Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women: An Open Letter to Cis Feminists
by Gus Allis
/mɪˈsɒdʒəni, maɪ-/ [mi-soj-uh-nee, mahy-]
hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.
I need to know something. I need to know what a real woman is. I’m a woman and I need to know if I’m real and the only person who can tell me is Bitch. Or maybe it’s Lisa Voegel. Or maybe it’s Rush Limbaugh. Ok, then I need to know two things: I need to know if I’m a real woman and I need to know who can tell me if I am. Because if I’ve learned anything during these past few years, existing on the periphery of the trans community as a cis lover, friend, sister, and “ally” of trans folk, it’s that I sure as shit don’t have the authority to determine my own gender identity. I’ve also learned, in no uncertain terms, that the war on trans women’s identities is a war on all women’s identity. Transmisogyny is misogyny against all women.
If you hate, dislike, or mistrust trans women, you’re misogynistic. Trans women are included in the big ol’ group known as women. Want proof? Well look at their name, silly. We call ‘em trans women, not trans chia pets, not trans beach towels, not trans men. Remember high school algebra? Oh hush, yes you do. Let me remind you of this lovely little mathematical rule:
If a=b and b=c, then a=c
If trans women= women and hating, disliking, or mistrusting women= misogyny then…then what? Solve for c.
Ok technically that would be trans women= misogyny but you know perfectly well what I mean and I hate that you even questioned my math.
But I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But Gus, I think trans women=/= women so therefore it’s totally not misogynistic to hate, dislike, or mistrust trans women.” And I understand that. Really, I do. But here’s the thing. Now listen carefully, my little chickadee, cuz I’m about to blow your mind:
Not only are you wrong, but even thinking that silly, silly, thing is unbelievably, incredibly, fantastically MISOGYNISTIC. And it offends me as a woman. Yes, yes it does. And here’s why, here is an annotated list of all the ways your transmisogyny hurts all women. Yes, even you, Bitch.
1. It Polices Women’s Identities
I listed this one first because it’s the easiest. If you are telling trans women they can’t be women, you’re telling every woman on the planet she can’t be whatever she wants. That doesn’t sound very feminist to me. It sounds more like something a pipe smoking white guy from the 50’s would say to his daughter who wants to be an astronaut. Gross. Also, you’re basically declaring yourself the authority on other peoples’ identities. And really, my telling you to knock that off is for your own good. Do you have any idea how tiring that would be? Every time someone needed to know their own gender identity, they would have to contact you. Do you know how many people are in the world? Six billion-ish. I suggest, if you do keep this up, that perhaps you may want to get a gmail account, as that has an infinite amount of storage space. You’re going to need that for 6 billion emails with the subject heading, “what am I?”
But let’s get specific. The most common mistake I see here is when the queer community punishes trans women for specific aspects of their identities. Most notably, we’re talking about things that are deemed “unfeminine”. Seriously, folks, are you listening to yourselves here? You’re telling trans women that if they speak loudly/take up space/ defend themselves/have an opinion with which you disagree/wear pants/listen to metal/etc, they’re not real women. Uh, I’m sorry, what? I do all those things. You would shit twice and die if a man told me that. Why am I immune to that criticism? Why can I be butch, hairy, loud, kinda a bitch, and still be a woman? Oh, I know why. It’s because I was assigned female at birth, a great beacon of truth for my REAL gender. Plus don’t forget how my “real” cunt is a “get out of gender invalidation free” pass. That’s convenient, as it serves for a great transition for…
2. It Polices Women’s Bodies
Here’s the real down and dirty analysis, right here. Wait for it. Wait. Ok. Now.
What the hell does a woman’s body possess that makes it a woman’s body? What does it need to have to be female? Did you immediately think of breasts, ovaries, vaginas? Gross. Think about that for more than two minutes and you’ll see why it’s gross. Still don’t get it? Well then go down to the nearest breast cancer walk and tell every single woman with a double mastectomy she’s not a woman. When you’re done with that, go down to your local hospital, ask the nurse where the OR is, and wait outside until you can find a woman fresh out of her hysterectomy, and tell her the news. Yeah, that sounds evil, doesn’t it? Well it’s basically what you’re doing when you’re policing trans women’s bodies. You’re telling all women, cis and trans, what they have to have on/in their bodies to be a woman. Which, obviously, is totally gross.
Also, what do you care what a human being looks like all inside out? That’s so WEIRD. How is it any of your business how many kidneys or ovaries or white blood cells I have? Like, that is legitimately weirding me out that you would even care. And can I just say, as a fat girl with a history of pretty serious body issues, it’s kind of triggering. First you wanna regulate trans women’s bodies and then what? Another person feeling like they have any authority over the validity of my body is really scary to me. And it definitely echoes of some very conservative, very anti-choice ideals. My body, my choice, fucker. Because that’s what the patriarchy seeks to do to us, does it not? Take away our bodily autonomy. Tell us exactly what we can and can not do with our organs. Awkward. You’re pretty much Bill O’Reilly. SO awkward.
3. It Perpetuates the Myth of Shared Girlhood
Now, I don’t know what your girlhood was like, but I’m actually pretty sure it had nothing to do with mine. My childhood (a word I greatly prefer) was pretty much centered on reading, climbing trees, and hating my fat body. Oh yeah, I also lived in a haunted three story mansion in Orange County, California. Kind of a different childhood than, say, my best friend who traveled the country with her hot air balloon pilot parents. Kind of a different childhood than my mother, who grew up a poor Catholic girl in the Italian part of Queens in the 1960s. Kind of different from my coworker who came over from Eritrea to America and grew up in the projects in Oakland.
To say that none of the different privileges, triumphs, oppressions, failures, and experiences of all our lives outweigh the fact that at one point all four of our ovaries released an egg for the very first time is insulting and demeaning. Our differences are important (it’s called intersectionality, maybe you’ve heard of it?). The only thing we have in common, all of us, every single woman, cis AND trans, on this planet, is that we call ourselves “woman”. And that’s a big deal, really it is! But I think you’re being just a tad bit racist, classist, sizeist, ageist, ableist, and a hell of lot of other things by telling me that I, a white, upper class, American girl share a girlhood with every other person who was assigned female at birth on this planet.
I mean, I guess you could say that all girls are affected by patriarchy. But really, everyone is affected by patriarchy. And, patriarchy looks different, takes different forms, and has different effects in different places, times, classes, religions, and races. So I’m sorry, I know that was totally your ace in the hole for this argument, but it’s been debunked. Sorry for not being sorry.
I hope you now see how wrong you are. Your generalizations about trans and cis women’s identities, bodies, and individual histories help absolutely no one. They don’t enforce an environment of understanding and security, they in fact do the exact opposite. You can’t have it both ways, folks. You can’t make absolute statements on the requirements of trans women’s lives without implying the same thing for cis women. When you tell a trans woman what she has to have on her body or in her past, you’re saying, “All cis woman have this on their bodies or in their pasts.” And you’re lying when you say that. You’re also probably upholding some very serious white supremacist and ableist values too. So you’re actually the patriarchy. Oops.
I know, I know, you probably feel really really embarrassed now, and that’s totally natural. It’s embarrassing to think that trans women aren’t women. But you’ll get over it. Now all those trans women who’ve been barred from women only shelters, clinics and spaces because you were too into your weird second wave phase to be a decent person? They might not get over it as quickly. Because, honestly, as snarky and hilarious as this essay is (and it is really funny and you know it), the effects of your transmisogyny are significantly less hilarious. Misogyny kills women. Fuck prefixes, fuck specifying what kind of misogyny, what kind of woman. Misogyny kills women. How are those hands looking, Lady Macbeth?
Gus Allis lives in Oakland, CA with her partner and their menagerie of special animals, but is a Midwesterner through and through. She in one college algebra class away from a degree in Historical Theology and doesn’t want to talk about it. She’s done some cool things like given workshops at national conferences about fatphobia, ableism, and being a cis ally, has gone on national speaking tours to fundraise for queer legal battles, and organizes solidarity cafes to raise money for political prisoners in the US. Mostly, though, Gus Allis just watches Netflix in her room and cries about fictional characters.