When stereotypes equal safety

One of the many things that annoys me about anti-trans activists is that on one hand they accuse trans people of perpetuating gender stereotypes, and on the other they viciously mock trans women who don’t conform to stereotypical ideas of female beauty. As the wonderfully named Tranna Wintour writes in The Walrus, it’s very difficult not to conform when non-conformance is policed, sometimes violently.

My being seen as the woman I am is almost entirely dependent on my ability to perform femininity as its been established in our culture—namely, to be beautiful. Here is how I feel most of us have been taught to process gender: if a person looks female, she’s a woman; if a person looks male, he’s a man. Those of us who don’t always look perfectly female or perfectly male are subject to being misgendered and misunderstood; we are often the subject of ridicule, judgement, and scrutiny.

I’m not beautiful, but nevertheless my ability to go through the world as me is largely dependent on how I present: the blurrier the line between male and female the more unwanted attention I attract. To be blunt, in many contexts it’s better to be perceived as an ugly woman than a trans one.

Transness, in its ambiguity and nonconformity, is seen as a particularly strong threat. Transness says, “Wait, I don’t have to be a woman or a man in the way the culture has taught me to be.” Transness says, “I can be my own person. I don’t have to conform.” But, in response to that defiance, the culture says, “If you transgress against the binary, we will make life hard for you. You will be ridiculed. You will be misgendered. Your safety will be at risk.”