Transmisogny and Transphobia Within the Black Community

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Since I was a young child I’ve known whom the “other” is when it comes to gender identity. If I wasn’t hearing negative comments from family members, then I was hearing it on TV and in movies. People around me had no regard or care and often used words like “fag”, “homo”, “she/he”, and “tranny” to describe those who looked or acted differently whether or not they identified as gay or transsexual. These words that I heard and the negativity that I saw definitely had a stronger impact on my views and opinions than I ever realized. This became apparent to me when I was 13 years old and found myself committing what some would call a hate crime. Keep in mind that I lived in a predominantly Black Caribbean neighborhood, and in telling this story and writing this paper I am speaking from the position of a black female. There was a gay couple that lived in my neighborhood; sadly this couple was often the victim of a lot of ridicule by children in our neighborhood. Many parents were very aware of what many of their children were doing and beside a small slap on the wrist they would pretty much get away with their antics. Now, I would say that I wasn’t as bad as many of the children in my neighborhood but at times I was, although I knew right from wrong I still continued to do bad things. One afternoon l I was out with two of my friends. We happened to find an old spray can around the neighborhood and decided it was a smart idea to vandalize our neighborhood. As we walked around we found ourselves in front of the gay couples house, right away we started with the jokes. My friend said that the couple was always hiding and acted like they were afraid to let people know they were gay. Of course smart, bigoted 13-year-old Nyah took it upon herself to let the whole world know that this was a gay couple in our neighborhood. I took the spray can and painted the word “GAY” in big letters on the sidewalk in front of their house with arrow pointing directly to their door so that no one would be mistaken. I knew what would happen when I painted that, people would go their house, some of the older guys would possibly attack them, their neighbors who had no problem with them would start to judge them and as I painted those letters I instantly felt regret. It hurt me the most when I saw the couple come out one day and get on their knees to scrub away the words that I had branded on their sidewalk. The point of me telling this story is not to address my specific issue but rather to look at the whole picture. Any other child that was in my neighborhood at that time could have committed that crime. The point of that story is to comment on the transphobia, homophobia, and transmisogyny that are very apparent within not only the black community but within all communities. People often say that words are just words but words hold power. The words that I heard as I child shaped how I viewed the world, and believing in that point of view is what caused me to put those words into action. We have seen in recent history how hateful words create hateful actions. The LGBTQIA+ community already has an alarmingly high rate of homicidal deaths but recently the murder of Trans women has been on the rise especially the murders of Trans Women of colour. “Trans women make up 72% of anti-LGBTQIA+ homicide victims, and 89% of these victims were people of colour.”[i]

Laverne Cox’s speech addresses this specific issue and takes it a step further and puts an intersectional analysis on it. She discusses and tries to explain the overwhelming amount of transmisogyny and transphobia within society and specifically within the black community. Cox explains how a history of oppression, demasculinization and humiliation within slavery and the Jim Crow South have affected the black people of today’s society. On this she made a comment that really helps to put context and a background to the problem of transmisogyny within the black community,

“Most of us know that during slavery and during Jim Crow, black bodies, usually black male bodies were often lynched. In these lynchings, the men’s genitals were cut off. Sometimes they were pickled and sometimes they were sold. There was this sort of historic fear and fascination with black male sexuality.”[ii]

This quote in many ways introduces hegemonic masculinity within the black community. This idea that because of their violent history, black men feel that they have to prove their masculinity. When seeing someone who does not share that same belief, it is deemed as disgraceful and inappropriate and often leads to hate speech and violence. This issue of proving or defending masculinity goes beyond the black community. Our society is based upon a strict gender binary that is detrimental to all who do not fit within it. This being said we have to realize then that transmisogyny and transphobia are learned practices and are social constructs.

Cox offers a solution to this issue by sharing a quote from Cornell West that says, “Justice is what love looks like in public” and she goes on to say that, “If we can love trans gender people, that will be a revolutionary act.” I think along with love we have to focus on educating people as well to destroy their preconceived ideas of the “other”. I know that my opinions were changed through love and education. When we love and support those that are marginalized as well as educating those around us we are fighting against all of the “isms” and “phobias” that society has created and enforced upon them.

[i] Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.

[ii] ibid.

Word Count: 980

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4 thoughts on “Transmisogny and Transphobia Within the Black Community

  1. Great job on analyzing Laverne Cox’s speech! Also, thank you for sharing your story. It was interesting to see how your thoughts have changed over time with love and education. I agree that those two are the key aspects in inspiring people to see different perspectives and have a broader and critical insight into society. I believe that education for young children is essential to redefine the social constructs. Concerning the transmisogyny, why do you think that trans women are more targeted, in terms of hate crimes, than trans men? I also think it is worth noting that marginalized people almost always have to have a representative in order to get their voice heard. You don’t ever see a privileged person having a person to represent their whole group. However, Laverne, for example, is talking to represent trans women of colour. As a black woman, do you ever feel like what you do is a representation of your race or gender rather than a representation of who you are as a person? If so, how would you be able to connect that experience with other marginalized people?

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  2. Good job, on analyzing Laverne Cox’s speech on transmisogyny and transphobia. I liked how you started your analysis by talking about the influences you’ve had on your views. i believe this is a key component to look at when talking about any form of discrimination because it is usually caused form the media, or own families, or how we are educated. I agree that transmisogyny and transphobia are learned practices and are a social construct. To help change these social constructs it is very important to change the way younger generations are educated and raised to change their views. I really like how you included a personal experience and how your views have changed on the whole subject. Relating back to transmisogyny why do you think it is that women are more prone to this discrimination and hate crimes? and why is it do you think that men do not face the same levels of discrimination? As well how much do you think it helps the trans community to have a spokesperson such as laverne Cox speaking up for their behalf’s.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I felt your personal anecdote truly strengthened it. I too have witnessed first hand family members making negative comments about the LGBTQ community. If it was all that I heard it would have probably shaped me a lot more. You spoke of hegemonic masculinities and misogyny affecting black men. Do you feel this also affects black women? I sometimes feel black women are told to expunge emphasized femininities as well and find their behaviour hardened as a response to the oppression of their race. Do you think this could have also affected black women’s response to trans-women and how so? It was great hearing your views on the intersection of black and trans oppression.
    -srhs

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  4. Thank you for sharing your powerful story! I feel everyone has come a long way on their path from childhood I remember that I too was no angel especially in high school. Though if ever you get the chance to see that couple again perhaps take the time to apologize, you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to forgive. If you could visit your younger self what advice would you have for a younger you? How in depth would you go and how would you make your advice appeal to the younger you/ the younger generation and do you believe that these things should be taught in school? Your analyzation of Laverne Cox’s speech was well thought out, but in terms of the structure of the blog, I feel the beginning portion could’ve been broken up into smaller paragraphs.

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