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It is never acceptable to disclose a transgender person’s birth name–also known as a deadname— when that detail has absolutely no bearing on what you are talking about. Period. Full stop.
Often when seen in print in news articles or in televised media, this detail is callously thrown out as an irrelevant tidbit. However, this tiny detail acts as a huge gotcha, as if the reporter and now the audience have found some amazing secret. Deadnames are used against trans people all the time, to anger us, to silence us, to deny and erase us. Please get over it; people change their names all the time for lots of reasons. Revealing a trans person’s deadname is crass and rude because we are devalued by this act all the time. It may out us and, thus, put us in danger. It is disrespectful. And it makes one a jerk.
GLAAD has an extensive media style guide wherein they suggest:
Disclosing birth names. When a transgender person’s birth name is used in a story, the implication is almost always that this is the person’s “real name.” In fact, a transgender person’s chosen name is their real name – whether they are able to obtain a court-ordered name change or not. Many people use names they’ve chosen for themselves, and the media does not mention their birth name when writing about them, (e.g., Lady Gaga, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg). Transgender people should be accorded the same respect. When writing about a transgender person’s chosen name, do not say “she wants to be called,” “she calls herself,” “she goes by Susan,” or other phrases that cast doubt on the transgender person’s identity.
Yet this advice is so frequently ignored. GLAAD and others who have the clout, resources, and energy can continue to work productively with offenders. There is also a simultaneous, parallel, and perhaps slightly cathartic approach. It is inspired by Amy Dentata and Black Dahlia Parton’sStart to Hate rating system , defined simply as “rate media based on how long it takes to encounter something bigoted. The longer it takes, the better the media.”
The ideal in this system is to have a Not Applicable score, meaning that no score is the best score. Given that, there is valid question whether it’s useful to even count words. Like any other trans person, I read plenty of news stories about trans people. And I already play this game where I wait for the deadname shoe to drop. This game, then, puts a number on the anticipation and focuses my scrutiny on the writer. Additionally, it affords an arbitrary score to see how awful we think writers are.
Words to Deadname: the number of words in a media piece (news story, article, etc.) from when a transgender person is first introduced by chosen, real name to when their deadname is mentioned. Note this may be negative if they are introduced by deadname first, as if frequently the case when writing about childhood.
I see this same deadname problem over and over. Sometimes I write the author an email but other times I don’t have the wherewithal, or there are other important things to do. This lets us vent and call attention to the issue–yet another dispiriting archives–using a crudely quantitative measure… Because numbers allegedly mean something. (Someday I may attempt to pass this off as some sort of content analysis or discourse analysis or somesuch all academic.)
In the meantime, as I am a librarian, I suppose I should be concerned with citation style and some level of standardization. I will thus use this reporting format:
Words to Deadname : [number] : Author, editor, (Publisher) : [link]
Words to Deadname : 73 : Guilbert, Kieran, eds. Belinda Goldsmith and Alisa Tang (Reuters): http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/20/transgender-murder-idUSL6N0T33S120141120
Archiving the latest volley of stories about transgender folk at women’s colleges, specifically paying attention to the welcoming of transmasculine students in light of continued exclusion of transfeminine students.
By Ruth Padawer
October 15, 2014
Posted to Facebook 2014-10-19 11:27:
The title itself is awful. More importantly, though, it can be more properly rewritten: When Male/Masculine Privilege Asserts Itself at Women’s Colleges. […]
Bonus points: watch for the overt transmisogyny by one dude.
Reply 2014-10-19 13:40:
Yeah, I agree, […], the idea of women’s colleges being perceived as safe(r) spaces for general queerness is probably accurate and that’s why they remain an attractive choice for some transmasculine/men folk. I mean, masculinity is a relatively hostile, hypercompetitive, and frequently toxic sphere. I totally understand any reticence trans men may feel about entering that world… but… trans women have had no choice but to navigate that realm the best they could in order to survive. And when we are unwelcome in, or barred from, these safe(r) women’s spaces, as we simultaneously see men welcomed, embraced, and celebrated in them, it becomes a really sore point to say the least.
Personally, it’s a fuzzy
line[boundary] but my feeling is that gender non-conforming and genderqueer assigned-female (AFAB) folk at women’s colleges is generally[completely] fine (provided it is not overpowered by white gnc/gq as it frequently, sadly is). The caveat about AFAB gnc/genderqueerness/non-binariness _in queer spaces_, though, one that is just about *never* spoken about (except by those left out, of course), is that it is often the default genderqueerness. Note I said _in queer spaces_ because, yeah, in general, it’s looked upon askance; however in queer spaces (touching back to your original point) you will find very few transfeminine and gnc/gq/nb AMAB folk.
In all my years of visible transfeminine-ness before coming out, I had literally nowhere to go, no refuge or safe(r) space. I’m sure my experience is far from unique. Thankfully, I had enough intersecting privilege to make it. But there are others who are quite fine with being transfeminine–who will face nastiness throughout their lives. Also, turning trans women and transfeminine folk out of (gender)queer spaces brings with it fatal consequences, especially when intersected with racism, classism, etc.
But once somebody steers towards a transmasculine identity, and certainly towards a trans man identity, then it becomes kind of shabby, appropriative, and privileged to stay, especially given the current state of colleges not accepting trans women. I mean, I happily and wholeheartedly support trans men navigating masculine spheres; it’s a rough fight. But that’s where their struggle lies–building better masculinities. It does not lie in taking space in women’s colleges.
Reply 2014-10-19 13:54:
Comment elicited by my increasing feelings of isolation as a trans woman grad student on campus:
[Our campus Q Center had (has?)] many more genderqueer assigned-female people, more then they had mentors for. Meanwhile there were relatively very few trans women or transfeminine folk actively seeking services from the center. Then I spoke with another trans woman [tangentially affiliated with campus… who] mentioned that she knew at least half a dozen trans women on campus who did not feel welcomed or comfortable in the center.
I mean, that breaks my heart, considering our Q Center, and campus, is pretty damned aware. And, like, our campus is coed and non-exclusionary to begin with. And, for as much as I see things for trans folk improving in general, it still makes me sad that some things have remained the same. I was not terribly surprised [to hear of the relative absence of trans women].
This does seem to point to something going on that keeps more trans women and transfeminine folk from either being out and/or engaging. Personally, I suspect internalized transmisogyny plays somewhat into this. Added to the high social cost of coming out toward a transfeminine direction along with the valorization of (trans)masculinity of (trans)femininity, this begins to explain trans women’s invisibility.
Earlier in that week, Janet Mock came to campus for a moderated discussion and interview. Among many other insights, two things in particular stood out for me, namely
- she said a number of times that she sees very few trans women of color, on campuses and at events like this.
- paraphrasing, but at one moment she said something along the lines, “I see mostly white trans men on campus”
Reply 2014-10-19 19:20 re: transmisogynistic student quoted in the article:
Given the scope of the article, I cannot honestly make any assumptions on what the interviewees felt toward trans women’s inclusion. But that guy, yeah, played his overtly transmisogynistic hand. It reads like standard transmisogyny.txt
I mean, it’s overtly gross that a trans person would be enforcing some surgical/medical requirement on another trans person. Like, asserting “male bodied” against trans women at a place where a lot of trans men have yet to assuage their alleged “female bodied-ness” is pretty damn hypocritical.
The hypothetical “what if she goes back to identifying as male” is garbage, precisely cuz with a defined policy in place, one stipulating any men are not admitted/allowed, the person could rightfully be asked to leave. It also jibes similar to the hypothetical argument of keeping trans women out of women’s restrooms because a man claiming to be trans *could possibly* sneak in.
Finally the trans men raised as female canard gets trotted out again as some technicality. I mean, it isn’t entirely untrue, depending on the individual. However, it entirely discounts the other ways that women come into womanhood. Hidden behind the “socialized as female” dodge is the sly implication that all trans women were raised, and enjoyed life, as cis boys in the absence of “female socialization.” [adding: these twin “socialized as” pieces of double-bind logic are used to rationalize trans men’s inclusion in women’s spaces while simultaneously excluding trans women.]
The particularly galling thing about this line is that nobody but nobody, except other trans women, realize that not only were many of our upbringings and socializations traumatic and harmful… but nobody mourns or gives a damn about our lost girlhoods. [which segues into our paths to womanhood]
And like, dude, for somebody raised as female you are being really shitty to a marginalized class of women.
By Adrian Scott Duane
October 27, 2014
Response by a trans man in The Advocate Online.
Sisterhood should still have a place in academia as long as there are women — cisgender and transgender — who desire it.
A thorough response by Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello.
A righteous post by Emma Caterine. I am still chuckling at this line.
Somewhere in hell Andrew Carnegie is thinking to himself, “Wow what a scam! I wish I had know you could do that. I could’ve gotten into the soup kitchen by saying I understand what it’s like to be a poor person, since I used to be one.”
by Tim Chevalier
Disgust is political. In this case, the political work it does is upholding male supremacy. How? Well, the assignment of sex to infants at birth is an offer they can’t refuse. Masculinity, as we know it, is so fragile that it cannot survive the slightest bit of doubt in its superiority over all other forms of gendered embodiment. By exercising their autonomy to say “no” to that offer, which they never wanted, trans women jeopardize the precarious prestige of masculinity. The punishment they receive is disgust.
Attention liberals and/or progressives. We gotta talk. We gotta talk about Ann Coulter. If you know and/or love trans women, first read this very carefully but then actively fight this in your social circles when it happens.
Whenever Ann Coulter spews nonsense, an extremely short fuse leads to some allegedly liberal/progressive person making a comment about her Adam’s apple, or referring to her as “he.” Sometimes they just short-circuit the entire process and call her a man. It’s all the same insult, though: cheap humor at the expense of trans women, who end up being collateral damage.
Most liberals/progressives do not see this connection. Therefore, let me break this down for you.
First, this is plain old misogyny. In point of scientific fact, all women have Adam’s apples. Look it up. Though they are generally less prominent than men’s, some women have larger or noticeable ones. (You’ll note also the extreme variation in men’s Adam’s apples.) Criticizing a (cis or trans) woman’s ideology by insulting her physical features is straight up misogynist bullshit.
Secondly, trans women are body-policed in this manner all the time. We are called men in order to shame us, mock us, and shut us up. Being called men dehumanizes us and invalidates us because that is not what we are. It is transphobia aimed specifically at trans women. It is misogyny specifically aimed at trans women, otherwise known as transmisogyny. This word violence has life-and-death consequences because it is directly linked to physical violence.
Trying to invalidate Ann Coulter by implying that she’s a man is this same transmisogynistic tactic. Using transmisogynistic tactics against any woman, cis or trans, is transmisogyny. It uses the idea of trans women as the insult itself. In fact, some commenters just flat out call her a tranny, using that word and trans womanhood as the insult.
So, following this, calling her a man as an insult is the same as calling her a trans woman as an insult. There is nothing wrong, negative, or insulting about being a trans woman; however, this tactic weaponises trans womanhood against us.
Ann Coulter doesn’t care what you call her; in fact she thrives on it. What is really happening then is that trans women are receiving the brunt of this because, first, the stigma of women being called men is acutely felt *EVERY DAY* by trans women. Not a day goes by that a trans woman’s womanhood and humanity are not questioned and mocked. This not only adds to that stigma but also normalizes it. It makes it seemingly legitimate in supposedly “liberal” and “progressive” discourse.
The problems should now be abundantly clear:
1) Calling out any woman’s ideology by attacking her appearance is an ad hominem, thus wrong. It is at the very minimum misogynist.
2) Calling any woman a man shows either a lack of understanding about trans women’s issues or a callous disregard for them. It is ignorant.
3) It is exactly the same tactic transphobes use against trans women. It is just as bad, then. It is transphobic… and specifically transmisogynistic… and, because trans women are women, it is misogynistic on top of all of that.
4) It is most likely even racist because trans women of color are especially affected by this type of attack. And plenty of cisgender women of color, who also do not fall into white supremacist and Eurocentric standards of feminine beauty and womanhood, are attacked this way as well. See http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2013/12/transmisogyny-isnt-just-being-aimed-at.html and follow the links.
5) Even if unintentionally and unwittingly, it is a virus spreading misunderstanding and hatred of trans women. It is enabling violence against trans women.
6) It is taking a topic, Ann Coulter, that has absolutely nothing to do with transgender and needlessly injecting transmisogyny.
7) Even if it turned out that she was trans, absolutely none of this would be negated. It would still be 210% wrong to do.
So cut this bullshit the fuck out. This hurts me and all my sisters. If you see others do this, tell them to cut it the fuck out.
It’s “”funny””, by which I mean totally shitty, how people will presumptuously point to some sort of universalized “male socialization” and “lack of shared girlhood” based on their own baseless conjecture of trans women’s early lives in order to put us down. At the same time, they will utterly ignore our lived experiences and realities of being severely beaten down by masculine gender policing as well as the near-total loss of our personal girlhoods.