Of all of the gender and sexual minorities in our culture, transsexual women tend to be the most maligned, ridiculed, and despised because we are uniquely positioned at the intersection of three binary gender-based forms of prejudice:
Transphobia is an irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against people who transgress gender norms. The prevalence of transphobia in our society is an indication of just how much pressure is placed upon individuals to conform to all of the expectations, restrictions, assumptions, and privileges of their birth sex; this pressure is rooted in oppositional sexism.
Oppositional sexism is the belief in rigid, mutually exclusive gender categories (male and female), and that each possess oppositional and non-overlapping characteristics and traits (if men are big, women are small; if men are strong, women are soft, etc…). Also inherent in this is the belief that the gender binary is the natural order of things, and that anyone who defies this natural order should be dismissed or punished.
Misogyny (traditional sexism) is a tendency to dismiss and deride femaleness and femininity; the result is the oppression and social subordination of women. Misogyny is a hatred, mistrust, or dislike of women and the belief that maleness and masculinity are always superior to femaleness and femininity.
Trans-misogyny is where trans women are singled out for attention and ridicule, not just because we transgress gender norms, but because of our femaleness and expressions of femininity. Our femininity is what is sensationalized, sexualized, and trivialized in an attempt to marginalize and dismiss us. In contrast, while trans men still face discrimination for not adhering to gender norms, their expressions of maleness and masculinity are not targeted for ridicule; to do so would be to question the inherent superiority of masculinity, for why wouldn’t women want to be men?
In a sense then, there is no greater perceived threat than the existence of transsexual women, who despite being born male and inheriting male privilege, “choose” to be female instead. By embracing our own femaleness and femininity, we cast a shadow of doubt over the supposed supremacy of maleness and masculinity, and challenge the immutability and authenticity of the gender binary.
If you’ve ever been looking to get into transfeminism, whether from a feminist perspective of from that of a trans* person, I would strongly recommend this book. It has wonderful discussions of feminist issues from the perspective of trans* rights and goes into great detail about both traditional and oppositional sexism and their effect on society at large.
Yes, yes, yes! I cannot recommend this book enough.