Transphobia (or less commonly, transprejudice and trans-misogyny, the latter referring to transphobia directed toward trans women) refers to discrimination against transsexuality and transsexual or transgender people, based on the expression of their internal gender identity. Whether intentional or not, transphobia can have severe consequences for the object of the negative attitude. Many transpeople also experience homophobia from people who incorrectly associate their gender identity with homosexuality. Attacking someone on the basis of a perception of their gender identity rather the perception of their sexual orientation is known as "trans-bashing," as opposed to "gay bashing."
There are many recorded examples of transphobia in many of its different forms and manifestations throughout society. Some instances clearly involve violence and extreme malice, while others involve little more than a lack of understanding or experience of the condition, sometimes involving unconscious predisposition based upon various religious edicts or social conventions.
Difficulties encountered by transgender people
Sometimes homeless shelters and prisons have engaged in practices that have a demeaning impact on trans women, refusing, for example, admission to women's areas and forcing them to sleep and bathe in the presence of men. This situation has been changing in some areas, however. For example, on February 8, 2006, New York City's Department of Homeless Services announced an overhaul of its housing policy with the goal of specifically ending discrimination against transgender people in its shelters.
Transphobia in healthcare
Transgender people depend largely on the medical profession to receive not only hormone replacement therapy, but also other vital care. Often it can be difficult for gender patients to receive proper health care and treatment, because medical gatekeepers who are transphobic (or who misunderstand the nature of gender identity disorder) will refuse to administer necessary treatment; in at least one case that included the refusal to treat Robert Eads, a trans man, for ovarian cancer, of which he subsequently died.
Another example of this is the case of Tyra Hunter. Ms. Hunter was involved in an automobile accident, and when rescue workers discovered she was transgender, they backed away and stopped administering treatment. She later died in hospital.
Transphobia in employment
Transphobia can also manifest itself in the workplace. Sometimes transsexuals lose their jobs when they begin to transition. A study from Willamette University states that discrimination is so rife that it is virtually impossible to find a job at all.
News stories from the San Francisco Chronicle and Associated Press have cited a 1999 study by the San Francisco Department of Public Health finding a 70 percent unemployment rate amongst the city's transgender population. On February 18, 1999, the San Francisco Department of Public Health issued the results of a 1997 survey of 392 MTF (male-to-female) and 123 FTM (female-to-male) transgender people, showing amongst other things that only 40 percent of those MTF transgender people surveyed had earned money from full or part-time employment over the preceding six months' period. For FTMs, the equivalent statistic was 81 percent. The survey also found that 46 percent of MTFs and 57 percent of FTMs reported employment discrimination.
A preliminary report on the prevalence of transphobia in employment was released by National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in December of 2009. In it they reported these key findings related to the effects of transphobia in employment:
- Double the rate of unemployment: Survey respondents experience unemployment at twice the rate of the population as a whole.
- Near universal harassment on the job: Ninety-seven percent (97%) of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job.
- Significant losses of jobs and careers: Forty-seven percent (47%) had experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being fired, not hired or denied a promotion.
- High rates of poverty: Fifteen percent (15%) of transgender people in our sample lived on $10,000 per year or less than double the rate of the general population.
In the hiring process, discrimination may be either open or covert, with employers finding other ostensible reasons not to hire a candidate or just not informing prospective employees at all as to why they are not being hired. Additionally, when an employer fires or otherwise discriminates against a transgender employee, it may be a "mixed motive" case, with the employer openly citing obvious wrongdoing, job performance issues or the like (such as excessive tardiness, for example) while keeping silent in regards to transphobia.
Employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression is illegal in a number of U.S. cities, towns and states. Such discrimination is outlawed by specific legislation in the State of New Jersey and might be in other states (as it is in the states of California, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington state) or city ordinances; additionally, it is covered by case law in some other states. (For example, Massachusetts is covered by cases such as Lie vs. Sky Publishing Co. and Jette vs. Honey Farms.) Several other states and cities prohibit such discrimination in public employment. Sweden and the United Kingdom has also legislated against employment discrimination on the grounds of gender identity. Sometimes, however, employers discriminate against transgender employees in spite of such legal protections.
There is at least one high-profile employment-related court case unfavorable to transgender people. In 2000, the Southern U.S. grocery chain Winn-Dixie fired longtime employee Peter Oiler, despite a history of repeatedly earning raises and promotions, after management learned that the married, heterosexual truck driver occasionally cross-dressed off the job. Management argued that this hurt Winn-Dixie's corporate image. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Winn-Dixie on behalf of Oiler but a judge dismissed it. The case, however, led to a picket of the company's Jacksonville, Florida, headquarters and a boycott against the company.
Sometimes transgendered people facing employment discrimination turn to sex work to survive, placing them at additional risk of such things as encountering troubles with the law, including arrest and criminal prosecution; enduring workplace violence; and possibly contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.
Transprejudice is a similar term to transphobia, and refers to the negative valuing, stereotyping, and discriminatory treatment of individuals whose appearance and/or identity does not conform to current social expectations or conventional conceptions of gender.
Transprejudice may be manifested in ways similar to other prejudicial beliefs, such as homophobia or sexual prejudice. As Blumenfeld (1992) suggests, homophobia functions on four distinct, yet interrelated, levels: personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural (also referred to as collective or societal). Adapting Blumenfeld's framework for use with transprejudice, personal transprejudice would refer to an individual's belief system (prejudices) about transgender and transsexual individuals. Interpersonal transprejudice would be evident when a personal prejudice transforms into discriminatory behavior. Institutional transprejudice would be seen in the ways in which government, business, religious, educational, and professional organizations (e.g., the medical and psychiatric community) systematically discriminate against transgender and transsexual individuals. Finally, cultural transprejudice would refer to the social cognition that influences attitudes toward transgender and transsexual persons.
Transphobia in the lesbian, gay and bisexual community
Some members of the LGBT communities are uncomfortable with transgender individuals and issues. For example, trans women (male-to-female transgender and transsexual people) are sometimes denied entry to women's spaces, and the explanations given for such actions betray a degree of transphobia. The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, for instance, has caused much debate for limiting its attendance to "womyn-born womyn". Kay Brown of transhistory.net ("Transsexual, Transgender and Intersex History") has set forth a long chronology of the ejection of those whom we now know as "transgendered" from gay organizations starting in the 1970s.
While many gays and lesbians feel that transgender is simply a name for a part of their own community (i.e. the LGBT community), others actively reject the idea that transgender people are part of their community, seeing them as entirely separate and distinct. Some feel that bisexuality and transgenderism are detrimental to the social and political acceptance of gays and lesbians. This phenomenon has been called internalized homophobia, meaning an irrational fear and dislike of other homosexuals. This presumes that transgender people are, in fact, "homosexuals", a descriptor which is often hotly debated, but with little real meaning due to the nature of the differences between gender and sexuality - for example, if a trans woman is attracted only to other women, then she is either lesbian by nature of being a woman, or is otherwise a heterosexual man.
Forum user Alyssa M. had this opinion on an editorial entitled, "Transphobia in the Gay Community, Part II":
[Inclusion of "transgender" under the LGBT umbrella] conflicted with the goals of many of the coalition builders, increasingly professional political operatives, which was to capture public sympathy by appealing to an image of homosexuals as people "just like" the majority of U.S. voters...
As a result, some gays found themselves agreeing with straights, who see in transgenders an assault on normative reality...
This is the heart of the problem, as I see it:
A whole lot of queer people just don't want to be seen as queer. They'd rather be seen as straight but for one little tiny thing, be it that they were "born in the wrong body" or they love A rather than B. In other words, they buy into all the prejudices and assumptions about normative behavior that lead to prejudice against them in the first place. Whenever people do that, they start to deny other people's identity, not least because they tend to overcompensate by being more strict in their normativity in other ways to show what good, upstanding members of society they are. As this article demonstrates, it's a two-way street, and it happens all over queer circles -- trans people who don't want to be seen as gay, gay people who don't want to be seen as trans, middle-class suburban gay businessmen versus lower-class urban drag queens, crossdressers and transsexual women who don't want to be associated with one another, post-op versus non-op, young and old transitioners, etc. It all amounts to different ways people try to maintain some remnant of straight privilege.
But if you express your identity in a positive matter -- what you are rather than what you are not -- and try not to get caught up in deciding whether other people's identities are valid, then it stops mattering as much whether you fit into mainstream society.
The nature of the terms man and woman also become unclear in a similar way under this philosophy, and many feel that the only real recourse is to accept that the mind and feeling of a person is the only thing that gives that person identity, and so a person that has a female identity and mind is indeed a woman, as agreed by much legislation in Europe enabling transsexual people to have the sex recorded on their birth certificates amended accordingly. According to this thinking, it becomes clear that in at least a categorical sense, transgendered people should only be accepted in the gay and lesbian community if they themselves self-identify as gay or lesbian as any other homosexual person does, and the blanket assumption on the part of some gay and lesbian people on the nature of those transgendered people who are in their LGB community with a view to dis-inclusion constitutes an issue of transphobia. The implacability of this question has been overcome by the rise in the 1990s of queer theory and the queer community, which defines queer as embracing all variants of sexual identity, sexual desire, and sexual acts that fall outside normative definitions of heterosexuality; thus a heterosexual man or woman as well as a transgender person of any sex can be included in the category of queer through their own choice.
- Transgender Day of Remembrance
- Violence against LGBT people
- Transgender Law Center
- Janice Raymond
- Crime reduction - Police crack down on hate crimes. Metropolitan Police. Retrieved on 6 June 2009.
- Beam, Cris (January 2008). Transparent. Harvest Books. ISBN 9780156033770.
- NYC's Department of Homeless Services Issues a Trans-Affirmative Housing Policy. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center (5 February 2006). Retrieved on 6 September 2006..
- Transsexual to move to 'safer' LA. BBC News (6 September 2005).]
- FTM Informational Network
- Remembering Our Dead
- Victory in Tyra Hunter case
- JoAnna McNamara (30 August 1996). Employment discrimination and the Transsexual. Willamette University. Retrieved on 10 September 2006.
- The Transgender Community Health Project (18 February 1999). Sociodemographics. Descriptive Results. HIVInSite. Retrieved on 7 September 2006.
- Barbara Findlay, Q.C. (June 1999). Transgendered people and Employment: An equality analysis. Barbara Findlay Law Office. Retrieved on 10 September 2006.
- King, M., Webster, B., & Winter, S. (2007). Transprejudice in Hong Kong: Chinese Attitudes Towards Transgenderism and Transgender Civil Rights (under review)
- Blumenfeld, W. J. (1992). Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price: Beacon Press.
- Taormino, Tristan (13 September 2000). Trouble in Utopia. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 7 September 2006.
- Weiss, Jillian Todd. GL vs. BT: The Archaeology of Biphobia and Transphobia Within the U.S. Gay and Lesbian Community. Retrieved on 7 July 2006.
- See Fone, B.R.S. (2000). Homophobia. New York: Metropolitan Books; Sears, J.T., and Williams, W.L. (1997). Overcoming Heterosexism and Homophobia. New York: Columbia University Press
- Transphobia in the Gay Community, Part II Susan's Place forums
- UK Gender recognition act, Explanatory notes paragraph 4. UK Office of public Sector Information (8 July 2004). Retrieved on 8 September 2006..
- Survivor bashing - bias motivated hate crimes
- NCTE/NGLTF Preliminary Report (.pdf)
- Transgender Law Center
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