The Trials and Travails of Transness: Trans-Sexualization

by Shaker Alexmac, a transgender woman studying at the University of Florida.

[Part 6 in an ongoing series: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5.]

I am sorry for the long delay since the last installment of this series, but I hope you enjoy or at least learn something new. The topic this time is the sexualization of trans women, which was spurred by this article, which illustrates beautifully the ways in which trans women are sexualized and fetishized. Luckily, Julia Serano dedicated a chapter in her book to this very topic (which is where I got the title from). She notes that, "trans women are objectified, because our bodies and our persons are female." The sexualization of trans women ultimately comes from plain old sexism. Our transness just makes us more objectifable women. This is one of the reasons why I feel that cisgender feminists should help defend transgender women, because we all face the same bigotry against femaleness.

We can first see how the media sexualizes trans women and removes our agency in multiple ways. The first way is via the "deceiver" trope where trans women are portrayed as luring and tricking men. This came be seen in movies like the Crying Game or Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Another negative stereotype is the trans woman as sex worker. While many trans women are forced into sex work in order to survive and pay for transition, it is often the only way that trans women are portrayed in media. When trans women are not being portrayed as sex workers then they are shown putting on make up or having the "surgery." A sad fact so common that such scenes are then used in many trans documentary drinking games. These depictions in the media make cissexual people only associate trans women with sex and not see us as people.

Another way we are sexualized is similar to the logic used by people who call women with a short skirt or extra cleavage are "asking" for sex. Julia Serano explains that an extremely popular assumption is that, "trans women transform ourselves into women to invite male sexualization and sexual advances." This is probably due to sexualization in the media as already discussed and by the prevalence of "tranny" porn, which brings us back to the article that started off this whole post.

Men view us as primarily sexual objects, but not women who they want to carry on a relationship with. This toxic secret admirer dynamic further marginalizes trans women as other and less than cis women. As trans women are just starting to come out many of them are often looking for validation of their identity and can be targets for men who want a "tranny" experience. I know personally, I was propositioned twice by these tranny chasers, when I was just accepting that I was transsexual and wanting to be validated as a woman.

Psychologists further support this view that trans women are "asking for it" in a number of different ways. The most glaring example is that gender identity disorder (GID) which is the diagnosis that allows a trans person to transition is placed in with sexual paraphilias like necrophilia and pedophilia. Additionally, trans women are the subject of pet theories like autogynephilia, which is defined by an erotic interest in the thought or image of oneself as a woman. This theory is prominently featured in the pseudo science book The Man Who Would be Queen, written by Michael Bailey. Recent studies have found autogynephilia occuring in 93% of cis women, which is really not surprising, because the theory itself is a farce driven by bigotry.

Sexualization of trans women has the same goals as sexualization of cis women; we are stripped of our sexual agency and put into the position of victims or prey for men. We face our own set of issues related to negative portrayals in the media and by porn. These often center on the genitalia of trans women and depict us as more objectifiable women. There is a reason that mostly heterosexual men watch tranny porn. While the article tries to depict the interest in tranny porn as some sort of sexual revolution, it is more like meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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