13 Myths and Misconceptions About Trans Women: Part Two

13 Myths and Misconceptions About Trans Women: Part Two

This post is a continuation of an article posted on Skepchick yesterday.

8. You’re appropriating the female body.

Appropriation is about co-opting someone else’s identity. We’re not doing that. We’re expressing our identity. It is not an act of attempting to emulate or express ourselves as The Other, we are attempting to more accurately and honestly express The Self. We don’t transition into being a new or different person. We become more ourselves. We don’t put on a mask, we take one off. We don’t another cliché metaphor, we just cliché metaphor.

It is not YOUR body or sex that is being in any way appropriated or affected. We are making decisions about our own bodies, our own sex, specifically just trying to feel at home within them…. Which is our choice to make. Our bodies, our choices, yeah?

9. Why can’t you just accept yourself? Why not just learn to be comfortable with who you are?

This one is usually based on analogy to cosmetic surgery and eating disorders.

After all, we do teach people to do their best to accept their bodies and not treat themselves with loathing. We rightly teach people that self-acceptance is of great importance to one’s mental and emotional well-being. The appropriate response to body-image issues is therapy, and to reinforce self-acceptance, not to facilitate an obsession with cosmetic surgery or enable an eating disorder.

But gender dysphoria is not as simple as a “body-image issue”, and has been proven unresponsive to therapy and psychotropic medication. There are certain reasonable expectations a person can have for their body, and there are certain conflicts between body map or self image and physical configuration of the body that deserve to be addressed through medical means.

Consider, for instance, the case of skin grafts for a burn victim, plastic surgery for someone with an extreme socially and psychologically debilitating deformity, or prosthesis for an amputee. In these cases, we don’t simply teach self-acceptance. That is part of the process, sure (as it is with gender transition), but we do provide medical intervention and don’t question or belittle their desire for it. They are only asking for a relatively basic level of bodily integrity. That line is subjective but it is present.

If you’re cisgender, ask yourself: were your genitals to be lost or disfigured in an accident, would you want someone to chastise you for wanting a prosthesis or cosmetic surgery? A body consistent with one’s internal conception of sex and gender is a perfectly reasonable thing to want and a very difficult thing to live without.

Furthermore, these kinds of procedures, and gender transition, have specific, defined end-points and goals. Eating disorders and cosmetic surgery do not. Someone with a severe psychological body-image disorder will, presumably, never feel pretty or thin enough. They will remain unhappy, and the physical changes won’t solve the underlying issue. In the case of gender transition, and cosmetic procedures for burns and deformities, there is an end-point and the procedures consistently produce a great deal of psychological and emotional benefit with significant improvements in the patient’s well-being.

Most medical procedures are not simply about sustaining life. They are about maintaining well-being and improving quality of life. That is what transition provides… a quality of life an individual may reasonably expect. No other procedure or treatment has ever been proven effective or helpful in addressing the extreme detriment to mental health caused by Gender Identity Disorder.

10. You don’t really become female. The process is only cosmetic. You’re still technically a man.

I addressed much of this a few weeks ago in this article. It has chickens!

To summarize: there is no particularly valid reason to prioritize the genetic definition of sex above all other aspects of physical sex: hormones, secondary sexual characteristics, genital configuration, etc. Chromosomes actually don’t play nearly as much of a role in human sexual differentiation as we often think they do. The Y chromosome is mostly deteriorating junk DNA that’s only real function is to turn the gonads into testes. In an XX cell, one of the X chromosomes is deactivated. As such, there’s no real functional difference between a “female” cell and a “male” cell. The process of sexual differentiation in humans is not genetic in nature, but hormonal.

As for the matter of being “cosmetically” female… a trans woman’s secondary sexual characteristics are in no substantial way different from that of a cis woman and are formed through the exact same physical processes. If my breasts are to be deemed “cosmetic”, so too must the breasts of any woman at all.

There is no single variable we can point to that suggests someone is “really” female or not. Doing so for any individual trait will necessarily require excluding some cis women from the category. There are some traits that no trans woman possesses, but there will always be cis women who don’t possess those traits either. As such, there is no definitive way that you can suggest trans women are outside of the category “woman” but all cis women are in. At least not without going into tautologies like “only cis women are really women because trans women aren’t really women”. In so far as the term “woman” is to be at all meaningful and consistent, trans women must be included.

11. Drag queens, transsexuals, transgenders, cross-dressers, what’s the difference?

First, don’t say “transgenders”. Nouning-the-adjective places the category above the person. Say “transgender women/men/people”.

Transgender is an umbrella term that includes all significant deviation from the norms of gender and sex. Drag queens, transsexual people, cross-dressers, transvestic fetishists, people who identity as trans-masculine or trans-feminine, people who are genderqueer, etc. are all included.

Transsexual refers specifically to people who permanently transition from one sex to another, usually through one or more medical treatments such as hormone replacement therapy and/or genital reconstruction surgery, usually along with legal and social changes such as change of legal name and documentation, alternate gender presentation (clothing, make-up, etc.), voice training and so on.

The adjective “trans”, as in “trans woman”, usually means transsexual but sometimes means transgender. It’s usually clear from context. This article, for instance, has been about transsexual women.

Drag queens are men (typically but not always gay) who dress in an exaggeratedly, campily female way for the sake of performance or entertainment. There is typically very little emphasis placed on actually passing as female but instead on having a particularly ostentatious and fun outfit. This is an act of playing with gender roles, not an act based on expression of a deeper internal sense of self. A drag queen adopts a female persona but will (almost always) have a male gender identity.

Cross-dressers are men with a male gender identity who, for a variety of possible reasons, choose to occasionally dress in women’s clothing and accessories and present as female. The acts of cross-sex presentation are temporary and do not reflect their “true self”.

A transvestic fetishist is a cross-dresser who does so for sexual motivations, due to being aroused or getting an erotic thrill from the cross-sex presentation. They also maintain a male gender identity and the cross-sex presentation is temporary.

These distinctions are important. Seriously.

12. Transsexuality is just an invention of the modern medical establishment, a symptom of Western culture.

Hormone replacement therapy and genital reconstruction surgery are modern medical treatments developed to address and accommodate a long-standing human issue.

Gender variance, although it may vary in its particular iteration, will not always be socially accepted or accommodated, and is sometimes only accommodated in very specific ways, occurs in pretty much all cultures and societies throughout human history.

Many cultures were actually fairly accepting and tolerant. Some even imagined transgendered identities to be especially blessed, lucky or powerful… such as a shamanic role for certain North American First Nations “two spirit” identities, the Galli priestesses of Cybele in ancient Greece, the paradoxically respected-and-stigmatized social status of Kathoey in Thailand, the positive social standing of Hjira in India prior to British colonial rule (which brought with it British attitudes towards gender variance), etc.

Gender variance has existed as long as human beings have. Transsexuality is simply a relatively new option for addressing it and meeting the needs of people with a sense of strong disharmony between gender identity and physical sex. It didn’t create us, it is just a means of allowing us to live full, happy, meaningful lives and feel comfortable and at home in our bodies.

13. You’re infiltrating women’s spaces and making them unsafe.

First of all, we are women. So there’s that.

I’m not sure why whatever discomfort may arise from a cis woman’s hang-ups about the thought of a trans woman in the same bathroom or changing room or whatever, and the perceived risk, should take precedence over the extreme discomfort and actual physical risk that a trans woman would be forced to endure in using men’s facilities.

An argument I’ve encountered repeatedly is “well what’s to stop some male rapist or child molester or voyeur from putting on some lipstick, claiming to be transgender, and then sexually assaulting your daughters!”  (Ominous scary organ chord!).

Well… there has never, ever been such an incident. No man has ever disguised himself as transgender for the sake of perpetrating such a crime. And if what you are worried about is sexual assault and voyeurism then those are the issues you should be targeting, enacting policies against, and the people whom you should be demonizing. Don’t demonize and punish innocent trans people over some wild, imagined hypothetical.

Would you ban lesbians from women’s facilities on the possibility of their voyeurism? No, probably not, and it’s extremely statistically unlikely for lesbians to commit sexual assault in such a setting. But… it’s just as unlikely for trans women to do so. And remember that stuff about our libidos? Our difficulty achieving erection if we even have a penis?

If prevention of sexual assault is something you’re keenly interested in then please start by focusing on dismantling a misogynistic culture that objectifies and devalues women and places their humanity as secondary to their bodies.

There is also a lot of anger and controversy within the feminist community about other types of women’s spaces. A particularly prominent example is the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which enforces a trans-exclusionist “Womyn-Born-Womyn” policy (though they allow trans men to attend and perform).  Many of the justifications are parallel to those of the Christian right in forbidding us access to women’s bathrooms and changing rooms: we’re really men, it makes the environment unsafe (again, there is absolutely no data whatsoever to support this), what’s to stop men from attending under the pretense of being trans, etc.

But there are additionally complex issues. One is the general transphobic attitudes within certain branches of feminism (particularly radical feminism)…. The notion that we’re enforcing the gender binary (which relates to the “why can’t you just accept yourselves” thing and the confusion of gender identity with gender expression), the weird hypocritically gender-essentialist insistence that although gender is “just a social construct” we are nonetheless completely bound to our assigned sex and may not transcend it, many bio-essentialist claims (such as, literally: “rape is encoded on the Y chromosome”… I’ve actually come across that claim), etc.

It is also sometimes insisted that because we lacked female childhoods and the concomitant gender-socialization that we can’t possibly understand the female experience. That’s true in a sense… there are many aspects of a female life I did not experience and some I never shall. But this is true of every woman. There is no universal, unwavering female narrative that everyone experiences exactly alike. There are as many stories as there are women. To act like any particular thing being absent means someone isn’t “really” a woman and can’t understand womanhood would necessarily mean excluding a whole lot of cis women, too.

All of these notions seem to be acts of bending over backwards and performing intellectual acrobatics to try to disguise their transphobia as being somehow an extension of their feminism when it in fact runs directly contrary to several the fundamental tenets of feminism… that our lives, choices, identities and what we do with our bodies should not be dictated by external forces or forced upon us to conform with what society tells us those with our particular anatomy are supposed to be.

Biology is not destiny. Remember?

In summary, almost all of these misconceptions stem from the assumption that we’re really men, and considering us, our lives, our implications and our choices through a male frame of reference. A woman who is attracted to men is not gay. The existence of a woman as a woman does not reinforce traditional gender roles, nor would the breakdown of those roles cause her to disappear. A woman would not be asked to simply accept a male body.  A woman would not be accused of appropriating womanhood, or infiltrating women’s spaces. A woman’s body, and the aspects of it that render it female, are not simply cosmetic.

If there is one myth to debunk from which all others would perish, it’s the notion that our gender is not legitimate. We are women. Just think of us as such, and you’ll get it.

(Featured image is from “A Series of Questions“, a photo essay by L. Weingarten. Check it out to see a version of that photograph that isn’t butchered by my horrible cropping!)

EDIT: When I said that a cross-dresser’s acts of cross-sex presentation do not reflect their “true self”, I should have been more clear: in the case of a CD (as opposed to a trans woman in denial who simply believes herself to be CD), the female presentation / persona isn’t MORE true than the male identity. Both are aspects of that individual’s sense of self. But the primary difference between a genuine CD and a trans woman is that the male identity is not held to be false while the female identity is held to be genuine. Instead, the male identity is still the primary expression of self that is inevitably returned to.

Natalie Reed now writes at http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed

77 Comments

  1. I wasn’t even aware that the 13th one existed until the city council here in Missoula, MT passed an anti discrimination policy and were sued by a group called “Not My Bathroom.” They used ridiculous hyperbole. Eventually the case was thrown out, because no one in the group was a resident of our county, but it still created a circus atmosphere before it was done.
    I had a friend who was a transgender woman who died under mysterious circumstances that were never really investigated a decade ago, and I still feel sad about it.
    I think the work you are doing to kill the myths is good. Hopefully it will lead to a more tolerant world.

  2. I feel that the fear towards transgendered women is stoked by presentations in popular media. It seems transgendered women are largely portrayed for humor or fear. From ‘Ace Ventura’ to ‘Dressed to Kill’ and ‘Nip Tuck.’ There haven’t been many positive portrayals of transgendered women. I hope that it changes.

  3. “But this is true of every woman. There is no universal, unwavering female narrative that everyone experiences exactly alike. There are as many stories as there are women.”

    This. Just this.

  4. I am tired of people asking me why I can’t accept myself when their question presupposes they know “myself” better than I do. I have accepted myself. That’s why I’m so proud to be trans.

    • Seriously. These comments presuppose a model of self and identity that’s been obsolete for hundreds of years.

      Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” He did not say, “Hey look, a beef whistle! I guess I must exist.”

      • If you do a bit of research into Heidegger or Merleau-ponty, you’ll quickly discover just how embarrassing that comment was.

        • Did a bit of research.

          Not embarrassed.

          I tried really hard, too. Apologies for letting you down.

        • Not nearly as embarrassing as it is to see someone presenting existentialism as proven fact in response to a Descartes joke.

          • And yet, the more I think about it, the more profound my shame becomes. I’ve decided to come clean. To whit:

            Dear Queereka readers,

            I deeply regret that, earlier today in a comment about Descartes’ wiener, I may have overstated the primacy of the idea that mind is the seat of personal identity.

            With you support, I promise to overcome this personal tragedy and return stronger than before.

            Yours,
            ZenPoseur

  5. Tap dancing Christ, I hate the damned bathroom meme. When my hometown was debating an anti-discrimination ordinance two years ago, one guy in the gallery actually suggested some kind of identifying badge to distinguish between “true” transsexuals (i.e. post-op) from those predatory “notwomen” trying to invade the womens’ bathroom. A Jewish gentleman in the audience quite rightly shot this down as a new version of the yellow star or pink triangle. Unfortunately, the ordinance failed to pass.

    I have a friend who ultimately lost her job over bathrooms and during her last year of working for her employer, developed urinary infection after urinary infections while holding her water until she could use an “approved” bathroom.

    Aside from that, I should point out that more drag queens are, in fact, transsexual than you suggest. I know you qualified it and I know that the overwhelming majority of drag queens are gay men, but I don’t think you qualified it enough. I’ve met a LOT of trans people who have done drag as an outlet for a gender identity they felt they couldn’t express otherwise, or even as a stepping stone as they come to terms with who they are. I’ve done drag myself, actually. Hell, I recently did drag as a drag king. My girlfriend had a good laugh over that.

    • Maybe we should just have separate bathrooms for trans people. And separate water fountains, and entrances. Just so nobody is confused.

    • As a bright spot of the annoying bathroom meme, progressive business owners (even in Missouri, which gives me hope for humanity) are starting to lean more and more towards one or two restrooms that anybody can use, which not only accommodates us, it’s beneficial for cisgendered people who happen to have the bad fortune to need to use the toilet when theirs is occupied and the other one isn’t. Inclusiveness in the bigger restrooms will be much slower in coming, but desegregation of one-person units is an extremely positive step.

      So yeah, it’s annoying, but I’m optimistic. Besides, the highest-profile public restrooms are the ones at restaurants, which are usually (in my experience) single-person (with the exceptions of fast food places and pubs, which all have a higher than average volume of people needing to pee). If we can get people used to those being completely desegregated, we can train the public to be more comfortable with inclusiveness in multi-person restrooms.

  6. For the most part while reading this two part post, most of the points seemed fairly straight forward and obvious to me. I’m a little hesitant (read “embarrassed”) to admit that point number 4 initially caused me some discomfit. Not that I in any way thought that trans women were trying to “trap” straight men, however the first thought that crossed my mind was “well of course they should tell a potential intimate partner”. Of course, as so often is the case, my first thoughts betray the blind privelege I enjoy as a white cis male. Upon further thought I realised that it’s as much their responsibilty to tell me as it would be for any cis girl I’ve hooked up with to divulge the many personal details of her life to me ie. none! Any hangups would be my own issues that I would need to deal with. I tried to think to myself how I would react, I just don’t know, but I fear I wouldn’t react as well as my logical brain would like me to. I guess I still have a long way to go. For many years I’ve considered myself an ally when it comes to LGBTQ issues, but it’s apparent that my lack of exposure to transgendered issues leaves me woefully uninformed and misguided. Posts like this are great at making me challenge the things that seem so obvious to me at first glance. Thank you.

    • I spent quite a lot of time in my life, especially growing up in the ’70s, trying to unlearn the male privilege I was given along with my unfortunate birth gender. I considered long and hard that I was programmed to have a tendency to disregard women on some pretty deep levels and slowly bent the stick waaay far the other way. I was lucky enough to fall in love with some really great women. As my transition has unfolded, I’ve found that I have a senseless fear that I am inviting myself into a place that I may not deserve to be! It’s been a trial. And I was wrong. It’s just a kind of personal side note. I think it somehow relates to your note. It seems that illusions can catch you by surprise! Don’t stop trying to be the better person that you want to be. Thanks.

    • I don’t actually find that assumption to be that privileged. For me, whether or not to tell a potential intimate partner is a valid point for debate, depending on your particular definition of intimacy and how you treat relationships. Being pre-anything, I pass perfectly as a guy and don’t have to tell anybody anything if I don’t want. However, if I get into a serious emotional relationship (really good friends or more-than-sex lovers) with a girl who doesn’t know how I identify, I feel terrible until I tell her.

      tl;dr: You can feel bad all you want (I think it’s good that you were self-conscious enough to feel bad), but wishing for openness about your partners isn’t a bad thing. Keep being conscious and critical of your assumptions and asking questions. You’ll do fine. :)

    • There was a thread over at Skeptics Guide to the Universe forums that played out that tired trope of trans women as deceivers while discussing how trans women MUST disclose their identities. It is threads like that which make me feel uncomfortable going back there. I posted my reply of disgust. As an out trans lesbian, I do not insist on trans women to disclose until it is their decision. Sex and dating are such a complicated matter, and violence against trans women creates fear of coming out.

      • Violence for any reason is abhorrent but especially so when it is used as a tool to create fear and oppress others. Unfortunately, as you mention, there are a lot of people spreading misinformation and some downright vile views, some of the people are trolls, a lot are out and out misogynists/homophobes, but there are a few people there who have just not had their privilege sufficiently challenged. While it’s certainly not the responsibility of anyone to coddle and educate those who continue to spout tired tropes, it really is amazing when people take the time to try to educate and address misconceptions and misinformation. The more it’s pointed out, the less we can continue unfazed in a fog of privilege.

    • The fact you can see these things mean you can learn. This is a positive thing. How you feel as a Human being is your right, just that you are even trying to change is more than most people of any gender/orientation can say.

  7. Fantastic piece, but I wanted to point out that the link in the beginning to part 1 is incorrect! It currently points to COMING OUT STORIES: A COUPLE OF CLOSETS on Queereka instead of the original piece on Skepchick.

    • Sorry about that. We’re still working out a couple kinks.

  8. #13 got pulled on me this past spring by the leader of a local pagan group… specifically the ‘you weren’t socialized female so you could never understand’ bit. She didn’t let up until she had me in tears.

    • I’m sorry you that was done to you. There is no such damn thing as being “socialized female” as this monolith that’s identical for every person labeled female.

      • I had a similar encounter. I told her I was sorry, ‘but I didn’t see her at the last meeting on Paradise Island. Wonder Woman revoked your yoni card because you didn’t ‘socialize’ with us.’ and I left her with this. “By the way, how do you know HOW I was socialized? Yes, there is a greater female commonality that unites us, but to PRESUME to know my experience and heart is so MALE of you.” I know that saying that male thing is in itself ignorant, but it shut her up and actually made an elderly lady lay a hand on my arm and say. “That was beautiful!”

  9. “Cross-dressers are men with a male gender identity who, for a variety of possible reasons, choose to occasionally dress in women’s clothing and accessories and present as female. The acts of cross-sex presentation are temporary and do not reflect their “true self”.”

    As a crossdresser, I’d argue with this point.
    Yes, the acts of cross-sex presentation are temporary, but that they do not reflect our true-selves isn’t necessarily correct.

    Instead, I would counter that they certainly do represent an aspect of our true-selves. Otherwise, the need to do so, to express this deep, intrinsic, and undeniable part of ourselves, would not exist.

    I think, sadly, crossdressers are widely misunderstood, largely because of the various reasons for why people crossdress – those of us who do so because of gender-identity are sometimes incorrectly grouped together, as you’ve referenced, with transvestic fetishists. While I have no problem with people crossdressing for sexual reasons, it certainly diminishes the deeper, gender-related reasons for which many of us dress, thus making it harder to to justify our reasons for doing so, and making our image in the public eye as that of perverts and deviants.

    • I loved this article and have replied as such, but I agree that Natalie may have given short shrift to the CD people. I know some pretty cool people who identify as male most of the time, but spend some very important time identifying as female. I don’t really understand it as well as I would like. I spent some time praying that I was ‘only’ a cross-dresser! Only because I didn’t want to face a struggle that I knew in my heart of hearts was looming unavoidable. I know that I would have owned crossdressing if it could have been the answer for me and maybe saved my marriage. I couldn’t convince her that that was ‘all’ there was to it, probably because I couldn’t convince myself…. It’s plain to me that there is much more to be said about this in some future forum.

    • I agree about CDs not having a temporary identity, but I think I understood Natalie’s assertion to be about GID as it relates to trans people. When I was coming out, I initially identified as a CD but not as “male” but rather as an androgyne. I think we could have a discussion on people who are non-binary (as I am even though I am a femme transsexual lesbian woman). Even when I came to terms with my internal gender identity as “female” I never felt that my social identity was ever with binary male/female compartments.

    • Well said

  10. “…our lives, choices, identities and what we do with our bodies should not be dictated by external forces or forced upon us to conform with what society tells us those with our particular anatomy are supposed to be.”

    This, I believe, is a central, essential point in any discussion of how we identify ourselves. Perhaps all the other objections should be filed under “quibbles having little or nothing to do with the real issue.”

    Good work – you are being heard.

  11. Thank you, Natalie, for posting this nigh on exhaustive list. It’s very informative. It’s well written as always, too :-)

    I’ve never really known that much about trans issues. I guess I’ve held some of these preconceptions, though I don’t think I’ve ever been intolerant (I hope).

    I would argue a couple of points.

    For no. 4: I would instinctively say that in a serious relationship, it would be better for the trans people to share their experiences with their partners. But I would say that for any major experience of a partner. And yes, I agree that there is no need for a trans person to tell every acquaintance or sexual partner.

    No. 9: “gender dysphoria … has been proven unresponsive to therapy and psychotropic medication.”
    Could you provide a link to a study?

    No 13: “No man has ever disguised himself as transgender for the sake of perpetrating such a crime. ” Could you provide a link to a study for this as well?

    If those quoted statements are true, they would be great for tossing into arguments :-p. They are very persuasive. To me, at least.

    • Re no. 13: Would a link to that study really help? I mean, it’s theoretically -possible- that one person could dress up in order to commit such a crime and suddenly that particular argument (“No one’s done it before, so why would they start?”) falls apart.

      The larger issue is that even IF someone chose to do that, it is still a greater injustice against the multitude of innocent people who are NOT “faking” their trans-ness in order to commit crimes.

      There may be people who use cars to intentionally run people down, but we still let people get drivers licenses. People can use knives to stab people, but every kitchen has a bunch of them. Just because a hypothetical “someone” could manipulate a situation to cause harm does not mean that the blame rests with the situation or with the victim.

      Asking for proof that no one has ever done this is missing the point, IMHO.

      • Such a “study” also couldn’t really exist since it would be trying to prove a negative. The issue is that there is a total lack of evidence for the claim (“but what’s to stop the perverts and rapists!”), and since burden of proof is squarely on their shoulders…

        • *reads my original post*. Yes, I did word that awkwardly, sorry.

          At the risk of starting a fight, and I want to emphasise that I do not want to associate myself with the opinions of this person in any way, it seems that one transphobe has already answered you. [MOD NOTE: link removed as safety precaution... the site is GenderTrender, and a post concerning bathroom use...feel free to access via google]

          I agree that isolated incidents would not be important (in terms of whether to allow trans people to use bathrooms, obviously any sexual assault is important). But I was thinking in terms of public bathrooms that have recently explicitly allowed trans people to use the women’s bathroom. If there has been a *significant* increase in crime involving these bathrooms, that could be an issue. If on the other hand there was a negligible increase, equal levels or even a decrease it would remove one of the biggest arguments against a change in policy.

          Yes, the burden of proof is on their shoulders, but if they do put forward (what they consider) evidence, surely we have to answer?

          • But they don’t have any evidence. They only have “evidence”, and imagined hypothetical situations “BUT WHAT IF…”

            If you criminalize and persecute a class of people, then yes, the rates of crime and arrests are naturally going to go up… as a result of selection bias and, as said, criminalizing that class of people and behaviours that are a part of their existence (like using women’s restrooms).

            For instance, police cruisers very, very routinely slow to a crawl behind me suspecting me of being a sex worker. I’ve had friends who have been stopped and arrested on “suspicion” of being sex workers simply for carrying condoms. There is plenty of data suggesting trans women are routinely targeted for harassment by police (remember the shooting in DC this summer?). And also neglected by police. That kind of thing naturally fluffs up the statistics that are being presented in your link as “evidence” of the risks. But there is NO actual evidence suggesting that any negative consequences have ever resulted from allowing bathrooms to be trans inclusive, let alone that any of the hypothetical “rapist in a dress” situations have ever occurred outside the silver screen.

            Gender Trender is a SICKENINGLY transphobic website that is entirely devoted to hyperbolic, vicious attacks. I wouldn’t give even a moment of time to their claims, and I don’t think you should either. They don’t deserve a response, no.

          • “If you criminalize and persecute a class of people, then yes, the rates of crime and arrests are naturally going to go up… as a result of selection bias and, as said, criminalizing that class of people and behaviours that are a part of their existence (like using women’s restrooms). ”

            Well, yes, that’s why I’d like to see data that shows that decriminalisation results in no change or a decrease in crime (if that sentence isn’t tautological :-p)

            “For instance, police cruisers very, very routinely slow to a crawl behind me suspecting me of being a sex worker. I’ve had friends who have been stopped and arrested on “suspicion” of being sex workers simply for carrying condoms.”

            Bloody hell, that’s bad. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m disregarding transphobia. Sorry if I have.

            “remember the shooting in DC this summer?”

            Ermmm no. I’m not American.

            “But there is NO actual evidence suggesting that any negative consequences have ever resulted from allowing bathrooms to be trans inclusive”

            That’s what I mean, is there a statistical difference? A priori, I wouldn’t think there would be, but I can’t say for definite that without proof.

            “Gender Trender is a SICKENINGLY transphobic website that is entirely devoted to hyperbolic, vicious attacks. I wouldn’t give even a moment of time to their claims, and I don’t think you should either. They don’t deserve a response, no.”

            I agree. I wouldn’t want to speak to them. I wouldn’t have mentioned them if they hadn’t linked to newspapers.

          • I’m not American either. :p

            Just google “off-duty cop shoots trans women Washington DC”

            I’m not the one claiming that trans-inclusive bathrooms create a statistical difference. I’m claiming it does no harm. Therefore the burden of proof is on those claiming it DOES do harm, and thus far, I’ve never seen anything legitimate to suggest that an openly trans-inclusive policy in any way leads to negative consequences or increases in crime, rape, sexual assault, etc. IF such a difference DID exist, one would assume it would be publicized, but instead every argument ends up boiling down to hypothetical projections of what COULD happen.

            The links and incidents at GenderTrender are a) HEAVILY Cherry picked, b) Don’t focus on specifically trans-inclusive spaces, and c) Often conflate completely unrelated things with transgenderism, and mix and match different kinds of trans identities as is convenient, and d) Tend to often just talk about the actual ARRESTS of trans women, which is no way indicative of us being in any way more prone to crime, especially when many of the cited “incidents” are actually just cases of transphobia- like being harassed for using a bathroom concomitant with one’s gender.

          • By the way…

            In the future, I’d prefer if transphobic sites like GenderTrender were NOT directly linked here. These sites have a known history of deliberately seeking out, harassing and outing trans people. I’d rather not put myself at personal risk by blipping on their radar.

          • I was in the middle of writing a long reply about burden of proof, but perhaps it’s best to leave it for the night. :-P

            I agree about the link. Is it possible to delete it from my post?

          • Oh, you already have.

            I’m sorry, I didn’t realise it was trackable.

          • Yeah, they use WordPress, so they’d definitely see little notifications about incoming links and referrers. And I know for a fact that “Dirt” on a site-I-won’t-name uses exactly that kind of thing to track back to trans people, then dig around the internet to find as much personal info as possible, and then publicly out them with the explicit goal of inciting IRL harassment. So… yeah… I know that I’m already taking a certain degree of risk in being an open, public trans person, but for now I’d like to try to minimize that risk and take what precautions I can.

            But I don’t hold any of that against you or anything, and don’t think you did anything “wrong” in posting the link.

  12. Another great article. Thanks Natalie!

  13. Hey Natalie, thank you so much. I posted your first part from Skepchick to my tumblr. Thank you all at Skepchick and now Queereka for giving me a safe place to read brilliant articles and join conversations.

  14. A brilliant article. Thank you for writing this, Natalie.

    I’m a cisgender female and I wasn’t “socialized female” because I was a tomboy growing up, had all male friends, a brother who taught me to wrestle and purposefully avoided all things feminine. To this day I have difficulty understanding how many of my female friends think and act and socialize better with males.
    But I do identify as female. I get second looks in bathrooms though, due to my masculine presentation.

    • My best friends as a kid in the late 70s and early 80s were always tomboys. One girl was my first kiss and my first girlfriend. I think we bonded because neither of us fit our parents’ expectations.

  15. 20 years ago I had a friend working for a small company. The offices they rented had 3 separate toilets. So they labelled them “male”, “female” and “other”. Which I found amusing, and even more so that some people apparently refused to use the “other” toilet. Probably 80% of the staff used the first one that was free (and there were “sanitary product disposal bins” in all three toilets).

    I do think people should disclose trans status early on in a relationship. It’s important enough that I’d be a bit confused if someone I was with left it until we had a substantial relationship established to tell me. I move more in poly and kink circles where early disclosure is the norm (the circles I’m in, that is, not saying it’s universal). I’m well used to things moving quickly from flirting to talking about things like poly status, kink preferences, gender identity and attractions, and so on. Throwing trans-ness into that is not a big leap IMO. It also reduces the amount of effort I put into people I’m not compatible with.

    Anecdata: I’m cis-male, and have had one woman disclose to me that she is trans as part of a pick-up process. It was vaguely awkward, because I’m not very tuned into social cues so that was the first I knew she was thinking about it[1], and I had to go “ah, actually I think of you as a friend. A friend with boobs and a love of low-cut tops, but still just a friend. Sorry”. I was try to not seem transphobic because it just seemed like “you’re trans? I’m not interested!” was a bit tricky (it seems to have worked, we’re still friends).

    [1] we’re both geeks. I suspect we both suck at this stuff, but I definitely do. But based on her habit of going to bars to pick up women then complaining that she always finds women who like hanging out in bars… her too.

  16. Yeah, like I said, the issue of disclosure and when a trans person should tell their partner is a HUGE topic that is a bit too complicated to really fully explore here. But that Zinnia Jones video I linked is pretty awesome.

    If I had to state a general rule of thumb, completely outside the issue of personal safety, it’s that

    - a pre-op woman ought to disclose before sex, because male genitals are a legit sexual deal-breaker.

    - a post-op woman ought to disclose before emotional commitment, because trans status (and implications for kids, marriage, social stigma, etc.) is a legit LTR deal-breaker.

    But those are COURTESIES a trans woman may extend. I’m not going to go around telling her she HAS to risk losing her partner for the sake of giving them the opportunity to dump her based on her gender history. And we deserve to give partners a chance to get to know us for who we are before we give them a chance to get to dismiss us for what we are.

    And honestly?

    How dare someone not disclose that they’re a transphobe before I get involved with them! Don’t they know I might not be attracted to transphobes? ;)

    • (golf clap) yes, yes…

    • And thank you for introducing me to Zinnia Jones, the video was quite awesome :-)

  17. Natalie, thank you, thank you, thank you! For this article, for this site, for your brilliance. This has officially become A Resource® :)

  18. Definitely share the “tell me you’re a bigot/phobe up front” preference. And agree that that disclosure is a huge, tricky issue. I’ll watch the video when I get home (can’t/shouldn’t access it from work).

    And, yes, thanks for writing all this up. It does make a good resource to link to.

  19. Always good to have more info out there, and well-written as usual.

    One question, though. Cross-dressers are always men? I mean, I’m honestly surprised. I know it’s more… socially accepted for women to wear pants, but what about women who dress like men with the purpose to pass?

    Related, see drag kings.

    I admit I ask this mostly out of self-interest. I identify as genderqueer, or just queer all round. Most of the time I present as (not very feminine) female, but often enough I bind my chest or wear a suit with the full intention of coming across as male. (I’ve yet to find a good place to get proper button-down shirts that actually fit past the hips.)

    I know I can come across as blunt through text, so I’ll just repeat, great job! Looking forward to reading more on this site.

    • That’s a tricky question. Some would say that women can’t be CDs because the available range of clothing options for women is significantly broader. I’d probably disagree, and say yes, women can be CD, but I’m not entirely sure.

      In this instance, though, I was focusing on distinctions within the MtF spectrum, for the purposes of clearing up confusion between trans women, drag queens, male CDs, etc.

      • Aah, fair enough. Thanks for the reply.

    • Heh, definitions are tricky. In the 80s, I usually wore men’s clothes, purchased from the men’s department in the stores. I still wear quite a lot of men’s clothes. But neither now nor then, with the intention of passing. I also have some frocks and skirts for formal occasions and hot weather and stuff.

      BTW, hand-tailored shirts are not outrageously expensive for those on a middle income or above. And if you are even slightly handy, just snipping up the side seams a few cm is often enough to get past the hip problem, and usually doesn’t show above the belt line.

      • PS: and yes, I am wearing an obviously fake beard in my profile pic.

  20. I enjoyed both parts of your blog, but had some issues with this half. People in the LGBTQ community understand, though this seems written for those who don’t. Here are my issues: In #9, you ask cisgender people to try to imagine what they would do if their genitals met with misfortune. Sorry, but it doesn’t always translate. Many of them feel they would have to ‘live with it.’ A Transsexual’s situation differs. No# 11,”Transgender is an umbrella term that includes all significant deviation from the norms of gender and sex.” I am NOT a deviant. My final issue: “Hormone replacement therapy and genital reconstruction surgery are modern medical treatments developed to address and accommodate a long-standing human issue.” Incorrect unless by modern you mean hundreds or thousands of years. Crude SRSs and HRTs have been around since before the modern age. I cap for emphasis only: EVERYTHING YOU SAID WAS 100% ACCURATE, INCLUDING MY OBJECTIONS. MY ‘ISSUES’ ARE DUE TO THE ROOM FOR MISUNDERSTANDING BY CISGENDER PEOPLE BECAUSE YOU PUT IT IN THEIR TERMS. We both know it was to improve understanding, but they have no real parallel which still makes it hard to share a true understanding. By the way, thank you for an intelligently written piece.

    • The only thing wrong with Natalie using the word “deviation” is that some people think that deviation is a bad thing. I don’t know about you, but I am a deviant. Only if we own the word can we defeat the people who worship conformity.

  21. #11 is exactly the reason why many transsexuals don’t want to be included under the “transgender umbrella”. Our medical condition is marginalized by the social issue of fetish and the use of cross dressing for entertainment which continues to leave transsexuals with a valid medical condition and who are receiving medical treatment as a part of the joke with cross dressers and drag queens.

    • I am approving this comment, but PLEASE do not engage in this kind of HBS trans-heirarchy stuff here. I am NOT very fond of people describing other parts of the trans community as a “joke” or describing their identities as less legitimate than those of transsexuals.

      • HBS?

        • “Harry Benjamin Syndrome”

          Sort of a buzzword way of suggesting that straight, femme, yes-op women are more “REALLY” women than all those icky non-ops, butch women, tomboys, lesbians, who are merely “transgender”, etc.

          It’s basically a big giant red flag in terms of internalized transphobia.

          It also replicates the same heirarchies we experience from the outside. And suggests kicking all the women who don’t meet a certain standard of transier-than-thou out of the club so that they don’t “make us look bad”.

          Which is pretty much the EXACT same mentality many LGB people use to justify kicking US out of THEIR club, so…

          • I’ve always stated I am Transsexual so it is clear which of the trans-thingies I have. However, I do have a slight problem with the “sexual” part as I think it causes people to identify Gender Dysphoria with homosexuality.
            Transgender to me is a broader group of people. To which I incidentally as transsexual also belong :P

    • Your comment is exactly the reason why many gay people don’t want their issues of sexual attraction to be associated with our medical issues, because we’re “more deviant” than them, and thus convenient scapegoats. They get to claim solidarity with straight people because at least they’re not trans.

      The real issue is that our society marginalizes legitimate fetishes and styles of dress. Don’t fall into the trap of scapegoating people “more deviant” than you.

  22. Yo Natalie, your picture made it to onto the Arabic wikipedia page for sex change: http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D8%AA%D8%BA%D9%8A%D9%8A%D8%B1_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%B3

  23. Thank you for your post(s) Natalie
    I’m getting an education here.
    As somebody who’d be on the hypothetical receiving and of a disclosure I’d say:
    If and when somebody would disclose other important personal information about them and their past.
    At a certain point it is about honesty and trust in a relationship.
    It would also be unfair to let somebody actively believe that you’re going to have half a dozen biological children together if you already know that’s not going to happen for any reason.

    But I wouldn’t disclose any such information about myself to a stranger I just want to have casual sex with. So why should you have to?

  24. Natalie, first of all, awesome posts. I agree with most all you tell there.
    Secondly…I was a bit shocked about no. 13…it is one of my nightmares and I must admit I never even thought about this. I know about an acquaintance who had someone tell her she could not be a member of a womens motorcycle club. But that was an individual’s opinion.

    Suffice to say, the sign “no trannies” will be ignored by me…where the hell do they want me to go if I can’t go to the ladies room. I assure you, the mens room is not going to be an option :)
    My passport says I’m female, trannies don’t exist.

  25. Thank you for this wonderfully stated argument against all the B.S. out there. I kind of want to print it out and put it in the faculty boxes of all the teachers at the school I work at who think many of these things about me but are afraid to tell me directly so they make snide comments to my students or other faculty members knowing they’ll get back to me after a fashion.

  26. Great article! I got excited when I read that you live in Vancouver too :)

  27. [...] Please see my article, 13 Myths and Misconceptions About Trans Women, Part One and Part Two. [...]

  28. [...] that). It’s such a pervasive myth that when Natalie Reed did her two-post essay on 13 myths and misconceptions about trans women, it came up as part of number three. This ties back to the whole belief of [...]

  29. Thank you. This article helped me to understand and correct some of my own misconceptions about trans women. Everyone needs to see this. <3

  30. [...] 13 Myths and Misconceptions About Trans Women: Part Two …Jan 2, 2012… and to reinforce self-acceptance, not to facilitate an obsession with … As for the matter of being “cosmetically” female… a trans woman’s … [...]

  31. [...] So what I am about to talk about is pretty common knowledge; and can be found on many websites. With that said I am primarily writing this for me; so you can feel free to skip ahead. I have to give alot of thanks to to several people who have helped me in answering alot of my questions. Julia Serano is the author of Whipping Girl, which is an excellent book on transsexuality and feminism. Julia also has a blog which is excellent. Meggan Sommerville, who blogs at Trans Girl at the Cross has been very encouraging to me as well. Natalie Reed provides my daily Trans-rant on her twitter but is an excellent blogger and has written several good articles on Common Myths of Transgender People (part 2). [...]

  32. […] yazı Queereka.com‘da kendisi de trans bir kadın olan Natalie Reed tarafından yazılan “13 myths andmisconceptions about transwomen” isimli makalenin üçüncü ve son kısmıdır (diğer kısımlar Skepchick.org‘da […]

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