Cross-posted

7 Oct

on the blog for my Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, which unfortunately you can’t view unless you are a member of the class. This post also relates to and includes some information I posted in one of my first entries after restarting my blog. The original entry can be found here, and this is an expansion of those ideas:

This summer, I read “Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity” by Julia Serano, an MTF trans woman. Besides being an incredibly eye-opening book, which I recommend to everyone, Whipping Girl also addresses certain vocabulary often mistakenly used when discussing trans issues. In the Introduction to Chapter 3 in Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions, the editors mistakenly use the terms “transwoman/transman” and “transgendered.” In her book, Julia Serano explains why these terms are incorrect, and how they perpetuate negative ideas regarding trans people.

First, using the word “transwoman” (or transman) is inappropriate. The two words should be separate (trans woman), as this phrase functions kind of like “Jewish man” or “black woman”…it is a descriptive phrase, not a summation of an entire identity, like “transwoman” might suggest. Serano says using a phrase like “transwoman” third-sexes or third-genders (both verbs) a trans person, thus “relegating [them] to [their] own unique categories that are separate from ‘woman’ or ‘man.’” Additionally, MTF and FTM are adjectives, not nouns, so using the adjectives MTF (male-to-female) or FTM as nouns is equally offensive. As Julia says, “I do not identify as a ‘male-to-female’ – I identify as a woman.”

Regarding the word “transgendered,” the addition of the -ed at the end of the word suggests being trans is something that is done to trans people, rather than something they choose and identify with. People are not transgendered, any more than they are straighted or Jewished. Transgender is a trait, not an action.

Finally, I’d like to draw attention to how important it is for trans people to be consulted whenever something is being written about them, or whenever trans rights/issues/definitions are being discussed. While I am not sure how Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions was constructed, it seems that the editors did not, in fact, consult trans people when writing the section on transgender and transsexual identities. Cissexual people cannot pretend to understand the nuances of trans people’s lives and identities anymore than straight people can fully understand gay people’s lives and truths, or white people can understand the lives of people of color.

I’d like to reiterate how strongly I recommend this book. Absolutely worth your time, money, energy.

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