5 Trans* Feminist Words to Add to Your Vocabulary

So now that you know some of the more basic terminology about how to refer to or talk to a trans* person, let us get into some terminology that allows us to have discussions about the problems the trans* community faces in today’s society.

1. Transphobia

Transphobia is not a clinical phobia like arachnophobia, where you run away, scream, and have a panic attack every time you see a spider.

Scary Spider

Why don’t you love me?

Rather, it is a much different kind of fear, and can often be subconscious.  This type of fear fuels anger, prejudice, disgust, and hatred towards people who are perceived to be trans*,  just like homophobia does towards those who are perceived to be gay.

2.Cissexism

Cissexism can be fueled by transphobia, but not necessarily.  Sometimes people are just jerks.  Cissexism is the belief or mindset that cisgender identities are inherently better or more real than trans* identities.  So if someone is calling a trans* person’s identity “fake” or if they refuse to treat a trans* person in every way as the gender they identify with, then you are looking at someone who is being cissexist.

3. Cissupremacy

This is when a system or institution is set up to oppress the trans* community, while at the same time privileging cisgender people.  Cissupremacy is founded on cissexism.  It is the belief that cis identities are inherently better or more real than trans* identities.  For example, the whole institutional medical process of transitioning for trans* people is built on cissupremacy.  If a cisgender man or woman has a hormone imbalance, he or she can just go to a doctor and get a prescription with no problem.  If a cisgender man or woman wants to get plastic surgery, they just need to have the money for the surgery itself and do not need to explain themselves at all.  After all it’s their body and  they can make their own decisions and live with the consequences good or bad.

This entire mindset completely changes when it comes to trans* patients.  In order to get any kind transition related treatment if you are trans*, you have to get approval from a counselor, and sometimes two depending on the treatment (one was not discriminatory enough).  Seeing a counselor adds extra financial expense, and gender therapists are extremely rare so it also usually involves driving really far and limits your options to only one or two therapist to choose from.  These therapists can deny you approval for any reason, and I mean ANY reason.  If they think you are not feminine enough or not masculine enough, if  your parents are not accepting of your identity even though you are an adult, if you live in a bad area, if you are not pretty/handsome enough in the gender you identify as, etc.  Many counselors will deny or delay your treatment for arbitrary reasons and stereotypes they have of what makes a “real” man or “real” woman, and since there are very few therapists to choose between, you are pretty much stuck with them regardless of how incompetent they may be.

The worst thing about all of this is that NONE of it is meant to protect or help trans* patients.  All of these hoops we have to jump through are to protect cisgender people.  There is this paranoid notion that a cisgender person might think they are trans*, and regret going through the process later.  The idea is that, even if we delay or deny thousands of trans* patients treatment, it is worth it to protect the one cisgender person who might get treatment and regret it later.  So yeah…cissupremacy.

4. Cisnormativity

Cisnormativity is when the world is interpreted through a cisgender perspective.  Everyone is expected to to look through this lens and understand the world through it.  Cisgender identities are assumed to be the “normal” identity, and any other  is considered “different” or even “abnormal”.  Under cisnormativity, everyone is assumed to be cisgender, unless some kind of cue tells us differently.  In our culture, virtually all of our movies, t.v. shows, books, advertisement, etc. is told from a cisgender perspective.  That right there is cisnormativity at work.

5. Trans-misogyny

Trans-misogyny is a term that is hard to put into words.  It is the intersect between cissexism and misogyny.  It is completely based on the assumption that masculinity and maleness is in every way superior to femininity and femaleness, as well as the idea that cis identities are better than trans* identities.  When a trans woman comes out and starts transitioning and people around her start saying, “Why would anyone want to be a woman?  That’s crazy!” you are hearing trans-misogyny.  When you hear someone criticize a trans woman for being “too feminine” or “too masculine”, while thinking it is not a big deal for a cis woman to express the same levels of femininity and masculinity, you are hearing trans-misogyny.  When you see a feminist group allow and include trans men into their organization, but they then deny and belittle trans women, you are looking at trans-misogyny.

Voting While Trans*

If you have been paying attention to politics lately you have inevitably heard about the controversy surrounding voter ID laws.  In case you have not been keeping up with what has been going on, voter ID laws are being pushed into legislation in many states by Republicans who claim to be trying to fight voter fraud.  On it’s face, if you do not think about it, it sounds reasonable right?  The problem is that voter fraud is extremely rare.  Like so rare it is not even considered statistically significant.  It is nearly nonexistent.  In fact, it prevents WAY more legal voting than it does illegal voting.  It prevents people who do not have a government issued photo ID from voting.  This specifically targets young voters who have not gotten around to getting their driver’s license yet, minority voters, resource poor voters, and elderly voters who do not drive and do not have transportation.  This legislation specifically targets suppressing the vote of traditionally Democratic or liberal leaning U.S. voters in order to give conservative candidates an unfair advantage in elections.

Now the fact that this is voter suppression is no secret.  Here is a clip of Republican Representative Turzai from Pennsylvania admitting that voter ID law’s are meant to ensure Romney would win the election.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=87NN5sdqNt8

Thankfully it did not work to well this election, but it is safe to say that these voter ID laws are a direct attempt to suppress voters and are still a danger to the integrity of future elections.

The one group that might be most affected by this, and yet is never mentioned in voter ID law discussions, is the trans* community.  If you are trans*, there are many legal and financial barriers to getting an updated photo ID that matches your current presentation.    For example, it was not until recently that Florida allowed transgender male or female identified individuals to correct the gender marker on their drivers license without having gender confirmation surgery.  I would not have been able to update my ID if it was not for this change.  There are still many states that will not allow you to correct your drivers license until you have surgery.  This basically causes trans* individuals to have about a $15,000-$20,000 fee (the cost of the surgery that the individual has to pay out of pocket), not to mention the pain and hardship of going through and recovering from major surgery, in order to simply get accurate identification.  It also prevents trans* individuals who do not want, or who are medically unable to have surgery from ever being able to correct their IDs.  This can be highly problematic because having a gender marker that does not match your presentation immediately “outs” you and can lead to harassment or discrimination any time you need to show it, including at the voter polls.  The same goes for updating your name on your photo ID.  First you have to get a legal name change, which is another financial barrier in many states ($500+ in Florida).  It may not be $15,000-$20,000, but it is still a significant barrier to those who are low income.  Not having a matching photo ID can lead to false accusations of fraud at the polls, and end up with a trans* individual from being denied the right to vote.

Even if someone is able to get proper ID that matches their presentation, this does not necessarily free one of potential harassment and discrimination.  If a prejudiced poll worker thinks your body does not hold up to cisnormative ideals for the gender you are presenting as, they might claim you stole someone else’s photo ID and try to prevent you from voting.  This is not mere speculation.  In fact, the Tea Party organization called “True the Vote” included transphobic material in a poll worker training manual this past election that specifically told them to not allow trans* individuals to vote in order to “prevent fraud.”

http://transgenderequality.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/tea-party-group-targets-trans-voters/#more-1976

This is completely unacceptable.  Before they even knew tea party poll workers were being trained this way, NCTE estimated that about 25,000 trans* individuals would be denied the right to vote during 2012 elections.  Considering how tiny the trans* community is, that is a huge number.  In some tight elections, that number is more than enough to completely change the end result.  In the end, not matter what the number is, no one should be denied the right to vote because of their gender identity and presentation.