument, then, is being generalized to represent a bias that society manifests against trans women.

Tobi, am I correct?

Timberwraith, obviously a queer environment that is specifically hostile to transfeminine people is displaying transmisogyny, and it would not surprise me at all to here that there were transmasculine-dominant spaces where that was the case. I am not arguing that at all.

I very deliberately picked the specific points I did because I didn't see how they necessarily demonstrated Tobi's larger point. Being transmasculine or transfeminine each represents a unique set of stressors that could, in a non-discriminatory way, be discussed and explored in a limited venue (e.g. transmasculine/transfeminine specific support groups).

Also, while I am familiar with the tenants of feminism and the idea that the interests of men are frequently favored, I also think that it's completely unwarranted to assume that all (or even most) transmasculine people experience that kind of male privilege.

Alex, I don't claim to know what the answers are here, but I’m certainly willing to explore them. If trans masculine folks do experience a form of bias in their favor, I agree that it's certainly more complicated than cis male privilege and probably highly dependent on the social venue in question. I'm under no illusion that being a trans man rather that a trans woman is going to save you from abuse at the hands of cis hatred.

What I do know is that masculine expression tends to be favored over feminine expression in patriarchal societies. Precisely how that plays out for trans people is certainly complicated by the fact that we all transgress heteronormative and cisnormative expectations.

If you add to this mix the extra layer of being a femme trans man, oy, I shudder to think. It was bad enough being a feminine boy when I was growing up. I can’t imagine transitioning to male and then being a feminine guy. I mean, holy crap. That’s scary.

Just to limit the discussion a bit, I'm going to focus on the internet aspect (which is inherently classist, I know, but one thing at a time).

It seems to me that the internet is probably the most egalitarian medium currently devisable; it's accessible, almost universal, and it's resources are practically infinite (i.e. in no case does the existance of a particular website preclude the existance of some other particular website). Given this, I don't understand why "Why don't you include transwomen?" (which sounds to me an awful lot like "Why don't you do this for me?") is a more valid question than "Why haven't transwomen made their own?" (And honestly, if you've looked at transster, it's already nigh-on impossible to navigate. They can't handle the data they *have*, let alone more.)

Furthermore, it seems to me like using vague accusations of discrimination as your default assumption ("but if that is not happening then transmisogyny is probably at play") is not only a great way to derail a potentially useful conversation by making it adversarial and putting everyone on the defensive, but it also denies transfeminine people agency. How, specifically, do you think transmisogyny is affecting the lack of a transfeminine internet surgical resource?

Bravo Alex!

Few are aware of this today, but the very first social use of the internet was networking among transsexual women. All of the trans activist organizations were built originally by transsexual women. We left when they were overrun with transgenders and crossdressers. Most of us then discovered that we fit just fine in the greater world, many, such as myself are second wave feminists, a few at the top levels even. We discovered most of our civil rights were in fact accessible as women, that we were accepted as women among women.

Whining because resources aren't available is whining. If you lack it, build it.....we did. I won't call this what I see it as but thinking you deserve everything handed to you on a silver platter and whining when it isn't does reflect a certain mind set. And it 'taint transphobia.

Calling someone a "transgender" is the equivalent of calling someone a "sex-change." It is highly offensive.

Very well-said.

That said, there in fact ARE still sites that address only TS/TG women -- one i can think of very easily off the top of my head is

Lynn Conway's site also addresses TS information and only gives a nod to TS/TG men:

Anybody who thinks that TS women with Internet access lack resources and spaces for themselves alone obviously doesn't even know what one's looking for. And if these sites (and the dozens of others I don't have bookmarked but have, without a doubt, encountered), then I doubt it's "transmisogyny" that's the ultimate reason behind it. TS women have used the Internet for networking and information exchange for decades now, and have built for themselves when something previously didn't exist; there is nothing stopping young people from creating newer and greater resources by-and-for TS women.

PanoramaIsland | September 3, 2010 2:29 AM

Radical, the "transgenders" (which sounds like a slur to me) and crossdressers you refer to are fellow trans people. You are not superior to or "more trans" than them, and using words like "overrun" to describe their increasing presence makes them sound like vermin, not like comrades in the fight for a less transphobic, more gender-liberated society.

Would you consider me to be one of the "transgenders" because I identify as a genderqueer transwoman and am intersex - not someone who transitioned from a cis-male body to a female body and normative female/feminine presentation? Am I unwelcome in your vision of the trans world because I've only had hormones, not surgery, and am not sure that I want a neovagina to be made out of my intersex genitalia?

It just pains me to see people carving out one corner of the trans world, declaring it as legitimate, and looking down at everyone else.

Especially due to the internet's near infinite nature, it seems like creating space for trans female discussion on surgeries within an existing forum on discussing surgeries would involve near zero cost. But I'd rather not debate what one specific internet group should or shouldn't do, as I am less familiar with their specific operation.

Let me address your main point though, which from what I can tell is, why don't trans women make their own resources and why blame the lack of trans women-made resources on transmisogyny.

As I'm sure you are aware, trans folks are often deal with negative impacts of oppression and having the time, motivation, energy and support to build resources like that isn't always a given. When I talk about the impact of transmisogyny, I do not mean direct hostility but the systemic impact of all the things I've mentioned above. Being dicsouraged from voicing your opinion or taking leadership roles will definitely have an impact on your ability to create new resources.

Or take my town for example, for whatever reason the active members of my trans community have been about 90% trans male spectrum. When I came out, I was the only trans woman attending local trans events. If they had decided to make their group trans men only, what could I have done? They had history, networks, energy, and support. If I hadn't have been able to go to them, I wouldn't have known the first thing about supporting myself let alone others.

Additionally, trans women do create resources, but many more resources are needed than what are created. I've been personally involved in creating or sustaining a dozen resources for trans support. But there are always more needed. My point is that unless a compelling reason exists, closing resources to specific identities is counter-productive. And when the vast majority of gender-specific trans resources are for trans men, then something is probably influencing that.

There might be some purpose to creating a resource specifically within your knowledge base, but that's not exactly what's happening. The creators of transter didn't say, I had a metoidio so this won't be a space to discuss phallo, but they did say I had surgery designed for men so this won't be a place to discuss surgery designed for women.

I'm not saying that such thinking makes folks terrible people or bigots or anything, I'm saying that the overall situation we are in is clearly influenced by society-wide systemic forces. Such statements aren't adversarial and don't need to be taken that way.

My point is that unless a compelling reason exists, closing resources to specific identities is counter-productive. And when the vast majority of gender-specific trans resources are for trans men, then something is probably influencing that.

So, what influencing reasons are behind and Lynn Conway's sites being pretty much MTF-only? Or is that OK because their resources are open you you?

Because those sites are run by specific, single persons and they can do whatever the hell they want with them, maybe?

Seriously, if you have an issue with Andrea's site or Lynn's site (and I have issues with both), why not take it up with them?

Sorry to be a month late, but I must have missed your comment until Katie's responding here.

First off, I'm not trying to build a battle of the sexes here. Trans folks need to be allies to each other, but we also need to acknowledge the way our experiences of transphobia impact us differently. Personally, I'd prefer it if all community resources were more widely available, but I won't begrudge any space that fulfills a need by being more limited. I haven't used the sites you mention and am only aware of them because of an FTM friend who's mentioned them to me (a bit of irony there). So I can't say much about those sites specifically.

I can say that a lot of folks will point to similar trans woman dominated trans resources and spaces as if it's evidence that transmisogyny doesn't exist. The reality is that such spaces are rapidly diminishing, many are remnants of previous decades, and looking at resources and spaces available today it is hard to avoid the conclusion that trans male spaces (both with and without conscious intention) dominate the scene, especially the queer scene.

Additionally, the reason why it used to be the other way around was very much a response to the specific focus of transphobia trans women have been under. Have you ever heard a bigoted joke about a trans man on TV before Beatie? Yet such jokes targeting trans women have been a regular occurrence over the past several decades. The same factors contribute to an environment of trans women psycho killers in movies, street harassment, police harassment, and so forth that up until recently has been very different from the experience of transphobia that trans men have. That's part of what I'm trying to highlight here.

"Have you ever heard a bigoted joke about a trans man on TV before Beatie?"

Yes. Beatie is an awfully recent figure in trans male history so I don't understand why you would think there weren't.

There is also the issue that trans men have been largely invisible. That's a give or take thing, though.

I'll take your word for it that bigoted jokes about trans men have been on tv before, it's reasonable to guess that they have, but my point is that they're comparatively rare - at least I haven't encountered any. I can hardly recall seeing a trans man on tv before Beatie.

But I'm not trying to prove that transphobia against trans men doesn't exist. That would be preposterous. I'm just trying to explain the point you already seem to agree with - trans men have faced a very strong invisibility within mass media. I know that invisibility can be frustrating and difficult, but as a light skinned person of color, I've always heard of invisibility discussed as a reflection of privilege - or at least an ability to avoid a certain degree of oppression.

It can suck to not see images of yourself on tv and to have wider society not even realize you exist. But it's an entirely different kind of suck than having the police stop you for "walking while trans," or being picked out in the crowd by the angry bigot looking for a fight, and so on and so forth.

I always thought it was odd that in the among trans men I would often hear visibility discussed as a privilege. I understand that to a degree, both experiences have their ups and downs. But it was very interesting to me that after Beatie caught the national spotlight I heard multiple trans men complaining that they were being read as trans more often, being asked inappropriate questions, their coworkers were spouting off random bigoted things about trans men, and they were overall encountering more transphobia directed at them. My thought was, multiple that by a factor of ten and that's the visibility that trans women have and that trans men often complain about not having.

I transitioned in the early 90s. Interestingly, my experience partially intersects with Tobi’s more recent experiences. I walked into a transsexual (the word transgender had barely registered in people's lexicons at the time) support group and found that I was the only woman in her twenties sitting in the room. Most folks were women who were at least ten to fifteen years older than I was. Feeling quite out of place, I went looking for support in other venues, mostly among queer and feminist cissexual friends. Feeling extremely alienated, I never returned to the support groups that were dominated by older transsexual women.

At the time, transsexual men—at least those who openly identified as such—were a tiny minority. There were at most two trans men (out of a group of about 20-30 people) in the support group I attended. This was many years before the explosion of trans masculine visibility that we now take for granted. So, on this facet alone, I can agree with transheretic: the organizations of yesteryear—support groups, social networking groups, and political groups—were largely run by older transsexual women.

Now, anyone who has studied the history of past political movements knows that it’s extremely important that a movement have a core of committed, active youth participating. I’m not downplaying the contributions of older people, mind you. It’s simply a pattern that you see pop up again and again. That youthful core was missing in the early 90s. Why? That’s a big question that hangs in my mind. There seems to be a persistent barrier to sharing power with younger trans feminine people. Hence, there is no mechanism for transferring the reigns of power to the next generation. Consequently, you don’t have the makings of an effective movement or a vibrant community. It simply staggers along anemically.

In contrast, what I have witnessed among trans masculine folks during the last ten years—at least anecdotally—is a more vibrant, youthful core of participants. Why is this? I’m not familiar with history behind the trans masculine half of the story, so perhaps someone else can fill in the details.

As for myself, after I transitioned and later burned out from being a feminist activist, I just wanted to hide and blend into the woodwork. I was being weighed down by a lot of self-hatred that I simply didn’t know how to deal with, and consequently, I felt little motivation in striking out for transgender rights. At the same time, the alienation I felt in transsexual support groups left me with little desire to seek support or political action in those venues. That’s my angle on the issue. Somewhere in the mix lies the influence of larger social patterns.

Marja Erwin | March 27, 2009 1:24 PM

Exactly. I've noticed the same thing. Where I live, there are two support groups. One is for trans men, and the other is open to all genders, but is largely composed of older women.

As a younger woman from a different background, I often feel alone there. I once had to leave the meeting over this; the discussion had turned triggering.

I know many other women who have left trans activism and/or trans identity. I know one woman who has gone post-trans while still going through facial hair removal, because she found the support groups so alienating and so depressing.

Oh my, that's another issue. I feel terrible saying this, but I remember the level of depression in my support group to be so intense, that I found it to be toxic. I often left the meeting feeling worse than before I went in. Obviously, the group provided something useful for the people who regularly attended and I'm glad that they had a place to go. However, I was experiencing more harm than healing and simply had to leave.

Sadly, the healthiest support I've ever experienced has been interacting with other trans folk on line. It would be nice find a healthy, supportive environment for trans women in an actual brick and mortar setting.

I wonder if Bilerico would be interested in providing a means for trans women in common geographic areas to meet up? Kind of like the way Feministe, Feministing, and Alas, A Blog invite contributers and commenters in various geographic areas to come hang out together.

Um, I can't address the internet surgical resources issue. I had surgery when most people didn't even know what the internet was and floppy disks were still considered state of the art.

*feels old and decrepit*

There is some good reason to have different meeting / discussion groups for different subsections, in that T issues can be so varied that some peoples' issues are often less relevant to others, and when that many varied issues are under one roof, someone's needs get buried or forgotten. In this way, crossdressers might get bored or squicked by talk of surgery, transsexuals might become indifferent to talks on clothes and makeup, etc. I find that FTMs and MTFs sometimes experience some discomfort being around each other a lot because we're each moving away from gender roles and conditioned things that the other is embracing, and that can push buttons. There can be valid reasons to field all of that seperately, as long as there are still times that people can and will come together (i.e. TDoR).

The point is the motive. Is someone looking for a group where they share more common kinship, or one where they don't have to be around "those" people. (sometimes, it's both) It's not always 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.)"

And sometimes that discomfort is presumed more than actual. (imply / infer, etc.) Sometimes, unless there is a specific invitation, it is easy for us to assume that it's a hostile environment. We've encountered enough of those, that some of us assume it until it's demonstrated otherwise.

In these spaces, I've also seen it happen where transwomen are welcomed, but transmen shut out and almost despised as "traitors" -- and sure, they're guys and may not belong in womens' spaces for that reason, but when some of them have spent years in lesbian circles prior to transition and then are suddenly cut off from their friends, it is difficult to take. So something needs to be said about that as well.

Your right, I've definitely avoided spaces I assumed to be hostile and later found out that they wanted trans women to come but didn't know any to invite or outreach to. It might not be the fault of the organizers biases, but it's still an impact of transmisogyny. I've heard the same dynamic around PoC inclusion a lot too. You know, the whole "We tried to make our event PoC inclusive but none of them showed up, I guess PoC don't want to be included in our events." My answer is the same in both cases, a lack of hostility is great, but it's not enough when hostility is still expected. There needs to be some kind of signs of welcoming and genuine community outreach in order to shift the dynamic.

As for hostility toward the guys, wow, I don't doubt it but I've never seen a women's space that was hostile to trans guys and welcoming to trans women. It would be really interesting to see more of what's going on there. I know of women's spaces that were hostile to trans men, but they've always been hostile to trans women too.

In any case, I don't discount the difficulty of that situation. All the different policies around defining women and inclusion raise problems, especially for folks who are not perfectly binary or still figuring things out. Every binary trans guy I know has been ready to leave women's space when they feel secure in a male identity. If someone feels that participating in women's space is important to them, I'm happy to let them be the one to make the call if they should be there and only intervene if there is a behavioral problem -- not an identitiy problem.

"Sometimes, unless there is a specific invitation, it is easy for us to assume that it's a hostile environment. We've encountered enough of those, that some of us assume it until it's demonstrated otherwise."

But it should be the responsibility of the people running those spaces to make their policies clear, and to advertise them, and to do outreach, rather than expecting trans women to just keep showing up and risking getting burned, as if they should have some psychic sense that this space will be better.

...and sure, they're guys and may not belong in womens' spaces for that reason, but when some of them have spent years in lesbian circles prior to transition and then are suddenly cut off from their friends, it is difficult to take. So something needs to be said about that as well.

While I'm sure this is a concern for many TS men who "cut their teeth" in the LBQ women's communities, I don't think it's at all appropriate for men of any history or below-the-belt plumbing to essentially bully or guilt LBQ women into re-defining "Lesbian" to include, well, men. Of course, I also am of the opinion that TS women have far more a right to LBQ women's spaces then TS men -- and find those TS men who, unlike myself, actually considered themselves a part of the LBQ women's communities pre-transition (I lived as a het- woman pre-transition) incredibly perplexing.

I can understand wanting to maintain friendships, but TS persons have pretty much always lost at least a few friends just by transitioning -- I know I lost some people I really would have rather kept because they simply weren't willing to accept it. What I find intolerable is using this former social identity to guilt-trip and bully Lesbians into re-working the meaning of "lesbian" to be inclusive of those who are, unmistakably, socially men.

"What I find intolerable is using this former social identity to guilt-trip and bully Lesbians into re-working the meaning of "lesbian" to be inclusive of those who are, unmistakably, socially men."

I hope you're only speaking of transmen who have passing privilege the majority of the time?

SpaceshipLia | March 25, 2009 9:57 PM

I have run into this one most as a woman of transgender experience:

Cisgender folks I know spend a lot of time scrutinizing how good of a woman I am on any particular day. This is basically encapsulated by a sentence my roommate uttered the other day, "You look really femmey today! I haven't seen you look this girly in a while! You look good." Assuming 1. that transwomen have to appear a certain way to really be women and 2. that you, especially as a cisgender person, can decide what that appearance has to be is transmisogyny.

Women in general do that. I get the reverse version generally as a Femme "What! No skirt and jacket? Are we 'butching it up' today?"

It isn't singling you out as trans, it is including you as 'one of the girls'

It isn't singling you out as trans, it is including you as 'one of the girls'

Sure, that's a possibility, but it by no means disqualifies the validity of SpaceshipLia's observations.

That's just the thing about oppression, isn't it? It often takes the smallest and most subtle forms. Maybe it is discrimination, maybe it's not. I've experienced discrimination as a woman in the same fashion. Did that clerk at the computer shop treat me like a fool because he was having a bad day, or because being female brings him to assume I'm a fool? Were my concerns ignored in the staff meeting because I'm a woman and my ideas don't matter or are there simply more pressing matters? Little things like that happen day in and day out. The second guessing can be maddening.

While it's frequently difficult to say for certain what was the cause a single event, you can surely perceive an established pattern over time. Cis people frequently position themselves as the arbiters of the validity of trans people's identities. That pattern is clear and has been discussed far and wide. The more blatant forms of this kind of prejudice are clearly visible all over the internet. It surely manifests in more subtle forms—even from people one trusts.

Brilliant. Good to be reminded of these things.

Tobi -

Wow. Just wow. You gave me a shitload to think about.

I've always thought of transwomen as having it the easiest because of male privilege that lingers in the subconscious. You see MTF everywhere - movies, etc - and I didn't even know a transman until 4 years ago. I assumed that since transwomen were more visible, they were more accepted too.

I'll be coming back to this one.

Yeah, the visibility issue is one I've been thinking about writing something about specifically. Some folks try to say that visibility = privilege. I used to buy into that, but the more I thought about it, it didn't fit right. I mean, first off, being a light skinned PoC, I've always accepted that invisibility and passing as white is a privilege, with some burdons as well, but still a privilege. In discussing racism, the visibility and inability to hide is always talked about as part of the oppression, i.e. statements like "PoC can't hide their race like queers can hide their sexuality" (that's not 100% true, but that's another issue).

But think about the visibility that trans women get. Dozens of movie characters over the past couple decades, and how many of them are neither sex workers or psycho killers? How many of them are respected characters rather than pitiful jokes? How many survive until the end of the movie? But that cultural visibility means that we can be identified a lot easier. And a lot of us either get propositioned on the street or harassed by cops because 90+% of the trans women you see in movies are sex workers so any trans women in real life must obviously be a sex workers too.

After Thomas Beattie became big news as a pregnant man, I heard a lot of my trans guy friends complaining about the increased visibility, getting read more often, having folks come up to them with inappropriate questions, etc. But that's something trans women have been dealing with for the past several decades.

Example of what Tobi refers to:

A couple months ago, I went to a walgreens three blocks from where I live. This is a short walk for me, and I travel it often.

One day, as I was returning home and a block away from it, a yard worker who had whistled at me on the way *up* to walgreens saw me coming back, and stepped to a slightly less exposed space.

As I passed by, he called to me, and there he stood with his penis in his hand.

He asked me how much.

While such happens to ciswomen as well, the reason he *felt safe enough* to do it is that I'm openly trans, and known locally as such.

Had it been a ciswoman, he wouldn't have risked such in what was still a very public location.

The portrayals -- even jokingly -- of transwomen are very rarely positive outside of documentaries. Even the film transamerica or candis cayne's character on television have not been truly positive, merely elucidating.

And they are almost uniformly sexualized, be it hypersexualized (such as Candis' character -- the bombshell) or the transamerica character's near asexuality.

These ideas permeate the culture, and are reinforced by repetition.

And that is not even thinking about the group of men and women who specifically fetishize transfolk ("admirers" or "chasers") -- they get a bad rap, but not entirely undeservedly, and are not the kinds of people we are talking about here.

we're talking about everyday folk, who have been encouraged to see us as sexual creatures, which feeds into things like the predatory bathroom argument.

So yes, please do revisit this -- and talk about it more often and more publicly.

Ugh. I hope you called the cops, *I* would have. That's disgusting.

Yes, you most certainly should have called the cops. Whether we're cis or trans, that sh** doesn't stop if we don't use the protections made available to us.

let's look a little deeper, if you don't mind, Bil :)

That idea that lingering privilege is still there? That, in itself, is privilege. Indeed, any aspect of that still present becomes a liability since we are not men who have the ability to use it -- it is appropriative and creates much greater challenges to acceptance.

It is used both inside and outside of the trans community, as well, primarily as a silencing tactic, or a policing action.

Acceptance wise, *more* transmen than women have an ease of social acceptance -- in more specific terms that are themselves (imo) transmisogynistic, they "pass' better.

That does not mean it is any easier for them, however -- personal self confidence matters more than the usual litany of things used for this, and there can be a tendency among transmen to not use privilege (either passing privilege, if and when it applies, which is really just a matter of being socially accepted on the basis of appearance, or even masculine privilege).

Transmen have a unique set of issues that transwomen do not face -- it is not easier for them, but it is not easier for transwomen, either.

In the end, all transfolk have about the same level of ease, but it varies according to what the challenges are.

Many people think transmen are a minority -- that there are far more transwomen than transmen, while the reality is that they are about the same in numbers.

Visibility is one of the problems that transfolk face, actually -- when people conjure images of transwomen in their heads they rarely think of beautiful women, they think of ugly ones that they decide are mannish in appearance.

When you say that you see transwomen everywhere, that's that aspect in play -- and is also an aspect of cissexual or cisgendered privilege, and part of the transmisogyny (and transmisandry) that is sitting there.

some who refer to themselves as "classic transsexuals" consider a woman who does not pass as a "transgender" or "crossdresser" the same way they consider those who do not have the surgery or are pre-operative transgender or crossdressers.

Which is itself another aspect of transmisogyny in action of the same sort. Worse -- its heterosexist, and requires conformance to a narrow and rigid set of imaginary guidelines.

This is why what Tobi did here is so important -- it makes others aware of such things, and it stands as an excellent starting point for what one friend of mine called the hard discussions that people turn away from.

So perhaps it should be *more* than merely coming back to this. Perhaps it should be taking the time to address this now, so things like the recent firefight don't happen again, and bilerico can be shown as affirming, not merely friendly.

I assumed that since transwomen were more visible, they were more accepted too.
THUD (Sound of jaw dropping)

How could ANYONE think that?

But now I see things from your viewpoint, and I suppose it would be logical to assume that. If you were clueless. As clueless as I am about Gay issues, for example. I'm learning too, just coming from the opposite direction. It never occurred to me that anyone could make that assumption, nor that it would be quite logical to do so.

Bil, look at the TGDOR stats. How many of the victims were Transmen? Rather less than half. Rather less than 1 in 10 in fact. And about 50% of the victims were TWOC.

I think that's a rough and ready guide to the degree the various subgroups are "accepted". Certainly, when visiting the USA, I'm aware of my relatively privileged status as someone who doesn't stand out, as someone white and middle-class. Any irregularities can easily be put down to the fact that I'm a durned furriner. Australians are expected to be a bit... different.

Nerissa Belcher | March 26, 2009 8:47 AM

I agree with Tobi that transwomen deserve the social services support that other women can receive. We also deserve the right to transition without being fired from our jobs, having our children taken away by the courts, being victims of hate crimes, etc.

However, her posting displays an implicit assumption that I disagree with. That assumption is that Transwomen are helpless. For example:

1. If we don't like our treatment rather than find another doctor we must stay with that doctor. Folks, doctors are our employees! We pay their bills. If we don't like a particular employee then find another one.

2. We have to have support groups. Why? Make some friends, enjoy life and don't worry so much about trans issues. In fact for those of us able to appreciate it there is a vast world of fascinating things to do that do not involve LGBTQ issues at all. What about fighting for our rights? Definitely important but if we let activism consume our entire life we rarely benefit.

3. We must be devastated by what others think of our gender presentation, style of dress, etc. My view is most people will accept us if we accept ourselves and them. For the few who don't accept us, and who don't respond to our reasonable request to back off, then simply tell them to fu..k themselves.

4. We can not learn from our transition difficulties and become empowered in the "whatever does not kill us makes us stronger sense." Instead we must stay victims. Hint - one way to get over this attitude is to talk to non-trans people. Most of them have had things happen that could have made them victims. Yet, most of them have taken their hits and moved on with life. We can too.

I suppose you get that impression from the fact that I'm only talking about transmisogyny and not how to respond to it. When I was in Women and Gender Studies we often heard complaints that discussing sexism was framing all women as victims, but everyone I know who has gone through a Women and/or Gender Studies program has felt more empowered as a result of it.

The same thing applies here. Takling about transmisogynistic treatment doesn't mean that we are helpless to do anything about it and must sadly endure this treatment until someone bigger can make it stop. Talking about transmisogynistic treatment is the first step toward stopping it ourselves.

I had a bad doctor who treated me horribly, but for a while I thought that it was the only option I had. When I talked with other people about how bad I was being treated, I left that doctor, went to six others, and finally started self-medicating becaues I didn't trust any local doctors. A year or two later, I finally have a doctor I trust but I have to drive a couple hours to get to. And you know what, I am stronger, can advocate for myself in the medical system better, and have a better knowledge of transfemale hormone regimens than most non-specialist doctors.

I'm not weak, neither are the trans women I know, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about the injustices we faced.

1. If we don't like our treatment rather than find another doctor we must stay with that doctor. Folks, doctors are our employees! We pay their bills. If we don't like a particular employee then find another one.


Some-one who has money typically finds this really easy to say. Furthermore, somebody who's lived a sheltered existence in an even moderately progressive town and had no experiences anywhere else in the world, country, state/province, county, etc..., would find this really easy to say.

Gods below, at least I can admit that I've had it easy (relatively speaking) when finding a general physician.

As for how this dynamic occurs, I've seen it play out a couple times like this. A city has one trans support group, which is largely populated by older white trans women with access to class and other forms of privilege. The discussion never address larger power dynamics or systemic change, focuses on passing tips, and alienates people of color, working class folks, and anti-oppression activists of all stripes.

Tobi, I know that you are talking about our support group. I won't go into details of how I know but it was well known at the university that our group didn't cater to younger trans people. I know that while I was leading the group you were all welcomed to the group. We were all working class and some were getting assistance from the state. There were at times people of color in our group. We also talked about anything that we wanted to talk about, including how to pass trying to change our ID and all sorts of thing. I do know that we did have a leader who was kind of rough but she was sweet if you got to know her. Oh and the reason I closed it down as I was supporting the rent of the building and some of the newer material. What you might think that I'm some upper class person is wrong. I make a living. Maybe if your group would have came over and been part of the group and helped sustain it we would still have a support group. We don't now, only specific groups, nothing in a general trans support group. If I might add brought on by you and your group.


I didn't know your group well enough to make those judgments. I'm talking about a pattern that I've seen and heard discussed in many places and not about any one group in particular. Parts of that pattern seemed to fit locally, but I'm not assuming that all of it does.


This is a subject I have wrestled with. I am a lesbian and a feminist who can best be classified as soft butch. I have never been feminine enough for most people although I wear makeup sometimes but that disappears more and more over time.

In the lesbian book club I belong to, we read Trans-Sister Radio and we had 2 trans womyn in the group. During the discussion, I brought up the concept of the “right clothes” that the book discusses and the lady in the group also mentioned that term that she was wearing the “right clothes”. I asked her to define that. The book club ranges from femme to butch and no one was dressed like her. She also said that when she transitioned she had to pretend she didn’t know how her car was put together anymore. Mechanical parts were now referred to as “thingys” and she played dumb. I asked her if she thought being a womun meant acting as if she was dumber than she really was.

I work on my own car (the small stuff), and my mechanic for years was a straight womun. Some of the things that are said by transwomyn are insulting to ciswomyn. I thought long and hard about what it means to be a womun. I had no idea what a difficult question that was. I know how I’m treated as a womun. I know how I’m expected to behave. However, I can’t figure out what’s wired in the XX chromosomes and what is just shoved down my throat by society. Being a womun is about knowing what it’s liked to be judged by your appearance, and walking like prey along with many other things. I noticed one day that womyn automatically get out of men’s way and often from very far away. I believe that for our own safety we avoid physical confrontation with men. I stopped moving out of the way to see what would happen. Some men move at the very last minute or brush up against me. Some men seemed very confused and had a hard time negotiating the move. I now walk like a predator just to be difficult. (-: Womyn need more personal space, and men either don’t understand that or don’t respect it. It’s fascinating.

So when transwomyn come along and know exactly what it means to be a womun I am taken aback since I don’t know. I have spent my whole life defending who I am, and when some transwomyn show a hyper feminine side it’s hard to take. Hyper feminine cis womyn get on my nerves as well. Feminism is about equality and about freeing womyn from rigid roles that many want us to stay in. When you get resistance from us, it’s because it feels like you want us to go back into roles that aren’t who we are. Some womyn also have anger towards men. I spent the first 25 years of my life being harassed by men especially when I was underage because I looked older. Many of us have experienced men as predators and we remain on guard. I went on a lesbian cruise where there are only a handful of men who work on the ship. It felt different and calming. Since womyn have to be on guard, it can be difficult for us to be completely comfortable. The Y chromosomes are still there.

I want to better understand where you’re coming from. I have no desire to be a bigot and all trans people deserve help when they are in need. However, there are some emotional issues that are not that easy to discard.

Because of the many issues trans women have with their presentation, I believe the "right clothes" are those which make the trans woman think she will pass best in. I know I am my worst critic as far as my presentation goes and I know many trans women acquaintances feel the same way so we tend to overcompensate sometimes in order to be a little more certain of passing. Remember, not passing can cause problems, even danger.

The same can be said for mannerisms. The less a trans woman thinks she passes, I suspect the more she will try to fulfill the stereotypical mannerisms that she thinks people will expect of her. Passing is an unconscious summation in other people's eyes about your masculinity/femininity scale and it's a fact that every little bit helps, even if it's an unkind stereotype.

What arises out of these phenomena is all too often a mix of transmisogyny and/or discrimination based on cissexual privilege. I often have trouble telling the difference. I'm fortunate, or maybe just underexposed to the community, but I have not had too many experiences that would be classified under those two labels. Articles such as this one, however, are very helpful in navigating the rough waters when it does happen. Thank you!

"Passing" is bullsh*t.....

If you are concerned with passing, you won't.
Try being. If you are right about being a woman, that's how people will see you. It has almost nothing to do with clothes, or any other artificial garbage or even the build of your body. Open your eyes and look around, women come in all sorts of sizes and shapes....

If Bea Arthur passes, you can too.

transheretic said:

If you are concerned with passing, you won't.
Try being. If you are right about being a woman, that's how people will see you.

(The bold lettering is my emphasis, BTW.)

Would you mind describing to the trans and cis women out here in bloglandia what qualities are embodied when a person is "right" about being a woman and the qualities that are embodied when a person is "wrong" about being a woman? You've critiqued other trans women's explanations in responses to Kerrie, and yet, your phrasing suspiciously sounds like Kerrie's original complaint:

During the discussion, I brought up the concept of the "right clothes" that the book discusses and the lady in the group also mentioned that term that she was wearing the "right clothes".

I'm just wondering, because personally, I don't think there's a "right way" or a "wrong way" to be a woman, cis or trans. If you are a woman, then whatever qualities you embody, that's what being a woman is for you. Period. Your words seem to imply that there is a wrong way to be a woman, which is a questionable notion for someone who appears to identify as feminist.


Thanks for your thoughts. I can see your sincerity. The first thing that popped into my mind was, do you know when that trans womyn transitioned? Things aren't a peach now, but it used to be that the doctors would require you to make up a new childhood story, be or pretend to be straight, be or pretend to be hyperfeminine, and if you don't "know" exactly what a woman is or can't convince them you'd make the perfect 50s housewife, then you were out of luck. When she talks about how she had to play dumb, that makes me think that she had to as in she was told to or denied access to trans related health care. That kind of stuff leaves an impact. I'm sure you've seen cis women with internalized sexism, it's the same kind of thing.

Hyperfemininity, for some folks, is a survival mechanism. I went through a phace of being very feminine (for a soft butch like me, that's not all that feminine) when I really didn't want to be. I thought I'd be accepted better. I wasn't. I realized how stupid that was and stopped. Now I'm femme on occassion, but it's on my own terms, and that's a world of difference.

As for women-only spaces, I know they can be incredibly valuable -- for all women, trans and cis. Trans women experience male predation and often have to be on gaurd, too. I grew up in and out of women only spaces, and you might be surprised to know I was in a lot of women only spaces before I transitioned. In high school, I was a part of the Women's Student Union. I wasn't always accepted 100%, but people understood I had a reason to be there.

"The Y chromosomes are still there."

Are they? How can you tell? Did you know that when the technology to test chromosones first became available it was a standard high school biology lab. But they had to stop it because too many people were getting results they didn't expect. I'm sure you haven't tested all the cis women on that cruise, and one or more of them might have Y chromosomes that you don't mind at all. And for all we know, the trans womyn in your book group might not have had one. It's not really the Y chromosome that bothers you, it's the internalized sexist behavior. All I would ask is that you show the same level of patience with trans women with internalized sexism as you do with cis women with internalized sexism. And it might help if you meet some trans women with a stong handle on their feminism, too.

It was often more than just being denied transgender medicine. Trans health clinics were often transsexual women's only access to any medical care. In some places, a trans health clinic could issue you a pass so that the cops wouldn't arrest you for cross-dressing. But if you didn't act like a walking stereotype, then you were cut off from any and all medical support (meaning everything from hormones to emergency antibiotics) as other doctors wouldn't touch you, and if the cops caught up it you, you could be thrown in jail and have your head shaved. When conformity becomes your only means of survival, then it tends to start looking like a good idea.

I'm with you Kerrie, One of the most absolutely infuriating behaviour I see with transwomen is this denial of skills to be "more feminine"

Jebus H on a popcycle stick!!!!!! Where is any sense of feminism here? Where is the empowerment?

Worst, often this is accompanied with zero traditional "female" skills to boot.

So when transwomyn come along and know exactly what it means to be a womun I am taken aback since I don’t know.

Oy. So, how does one defend a marginalized group against widely held stereotypes?

I’ll see your anecdote and raise you several of my own.

Look, I’ve read a lot of personal writings and musings authored by trans women. Some claim to know the “secrets of womanhood” down to the last dotted i and crossed t. Some of these women spend a lot of time trashing trans women who don’t fit their own personal mold. Others think a universal definition of any gender is a downright stupid, oppressive notion that harms everyone.

I’ve known cis women who claim that being a proper and acceptable woman requires one to dot all of one's i’s and cross all of one's t’s just so. Those are often the same folks that snicker at women whose fashion sense doesn’t jive with their personal standards. I’ve also known cis women who find femininity to be a tiresome culturally enforced form of drag.

There’s a whole world of variation in-between the two sets of extremes I’ve illustrated. Seek and ye shall find. And guess what? The trans women and the cis women who insist on all of the dotted i’s and crossed t’s tend to make me feel really uncomfortable. It’s their right to be that way if they choose, but I’m still left with squirmy feelings inside.

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention: I’m a trans woman.

The bottom line is, every marginalized group on the planet has to face down various pernicious stereotypes. Challenging these stereotypes is neither fun nor easy. If you are a member of the marginalized group in question, then the task essentially boils down to being forced to prove your humanity and justify your existence.

I can think of hours of unpleasant conversations I’ve had with my family about their racist perceptions of people of color and bigoted feelings about non-Christians. What I’ve learned from these conversations is this: if a person’s eyes and heart are shuttered, they’ll steadfastly refuse to look past their preconceived notions. That’s easy enough to do, because there is usually a subset of people belonging to a marginalized group that fulfill stereotypical notions said to be true of the entire group. If you are primed to look for negativity, that’s what you will find.

That sad thing is, at this time in history, trans people are widely viewed in extremely negative ways. That primes the pump of negative perception for many people... even well meaning, progressive people.

I have spent my whole life defending who I am, and when some transwomyn show a hyper feminine side it’s hard to take.

I’ve spent my whole life defending who I am, too. I probably dislike the heteronormative, gendernormative aspects of society as much as you do. However, certain beliefs about trans women that are held in some parts of feminism and some corners of the queer community make adversaries of people who might actually share struggles in common.

And yes, there are certainly dolts on the transgender side of the equation, too.

Hyper feminine cis womyn get on my nerves as well.

After college, I spent several years immersed in a circle of intensely feminine, straight female friends with little outside contact with queer women. I love my friends, don’t get me wrong, but I felt like a complete alien. Why? I’m not the most feminine woman in the world and I’m a lesbian. The experience completely fucked with my mind. I did learn certain crucial things about myself and my own way of being a woman in the world, but it was still damaging and painful.

So, in my own way, I empathize with your discomfort… and ironically, I’m a trans woman.

Okay, I know I’ve pissed a lot of people off. I have this idea that it’s good to be honest about things so maybe we can learn. I think it’s important to understand the people who are clueless and simple so we might be able to help them. I just wasn’t expecting it to be me. When I thought about it some more, it just gets worse:

You know in your heart, soul and mind that you are a womun. You might go through numerous painful radical surgeries, you change your clothes, you take hormones, you change mannerisms, and you might grow your hair. I’m sure there are other things you do. I guess deep down I don’t believe that those things make you a womun. I’m sorry. I didn’t even realize I believed that. On top of that, I don’t know what you would have to do to make me think you were. I guess that explains my feelings, but I don’t feel good about them. I guess as a feminist, if I don’t think of you as a womun, sexist speech will have me react to you as if you were a man spewing that stuff. If I don’t believe you’re a womun, somewhere deep down inside I could see you as a possible threat. I bet I’m not alone which might explain some of the behavior the trans community experiences.

I think part of being a womun is how our brains form differently due to our hormones. It‘s how genes are expressed from our chromosomes. It’s our experiences as we grow up. It’s about going to the store to buy “feminine” products and thinking, “I can’t believe I’m spending my hard earned money on this over priced cotton - stupid evolution!” Womunhood is complicated. There’s all this stuff that I do as a womun that I probably don’t even realize – all that obnoxious unconscious stuff. I should stop reading neuroscience publications and listening to Radio Lab.

I don’t know exactly what being a womun is, but I’ve decided you’re not it. That sounds crazy and mean. I’m sure there are people who think I don’t cut it as a womun either, in fact I’m sure some do. I go back and forth. I can see problems in my reasoning. I can see problems in my data – how many trans people do I know? But I also think womunhood is both nature and nurture. If you were born XY, you were probably raised that way – much of what I think of womunhood has not been experienced by transwomyn. I know that XX & XY are simplistic views. I realize there is a lot of complexity out there and I have no proof that I’m an XX. It’s merely an assumption on my part. I have been treated as an XX. I do seem to be hung up on the Y chromosomes.

On the other hand, I think of those little trans girls that were on This American Life not long ago. Their stories made me cry. I don’t want you to suffer. I don’t want you to be discriminated against, but in my mind I’m discriminatory because of my beliefs.

I’m a queer atheist in the South. I know what discrimination feels like. I know what it’s like to be surrounded by people who behave ignorantly. I know how important it is to be able to have places where you feel completely at home and accepted. I believe everyone should have that – except for conservatives. (-: I support passing only legislation that is inclusive of the trans community 100%. My current feelings/beliefs make me feel like an ignorant redneck. What am I missing? What am I not getting? What is it about defining womunhood that is so troubling to me?

Maybe it’s because I don’t think you would truly understand my life and my feelings because of the life you lived before the transition will be quite different from mine. There’s a connection that I feel with womyn that I’m assuming I couldn’t feel with you. Im sure I could be wrong on that. Maybe it's the trans womyn I know have defined womunhood in a way that I found very offensive. Maybe I just need to hang with more trans people. Everyone who has posted both trans and cis seem very smart.

If I don’t respond to the responses I get from this, it’s possible that my head exploded. This is getting confusing for me, and I appreciate your patience. There is a part of me that is finding this discussion really uncomfortable and I kind of wish I had stayed out of it. Pointing out my own intolerance is not a pleasurable experience.


It's true that I can't help but take some offense at hearing someone else declare they have decided what my gender is, but I can also see the genuine struggle you're dealing with. For my part, I'm not pissed off.

You mention a lot that has been on my mind and I'm thinking of writing a larger post about it. For now though, let me point you to an interesting thought experiment I did last year.

It's really hard to pin down what special thing makes people women. The difficulty I see you running into is that no matter what that special thing is, there are going to be some cis women who don't have it and some trans women who do. And I feel compelled to mention that life before transition isn't always what you might think. Please stick around. I might try to answer some of these issues in an upcoming post.

You know in your heart, soul and mind that you are a womun.
You might go through numerous painful radical surgeries, you change your clothes, you take hormones, you change mannerisms, and you might grow your hair. I’m sure there are other things you do. I guess deep down I don’t believe that those things make you a womun. I’m sorry.
I don't believe that either, and I've never met a single trans woman who believes it. I'm not sure where you're going with this statement, Kerrie. Are you implying that transwomen actually think that way? Can you cite any who have said so? Because it sure does not fit at all with the community I know.
I have spent my whole life defending who I am, and when some transwomyn show a hyper feminine side it�s hard to take.
Hyper feminine cis womyn get on my nerves as well.

Tobi's original article (excellent article, Tobi, by the way) gave examples of femme-phobia as it gets intertwined with misogyny. As a femme I got interested in reading this, now that someone is actually addressing the problem. Although no one else has picked up on it yet. I think these comments from Kerrie kind of invite a look at something that I've found to be very prevalent and yet hardly ever acknowledged, let alone analyzed.

I've spent my whole life defending who I am too, and I suppose in response it would be fair to say that femme-phobia is hard to take, and it gets on my nerves too. Then we'd be even. But it wouldn't advance understanding or dialogue. That'll take some work and caring and thoughtfulness.

I get that being female and non-femme in a society that on the whole demands femininity of females gets really oppressive, and builds resentment. I totally get that. Anytime an ironclad gender role or gender expression is imposed across the board, it's going to leave some persons marginalized and cause oppression. Maybe we could agree on the problem being not femininity or masculinity in themselves, but in the oppressive way they're enforced on people whether it suits them or not.

The funny part is that while the macro society demands femininity, once you get within the feminist and queer communities, femmes are often placed very much at a disadvantage. As if we get to be the scapegoats for the gender injustices of the macro society. Or whipping girls, in Julia Serano's phrase. Is it hard to see past one's particular oppression to acknowledge that other individuals can be oppressed in different ways?

If non-feminine females naturally exist in the macro society, and suffer oppression because of who they are, is it hard to see that naturally feminine women in feminist and queer communities are likewise made to suffer for who they are? You can argue that that's just tough, because the big oppressor is the patriarchy, and any other oppression becomes small and insignificant in comparison to that.

But femmes don't exactly find shelter or comfort in the patriarchy when we're queer and feminist. We experience it as monstrously oppressive too because we see what it does to women and queer people who we identify with. We need the queer and feminist communities as our haven and solidarity to be able to defend ourselves from the patriarchy too. So it's kind of painful and tragic when the other queers and feminists who we need to be our family turn around and reject us.

You might argue that being femme is inherently taking the side of the patriarchal oppressor. We femmes would disagree because our femininity, despite what they say about us, is not a capitulation to the oppressor. On the contrary, we use it subversively. Because if you're queer in sexuality or feminist in belief, there is no way the patriarchy is your friend. We have more consciousness than you might give us credit for. All I'm saying is think twice before starting the femme-bashing. You might be hurting someone who's on your side.

I believe in feminism and in queer theory, and especially in feminist queer theory, that intersectionality is key. Intersectionality allows us to focus in on ending the oppression itself and lay off of each other.

Many people have found that part of their response is rooted in what society teaches us about how to use bodies to tell women from men? We're taught that cissexed male cues outweigh cissexed female cues.

We're taught that the presence or absence of a penis defines our role in life - but the presence or absence of a vagina is not as important. We're taught that facial hair always means male, even though it doesn't - but if a guy has breasts, they're just man-boobs.

Could it be that this set of assumptions, where we're taught to judge sex by looking for male signs and discounting female ones, is what's causing the problem for you?

A good way to test this is to see whether you react more strongly to transsexual women who are visibly transsexual and compare your reaction to how you react to a transsexual woman who is not visibly transsexual.

Many transsexual women who pass as cissexed report that they are much more welcome than those who are read as transsexual.

There's an excellent chapter in Julia Serano's Whipping Girl on this topic.

Kerrie said:

Maybe it’s because I don’t think you would truly understand my life and my feelings because of the life you lived before the transition will be quite different from mine.

I’m white, queer, college educated and I’m a mix of middle and working class. I grew up in Maryland and I now live in the Midwest. If I try to imagine the life of a Latino person crossing the boarder into Arizona in an attempt to escape abject poverty, I can’t. It doesn’t matter whether they are male or female. It doesn’t matter whether I’m male or female. There’s no way I can effectively imagine that. If I try to imagine what it’s like to be an African-American who grew up in the old South, faced down the worst manifestations of racism, and is now a member of congress, I can’t do that either. It doesn’t matter what combination of genders are involved. Naturally, neither of these people are any less of a woman or any less of a man because their lives are inscrutable to me.

No doubt, my experiences as a woman are quite different from your experiences as a woman. Perhaps I can’t understand your life or your feelings. Perhaps you can’t understand mine. That doesn’t make me any less of a woman than you are. It doesn’t make you any less of a woman than I am. Women come from a myriad of life experiences: different countries, cultures, sexual orientations, races, income levels, education levels, religions, etc. It would be a mistake to assume that you have special insight into another woman’s life simply because you share the same gender or sex.

Interestingly, this is similar to a problem that women of color experience with white feminists. White feminists unwittingly ignore the perspectives of women of color. This happens because of an unconscious assumption that white women’s understanding of being female reflects the experiences of all women. That’s simply not true, and consequently, many women of color are alienated from feminism.

This is a common pattern in society: the dominant group assumes that its experiences are universal and consequently, alternative experiences are largely ignored. When a member of a minority challenges this assumption, their experiences are often dismissed as imaginary, invalid, unimportant, biased, immoral and/or deviant.

I’m surprised that you posted a comprehensive list of negative perceptions of trans women in the context of admitting the need to reconsider your feelings about us. Usually, such a list is presented as a final judgement and is accompanied by the assertion that trans women are the scourge of “real” women everywhere. I applaud your honesty, particularly because it might bring forth an angry wave of intense criticism. That took a good chunk of bravery on your part. I admire that. I also applaud your willingness to reconsider your feelings. Given the extreme polarization surrounding transgender issues, it's rare to encounter this.


I haven't had a chance to respond directly to any of your comments yet, but I wanted to let you know I really appreciate both what you've said and how you've said it. It's been nice to have you present for this conversation.

Thanks, Tobi. :) I've been recovering from a cold that has lasted for far too long. So, I've had a lot of time to toss my hat into the ring. Watching hours and hours of Buffy and Angel—as wonderful as those shows might be—got a little kind of old. :P So, here I am.

Your post on transmisogyny and your post on violence were both quite wonderful. I look forward to reading your future writing.

I simply want to thank all who participated in this discussion for their willingness to be honest, vulnerable and not defensive about their own perspectives, and to acknowledge that we can be different and have different ideas and perspectives without having to invalidate others. And thanks especially to Tobi for her clear and nonjudgmental description of the problem and to timberwraith and Kerrie for their willingness to listen to each other without being judgmental of the other. This is the most refreshing and productive discussion of trans and feminist issues and their intersections that I have ever encountered.

I am biologically female, genderqueer, and bisexual. I feel to the very core of my being that the transwomen I know ARE women just as much as I am. They were just born in the wrong body, and yes, they have a different developmental path, but they are sisters under the skin. Not all women start to menstruate at exactly the same age; some start very early, some later, transwomen just get their female bodies a bit later than that.

Similarly, I have a man AND a woman in my head, being genderqueer. I have always known this, long before I knew that there even WAS such a thing as third gender or genderqueer. But frequently I find myself coming out with the exact male point of view on an issue. Unfortunately, I have hurt people I cared about this way because I read as a nice, cisgendered middle-aged woman, and no one expects a male point of view (sometimes a gay male point of view - remember I'm bi) to come out of my mouth.

In terms of how I act, I have decided to stop worrying about it. If I'm the one at work who has both the strength and the mechanical ability to pull and twist and yank that balky door lock open when none of the men can do it, well, too bad for their male egos. I'm just going to be me with my weird combination of being able to hand-sew a buttonhole AND replace my own flat tire. I really can't be bothered at age 55 with anyone's notion of how I SHOULD act.

I may not know all what you all are talking about but I really think that if people would keep it simple (KISS), I left off the last S. Labeling is so confusing and if we want people to understand all of this we need to keep it simple. After all, someone did write terminology for all of the trans world and now it is all out of date. The main people trying to pass legislation for our rights have a problem trying to keep up with all of this. Quit trying to make something that is so simple out to be so hard to understand.

Speaking of labels, its been used on her a lot, but can someone tell me what "cis" means? I see cis women or cis men, but I must have not been in class on this day!


You can go to my blog here - - for a collection of links regarding recent discussions on the use of the terms "cisgender" and "cissexual," including some definitions.

denisesined336 | September 7, 2009 4:51 PM

Hi, my name is Denise and I am post-op by over ten years and I am over 60 years of age. My mother knew I was trans when I was 3, I knew by the time I was 4 and we both struggled with the reality's of my being Trans in England at that time and place.

I now run a radio program called "Over the Rainbow" on CKDU which is broadcast from Halifax, Nova Scotia. That info is only to identify me.

I was interested in the comments both for and against the many issues mentioned. The biggest issue I find locally is that Transwomen are a very small number, we are also divided into several other groups by society due to the personal sexual choices we make from liking men to likeing women or both.
Our identity is often hard to pin down and so many try the alternatives first and so many are into their late twentys before they accept who they are and a hgh proportion of those have typical male physical builds prior to transition.
A small man is far more acceptable than a 6ft 2inch female for most people, regardless of how pretty she may be.
FTMs have always had a tough road and today's society is no different so we need realize that and back off. MTFs have our own issues and while we share some issues, others are far apart and expense and success rates are also far apart.
We need to concentrate on positives and realize that differences will always exist. In Canada this is very clear in the paid surgery fees. The average MTFs is $20,000 - $30,000 while the FTMs runs $70,000 to $110,000. So a natural division is apparent.
Lets look for positive answers and pass on the negative garbage.
Remember that a lot of youth are making the decisions earlier than we could, and the need for support is tremendous.
I leave you with that thought and hope you are successful in your future ventures.
Denise Holliday
"Over the Rainbow" CKDU,Halifax,NS

Tobi, great piece. It was well worth the read.

Robin, Autumn,

Glad you appreciated it.

This is all fascinating and touching.

My gf is trans, post-op by about 8 years, and I adore her.

We go to some places that are billed as women- and trans-friendly, and they are as far as I can tell. But I have trouble with transmen in women's spaces, presenting as male. If a space is woman-only, it strikes me as an exercise of male privilege to keep accessing a space that a M2F person is, I thought, relinquishing rights to.

Or is that just me?

Many (though not all) guys gravitate toward the point of transition via the lesbian community. As such, many of their personal connections, friendships etc. have been previously forged in feminist and women-only spaces.

I tend to see us as a combination of our genes, socialization and choice. Transwomen start out with something intrinsically female and learn the societal pressures through experience. Transmen start out with the upbringing, and though they will eventually unlearn that on their way to manhood, they still often have genuine experience of and empathy for womens' issues. I'm not bothered by their participation, and do believe that they have something to add to the dialogue, even if they might technically belong less and less.

I would hope though that they're allowed to participate because of the admin's understanding of the above, rather than a refusal to acknowledge them as men.

Women-focused is a different issue. But when it comes to women-only space, most of the trans men I know reach a point where they no longer want to be in a space that is labeled, women-only. Those who stay longer often have some level of non-binary gender identification.

Seeing trans men in women-only space, especially those where my presence may or may not be welcomed, produces a complex reaction in me. On one hand, I'm happy to have allies when I can. If I need support, I'd rather be the one trans woman with three trans men in the space then be the only trans person at all. However, I do definitely resent the circumstances that often lead them to be accepted into women's spaces when some women aren't.

Like when I finally got to go into the Michigan Women's Music Festival and ran into a dozen or so trans men. As much as I was happy to have the comraderie, I couldn't help but be frustrated that the almost mythicly-male-free space that had kept me out for so long due to the tiny bit of maleness I hypothetically had was freely welcoming people a hundred times more manly then me.

And while men of all kinds are welcome into women-focused space, I also get irritated at the circumstances that lead some trans-welcoming women-focused space to have a vibrant trans men's participation, but hardly any trans women in attendance at all. I've been at "women and trans" spaces before where the trans men outnumbered the trans women 10 to 1. And while I definitely appreciate being around trans men, that is surely a sign of transmisogyny somewhere in the community or event planning.

When a plaque commemorating a murdered transgendered woman, on the most recent TDOR, is placed in Matthew Shepherd square and the only people surrounding it at the unveiling photo-op are men (trans or cis - who knows), while the women spoke from a microphone way off to the side, that's transmisogyny. ( I may have gotten my mug in there because of where I happened to be standing - but probably not)

When a plaque commemorating a fallen gay man (Matthew Shephard) is unveiled by transgendered women, many of whom were under the impression that we were commemorating one of our own, on on the Transgendered Day of Rememberence several years ago - that's transmisogyny.

When transwomen are being murdered at a rate of 20-30 a month in 2009, and I can't find a single case of a transman being murdered - that is definitely transmisogyny.

Really something to think about when debating community support issues.

Excellent post-- tell me about women/trans spaces!!
I'm ftm (with a "straight" past)and can't handle them as well. There are so many weird politics behind their creation, and so many weird things happening inside them and not just to transwomen. I have some friends who were organizing women/trans events. There have been more than once attacks of ciswomen against transmasculine people. While declaring to be "safe space" (I really loathe that word), I have rarely felt that unsafe in my life.

Reading Bil's comment that he never realized that trans women are more discriminated than trans men sheds a light on the recent Gold "affair".
I came out in the late 1980s so I'm "old school", with "dominant" trans women in groups and all. But that also means that I know a lot more about trans women's lives than the younger ones seem to know.
Now I feel an even stronger motivation to bring trans men and trans women together.

I stumbled across this article because I wanted to spread the word about a movie which follows a couple's changing relationship when one of them undergoes Gender Reassignment. An old friend of ours, a transsexual woman, is the subject. She freely admits that, to afford the surgery, she became a sex worker, and got badly hurt in the process more than once, but she managed to avoid contracting HIV. Though a highly experienced sound technician, she had an awful time getting employment after surgery. When you have to go through all that just to get to your true self, that's transmisogynism.

Kate Friedman | February 11, 2010 1:45 PM

Let me guess -- if I am offended by this article and its accusatory, defensive tone, that's transmisogyny?


I wouldn't presume to know. I suppose it depends on why you find analysis of a specific type of oppression offensive. If you've read it, were you offended by Unpacking the White Privilege Knapsask.

I cannot fathom your particular reasons for seeing this article as defensive and accusatory -- or at least any more so than any other article pointing out oppressive behavior and privilege. The vast majority of folks who have left feedback on this piece have appreciated it. I can't help but notice the unifying impact it has had with those who want to fight sexism and/or transphobia.

Of course, I am pointing out examples of privilege that some people have. Just like when folks read about white privilege or male privilege for the first time, it is easy to feel personally attacked. Without knowing what is bothering you I cannot say if this is what's happening. But I do want to say that having privilege doesn't immediately make someone a bad person or anything like that. Recognizing privilege and doing something positive about it is the best reaction one can have. But if someone needs to struggle against the idea for a while, that's a perfectly reasonable response -- just one we hope they would get over eventually.

Lincoln Rose | March 21, 2010 1:55 PM

"When transwomen are being murdered at a rate of 20-30 a month in 2009, and I can't find a single case of a transman being murdered - that is definitely transmisogyny."

*grits teeth* BRANDON TEENA has been dead for years..raped and murdered by guys who felt threatened by him. And there have been others since him. Use Google every now and then.

Toby, really nice article.

About transster. To my knowledge, it's focused the way it is because there are people's personal surgery pics on there. It's not even accessible to every FTM spectrum person. You actually have to sign up for the site. And it was started because we can't find a lot of good information as far as after surgery pictures or results, especially around lower surgery.

So folks post their reviews of different docs and how they're treated, along with pics if they feel comfortable doing that. It's to help us make better decisions about a really big step. And we've been able to weed out quicker some of the docs who are only in it for the money, not to help us out.


"When transwomen are being murdered at a rate of 20-30 a month in 2009, and I can't find a single case of a transman being murdered - that is definitely transmisogyny."

*grits teeth* BRANDON TEENA has been dead for years..raped and murdered by guys who felt threatened by him. And there have been others since him. Use Google every now and then.

I can see how you might misunderstand my statement, but I was talking specifically about 2009. As for transster, I don't want to keep going on and on about it and I think I've addressed it pretty well in the comments above. I understand the reason for the resource, I think it's a great resource. However, I don't think that adequate thought has been given to the justification for making the resource available only to some trans people and not others, along a line of traditional oppression such as gender.

Still, it's a great resource, and this point in general is a lot less important now than it was a year ago when I wrote it, as another similar website or two that have been created since then which do allow for trans people of all genders.

I have to say this piece and the comments have been eye-opening - not because I had no idea about trans misogyny (I've been familiar with the concept for a while now) but because my own experiences as a trans man have been so different from what you posted. When I read "the only trans resources in town are targeted toward trans men" I thought "there's no possible way that could be true!" My own experiences, mostly on the Internet and with services in Chicago, had led me to believe that most trans resources were targeted specifically toward women. How many trans resource sites out there have sections labeled something like "Hormones" "Surgery" "Clothing" "FTM"? But it looks like in a lot of people's experience, the opposite is true. Very sad, but at the same time I'm happy I know about it now so I can help start to change things!

It's an interesting point and one that I've struggled with. I think it also has to do with age and time period. When I came out, I found a local support group that was all trans men/masculine folks. The only trans conference in my region was specifically a trans men's conference. And one of the doctors I went to assumed I was a trans guy when I told her I was trans because she had only worked with trans men before.

I had always heard tale of how trans women run all the resources, and more or less took it on face value. But after a few years I realized that all the resources I had encountered in the northwest were focused on trans men. I knew all the ins and outs of testosterone and chest surgery before I learned even minor details about trans medicine that was relevant to my body.

I always guessed that there were still resources exclusive of trans men, but virtually all that I have since encountered have either been tales from a generation ago, or run by folks a generation older than me. I think the "Hormones, Surgery, Clothing, FTM" style (which I actually haven't seen myself) is partially reflective of generation. At least I ascribe it to generation, I've never heard clothing or makeup advice in trans circles, but heard stories (like in Venus Envy) where younger folks, both guys and girls, get chased away from groups where their features, clothing, and pass-ability is scrutinized. Nowadays, I'm used to spaces which recognize you can wear whatever clothing you want and still be your gender.

I can't be certain of all the factors, or why or where it might be different, but the sum of my experiences have led to this pretty clear conclusion.

Personally I think it's odd that we focus so much on the inclusion of transpeople in women's events and don't talk at all about their inclusion in men's events. If transmen are welcome at women's events, and in clinics focusing on women's health, transwomen (and of course transmen as well) should be welcomed at men's events and in clinics focusing on men's health, but of course we don't talk about that because men aren't expected to be tolerant because they're men

I think part of that is because the creation of women's spaces and men's spaces have entirely different meaning. It's like when February rolls around and inevitably someone asks "When's white history month?" and the answer is "the other 11 months of the year."

Where's the men's music festival? The men's pharmacy? Look around, if it's not labeled "women's" then it probably caters to the needs of men.

Sure, there may be spaces for men in various minority groups, most notably gay men's spaces and leather men's spaces. But if you pay attention there are discussions going on about those events. There's a group called tm4m which exists to support trans men's participation within gay men's sexual community spaces. And don't forget that Tyler McCormick, a trans man, won the International Mr. Leather title this year.

I can't help but notice you're username starts with "Miss." This may prove to be a false assumption, but perhaps you simply notice women's spaces being discussed more often because you're a part of those spaces or communities and not a part of the men's spaces that are being discussed.

Owning my own identity perspective as well, it might just be that I'm a child of the second wave, but I see women's spaces built on a feminist basis all around me. I just don't see men's spaces existing in the same way. MichFest has become infamously legendary and has refused to become inclusive after nearly two decades of annual protest. I'm just not aware of a men's space that has similarly had such a long, drawn out, public conflict. At a certain point, people are simply more likely to discuss issues that are more publicly known. I've had professors talk about MichFest, but I doubt they even know about the existence of IML, LeatherSIR/Leatherboy, Eros, etc.

See, I am from the Northwest as well, your same town in the Willamette Valley I do believe, and never once saw any resources exclusively for trans men, or even stating that they include trans men when I came out six years ago. A young man I know coming out right now has said his only contacts have been trans women as well. I've read and re-read this article numerous times, and I still cannot understand how your personal experience with resources in the exact same region as me turns into transmisogyny because they are FTM-focused, but my person experience of finding only MTF-focused spaces are just the way things are, or somehow more acceptable since they are not transmisogynistic. I have since moved to another state where yes, it would appear right now that the younger groups are FTM-focused, but that is because of one guy that put in the effort to turn his social outings into an organized group, emailing over and over and hounding people until they started showing up and befriended one another. A few MTF friends have asked to hang out with us, or for us to create a branch of our group for them, but they have not wanted to put one together on their own. And yes, we have thought a lot about why we are only FTM and FAAB trans folks. It's intimidating to be around someone who is rejecting everything that you are fighting tooth and nail to have. I do not have a problem with sharing trans spaces with folks of all genders, and I've invited trans women to our SOFFA-open events (or rather, non FAAB trans events). But sometimes, you need be in a space where people truly know what it's like to be on your transition path, rather than people that can imagine or sympathize but haven't been at the same place. I've had too many trans female friends invalidate my experiences by telling me [insert male-bodied aspect here] is not all it's cracked up to be but not accept it when I tell them the same things about female-bodied aspects. Maybe it's personal (really, all of the things I've mentioned are, especially our younger FTM group which is entirely based on friendships we've formed and interpersonal connections), but I find it across the board with other FTM folks and other MTF folks as well. But somehow we're still expected to track people down and force the framework of our groups onto them so that they can be equal instead of being able to be in our own space that we've put a lot of work into creating so we can finally let our guard down and be ourselves for a few hours here or there.

(I would also like to note that as far as "official" organizations in my area go, there are only spaces dominated by and ran by trans women, with one men's night that often has two participants--a trans man and a trans woman. Is my experience of feeling excluded and gravitating toward a new group that's FTM-centric somehow invalid because I didn't work to stay in an "equal" space, regardless of if it actually catered to my needs as a trans man or not?)

I appreciate having these examples pointed out, and much of your article is sound, but I feel like shifting a lot of the blame to trans masculine folks and people serving their needs is offensive, and does not jive with any FTM experiences I know of, even in the Northwest.

So first off, it might help to hear that I don't blame trans men for trans misogyny. By numbers alone, there are far far more cis folks contributing to misognyny and transphobia than there are trans men doing so. I don't even find the concept of "blame" useful when it comes to oppression. Except for the hardcore bigots, most folks are just getting caught up in societal training and rebuilding the systems they've learned whenever they try to create resources. I want to interrupt that pattern so I point it out, but I'd rather change things than tear them down and I'd rather work with people than yell at them. Besides, my article identifies sources of trans misogyny but specifically does not address what is the best course of action to deal with them -- I'm not pretending to have all the answers and there's no one ethical way for you or anyone else involved in your group to act.

As for the different experience, it doesn't entirely surprise me. We have such isolated (offline) communities that in most cases when someone comes out outside of a metropolitan they only know a handful of trans folks. It's hardly a statistical sampling and very likely that people will have different experiences. But nonetheless the northwest is supposed to have some of the highest per-capita FTM populations around. And I didn't say that there were trans men only groups in Eugene, in fact I'm proud of the local leadership I came out around who dodged that bullet. But, still, it is a bit odd that we came out in the same city at roughly the same time and I was the only trans woman in the groups I went to and apparently you never met another trans guy in a group. What groups were you aware of? GQ? Emergence? UO LGBTQA Trans Group? Lane Gender Task Force? I didn't get to know another trans woman under 30 at any of those groups, and only after I'd been out for about 3 years I met one outside of those groups and invited her to come to a few meetings.

As for trans women saying messed up things to you and holding a double standard, please don't extend that perspective onto me. I find the examples you gave quite distasteful and reminiscent of what I've heard trans women (and trans men) say at times. People say mean things to each other -- Trans men to trans men, trans men to trans women, trans women to trans men, and trans women to trans women. It's not a battle of the sexes and I'm not keeping score about rude and disrespectful things being said. I find there's a distinction between that and institutionalized and societal devaluing of the female and feminine.

But beyond that, have you considered that the group you attend is recreating the exact dynamic I'm talking about in the above comments? It was created in response to an unsafe space dominated by trans women, right? Did you take stock of the age, race, class, and gender variance issues of that group as well? I've heard of just as many trans women feeling unsafe in groups like what you've described as I've heard of trans men feeling unsafe in them. Trans women who are tired of being berated for not wearing dresses, who can't put up with the background noise of racism and classism, etc -- read above comments for more on this.

But perhaps it is a space that is safe for all trans women and you're just creating the sibling group to it. I didn't say that FTM specific groups are inherently transmisogynist. I'm mostly concerned when there's only one community resource of it's kind (such as surgery funds) that are inexplicably limited only to trans men (and I'll mention that I similarly don't think it's good to only have the only resource in town be trans women specific). However, if there's vibrant community participation on both sides of the trans community then it doesn't matter as much if it happens to be somewhat segregated.

I'm curious, though, if you think making your group exclusive to FAAB folks has eliminated the stupid disrespectful things that people say to each other. Have you never had a trans guy say an invalidating thing to another trans guy? Because if the problem is people saying invalidating things, perhaps better moderation could solve the problem even better. Besides, it's not like we're from different planets. Some trans women bind now and then, some trans guys never do. Some trans women don't know how to use make up and don't care to learn, some trans men get made up for every night out. And so on.

If your group based on personal connections is just trying to hang out with folks they know and trust, there's nothing wrong with that. Although you might find better ways to moderate disrespectful behavior than making it gender segregated. However, if all your friends share a certain kind of masculinity which involves occasional misogyny and you want to be able to relax without fear of being called on it that's an entirely different matter. I can't tell you which one your group is, having never been there. But I will say it is the latter that I'm concerned about, and unfortunately they often take cover by masquerading as the former.

Perhaps I worded it wrong, but what I meant by pointing these things out is that personal experience isn't always indicative of systemic climates. (I don't remember what groups I'd checked out in Eugene, but none had transguys in the teens/20s that I knew of, if any ages at all.) My social group was formed out of feeling uncomfortable in the men's group, actually. I don't know why the particular men's group was created at the trans center. They have several groups aimed at trans people as a whole, SOFFAs, and MAAB folk, and this one FAAB men's group.

And yes, we've had several issues come up trans man to trans man, but that is because of our range of types of masculinities. We've got the skinny emo gays all the way to lumberjack straight guys, and sometimes the more heteronormative folks don't quite understand the the nonbinary queer folks. But there is a still brotherly bond that comes from the shared experience of growing up as a girl and transitioning to something else, whatever that is.

hikikomorihime | August 14, 2010 5:55 AM

"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."

D-: A lot of people are arseholes, because seriously, it's hard as hell to seek help for that type of issue to begin with. Also, wtf sort of logic was that!? Why didn't that person stop for a millisecond before speaking to consider how stupid their words would be? You don't need to invent anything to 'feel more like a woman', by nature of identifying as a woman, you are. Gah...

This entire thing, while awful that you've had these experiences, is wonderfully written. Thank you for composing these thoughts. I'm enjoying the dialogue that it opened up with everyone here, as well as learning a lot.

Linda Phillips | November 22, 2010 2:46 PM

I am a"transwoman" who might be the only one left alive who knew Virginia Prince as a good friend.
She would be spinning in her grave at the use of her term "transgender." It seems everyone with a whiff of discomfort at being gender conflicted, takes her term for their own. Does anyone remember her term "TV" which we all used as a code word in the fifties and sixties. Outdated for sure. I am 75, married to a natural women for over 53 years. My wife and I ran the "Texas T Party" for ten years. We tried to help TGs of any stripe but when the majority of people wanted to join GLB as the "T", we dropped out. We resent the feeling that I am gay. Now in actually I am "gay" if you consider that I have been in a loving relationship with a natural born woman for over 50 years. I have had a gay male tell me that I just didn't understand that I was really gay but just didn't pick up on it yet. I'm still waiting for the day I start disiring a male. How will I know? Virginia told me she invented the term "Transgender" for people like herself and me. One time I had a young post-op tell me she was straight,but I, not having had surgery, was only a CD.I replied that perhaps I was gay since I was a woman too but only loved women(one). So of what use are these terms to us? For instance it is not good for anyone in a small town in Texas to let ANYONE know your true gender. Even though we have our archives on line, no one here would ever look for us in that place. Please remember those of us who are much older than the majority of us have lived in a totally different enviroment in our 20's and 30's. Be kind to us. We are not your future, but we are most certainly your past. love, Linda Phillips.

i love this piece! thank you!

Actually the term is "transgender people". Adjectival use only please. This is cited within GLAAD's styleguide. Thanks!

Please pardon my ignorance, but what does "trans" mean in the context of this article -- transgender or transsexual? I've read several articles on this site, and the meaning seems to continually alternate or in some case conflict.

I could be mistaken, but "trans" seems to have become as elusive as the term "queer" which depending on your predominant social circles, it has supposedly been reappropriated by all different manner of groups, from just gay/lesbian activists all the way to the entire LGBT community.

In the context of this article, does it make a difference? Most everything could apply to either or both. I commonly use the truncated form "trans" as a way of sidestepping the turf wars and identity policing, which I think you are referring to.

I suppose I predominantly am referring to people who have transitioned or are transitioning socially, legally, and/or medically. But I definitely see folks who haven't transitioned being targets of transmisogyny as well - also genderqueers, and other gender bending folks, it just looks different in each case.

Thanks for the clarity. That was mostly why I was confused, because it appeared as if you were referring moreso to transitioning people, but I didn't want to presume your intent without asking.

It would be interesting, however, for someone to research the implications of transmisogyny or transmisandry with respect to gender bending people, particularly those who dismiss the viewpoint of a gender binary altogether, whether for purposes of self identification or self expression. (Personally, in fact, I disagree with the terms transgender and cisgender altogether, but for purposes of effective communication will gladly entertain them :)

From the explanatory notes to the UK Equality Act 2010:

Gender reassignment: paragraph 28

749. This paragraph replaces a similar provision in the Sex Discrimination Act


A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful.


Schedule 9: Work: exceptions

Part 1: Occupational requirements

A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a gender recognition certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.

All that stuff about having your birth certificate changed, your ID changed, all of the hoops you had to jump through... meaningless now. Those things are just for show, the Law doesn't recognise you as your target gender.

J.Valentin | April 23, 2011 2:58 PM

I am a femme identified trans guy. I definitely agree with what you are saying in this article. Thankyou.
I have faced femmephobia by trans men and trans women on many occasions because Im not male enough ..because i continue to wear glitter and eye make up at times. I try to be as intentional of a male as i can be and to remember the space i take up at queer events and spaces. cant we all just remember that we are on a spectrum and femmephobia, transmisogny is just reiterating binary politics. If a trans person is "typically" masculine or feminine in appearance it is just who they are..we all have different ways of being and I think that is beautiful.

Hi Tobi -

Thank you so much for your well thought out and important post. I have a question for you...

My partner (a gender queer trans-man) is having a top-surgery benefit, which he has worked hard to organize and which is really the only way that he will be able to begin to build the funds for this surgery.

He has gotten some messages from a few people in our local gender-queer community that they refuse to attend or support, and will even ask other people to not attend, unless the proceeds are shared equally with a trans-woman who is working right now on building her own resources for a surgery. These are not proposals to split the benefit with anyone in particular, nor do they come from trans-women working toward surgeries themselves, they are simply statements of principle.

I have some concept of where they might be coming from - perhaps an outpouring of support for a benefit for a trans-man is easier to come by than support for a trans-woman in a context of transmisogyny? Maybe there are many ways, some subtle some not so subtle, in which trans-women are barred access to queer or gender queer community resources?

Do you think that this is an instance in which someone critically engaging with their own male privilege would make the choice to not have a benefit for their own surgery unless they could find a trans-woman to split everything with evenly? Would you mind saying where you would stand on this issue, and why?

I am interested in your insight, I would like to foster as inclusive and intentional a community as possible, and being familiar with misogyny in my own life experience, it is important to me not to perpetuate it, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Thanks again for your post.