Monday, December 22, 2008
A call from Julia Serano
I am currently working on a web article that I hope will raise awareness about the ways in which trans women are often “hyper-sexualized” in our culture. And I am soliciting quotes, anecdotes and insights from the trans feminine/MTF community in order to help convey the impact that this sexualization has on our lives.
Of course, all women face nonconsensual sexualization (e.g., cat calls, sexual innuendos or harassment, sexually explicit remarks about our appearances, objectifying comments or depictions, sexual violation, etc.) to varying degrees. But those of us who are trans women sometimes find that strangers and acquaintances tend to be far more explicit, hardcore and/or debasing in their sexualizing comments and behaviors when they are aware of our trans status than when they presume that we are cis women (i.e., non-trans women).
Here is how I put some of my own experiences in my book Whipping Girl:
‘...when I am assumed to be cissexual [i.e., non-transsexual], the sexualizing comments I receive almost always come from random strangers in public. However, if I meet a man in a more social situation (e.g., at a party or a bar), he rarely stoops to blatantly crass, sexualizing comments, even when he is flirting with me. However, in social settings where I am known to be transsexual (e.g., at events where I perform spoken word poetry), men do often blatantly sexualize me: I have had men immediately engage me in conversations about how much they enjoy “she-male” porn, flat-out tell me “I’m turned on by ‘girls like you,’ ” and explicitly describe the sex acts they have had with other trans women in the past. And numerous times I have received unsolicited emails, presumably from men who found my website during a search using the keyword “transsexual,” in which they described their sexual fantasies about trans women in gory detail, or asked me graphic questions about my body and sexual activities. These emails are always centered on my transsexual femaleness; I do not receive similar emails from people who presume that I am a cissexual female.’
If you are a trans woman (i.e., someone who was assigned a male sex at birth, but who identifies and/or lives as female), I would be interested in possibly including your experiences in my web article. I am particularly interested in the following types of scenarios:
1) occasions where somebody sexualized you in an especially extreme or explicit manner specifically because they knew you were trans.
2) occasions where somebody assumed that you were motivated to transition to female for primarily sexual reasons (for example, to receive sexual attention from men, to engage in sex work, or to fulfill some kind of sexual fantasy or “perversion”).
3) occasions where medical or psychiatric professionals (particularly those fulfilling a “gatekeeper” role) made especially sexualizing remarks about your appearance, behaviors or motives/desire to transition, or were sexualizing in other ways.
4) occasions where someone sexualized your trans body, identity and/or motives for transitioning in order to dismiss your female identity or to insinuate that you are not a “real” woman.
For each incident you wish to share, please write a brief paragraph describing what happened (btw, you may submit more than one incident/paragraph). Obviously, other factors besides trans status (e.g., race, age, class, size, ability, to name a few) can also impact the specific ways in which women are sexualized, so feel free to include any other contextual information that you feel is necessary to accurately convey what happened. Also, keep in mind that other people may eventually be reading these quotes, so be sure to omit any unimportant info that you feel might place your (or anyone else’s) anonymity in jeopardy (e.g., where you live or work, people’s names, etc.). Also, I will not be editing these paragraphs at all (except possibly for length), so you might want to double-check for spelling mistakes and typos.
For those interested, please send your experiences to me at firstname.lastname@example.org - I can assure you that YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFO WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED OR SHARED WITH ANYONE. Please paste the text into the body of the email (no attachments please). In the email, please also include a statement along the following lines: “I certify that all of the provided information is true to the best of my knowledge, and I give Julia Serano permission to permanently post these quotes on her website and to allow her to excerpt them in her future writings or presentations on the topic of the sexualization of trans women.” I hope to complete this article by the end of January, so I’d appreciate it if you sent me your experiences sooner rather than later.
For the record, this work is not the part of any kind of “research project.” I am approaching this subject as both a trans activist (who wants to raise awareness about an issue which has a profound negative impact trans women’s lives) and a journalist (who wants to chronicle a phenomenon that has been largely ignored by the cis mainstream and in cis feminist circles). It is my hope that the final web article will contain a series of quotes from trans women speaking in their own voices, describing the types of sexualization they have faced and the impact it has had on their lives. The article will be permanently placed on my website, as I hope that it will become a useful resource for trans activists, trans feminists, trans academics, and others who wish to analyze and/or call attention to the nonconsensual sexualization that trans women routinely face.
One last point: The purpose of this article is to highlight the ways in which trans women are nonconsensually sexualized by others. It is *not* about healthy, consensual sexuality, nor about trans women’s sexual behaviors and proclivities. Too often people who wish to sexualize women use our own sexual expressions or experiences against us in order to insinuate that we are somehow “asking for it” (i.e., asking to be sexualized). For this reason, this article will focus solely on the sexual assumptions that *other people make about us*, rather than on our own sexualities.
Feel free to cross-post this request on any trans-focused websites/blogs/email lists at your discretion. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at email@example.com
Thanks in advance!
writer, spoken word artist, trans woman activist