A Review of Trans-Inclusive Modern Feminism
An essay written for my Psychology of Gender course, which I felt was incredibly behind-the-times in regards to trans and nonbinary people.
In current society, the lives of transgender people, especially transgender women, are considered to be strange by the majority of the population, and even disgusting by the more conservative. As a result of this, an odd media split has occurred. This dichotomy has resulted in two of the most well known celebrities at the moment, Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, being transgender women, while simultaneously hate crimes against the transgender population are soaring. According to the Human Right’s Campaign, a well-known GSM (gender and sexual minority) support group, as of the time of this paper’s completion, twenty-one transgender persons had been murdered in a hate related crime in 2015, the majority of whom were transgender women of color.
This course’s textbook defines a transgender individual as “[a person] who [lives] with a gender identity that does not correspond with their biological sex” (Helgeson, 2012, p.7). The textbook also describes the difference between the terms “transgender” and “transsexual”, but for all intents and purposes, this author has made the decision to use the word “transgender” as a catch-all term, as does the majority of the current transgender population, particularly those of younger generations. However, unlike the terms stated previously, the words “gender” and “sex” are not so interchangeable. Common knowledge dictates that they are of course similar, but the distinction is very important, especially to transgender persons. Helgeson explains that while sex refers to the assigned biological and physical characteristics including genitals and hormones of an individual, gender is, on the other hand, how an individual chooses to present themselves and identify as
Women, regardless of whether or not they are transgender or cisgender
(non-transgender, or identifying as one’s assigned birth gender), face similar obstacles in their everyday lives. This includes topics such as access to healthcare, workplace harassment, stereotyping, and unfair expectations of gender-role fulfillment. The first of these issues, access to healthcare, is a very current topic of interst. Whether referring to the Hobby Lobby refusal of modern employee healthcare regulations, the proposed shutdown of funding for Planned Parenthood, or the hotly debated motion to overturn the Roe v. Wade court case of 1973, it seems that access to gender-specific healthcare for women is becoming more difficult daily. This is especially true for transgender women. For instance, according to journal authors Baur and Hammond in their 2015 article, titled “Toward a Broader Conceptualization of Transgender Women’s Sexual Health”,
approximately forty-six percent of transgender women report taking the feminizing hormones estrogen and progesterone. In order to receive such hormones, known as HRT (or Hormone Replacement Therapy), transgender women, and transgender men who chose to take testosterone, must have a psychological exam and the psychiatrist must sign off an app
oval letter. These hormones and psychologist appointments are, unfortunately, very often not included in major insurance policies, and are even less common as a part of custom policies put together by corporations for their full-time employees, similar to the way birth control options are handled for cisgender women. Baur and Hammond’s article also describes studies on health in other aspects of transgender women’s lives, including sexuality.
On that note, one other healthcare concern for transgender women is the difficult access to well-trained surgical professionals. Reg
ularly, because of cost and quality, transgender women travel overseas, mainly Mexico and Thailand, for genital reassignment surgeries as well as cosmetic ones like Adam’s Apple reduction and Facial Feminization, where bone shaving and fat redistribution take place to give a more traditionally feminine appearance to the patient. And while cisgender women may not necessarily require all of the same things, it is very obvious that sexism in healthcare still exists. For example, the difficulty to receive sterilization is a common cause of distress for women. Cisgender women can also understand the desire for low-cost, high-quality cosmetic surgeries, as well as the need for better mental and sexual health facilities. Both transgender and cisgender women frequently look for surgical solutions for breast enhancement, fat reduction, and facial reconstruction, and require counseling and other psychological care options.
On the other end of the healthcare standpoint, women who are in medical and scientific careers are often taken less seriously than their male counterparts. This occurs even to the point of sexualization of women in these fields as a way to discredit them. For instance, Bridgette Baptiste, a Columbian transgender woman who is both a biologist and a communications specialist frequently receives transphobic comments in regards to her work, turning her research into a public debate forum on the worth of the lives of transgender individuals (Perez-Bustos 2014, p. 857). From the same source, which includes multiple studies on the reception of media published by women in scientific fields, author Tania Perez-Bustos describes the sciences as “androcentric” and explains how an “unsophisticated public competes with feminized labor”. Many women have seen their work disregarded simply because of their gender, and repeatedly fall victim to the traditional role of “caregiver”, even within fields they excel at.
Following along with the medical theme, the number of female nurses compared to female doctors contains a very noticeable distinction. Women are expected to be better at nurturing, and yet women are more likely to become early-childhood educators rather than college professors. Furthermore, in looking at the stereotype of “women belong in the kitchen” another discrepancy is found. Basic thought process states that in the culinary world, men are typically chefs, while women are more than likely to become waitresses. These stereotypes apply to both cisgender and transgender women, especially for transgender women who feel that they need to follow strict gender roles in order to “pass” more effectively.
While it is true that both cisgender and transgender women are forced to live under the rule of these highly idealistic standards, those stereotypes can prove to be even more harmful for transgender women. Perhaps the most prominent and damaging stereotype threat is that transgender women are “deceiving” women, especially within the queer community. “In media portrayals, the deceiver is always depicted as sexually attractive, and thus powerful. The climax of these portrayals is always the ‘reveal,’ the revelation of the transgender woman’s transgender status, usually done by forcibly exposing… genitals,” and while in every day life this may not be done as frequently, instances such as using the wrong pronouns, dead-naming (as in, using the transgender woman’s birth name), or something more forceful such as removing wigs or breast forms still do recurrently take place (McKinnon, 2014). McKinnon’s writings discuss a phenomenon known as “stereotype threat”, which refers to the overbearing assumption that women, both transgender and cisgender, have to fall within the previously set boundaries that society has decided on. This derives from a lack of understanding of women in general, and ignoring the notion that they are all individuals with their own traits.
Helgeson describes this blatant disrespect and fear of transgender women within the female community as being a result of “threat to traditional beliefs about women’s and men’s roles.” Transphobic people frequently lash out against transgender women for either “faking” their transgender-ness, or playing into the very stereotypes that women are expected to uphold. When a transgender woman does not fit traditional gender roles for women, their validity as a woman is often questioned. Yet, when they do stick to these ideals, they may just as repeatedly be accused of treating women as a joke. This phenomenon, known as transmisogyny, occurs both within the TERF (transgender exclusionary radical feminists) and anti-feminist circles. This term was coined by Julia Serano, author of The Whipping Girl, a novel about life as a transgender woman that has been quoted as an excellent source of information by multiple literary critics and feminist scholars alike, such as the author of “Is Transmisogny Killing Trans Women?” (Compton, 2015).
Misogyny, whether in reference to transgender women or cisgender women is the forefront of violence against women. As stated previously, transgender women may experience this somewhat differently than cisgender women, however the intent behind the actions is the same. Forcefully outing transgender women, slurs, and holding them to gender role standards is comparable to typecasting cisgender women in caretaker roles, disregarding their scientific work, and blatant workplace sexism. Neither of which are acceptable in modern society.
In conclusion, transgender and cisgender women are more similar than different. Women, regardless of whether or not they are cisgender or transgender, face similar obstacles in their everyday lives: medical discrepancies, unfair treatment based on gender, and pressure to conform to strict gender roles. All women are subject to adversity, and the support for change must come from within the community. Both standard misogyny and transmisogyny are damaging occurences that must be eradicated, and that will only come from working together. A popular feminist statement is, “support your sisters, not just your cis-ters,” which perfectly embodies the ideals of this author.
A national crisis: Anti-transgender violence. (2015, October 16). Retrieved November 7, 2015.
Bauer, G., & Hammond, R. (2015). Toward a boarder conceptualization of trans women’s health.
The Canadian Journal of Sexual Health. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from Galileo.
Compton, J. (2015, August 25). Is transmisogyny killing transgender women? Retrieved November 6, 2015.
Helgeson, V. (2012). The psychology of gender (Fourth ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey:Prentice Hall.
McKinnon, R. (2014). Stereotype threat and attributional ambiguity for trans women. Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, 29(4), 857-872. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from Galileo.
Perez-Bustos, T. (2014). Of caring practices in the public communication of science: Seeing through trans women scientists’ experiences. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 39(4), 857-865. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from Galileo.
Posted on December 16, 2015, in Big Bites and tagged cissexism, commentary, compare and contrast, feminism, psychology, psychology of gender, trans, transphobia. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.