I have been really heartened by increased attention and consideration to the difficulties of navigating the internet as a woman. But -- as always -- these discussions of "gender and social media" tend to only focus on the experiences of binary and cisgender women. There is a particular type of cruelty directed to gender non-conforming / transfeminine people that is not challenged (let alone acknowledged). This is because centering this type of violence would require us to challenge gender binary thinking itself -- not just "men."
Existing visibly on the internet as a gender non-conforming/transfeminine person is to have to constantly normalize and become accustomed to routine hostility-- is to always be assumed as fabulous and triumphant -- to never be allowed to hurt because you only exist as an aesthetic object to inspire others (not keep yourself alive).
Central to the world I want to create for myself and the people I love is a deep and earnest commitment to interdependence -- naming when we need help (and being celebrated and affirmed for it!) The truth is I need help! When gender non-conforming/transfeminine people do something as simple as make an argument for our own dignity...we are demonized and ridiculed. I need everyone to publicly challenge transmisogyny and to support the transfeminine people in your life constantly, not just when we experience physical violence.
Harassment against trans people online extends beyond being called the wrong gender pronoun. Here is some everyday acts of transmisogynist harassment I experience online. Please try your best to counter these as you see them happen.
1) People tagging their friends and saying, "Is this you?" or "Doesn't this look just like _____" followed by tear tear emojis. Usually cisgender (brown) men are tagged.
The idea here is that I am a "failed" man and that my femininity is a joke that is more embarrassing than anything. Here my personhood is reduced to a prop to bolster masculinity. I become a symbol of every (brown) man's worst nightmare, rather than a person with feelings.
2) People sharing photos of me saying things like "ME," or "SAME."
This is part of a culture that reduces transfeminine people to aesthetics for other peoples' empowerment and never our own. The same people who identify with us online will never defend us offline. We only matter insomuch as we can become instrumentalized for empowerment and triumph of others, and never our own.
3) People tagging their friends and saying, "Omg this is your bf or gf right?" Then entire chat threads will ensue about how disgusting I am and how I remind people of their ugly exes.
What this does is shame people who do desire us (and there are many). Our appearance not only becomes a source of embarrassment for ourselves, but for everyone associated with us. We become the ultimate fear: dating a "tranny."
That's a lot of projection, anxiety, and insecurity mapped on us that we didn't consent to! Oh wait, gender non-conforming/transfeminine people aren't allowed to consent because our image and bodies belong to the nightmares and fantasies of everyone else.
3) Cisgender women and "feminists" telling me that I am a man "invading women's spaces" with my "male privilege." I am dismissed as a "fraud," an "impostor," and a "threat."
In a transmisogynist and gender binarist world only cisgender women are allowed to own femininity. The rest of us are dismissed not only in our genders, but in our ability to be understood as victims of gender based violence. Even though transfeminine people experience some of the most brutal and intense forms of misogyny, we are regarded as villains and never victims. The irony is that in their efforts to combat patriarchy these women actually rely on it by conflating "woman" with "vagina" and by delegitimizing femininity as superficial and excessive.
4) People of all genders telling me that I am ugly, gross, that I look like trash, and that I deserve to die.
The idea here is that A) My worth should be linked to my physical appearance and B) The only way to be beautiful is to look like a cisgender man or a cisgender woman.
In a transmisogynist and binary world we are taught that in order to be beautiful we have to be binary. In fact an entire system of sexuality ("gay," "lesbian," "straight,") rely on and strengthen a binary system. Desire is only available to those of us who uphold binary standards.
5) Being called a "degenerate," a "retard," a "freak," a "monster," and other ableist terms that basically position transfemininity as a sort of weakness and/or illness.
The idea here is that the only way to be *healthy* is to be a masculine gender non-conforming man and that because I did not "develop" into one there must be something wrong with me. What is lost here is what is horribly wrong about a society that standardizes one way to look and one way to be healthy -- and a society that conflates "weakness" with "illness" to begin with anyways!
6) Rape threats, death threats, threats of physical violence and assault. These are often delivered just by the sight of my image.
The idea here is that gender non-conforming/transfeminine people are victim-blamed just for being visibly trans. Our visible difference is seen as justification for violence. This violence is meant to police and intimidate us back into gender conformity and uphold the myth of two genders.
7) People (often cisgender women) commenting on every detail on my body, surveilling me to tell me what I should do if I want to look like a "real woman." This often involves detailed conversations about my genitalia and speculations on my medical/surgical history. Example: "If you want to look like a real woman then shave your legs!"
The gender binary teaches people that femininity is attached to womanhood and that anyone who looks "feminine" is a woman or is aspiring to be one. Actually, femininity is totally separate from womanhood and people of all genders can be femme. There is no one way to look or act femme, it's all about celebrating how people embody it. Also -- part of the way transmisogyny works is a foregrounding of others' fantasies over our realities. The question of our genitalia becomes continually elevated because people are sexualizing and objectifying us, not granting our full subjectivity.
8) General laughter. People tagging their friends to all have a joke about how ridiculous I look. "Look at this tranny..."
Transmisogyny would have you believe that we are the only ones performing our genders and not that cisgender people are constantly performing theirs. Part of the performance of cisgender identity involves a thorough mockery of transfeminine people. "I am a man" "I am a woman" "Because I am not that!"
9) Cisplaining. None stop cisplaining. Telling me that my ideas about gender and my identity are wrong, telling me that I am wrong about the reasons why I experience gender, teaching me that there are actually only two genders, etc.
The idea here is that cisgender and binary people know what's best for us better than we do. Part of transmisogyny is infantalization: we are regarded as underdeveloped men or women or both! Because we are infantalized we are not able to make decisions for ourselves by ourselves.
10) Outright denying, dismissing, and delegitimizing my experiences of violence. Example: "Surely you don't experience this much harassment, you must be making it up!" "That can't have happen, no way!" "No one would have let that happen, this is a joke!"
What is important to understand is that gender non-conforming/transfeminine people experience harassment in public every single day of our lives from people of all genders. Often no one defends us and we are blamed for it. What is more unbelievable than the routine harassment we experience is how "gender" has become synonymous with "cis women" and how transfeminine people's experiences with (street) harassment have been systematically erased. Comments like this are part of a culture of cisgender people refusing responsibility for the violence they uphold against us.
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