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Transfeminism: Get Your Tits Bound For The Girls! - Sarah, The Bringer of Tea
11th March, 2009
02:29 pm

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Transfeminism: Get Your Tits Bound For The Girls!
This is going to be a bit controversial.

To me, objectification is the act of reducing people with a particular characteristic to (sex) objects. Seeing them as people first (or even at all) is incompatible with this state of mind - they are desired because of what they are, and not who they are. I regard blanket objectification (that is, reducing a whole group of people to sex objects) as a bad thing because in ignoring the humanity of the target of the attraction, the one who objectifies them is likely to ignore their wants and needs, should they ever get close to them. They're not a partner or a lover; a partnership goes both ways. Drafting someone in to fulfil a role, a desire for a sex object, reduces them to the status of a masturbation aid.

To me, a tranny chaser is someone with a fetish for trans people, who objectifies us and reduces us to the status of a fantasy sex toy, a masturbation aid. The term was traditionally applied to (usually heterosexual-identified) men who sought out sex with (almost exclusively) pre-operative trans women, or male-to-female crossdressers, but more recently it has been applied to another group of people. These are women, usually queer-identified, who fetishise and objectify trans people, almost exclusively trans men. It's the latter kind of "tranny chaser" I want to talk about in this post.

I subscribe to a brand of feminism which can broadly be described as "sex positive", and I'm aware there is a fine line to walk between condemning the objectification and sexualisation of under-privileged groups (i.e. not just women, but anyone in a position where the group sexualising them has some sort of social position of power over them), and condemning healthy erotic activity between consenting adults. As a practitioner of BDSM who has had occasion to find myself caged, tied to crosses, and so on (in other words, objectified by choice), it would be easy for me to fall victim to hypocrisy here. I think there is a key difference between mutually consenting adults negotiating role-play which may involve temporary objectification for the purposes of a mutually satisfying erotic episode on the one hand, and a general objectifying attitude towards a whole group of people, most of whom one will never meet, on the other.

I think the process of objectification can be pervasive within a culture too. The most obvious example is the large-scale sexualisation and commodification of women's bodies in our culture, which has whole industries behind it. Racks of glossy magazines prey on the insecurity of women, constantly reinforcing the message that if they want to have any kind of self-worth, and any chance of snagging a mate, after the age of 30, they have to spend their money on the latest gloop from the cosmetics industry, pimped by people in lab coats past whom one must run a gauntlet (excuse me madam, like to try a tester? Are you happy with your foundation? Do you keep your nails natural? Would you like to talk about your skin?) to acquire a new pair of socks, or tube of toothpaste. That much of this scam industry is perpetuated by women speaks to me about how insidious and pervasive it is - it's hard not to buy into a message that's preying on your insecurities and lack of self esteem if you're constantly bombarded with it.

And so it is with "chasers". The message that trans people constantly get from society is that we're freaks, that the relatively androgynous looks that most of us end up with are not conventionally attractive, that nobody will want a relationship with us, that we are figures of fun, and perhaps pity. We must adjust our expectations, because if "real" women struggle to live up to the airbrushed ideals of the Cosmo and Marie Claire, and "real" men struggle to live up to the toned, tanned, six pack on the front of Men's Health, what chance do most of us have when our starting line is even further back?

It's my firm opinion that this is bullshit - you don't need to be caked in makeup and be wearing the latest fashions to enjoy a fulfilling relationship as a middle-aged woman, nor do you need to spend ridiculous amounts of money on painful cosmetic surgery (attending a presentation by a facial feminisation surgeon is an interesting experience - my experience as someone in their target demographic has been that they make used car salesmen look like rank amateurs, which is not to say one shouldn't go for FFS if it's what one wants), or accept that you're going to be the dehumanised sex toy of a tranny chaser to have one as a trans person.

It's highly persuasive and pervasive bullshit though, and I don't think those who fall victim to it are to be blamed - fending off a relentless assault on ones self-esteem is never going to be the easiest thing in the world.

Which brings me to this webcomic. My little Photoshop Cosmo skit/snark above is derived work of part of it, and I think that it, and the author's LiveJournal entry discussing it (please don't take this as an invitation to go over there and flame/troll en-masse) are very illustrative. The comic talks about how hot trans men are, hints at how it's all really about women doing a sexy performance act, and when a trans man speaks up to object in the penultimate panel, explaining that he's not just a sex object, that he's a man, his concerns are dismissed. In a grotesque inversion of the misogynist's old favourite, he is "asking for it" by being provocatively hot. It's his own fault he is objectified, his own fault his gender identity is treated as a joke, perhaps to be paid the merest lip service to with the odd male pronoun (as long as the chaser finds that erotic), and if he were a "real man", he wouldn't be getting this unwanted attention.

Quite apart from the way the author seems unapologetic about her quite blatant objectification of trans men (she jokingly adds that when she is queen, there will be "hot transguys for all" in one comment), what is interesting and disheartening for me is the number of trans people who actually thank her for "writing about trans issues" (is that analogous to how Hugh Hefner writes about "women's issues", I wonder?), and for finding trans people (mostly meaning trans men) "hot".

One might say that as a woman, this isn't my fight, but I don't think that's true, because a) I feel some sense of community and solidarity with trans men, and b) there's a way in which female tranny chasers hurt trans women as well. Unlike her male counterparts over at, say, www.hungangels.com (I deliberately didn't make that a link; yes, it's a real website, no, you probably don't want to go and look at it - trust me on this, and if you do, at least turn images off in your browser first), female chasers quite often pose as "good queers". Quite a large proportion of the women who fetishise trans men self-identify as lesbians, and apparently see trans men as just another part of the lesbian community. The nasty corollary is that, if trans men are really "just another kind of lesbian", then trans women are really "just another kind of men". I've seen lesbian discussion/dating sites which claim to cater for "Femmes, Butches and Transguys", and the message I take away from that is that women like me are not welcome, or even considered women at all.

I don't know if I should be angry with the trans people thanking the author for this comic because they're contributing to the further marginalisation of trans people (and especially trans women) in the queer community, saying that it's OK not to take the identified gender of trans people seriously, and that it's OK to treat it all as an erotic (if you're a trans man) or pathetic (if you're a trans woman) piece of performance art. I don't know if I should feel sorry for them because they've apparently bought into the lie that their only chance for happiness/love/sex is by welcoming the advances of trans-fetishists. What I do know is that I find it all really annoying, and terribly depressing.

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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)
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*hug*

I did "creepy" in my late teens/early twenties, I think, then I realised that it wasn't an acceptable way to behave. Pleasantly enough, the whole "avoiding being creepy" thing seems to actually facilitate the kinky/sex-positive/other stuff. Who knew? ;-)
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From:bloodbeauty
Date:11th March, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
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[hugs] thank you so much for writing this. i know i suck at the whole activism thing and i have no idea where to start with issues like this. but thank you for writing about it.
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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)
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*hugs*

Bizarrely enough, a lot of my activism has grown out of me doing things like my little Photoshop foray up there, which I did to blow off steam this morning, and then I decided to write about it too. These things seem to grow organically.
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From:phonemonkey
Date:11th March, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
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Quite a large proportion of the women who fetishise trans men self-identify as lesbians, and apparently see trans men as just another part of the lesbian community. The nasty corollary is that, if trans men are really "just another kind of lesbian", then trans women are really "just another kind of men". I've seen lesbian discussion/dating sites which claim to cater for "Femmes, Butches and Transguys", and the message I take away from that is that women like me are not welcome, or even considered women at all.

This. Totally, this. I think that as well as not seeing trans men as men, a lot of lesbians are unwilling to see themselves as being attracted to men - because that messes with their own personal identities as lesbians. You'd that they'd see that it's worse to deny someone else's gender than to rethink one's own sexuality, but that doesn't happen.

What I'm also getting is the message that there is only one "normative" kind of body - the cis male body. Cis female bodies, trans female bodies and trans male bodies are thus not "normal" bodies - they're all objects for sexual fetishisation and objectification (whether by men or women), and are either "hawt" or "pathetic". These bodies are thus primarily decorative objects for privileged observers rather than functional objects for people to live in. By the same token, I get annoyed when straight men say "But those fashion magazines are stupid - you should be curvy because we like it!"

As a bisexual cis women, there are a lot of trans guys whom I do find attractive (I'd find Buck Angel hot whatever he had in his pants), but it's rather like me admiring the beauty of the biracial children of a friend of mine - I'm privileged here. Which means that the potential for objectification and othering is very great, and the implications would be very bad.

(If my privilege is showing here, I need to be verbally kicked up the arse.)
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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC)
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What I'm also getting is the message that there is only one "normative" kind of body - the cis male body. Cis female bodies, trans female bodies and trans male bodies are thus not "normal" bodies - they're all objects for sexual fetishisation and objectification (whether by men or women), and are either "hawt" or "pathetic". These bodies are thus primarily decorative objects for privileged observers rather than functional objects for people to live in. By the same token, I get annoyed when straight men say "But those fashion magazines are stupid - you should be curvy because we like it!"

I find this really insightful. Thank you!

As a bisexual cis women, there are a lot of trans guys whom I do find attractive (I'd find Buck Angel hot whatever he had in his pants), but it's rather like me admiring the beauty of the biracial children of a friend of mine - I'm privileged here. Which means that the potential for objectification and othering is very great, and the implications would be very bad.

I think there's a big difference between finding indivduals you know attractive because of some physical characteristic (which, after al, is what a part of attraction is all about - who they are in themself is the trump card for me, but that doesn't stop me liking how someone looks), and fetishing a whole group of people because of some percieved/idealised characteristic.
Re: biphobia? - (Anonymous) - Expand
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From:snugglebitch
Date:11th March, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC)
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Thanks so much for this. I think this would be a good post for trans_feminism as well.
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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)
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Done. I also x-posted it to transgender, but removed the link to the OP.
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From:buddleia
Date:11th March, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
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I am disappointed in EM. She reacted really badly to being called on this. Bah.
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From:llieno
Date:11th March, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
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Ditto :(
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From:cyberspice
Date:11th March, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
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Excellent blog post.
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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
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Thank you
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From:llieno
Date:11th March, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC)
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Well said.

I actually quite liked EM too...it's sad how she just doesn't understand the concept of 'privilige'.

The thing that gets me is how she is categorising them so differently. As if transman does not equal man. Sure, she can say they are hot, or have better table manners, or anything complimentary or 'complimentary', but she's still seperating them from being men, which is what they are.

I'd rather be seen as pretty for how I look, and not what I am.
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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
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Thank you

I'd rather be seen as pretty for how I look, and not what I am.

Yes.
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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 05:07 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. That means a lot to me.

*hug*
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From:darkwaterfairy
Date:11th March, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
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very interest topic, but I'm late for a meeting (to call out the police for turning hate crime principles on their head ._.), so I'll got as far as scanning 1st 3 para.

Shall read absorb and reply later.

intelligent content and questionign is always good :)
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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 06:03 pm (UTC)
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to call out the police for turning hate crime principles on their head

That's so totally unlike them...
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From:gender_euphoric
Date:11th March, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
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I was weirdly chased by some cis queer women early in transition. Unlike some of the dumb ass idiot collaborator (smile) trans men (or *purported trans men, see below) who responded pettishly to the comic in the comic maker's LJ, it overall made things *much* harder for me emotionally because creepy fetishism can do that.

I think it's part of what pushes me to keep pretty stealth--i just don't want to hear creepy opinions. it's enough knowing people have them.

*i am sure many of those comments are from actual trans men. but i sort of wonder about some of the anonymous ones. i also must say that while i wouldn't question them directly, i'd assume most of them weren't like me--that is, post-transition, male-identified, etc.
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From:kynn
Date:11th March, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
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Good post.
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From:cheshire_bitten
Date:11th March, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
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See, without reading the authors comments I would have assumed that it was a kick at female trannie chasses, pity it doesn't seem to be.



From:ext_132916
Date:11th March, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)

Excellent stuff.

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Had finally the time to comment (had to complain about sexual harassment at my daughters' school for chrissakes): very good. Gosh, I'm glad I'm alive now. These days, so many other trans women (like you, for example) jus' make me so glad and proud of being a trans woman myself.
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From:aliguine
Date:11th March, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
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"[...] nor do you need to spend ridiculous amounts of money on painful cosmetic surgery (attending a presentation by a facial feminisation surgeon is an interesting experience - my experience as someone in their target demographic has been that they make used car salesmen look like rank amateurs [...]"

I have to say that this was far from my own experience of FFS in Europe. While I've no idea what the US situation is like (though I've heard about Dr. Z's 'roadshow' etc), I don't think it's the norm from what I've seen and experienced myself.

Jes' sayin' ... :)
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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
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It's nice to know it's not universal. I've attended what were billed as "talks" by certain prominent US surgeons, and in reality a lot of what was said seemed like sales pitches based on playing up the idea of how irretrievably masculine certain facial features were.
From:nixwilliams
Date:11th March, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
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as you already know, i love the cosmo image. i'm particularly taken by the description of buck angel as a 'hot girly man'.
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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
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*snerk*

ETA: And the idea of describing Buck Angel as "girly" is beyond ridiculous to me, which is why I included it. ;-)

Edited at 2009-03-11 21:43 (UTC)
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From:aesmael
Date:11th March, 2009 10:09 pm (UTC)
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Aiyessha, yes. There's an uncomfortable lot of that even just around LiveJournal. And, so infuriating seeing how she was responding in the comments, with all that concern about 'tone' in criticism, at least until comments were disabled and made invisible.
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From:auntysarah
Date:11th March, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC)
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all that concern about 'tone' in criticism, at least until comments were disabled and made invisible.

Were one being uncharitable, one might call such an action "childish".
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