Transforming our views of transgender

NS November 20th, 2009

transgender remembrance

Do you ever read an article about a transgendered person (most likely about his or her death) and think nothing of the reporter’s use of quotation marks around “he” or “she?”

Have you ever stared openly at a woman on the bus wearing a skirt but sporting somewhat masculine hands, eager to determine ‘what’ she is?

Have you ever called a person whose gender you can’t readily identify according to the biological and social cues you’ve been conditioned to look for a “tranny” or “shim?”

Do you consider yourself a kind, compassionate, open-minded and progressive person?

If the answer to any or all of these is ‘Yes’, please stop. Stop and consider what your words and actions and prejudices mean and how they compromise not only your own ability to be truly accepting of who people are, but the very safety of those who identify as transgendered. As Ruth stated so eloquently, simply not hurling abuse at them yourself is not enough. We need to address transphobia when we see it happening before our very eyes or hear transphobic ‘jokes’ with our own ears, by our very own friends and family. Because 162 trans people being murdered in the last year is no joke. 162 people trying to go about their lives as who they are, murdered for skewing someone’s rigid view of Male and Female and daring to cross those lines, is not the mark of a progressive, open-minded society. It’s 162 too many and we can all do our part to remember those who have lost their lives to senseless hatred and endemic violence. Read this and this and this for more personal insights and information on what you can do to remember and honour them.

As for what I’m doing to remember and to fight…I’m marching through the streets of London tomorrow evening, demanding an end to violence against women and claiming our right to be safe in our city’s (and every city’s) streets. Even though I know the Reclaim The Night march is a contentious issue amongst feminist and trans groups and that many trans people have called for a boycott of the protest, I hope they will understand my reasons for going. I am going not because I don’t care about the need for more explicit inclusion (and not just vague tolerance) of trans women at events like these, but because it is my chance to make my voice heard and speak for ALL women who have experienced violence at the hands of misogynist and transphobic and homophobic people.

It may not mean much to anyone else, but it is very important to me that I publicly express my personal anger and discontent with the current state of affairs and I will not hesitate to ask my fellow marchers to pressure the London Feminists Network (with a petition perhaps?) to openly and actively include self-identified women on the literature and PR for next year’s march, and to halt any and all associations with feminists who deny transgendered existence or seek to minimise and ridicule it.

This is how I will remember and this is what I will do. I know it’s not enough and it’s probably not even adequate but it’s a start. I urge you to find your own way to start transforming your views and the views of those around you. It’s the least we can do for the 162 who aren’t able to.

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11 Responses to “Transforming our views of transgender”

  1. jen says:

    the crab in the pot syndrome is more destructive than any external oppressor – all feminists should stand against it.

  2. TheMadHouse says:

    Having worked in Recruitment I have seen this and other discrimination first hand a nd am determined to bring up my boys with as much acceptance of peoples differences as possible in the hope that they may embrace life to the full.

  3. jen says:

    forgot to say *no one* should be subject to gender-related or sexual violence. that goes for all genders, all sexualities. until we’re all free of that, none of us is free of it.

  4. Ellen says:

    FYI, if you didn’t already know it: On Thursday, October 8, 2009, eleven years after Matthew’s death, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 281-146, to give final House passage to the Defense Spending Bill that included the Matthew Shepard Act, which added gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability to the federal law prohibiting crimes motivated by hatred or minority bias.

    For background, see my posts “Sexual Hate Crimes” and “Hate Crimes Legislation Debate” at

  5. geekymummy says:

    This is why I live in San Francisco, and why I wish the rest of the world was more like here. The vast majority of folk here just see people, not gender or sexual orientation, and acceptance of everyone is the norm. I get disoriented when I go to other places and hear ignorant and hateful speech.

  6. [...] Savage points out in “Transforming Our Views of Transgender” that some feminists do not consider male-to-female transexuals to be female simply because [...]

  7. Irene says:

    It speaks for itself that we see people first and gender secondly or third or fourth or way down the line somewhere. I frankly don’t care what anybody is, nor do I judge or devalue a person because of it. I do not belong to that group of small minded people that want to put people in tight little boxes where they have to fit in, whether they belong there or not. I think it is very sad that people need to go into the streets to fight for the basic rights of a group of people that should just be accepted as any other human being, because that is what they are first and foremost. It is a ridiculous situation that they need to fight for their lives and others for them as well. I sincerely hope that bigotry is outmoded in the shortest amount of time and that the bigot will be prosecuted by law.

  8. Heather says:

    162? I am shocked and stunned…and feeling very ashamed of my fellow man. 162? One would be too many, 162 is unbelievable, horrifying.

  9. I can only agree with this and add my own determination that no-one will ever be discriminated against in any organisation I work for on grounds of difference.

  10. Anon says:

    One of my sons classmates father has undergone gender realignment surgery this year and is now living as a woman. I have tried to be open and honest with my son about what has happened and answer his questions. He is very accepting of the situation now he understands, as children are, because they are born without prejudice- this has to be learnt. My sons main concern was that his friends father was ill- another classmate sadly lost their father earlier in the year, so this is understandable. I hope he will grow up to be a kind and caring man with compassion for others and to see beyond a persons gender or sexuality. Sadly, fear and igorance are to blame in most cases.

  11. I think this is a brilliant post! I was discussing this with my friend last night when I got home from RTN. She wasn’t able to come but she said there had been a lot of discussion on The F Word about whether or not transgendered people that identify as women should be allowed on the march. I haven’t read the discussion yet, but I say Yes. Absolutely. When we held RTN for the first time in Birmingham this year we avoided all worries about this by applying two simple words: self-defining. If you view yourself as a woman you identify with problems that affect women. If you are transgendered and you march along side other women at a RTN march and crowds of people see you they will not think “oh look, there is a man fighting these women’s battles for them”, it isn’t even likely that an onlooker will particularly notice unless they pay specific attention that the person they are looking at might not be someone who was female at birth. To me the reason to not have men at RTN is because it dilutes the message (but a transgender woman is not a man), and the women-only aspect of the march is symbolic of it being women, not men, who have to worry about walking home alone, or ‘getting themselves’ raped. To me those worries apply just as much to transgendered women, because regardless of the t-word, women they are…

    /rant over!

    katie :)