The Intersection of Racism, Transphobia, and Misogyny

Cornel West once stated that “justice is what love looks like in public,” and when there is no justice, there is no love. Often in the LGBTQ community, people of all races, genders, and backgrounds are discriminated against and shown no justice. More specifically, there are certain combinations that are more acceptable than others. For example, black men and women who are gay are more likely to be subjected to discrimination than white men and women in the same position. Additionally, interracial couples in the LGBTQ community are also discriminated against more often that heterosexual interracial couples. Moreover, black trans women are the most targeted victims of violence within the LGBTQ community. This systemic discrimination is in part due to the gender binary that is taught to children, through different means of gender socialization.

Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, spoke about the intersection of trans phobia, racism and misogyny (Cox 2014). In doing so, Cox recounts one of the countless times she has experienced harassment on the street by men who, upon realizing that she is a trans women, became very aggressive. She goes on to state that many trans women are in danger simply because of whom they are, and the gender that they choose to express (Cox 2014). Additionally, Cox argues that most of the street harassment she has experienced has come from black men. Although a generalization, Cox explains this phenomenon as a response to the collective trauma experienced by blacks in the past, as well as a result of the emasculation of black men. Finally, Laverne Cox states that when men or women harass others, it is an inner problem or issue they have with themselves, rather than the person whom they are targeting (Cox 2014).

Apart from this example, there are many examples of the intersection of misogyny, racism and trans phobia, and this is due to gender socialization and the appearance of strict gender binaries. Misogyny is the explicit hatred or dislike of women or girls, and can be expressed in numerous ways, some of which include: sexual discrimination, violence, denigration and the sexual objectification of women. Misogyny intersects with both racism and trans phobia in the sense that black or coloured (trans) women have less privilege than white women and white trans women. Apart from being discriminated against for being a woman, many are additionally discriminated against for being black and trans as well. This is specifically due to gender socialization, which refers to the socially constructed roles and expectations of both men and women. Gender socialization is most often based on a strict gender binary where there is only two sides of the spectrum, boys and girls, and each have opposing characteristics.

In today’s society, racism, misogyny, and trans phobia have become institutionalized through socially constructed rules and regulations. Although not enforced by law, it a common understanding that in order to be “normal” you must be either male or female, or the sex to which you were assigned at birth. The problem with this is that many or most people do not fit into the strict gender binary set by society. Even if you are cisgendered, meaning that you identify with the sex assigned at birth, you are likely to not stick strictly to the characteristics of said gender. For example, some girls like sports and are powerful and outspoken: these are usually qualities typically associated with men. Furthermore, due to this, it is more inclusive to think of gender as a spectrum, rather than a binary.

There are many examples of this systemic discrimination against transgendered people in all societies. Recently, the Canadian parliament voted to make amendments to bill C-279; a federal Bill that seeks to bring rights and securities specifically to transgender Canadians (Wingrove 2014). The amendments senate wishes to make render the Bill completely useless, and the Bill has been highly contested by Parliament as well as the general public. More specifically, the senate wants the term ‘gender identity’ to be removed, and this would subsequently take away the right of trans people to identify as the gender they are, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth (Wingrove 2014). This Bill is a form of systemic discrimination against trans people as it provides legal regulations that take away the rights and services of trans women and men. Therefore, the amendments to the Bill are a form of misogyny and transmisogyny, as well as a form of state sanctioned violence against trans women and more so trans women of colour, who are already susceptible to violence and discrimination (Wingrove 2014).

Although many people in today’s society believe that men and women are equal, it is becoming abundantly clear that this is not the case. Discrimination against those associated with the LGBTQ community is still happening and is becoming more systemically implemented than ever before. This discrimination is due to the gender socialized norms and binaries we are taught as children, and that we see reinforced over and over again. Laverne Cox is one example of a trans woman who is popular in the media and often speaks out against certain indecencies she experiences first hand. It is important that trans women and men specifically get the justice they deserve, and in turn it is important to love and accept everyone for who they are.

 Works Cited

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. Everyday Feminism, 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2015.

Wingrove, Josh. “Transgender Rights Bill Stirs Heated Debate in Senate.” The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail Inc., 02 Oct. 2014. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

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8 thoughts on “The Intersection of Racism, Transphobia, and Misogyny

  1. Jac

    Hey MJ, great post!

    I really like how you deconstructed gender socialization and how it influences us. I think you did an excellent analysis of the ways in which multiple systems of oppression can operate together to shape different experiences. What I think was most interesting about your piece was the way you tied it into Bill C-279, and how it was turned from a very positive piece for trans people into a transphobic piece. I think it’s also important to recognize how “othering” occurs to people of colour, and how trans people of colour are often subjected to greater violations of their privacy/bodily autonomy (especially at places like airports) as a result of both racism and transphobia since their ID sometimes does not match their physical appearance (which is then coded for “trouble” especially as a result of racial profiling). While I don’t know the nuanced details, I know that Premier Wynne and her cabinet are currently under the process of implementing a new sex education piece in Ontario. This covers more updated ideas of sexuality, and I hope that this new curriculum will also include gender as spectrum, and allow trans identities to be taught in school as well.

    Do you think that Cox’s advocacy has really changed the way we see trans issues?

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  2. MJ Post author

    Jac,

    I agree that it’s almost ironic how the Bill C-279 was supposed to be something very innovative and progressive for trans people has become so negative and hindering of their essential rights and freedoms. When I read the article I was astonished at the amendments that were going to be made and how transphobic in nature they were. I am pretty sure that the new sex education curriculum will include gender as a spectrum and will teach kids more about the LGBTQ community. I think that this updated curriculum is a positive step towards equality, if it is implemented.

    I personally think that Laverne Cox’s advocacy has made a strong impact and inspired some people to accept themselves and others for who they are, but as a whole, I don’t really believe that she has done all that much to change the way we see trans issues. I think it is very difficult to get people to change their views and I think more trans or cisgendered people need to advocate as well. While it is undeniable that she has publicly advocated and shared her journey, I think that more needs to be done at the policy-making level to ensure that transgendered people have the same rights and freedoms as anyone else.

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  3. aba

    Hey MJ! Awesome post, and I really like how you developed your argument about the institutionalization of racism, misogyny and transphobia. I think it was good to acknowledge that all people are victim to gender binaries, whether they are cisgender or transgender; they likely do not not meet ideal and unrealistic gender stereotypes that have traditionally been portrayed.

    Also, I had not heard about the Bill C – 279 predicament until reading your post, but I think it fits really well with this topic, so thank you for shedding light on this! I see it as a huge reminder of how overlooked transphobia and the discrimination towards the transgender community is. That being said, we have made a lot of progress with becoming more accepting, but considering the effects that Canadian political movements have, we still have a lot of work to do.

    Out of curiosity, which part of Laverne’s speech resonated with you the most and why?

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    1. MJ Post author

      Aba,

      There were two parts of the Lavern Cox’s speech that resonated the most with me. The first was when she was explaining her experiences with racism, transphobia and misogyny in the streets, and the second was the quote from Cornel West. These two portions resonated the most with me due to the fact that I find it crazy that if cisgendered women experience harassment, racism and misogyny, it is a thousand times worse for gay or transgendered women. I think that it is unfair how one’s circumstances become worse solely because of their race or gender, and I was astonished to hear about Cox’s experiences.

      The quote from Cornel West stuck with me in the sense that although a profound statement, I think it is incredibly hard to apply to real circumstances. I think the world has the potential to be filled with both love and justice, but I do not see how providing justice to all would realistically work or even how it would be achieved. I think it’s one of those things that is great in theory but when it comes down to it, it would be impossible for everyone to be equal because our society only is based on massive inequalities that advantage some and disadvantage others.

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  4. Ash

    MJ, you’ve done a fantastic job with your analysis! You smoothly transitioned from a brief, yet concise overview of Laverne’s speech to your own interpretation of it and examples of misogyny, transphobia and racism within Canada. I had no idea about Bill C-279 before you mentioned it and I’m glad I’m aware of it now. I find it interesting how Canada is applauded worldwide for its equality and progressive social justice, however there are amendments to bills like this, which attempt to leave those who don’t fit the standard story completely vulnerable to further violence and discrimination. Another example is how many indigenous populations live in third world conditions with their rights actively being taken away by the government. When the government is supposed to implement policies to protect its citizens, it’s rather alarming that some members of this country may have to continue living in fear. Where is the justice in this?

    As Jac and Aba have mentioned in the comments above, there are changes being made to the sex education curriculum by Ontario’s provincial government. How do you think these changes will affect the gender socialization of youth?

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    1. MJ Post author

      Ash,

      In regards to the new sex education curriculum I personally think that it will affect the gender socialization of youth a great deal. I think that as you get older it becomes harder and harder to have a more open outlook due to the time period in which you grew up and the norms of said time. Moreover, I think that since children are currently socialized to believe in the gender binary, if we change the socializing doctrine, it will change the perspective. Although, this will take a considerable amount of time, but I think eventually if children today are taught about trans gendered and LGBTQ identities, they will be socialized to accept it. Also, when they have children in the future it will continue the socializing process and inclusiveness of LGBTQ identities. To conclude, I agree 100% with the statement that children are the future, and I think children are the most open and non-judgemental beings on the planet, and therefore, it makes sense to start ideas of LGBTQ normality with them.

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  5. rau

    Great analysis, MJ!
    I really liked your point on gender as a spectrum. There are so many daily reminders of how straight forward and binary today’s society still is, despite it’s progression. For example, gender specific washrooms and the ever so degrading “check male of female on a survey”. I don’t think people who adhere to this binary realize the affect it can have on individuals of the LGBTQ community.
    I had not heard of the C-279 Bill until I read your post. Through your explanation, it seems as though the new movement is actually degrading trans people more than before. It almost seems that as society is trying to move forward and past the binary, movements such as Bill C-279 are moving in the opposite direction. Am I correct in concluding this? Why do you think such a movement exists when we know that Canada as a whole is trying to move towards a brighter future for all?
    I think Laverne Cox is such a strong woman who has been through so much. After listening to her speech, it seems as though she has been shot down so many times and yet still remains on top. It seems as is she has built up her strength so much that she is able to do her best at ignoring other people’s voices. There is no doubt in my mind that she has worked incredibly hard to get where she is today. Do you think Laverne Cox is so comfortable and able to express who she truly is because of her popularity? I do not watch Orange is the New Black , however, I know that the show is on an incredible rise. DO you think it is easier for Laverne to express herself because she knows that she has a fan-base at her side?

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  6. mac2121

    Mj! Thanks so much for your awesome analysis. I really appreciated that you discussed bill C-279. Before reading this, I had no idea that a bill so systematically discriminating was being voted on. This was very shocking to me and disappointing that our own government is taking a step backwards instead of progressing. I really liked your unique approach to your argument, as you discussed not only transgender people but also other people that undergoing oppression, however it could be interesting to see a more in depth analysis of Laverne Cox’s speech. Overall I really enjoyed your work and believe you make an excellent argument!

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