[content note: transphobia; homophobia; prostitution; violence; rape]
This Tuesday 20th November, Hampshire Feminist Collective are holding a candlelight vigil for Transgender Day of Rembrance.
It’s so important for us as feminists to stand up against trans* hate crimes and discrimination, particularly as feminism has a bad history of transphobia. I am proud of my part in organising this event and to be part of a feminist group that stands publically against transphobia.
Some people may wonder what a feminist group is doing organising a trans* event. They might suggest that we should be concentrating on ‘women’s issues’.
I would remind them that the majority of those trans* people murdered are women. I would also point out that these murders generally fall into the category of male violence against women. That many of those trans women who are murdered are first subject to rape and sexual assault. Male violence against women is not confined to cis women but is an issue for trans and cis women alike.
By extension male violence as a reinforcement of power and privilege exists beyond male violence against women. It manifests itself in the form of a heteropatriarchy where anyone who falls outside of the heteronormative sphere of masculinity or gender norms is subject to violence and intimidation. The ultimate display of power and masculinity often being through rape, with women, queer cis men, trans men and nonbinary people being subject to attacks as a way of ‘de-masculinising’ them and reinforcing power structures.
I would also point out to those who wonder if trans* issues are feminist ones that sadly a large proportion of trans* people who are murdered are sex workers forced into prostitution because of poverty, discrimination and lack of options. We know as feminists that those in prostitution often experience hideous and dehumanising violence. That the johns often don’t see prostitutes as human at all, but rather as vessels for their own pleasure. Prostitution is one of the most dangerous ‘jobs’ in the world, with high levels of murder, violence and rape, and the people forced into it are usually the most vulnerable people in society. It is also a gendered issue, the majority of johns being cis men; it is a sad truth of society that power, money and the sex industry are horribly interlinked. So the fact is that so many trans* people around the world are in prostitution and that so many of those trans* people who were murdered were sex workers. That is definitely a feminist issue.
It’s also worth noting that a huge part of what causes transphobia is fear when ideas around fixed binary gender and sex roles are challenged: the binary gender roles that we as feminists spend so much time fighting against. We are brought up in a society and culture that places everyone in two neat boxes from birth. When we challenge that binary, either through ideas or our lived existence, we are challenging the foundations that a lot of people base their lives around. When a trans* person is murdered or attacked for being trans* they are being attacked because their very existence challenges the idea of fixed binary gender roles.
There are other complex intersectional feminist layers involved in trans* hate crime as well, however, that I should mention. There are layers of class that I have already alluded to; the fact that so many of those murdered live in poverty or are forced into dangerous situations and work like prostitution; the fact that many of those murdered are people of colour (something that is noted in many of the details of US victims), and their deaths are often tied into issues of racism and economic status.
There is also the interlinking of transphobia and homophobia to be accounted for. Many transphobic attacks being part of homophobic violence with trans* people being singled out as more visibly ‘queer’ and ‘other’. There is the constant fear of being ‘tricked’ into homosexuality: for example, that if a straight cis male discovers a woman he was attracted to is trans then this is a devious trick to ‘make’ him gay. The stereotyping of trans women as ‘predatory’ is linked to the stereotyping of gay cis men as ‘predatory’ via the ignorant belief that trans women are ‘really’ gay men.
Finally, our group isn’t a ‘women’s group’. It is a feminist group made up of women and men, trans* and cis people, binary- and nonbinary-identified people. Hampshire Feminist Collective, was in part formed because of the need for a supportive and safe trans* inclusive feminist space. Part of being a supportive and inclusive space is not dismissing trans* issues as ‘not feminist enough’.
Part of intersectional feminist thought is recognising that all oppressions are interlinked, and to quote Audre Lorde: ‘There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.’
So yes, violence against trans* people is most definitely an important feminist issue and one you should care about.
If you can attend our event this Tuesday, please do.