There has been significant discussion of transmisogyny recently given the slow ramping genocide which places transfems, and especially Black and Indigenous transfems, at the thin edge of the wedge of fascism and state power in Global North societies and reactionary states across the globe. This is to say cultural disdain, disregard and disgust with transfeminine people is being used to sell the broad scale disassembly of liberal democracy worldwide in favor of brazen autocracy and exploitation.
Transmisogyny is not difficult to describe or to be understood. A number of transfeminists have developed these pithy little illustrative scenarios like “transmisogyny is when you are arrested for exposing your chest in public and then incarcerated among men to be sexually assaulted,” or “transmisogyny is said to be when you’re a woman who gets mistaken for being a man, but it’s really when you’re a woman who people have permission to hit – if they pretend to believe you’re a man.” For an ongoing example on Twitter, “transmisogyny is when you complain about the hostility of a misogynistic subculture only to be accused of misunderstanding misogyny and womanhood.”
Ultimately transmisogyny produces a system under which transfeminine people are disposable, replaceable, violable, reliant, isolated, and ungendered.
In the clearest terms, transmisogyny can be described in the verbiage introduced by Julia Serano in Whipping Girl: as a synthetic, mutually self-reinforcing and mutually self-compounding intersection of what she calls “oppositional sexism” and “traditional sexism.” Oppositional sexism, or cissexism, is the belief that there are exactly two genders which correspond to exactly two sex categories and which can be defined cleanly in opposition to one another, like how if men are hairy, women must be smooth; or if men are intelligent, women must be ditzy; or if men are suited to power, then women must be unsuited to power. Traditional sexism, or misogyny, is the belief that womanhood, femaleness and femininity are inherently, intrinsically and absolutely inferior to manhood, masculinity and maleness. This serves to protect cis men’s position of deference and presumptive good faith in contrast to the skepticism and suspicion that levied against women under patriarchy. Traditional sexism is the belief that women should be deferential to men, and oppositional sexism is the belief that there are men and women and this is decided at birth and can never change.
All trans people are the targets of cissexism. All trans people in our attempts to explore our authentic genders invite social corrective punishment in much the same way that all women are punished under a misogynistic society. The uniquely confounding reality for transfeminine people is such that where the logic of patriarchy can somewhat subsume the idea that people who are born into a designated underclass might resent that station and seek to classify themselves apart from it, there is no logical reason to forsake an opportune birth into the overclass except for deviant circumnavigation of social norms, implicitly to recruit and/or victimize cis women and children presumed to be cis. True enough these rationalizations wilt in the face of logic and history, but even trans people can be misled into halfway presuming these tropes to mostly bare out anyways, somehow, because we all grow up in a transphobic and transmisogynistic society. Trans people are not incapable of being transphobic and we are generally persuaded more easily by transmisogyny first.
Disposable, Replaceable, Violable, Reliant, Isolated, and Ungendered
There are a million different tropes devised to sublimate this learned anxiety – that we invade women’s spaces, that we are brash and loud and male socialized and just don’t understand misogyny, that we have this vague irrevocable taintedness or unpayable debt, that we hold and exercise power over other members of the trans community when the opposite is true, that we seek out vulnerable eggs and femboys to hatch them predatorily, that we are predatory of cis women, that we are predatory of cis men, that we are excited to double cross queer and left communities, it truly does not end. It doesn’t matter that literally every single one of these tropes are inextricably rooted in misogyny. Many queer theorists and leftists suddenly become incapable of feminism when transfeminine people are involved. To be transfeminine is to be assailed constantly with targeted abuse and signaling that you, specifically, are unwelcome in every conceivable space; that you have to earn your keep; that you are not allowed to build anything of your own or it will be stolen from you; that you are nothing of value and have nothing of value and regardless everything will be taken from you. To be transfeminine is to be the ultimate commodity that patriarchy has to offer: an exotic curiosity who has no power with which to fight back and no sense of self worth to be protected.
We as feminists talk a lot about the wage gap, in a lot of unhelpful ways much of the time. At the end of the day, at the bottom of the line, the wage gap is about cis men seeing cis women and other gender minorities unfit of the same access to freedom. Under capitalism, money is the same thing as power, and that includes the power to do things other than be exploited all the time. Transfeminine people experience a hyperconfounded version of this dynamic from all of society outside ourselves to the point we make only .6 dollars on the dollar earned by a cis person, but then we have to live in a world where even other trans people will gatekeep us from housing and other necessary resources because they are trained to treat us with distrust, derision, disgust – and especially to treat us as a source of danger.
A big visceral thing that came to me a while back now was that among those other pithy scenarios delineated above, to be transfeminine is to be a woman who is denied the social machinery of feminism. To be a woman who is not valuable property. To be a woman who nobody is inspired to be seen defending, certainly not when other gender minorities are participating in her abuse and deprivation. To be a woman who intrinsically deserves the abuses of misogyny, to have asked for it in the mind of the transmisogynist, to have in her very being have been clearly begging for all the worst and to be disallowed any reprieve or solidarity or even comprehension of our treatment as an example of queermisogynistic corrective violence. When a trans girl is a teenager, and she has to change with men, this is considered normal instead of abusive. Perhaps a necessary evil, but not even a shade of the reaction that would be incited were a cis girl to be treated in just the same way. Because the world sees us even as children having asked for it. To not really need the accommodations and social technology of feminism – to be exploiting these amenities and therefore undeserving anyways. They always imply that we are asking for it. A verbiage I use deliberately to demonstrate how transmisogyny is not hatred or fear of men as transmisogynists love to insist, but instead it is hatred of women, and of queerness which itself is another hatred of women.
Another sphere we are seen to be deserving of our own abuse is within professional environments. Transfeminine people are the most vulnerable to being gatekept from professional opportunities because we are firsthand presumed to be mentally unwell for what is perceived as a decision to ‘become the inferior sex,’ and so our contributions are overlooked, be it because people around us think less of queers or women or transfems specifically. As a result, we are invited less often to participate in collaborations or high profile events, and we are given less charity when we are perceived as having made mistakes. People around us are aware of this dynamic on some level, and so it’s not infrequent that this trend is professionally weaponized against us. Ultimately we put more and more pressure on ourselves to simply be better and we burn out, and we end up finally being punished yet again for suddenly being less productive, or for being too productive and making enemies, or for a million other things, we are made precarious and expendable. This inures us to even further abuse because we become anxious about maintaining whatever precarious security we manage to cling to, no matter what we have to tolerate.
It is not true that society sees us as men, even as failed men, or weak men, or queer men or any real gender really – we are ungendered by cis society, we are called whatever they figure will circumstantially hurt the most, they will arrest us for baring our chests and then call us male inmates, they will punch our teeth out and then call us faggot, they will punish us in every way at every moment for demonstrating the flimsy falsehood of patriarchal society. There is an anxiety cis people have, when they see us. People like to say sometimes that they’re not misogynistic or queerphobic because they don’t hate or aren’t afraid of anybody. They’re lying, but also that’s not really what’s being said. Misogyny and queerphobia aren’t fear and hatred just of women and queer people, it’s fear and hatred of a world in which cis men no longer rule, and a world in which all people are free to examine themselves for queerness and femininity instead of necessarily being either born on the military-industrial sex police tract of life or the self-loathing, victimhood and childcare tract. That is the vision of patriarchy which transmisogyny promises to uphold.
In Astrology Specifically
I remember recently there was this big discussion about why there aren’t more transfeminine people in the astrology community. At first I thought “why that can’t be right, surely it mustn’t be that uneven,” until I realized all my transfem friends were coming to me from the outside asking for my take because I was their one friend who does astrology. Now that would be one thing on its own. How the community reacted to that question was quite another thing, many people were implying that transfems are all just logicbros, basically – vague gesturing at some irrevocable impurity. It could not possibly be that transfeminine people hold the exact same hopes and wonders and religious traumas in our hearts that other queer people and women feel, and we just feel gatekept by an overwhelmingly TME community which openly speculates about our collective unfemaleness.
That really ruffled my feathers, I suppose, I think that’s really offensive. All trans people should understand how uninviting it is to be told that there are exactly two sacred ideal genders based in explicitly reproductive symbolism. Other women should understand how uninviting it is to be talked down to implicitly, to be presumed of misunderstanding before you’ve even begun to engage with an environment.
Truth is there are not many big name transfeminine astrologers because most transfeminine people are put off by transmisogynistic people within the community, and those of us who prove resilient to that layer of exclusion are further starved of association by a population who is generally unwilling to take us nearly as seriously as our TME counterparts. We are filtered out of the community by our need to eventually get real jobs – if nobody will support us as astrologers, we get burnt out.
Like in many other spaces historically hostile to transfeminine people, there manifests this big cycle of violence against transfems, because any transfeminine person who does attempt to make a name for herself in astrology is necessarily superlative, because anybody who might have already established herself has been chased away already, so now this new girl has to build all the infrastructure herself and risk constantly being torn down in just the same way again, remember, transfeminine people are structurally vulnerable to being punished for success and chased out of our profession. We’re never allowed a position resilient enough to help one another, and generally nobody else but us cares to work towards making astrology into a safer space for transfeminine people.
It makes a girl want to scream.
What is to be Done?
I beg people to give transfeminine people more grace. I would love to ask for money, but I know we’re not there yet, society cannot imagine upsetting transfeminine precarity. I just wish transfeminine people were afforded the benefit of the doubt, empathized with, treated as comprehensible people with mundane motivations. I want people to think before they speak about us, to look into what we generally say about ourselves, to refrain from glibly comparing us to men whenever we come up in conversation. To look inwards and first consider how all people under patriarchy are trained to constantly and instinctively engineer an unsafe environment for transfeminine people. This political climate, which looks the other way, or ungenders us, or simply laughs when we are killed. This hell which makes us into an emblem for everything that is sinful and corruptive to patriarchy, and therefore deserving of our being unmade in every way as slowly and violently and painfully as possible, or as quickly as happens to be suddenly convenient. Punishments levied against us are not easily swept aside by all our male privilege that we don’t have. We just choke on it if too many people decide we’re marked women over some petty interpersonal dispute. We are presumed always to be the aggressor and never the victim, even when we are so easily and commonly victimized, even when we are exonerated by evidence or when our supposed crime is something that other people would never be punished for. It is especially common that our crime is standing up for ourselves, or for queer people, or for women, or for somebody else. Because we’re not supposed to have thoughts and opinions, only pretty faces and sexy bodies and cheap labor.
I just want respect. I just want for us to be considered as women under patriarchy for as long as we all must still be made to suffer it. It is really as easy as genuinely working to treat us no worse than how you treat cis women, and to treat cis women no worse than how you treat cis men. Of course that requires thinking of us as people, and thinking like a feminist, so I respect the great inherent difficulty, but I would appreciate the attempt.
It hurts to know that we have such a rich lens with which to significantly deepen any discipline, and every discipline remains resolutely opposed to acknowledging let alone recognizing or gods forbid celebrating transfeminine contributions. All transmisogynistic arguments and tropes reinforce misogyny, cissexism, and queerphobia broadly. Most transmisogynistic arguments and tropes reinforce colonial white supremacy in various ways largely owing to how white supremacy sells itself on strict patriarchal gender politics. Literally everybody’s lives get harder when we normalize a transmisogynistic society and yet everybody lines up to participate and imply bigoted tropes about themselves just because it hurts today’s disposable transfem worse. It’s exhausting. We’d like you to please stop it.
This is dark and pained and sarcastic because transmisogyny is fucking bleak and painful and after 24 years of being sniped at under everybody’s breath, we transfems deserve to be bitter in return, and y’all shouldn’t be shocked by it.