Trans is not a Trend: Everyday Cissexism

This is a long ass post about trans issues and identity. If you have the time and the spoons I hope you can read it and tell me what you think.

Trigger Warning for potential transmisogyny, cissexism, cissupremacist statements.

I recently reblogged a post by the tumblr “Truths89” titled “The Trans Trend

My understanding of what was written is that the author is primarily concerned about FAAB men and how their gender expression is a result of internalized misogyny and the effects of a patriarchal society on women.

I found the whole thing rather cissexist. I wrote this email an attempt to explain why it was problematic. (I’m posting it here because as a cisgender male I hardly think I’m the most qualified to express all of this, and I hope tumblr will call me out on any problematic statements I’ve made, and I want to know what my followers think of the whole thing.

You asked why your post was awful. I’ll try to explain why I took issue with it.

However, I do identify as a cisgender male. So my male privilege and my cisprivilege does temper this response. So obviously I cannot speak for any trans person or woman, only repeat and repost what has beenvehemently explained to me. I’ll provide links where I can.

First issue: the title. “The Trans Trend.” The most obvious problem is calling a person’s identity a trend.  Trans identity is not drag, it is not simply dressing up, it is something that is deeply felt and defining. It is an IDENTITY. “A staggering 41 percent of transgender people in the United States have attempted to commit suicide, according to a new survey. About 19 percent of transgender people report being refused medical care because of their gender-nonconforming status, and a shocking 2 percent have been violently assaulted in a doctor’s office.” There is nothing trendy about being trans, it’s not about being cool, it’s not about making a statement, it’s about owning one’s identity.

Second Issue: Being trans does not reenforce a gender binary. Men exist. Women Exist. This is a fact. People who identify as neither exist. Gender is not a binary or even a spectrum but a myriad of various complex and often overlapping identities and ways of being. For example, there are trans men who identify as femme, there are cisgender women who embrace masculinity and are butch without rejecting their womanhood.

“I am hurt when the declaration for male pronouns is requested with such harshness and a hint of victimization”

That harshness and victimization is because day in and day out trans people are discriminated against and denied their very identity. On an institutional level, on a personal level. Of course they request it with harshness and a hint of victimization. For you to misgender a person is an act of violence. For you not to understand that is you not examining your cisprivilege. Trans people are policed by society at every turn, from what they wear, to who they date, to the pronouns they choose, right down to the NAME they use.  This is a personal attack on every single level. You are hurt when a trans person demands you don’t misgender them?  The notion of that is absurd. There is so much privilege inherent in that statement. It’s not about you. You don’t live every day of your life with people questioning your whole being.

“Can we remove the veil of political correctness and dissect why this trend has come to be?”

Here’s what we can say about political correctness:

“I can’t help but feel that it is a symptomatic expression of a tampered psyche. ”

This is probably one of the worst statements in your piece. It’s ableist first of all, to even imply that there is something wrong with being neuroatypical, and then worse by extension to imply that trans people have something wrong with them in their head.

“Please understand that I know the medical industry performs genital mutilation onintersexed babies, and that there are a host of other reasons why people feel they were assigned the wrong body.”

While many trans people do experience body dysphoria not all do. Not all trans people feel they were assigned the wrong body. And the point is, gender isn’t defined by the body, it’s defined by the mind. Not all trans people want to or even feel the need to transition. That is their prerogative and their right.

and for the people that DO experience body dysphoria:

“But I am curious, why must women alter their bodies to express their masculinity? There is nothing wrong with the body, it is a blank canvas that we can adorn with all forms of gendered expressions. It’s that gender binary that gets our souls in a rut. ”

I’ll respond with a quote from this link:

“Stop calling trans men brainwashed women. Trans men are not women. They are men. They are not butch women brainwashed by the patriarchy’s narrow ideals of femininity. They are not mutilating their ‘beautiful female bodies’. They are making their bodies habitable for themselves. You know the idea of ‘my body, my choice’? Well, it applies to trans folks too.”

“I respect this; however, there seems to be quite a wave of transmen who are coming to shore.”

The shore of what? your own personal reality? So because you suddenly become aware of an identity it is a trend? For some, it’s not suddenly quite a wave. It has been their entire existence.

Here is a series of links that explain better than I ever could what needs to be said. I hope you do take the time to read them all.

As I ask you to check your privilege, I also ask that you call me out where you are willing and able on my privilege.

This is the email I got back

I appreciate your response. I respect where you are coming from but

people’s survival/movements are co-opted in this

capitalist/materialistic/consumerist world. What is all this

“privilege” talk???? seriously, while in the academy it felt like an

easy way to shut people up.

there is a lot of victim play in this world, and there are a lot of

people who are truly victimized. i cannot speak to the statistics you

mentioned because i know they are true. i am speaking to a fad of

transmen…i am from nyc…went to an all women’s college… even went

to idapalooza…and i see it everywhere. the binding is out of this

world….i am not a feminist…but i love for people to love

themselves and i can’t help but feel that cutting one’s breast off and

injecting hormones for the rest of one’s life is something we have to

talk about. the words may not be gentle, but they have to come out. i

have been watching for many years and i have been politically correct

for much too long….

ironically, while at idapalooza [a “radical queer gathering” in TN] i

had the “privilege” of speaking with a gender queer woman who felt

pressured to transition. she understood it as a path of stud/butch

queerness. the next step, you know. and he voiced how much she did not

what to cut her breast off and take hormones. he identified as he/she

and ze/their.. etc etc and i loved her for her honesty and for his

ability to not conform.

i’m only asking why we render the body the problem. period.

i am presently very content with what i’ve said and I stand by it.

At this point I really don’t feel like writing back. I don’t really have anything more to say that wasn’t expressed in the links. I feel like the email back was awful too

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I haven’t posted in a while.

Part of the reason it’s so important for people who occupy particular privileged positions to just shut up sometimes is because it’s impossible to escape that privilege: because no matter how good one’s intentions are, that privilege is embedded in the structure of the language that we use, it’s embedded in seemingly innocuous cultural assumptions, and simply by speaking, if we occupy that privileged ground, we reinforce that privilege.

Intersectionality and Privilege: Addressing the Squishy Bits :: Hoyden About Town

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Banning the Burqa: Islam & Western Cultural Supremacy

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards God, that ye may attain Bliss.

– Qur’an 24:31 “The Light”: The passage most often interpreted to require the hijab for women.

So today the French Senate has voted in favor of a bill to ban face-covering veils in public, approving the measure overwhelmingly: votes went 246 to 1, with most opposition abstaining to vote in protest. This comes a month after the Lower House of Parliament also approved the measure. Now the measure is very carefully worded, called “Forbidding the Dissimulation of the Face in the Public Space”, making no mention of “woman”, “veil” or “Islam”.

This is, to say the least very problematic and most certainly the wrong move. (For the purposes of the post, I will not be differentiating between burqa, niqab, hijab, etc. though I certainly acknowledge that there are fundamental differences among them, mainly because I feel the issue encompasses all of them. )

The most common objection to the veil is that it is a form of oppression to women. Men force their sisters, wives, daughters, whoever, to wear the veil as a sign of modesty because they are objects that are supposed to remain chaste. This is what supporters of a veil ban use a justification.

Now I don’t think it would be wrong to say that this does not occur. I have no doubt that some women who wear a veil wear it out of a forced obligation. But this is no basis for a ban on a the veil because it ignores several factors.

Firstly, if a woman is being forced to wear a veil, banning it doesn’t help her. She’s just getting punished for wearing the veil, or punished for not wearing the veil. Moreover, government studies show that many women do not fit the stereotype of marginalised, oppressed women.

But more importantly what this ignores is that some women CHOOSE to wear a veil.

So this, to me, reeks of Islamophobia. Unsurprisingly. It is essentially the government supressing muslim culture, exercising what could be considered instituitonalized racism and disguising it as a fight for women’s rights.

It does nothing for women’s rights. The issue was presented as one where women weren’t being allowed to wear what they wanted. And to remedy that they are telling women… you still can’t wear what you want. Furthermore, implicit in the argument that the ban is for women’s rights is that the West itself has resolved all it’s issues with sexism. It presents itself as the epitome of equal rights, and now it’s time to go liberate the rest of the world from its barbaric sexist tendencies. A laughable notion. Less than 15 percent of seats in French Parliament are held by women. If France really wanted to confront sexism, it would do some self examination before calling out other cultures.

The bill comes from a place of fear. Fear of Muslim culture, fear of those who don’t share French & Western values, fear of people who are different. It’s racist as far as I am concerned.

Moreover, more and more women, especially in the west, have been wearing the veil as a form of fighting western cultural hegemony. They choose to war it because it links them back to their cultural heritage especially in a world where the west actively seeks to force its views and cultural markers on others. In response to the legislation many women have mentioned that they will go outside in veil anyway because that is their choice.

Muslim women shouldn’t be forced to wear the veil, nor should they choose to wear the veil because men imply they should, or old scriptures say they should, or they fear rape or retribution; they should choose to wear it because it’s what they damn well want to wear, and for no other reason.

Now France is an exceedingly secular society. In 2004, headscarves and other “ostentatious” religious symbols were banned. Religious symbols are not displayed in government buildings. However, speaking as an atheist, I think secularism can be taken too far. I also believe in freedom of religion. If in a private building, head coverings are banned, I think there should be no exceptions. No kids in hoods, no people in hats, no nuns in habits, no head coverings period. And I don’t think belief in a certain deity gives you the right to ask for an exception. But in a PUBLIC space, on the street, on the way to the grocer’s or a worship service, or even in the park, banning religious symbols quashes freedom of speech and freedom of religion. France prides itself on its “free” society, but this undermines the notion of freedom, period.

The legislation still has to reach the constitutional council who have the power to overturn it which they absolutely should do. Banning the veil is just quite simply a poor idea.

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Links I’ve Been Reading (Sept 10, 2010)

Friday links. I’ve been reading, thinking over, some old some new, I may not agree with them, but they make interesting reading. Posts forthcoming.

Off and Running Toward My Own Identity [Racialigious] | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture

Radical Masculinity: Masculinity and Feminism: Can We Stop Using the Term Ally?

Sikivu Hutchinson – Oratory of Division

Howto: Stop Worrying About Female Brain Hard-Wiring and Get Smarter | Geek Feminism Blog

“Colorblindness,” “Illuminated Individualism,” Poor Whites, and Mad Men: The Tim Wise Interview, Part 1 | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture

stuff white people do: white quotation of the week (tim wise)

Black American Muslims Speak Out Against Intolerance – New America Media

Judge Strikes Down Military Ban on Gays –

Minister Backs off Burning Koran, Muslims Still Feel the Hate – New America Media

Womanist Musings: “It Is Wrong to Burn the Koran” By Kola Boof


Letter to a Brotha « Vegans of Color

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Links I’ve Been Reading (Sept 6, 2010)

These are links that I’ve been reading and ruminating over, some old, some new. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them.

Tim Wise Takes On Critics of White Anti-Racists | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture

Muslims Fear Losing Gains Amid Protests Over Center –

The taming and domestication of religious faith is one of the unceasing chores of civilization. – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

blackfemlens: Feminism’s Freedom Fighter? On Feminism, Atheism and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

A Muslim-American Daughter’s Plea: Build Your Mosque Somewhere Else – New America Media

Black Muslims: Left Out of the National Conversation on Islam – New America Media

“Learning to Labor” « Like a Whisper

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ANTI Problems: The Smug & The Elite

“Not being racist is not some default starting position. You don’t simply get to say you’re not a racist; not being racist — or a sexist or a homophobe — is a constant, arduous process of unlearning, of being uncomfortable, of eating crow and being humbled and re-evaluating. It’s probably hard to start that process if you’ve been told that every thought you have is golden and should be given voice, and that people who are offended by what you say are hypersensitive simpletons.”

As this is the first post, the first subject I’m going to tackle is folks doing ANTI work, and in so, hope I can also address tendencies that I want to avoid. ESPECIALLY with all the privilege I carry.

I think the biggest failing that I’ve seen among those who claim to do Anti-whatever is refusal to consider their own privilege or their own personal prejudices in a specific instance. They may know all about male privilege but vehemently deny their own white privilege. Or they know about cisgender privilege but won’t consider for a second that they are being ableist.  The problem is, they fought through their own prejudices to understand the problems on one side, and they are so accustomed to being right they won’t consider for a second that they may still harbor some prejudice.

For a lot of people, anti-racism work, anti sexism work, anti heterosexism work, anti whatever work is a pedestal. They climb to the top and then get to talk down to people. They’ve reached the pinnacle of social knowledge, you can’t question them, and you better not disagree or call them out. They can’t say anything racist, look how much anti-racist work they’ve done! Other people just don’t get it.

Which obviously and quite simply not the case. You don’t learn about this stuff so you can go around pitying and scorning people who don’t yet know better. And you have to be prepared to keep learning, which is humbling. So as much as you have read bell hooks, Frantz Fanon, Tim Wise, whoever, there will always be more to learn.

So I’m starting this blog with all of this in mind, and I’m going to try working keeping that first quote in mind. I don’t have the answers, I’m privileged and I’ll often be wrong, but I want to do my part and do the best I can.

I’ll be blogging about race, gender, religion, science & more.

I’ll be going by JB and this my first post, because I am ANTI. (I need to trademark that right? Haha)

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Links I’ve Been Reading

These are links that I’ve been reading and ruminating over. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them.

Huey Newton Complexes « The Crunk Feminist Collective

National Journal Magazine – The Gray And The Brown: The Generational Mismatch

Tyler Perry Typecasts White Folks, Too – COLORLINES

On fatphobia, thin privilege, and “eat a sandwich!” « Raising My Boychick

The Ethnic Cleansing of American Ethnic Studies – New America Media

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