In Trans Woman Manifesto, Julia Serano brought up various points that I felt were worth reiterating and expanding upon. She began the article by explaining how the existence of transsexuals threatens the idea that women and men are opposite sexes and the societal norm of conforming to gender roles associated with biological sex. Serano built upon this foundation to explain something I had never before considered – the difference in how transgender people on the male to female (MTF) versus female to male (FTM) spectrums are viewed and treated and how this is embedded in a male-centered gender hierarchy.

In a society “where men are better than women and masculinity is superior to femininity,” those who are biologically male but “choose” femininity are ridiculed and frowned upon much more so than women who “choose” masculinity. For example, it is deemed acceptable for women to wear “men’s” clothing, but not for men to wear “women’s” clothing. By “choosing” to be the ‘lesser’ gender and act in the manner associated with that gender, trans people on the MTF spectrum challenge the validity of this so-called “supremacy of maleness and masculinity.” Serano defined this form of discrimination as trans-misogyny, or discrimination towards trans people who express femaleness or femininity. She praised the strides feminism has made in equating woman with man, and emphasized the need to equate femininity with masculinity [1].

The “Big, Burly, and Beautiful” piece in the Non Trans Enough zine outlined a trans women’s dread of having feminine ideals forced upon her as she began to identify as a woman. Being 5′ 11″ and 250 pounds would make it difficult for Rhiannon Robear to abide by the feminine norm of weakness, which, in itself, completely disproves any association between the two [2]. In part due to contradictory examples like these, Serano highlighted the need to remove the association of femininity with weakness and powerlessness, and to instead use it as a tool to express confidence and strength. Women expressing their sexuality should not be interpreted as subjugation, but as fearless expression of themselves.

The Normalizing Sexual Violence piece by Heather Hlavka also addressed this societal norm of linking sex with male power and female passivity. In a patriarchal culture that encourages male power and aggression, the presumption that men’s sexual aggression is simply “boys being boys” places a sickening burden on women to endure and maneuver this behavior. Most, if not all, of the discourses in the research study with teenage girls were painful to read, as many of the them had come to accept harassment as normal and as an “adolescent rite of passage” [3]. Serano’s point becomes that much more significant here. If society did not associate the expression of feminine sexuality as subjugation, but rather with strength and power, then this responsibility would no longer be placed solely on women. It would instead be a responsibility of everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. By equating femininity with masculinity, it seems society would be much better off.

[1] Serano, Julia. Trans Woman Manifesto. 547-551.

[2] Robear, Rhiannon. Not Trans Enough. “Big, Burly, and Beautiful.”

[3] Hlavka, Heather. Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse. Marquette University, 2014.

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