Being a femme gender non-conforming person on the internet is a daily struggle. On top of being almost consistently misgendered by (both cis and binary trans) people in person, I have thousands of people across the world calling me a “man,” a “tranny,” a “heshe,” and worse. Often people comment on my photos tagging their friends to laugh at how ridiculous, ugly, and strange I look. Every time I embark on a project that gets a lot of circulation I have to prepare myself for the onslaught of hate mail which inevitably includes violent threats, speculation on my genitalia, being insulted, being called an animal, and non-stop commentary on every aspect of my body.
And it’s even harder knowing that it’s never going to stop. Like so many other gender non-conforming people, I am not going to ever “pass” as a cisgender person. Violence and misgendering doesn’t just stop — it’s ongoing. Being femme and gender non-conforming means being made into a spectacle for other people — means not being able to control my own body and its representation. And it’s frightening because (like all of you!) I have a conflicted relationship with my body. I started to identify as “trans,” as a way to regain control of my identity but it has only opened me up to more scrutiny.
I am dreaming of a world where everyone — regardless of what they look like — can be respected for who they say they are. I am dreaming of a world where we stop policing one another into categories that actually don’t fit any of us, where we are open to being infinitely transformed by one another’s differences.
To the transmisogyny out there I just want to remind you:
1. The idea of universal womanhood is false. There is no one way to look like a woman. The idea of universal femininity is false. There is no one way to be femme. We all have our own unique ways of presenting our femininity and embodying our genders (and that’s beautiful!)
2. Femininity and womanhood do NOT belong to cis women. Trans women and gender non-conforming femmes are not “trying to become women,” we are women and femmes.
3. Trans women and gender non-conforming femmes do not have to look like cis women in order to be legitimate. We do not have to shave, we do not have to take hormones, we do not have to have surgery, we do not have to change our names, we do not have to wear makeup or dresses. We should not have to undergo the labor of proving what we already are nor should we have to look “beautiful” to be respected.
4. Stop telling trans women and gender non-conforming femmes that we are reifying patriarchal stereotypes of femininity. Do not strip us of our agency and punish us for the ways that we have made ourselves powerful and known in a world determined to erase us.
5. People do not have to identify as women in order to be feminine. People do not have to identify as women to experience sexism and (trans)misogyny. Detach your conception of femininity and womanhood from bodies.
6. Cis feminism is ultimately detrimental to cis women. We all have a stake in challenging the logics of the gender binary. Womanhood and femininity are so much more than what patriarchy has taught us.
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