In her speech, Laverne Cox explains the unique intersectional experience that black transgender women face on a daily basis doing activities such as walking to the subway. A vast majority of trans women face discrimination and mistreatment on a daily basis and Cox’s speech specifically focuses on the intersection of racism, sexism, misogyny and transphobia that occurs when women are catcalled on the street. Part of her speech which I would like to further discuss is the problem with street harassment, violence, and media depiction of trans gender women and why conversations including these topics are important to have.
Misogyny is a societal problem that is rooted in the idea that women and femininity are inferior to men and being a woman automatically places you at less value. This mind-set gives some the idea that violence and harassment whether it be vocal or physical, is acceptable. Trans-misogyny specifically targets women who were assigned male at birth but now identify themselves as women. Trans-misogyny manifests itself in many ways such as how many “violences committed against gender-variant individuals targets individuals on the trans female/feminine spectrum”(Serano). Unfortunately, being a target of violence and discrimination is the reality of many trans women. Trans women risk street harassment and violence 8% of the time compared to cis-gender women and do not have cis-gender privilege. What I mean by this is that that if they were to report this violence, often times police officers will continue the harassment or do little about it (Dylan Finch). In 2010, the National Coalation of anti-violence projects found that out of all murder crimes committed against LGBTQH (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV infected) 44 percent were trans women (Hammer). This is evidence enough to believe that violence and discrimination against trans women is simultaneously anti trans and anti female and understanding trans-misogyny as only anti trans or only anti female is neglecting its intersectional roots. Furthermore, “it can be expected that [any trans woman] will be unfairly interrogated because apparently all trans women are people who provide commercial sex, simply by virtue of walking and being a transgender woman”, which is otherwise known as trans-objectification (Dylan Finch). Trans- objectification is a process in the bodies of trans individuals is reduced to their body parts and others get pre-occupied with medical procedures may have been undertaken (Serano). Laverne Cox in her experience walking to the subway exemplifies trans-objectification on a daily basis. The two men who were harassing her were so caught up in gendering her that they end up objectifying and reducing her to nothing but her external appearance.
The topic of gendering and trans objectification is important when looking at ways trans women are depicted in the media. Julia Serano points out in her piece called “Whipping girl” the two ways trans women are shown on television or in movies. Either trans women are seen as the “deceptive” or the “pathetic”, both of which are incredibly inaccurate depictions as they portray trans gender women as having one goal which is to achieve ultra femininity (10). Simply put, deceivers are those who successfully “pass” as women and others generally see this as a threat, versus the pathetic who claims to be a woman trapped in a mans body and is generally not seen as a threat. The most important part of the way that the media depicts trans women is that it makes the audience believe that the goal of all trans women is to live out some sexual fetish and the way to do this is through appearing ultra-feminine. This view is evidently problematic because those who do not have knowledge on sexuality outside the binary might interpret what they are seeing on television as truth and thus may carry the idea that trans women aren’t real women.
Penny Proud was a trans gender woman who was fatally shot in New Orleans and was the fifth reported trans woman of colour in the United States to be pronounced dead in the past month. Following her death, police misgendered Proud and focused on the area she lived in which neighbours reported to have prostitution. However, this had no direct correlation to the murder (Peck). Another problem arises seeing the way trans women and trans men are ignorantly misgendered in the news. The media is widely consumed that it has such an immense influence on the way people think so by misgendering and victim-blaming it sends a message to the public that trans individuals set themselves up for brutality, thus the trauma they endured is fault of their own. It is crucial that the way trans women are depicted in the media whether it be on television or in the news needs to adjust because it leads to violence, harassment and mistreatment.
Overall, trans women evidently are at a higher risk of harassment just based on their outward appearance and the general stigma that surrounds trans people. Furthermore, it is important to note the intersectional roots of trans misogyny in order to fully understand how to combat systems of oppression. I think for larger changes to occur in society, smaller ones need to start happening. These changes can start in the media seeing as it is one of the largest influences in modern western society. News reporters should start respecting the identity status of those who are trans gender, because mis-gendering only facilitates violence. and hopefully can extend its influence to start changing the mindset of individuals who lack proper knowledge regarding transgender individuals.
Dylan Finch, Sam. “Why Our Conversations About Street Harassment Need To Include Trans Women.” Everyday Feminism. 7 Feb. 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
Hammer, Ida. “Trans Violence Is Violence Against Women.” On the Issues Magazine. 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2015
Peck, Patrice. “Penny Proud Becomes Fifth Transgender Woman of Color Murdered in US in 2015.” BET.com. BET Interactive, 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
Serano, Julia. “Trans Misogyny Primer.” Julia Serano. Seal Press. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
Serano, Julia. “On the outside Looking in.” Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism on the Scapegoating of Femininity. Seal, 2009. Print.