Trans-misogyny? There’s an app for that.

September 26, 2009

Trans-misogyny? There's an app for that.It’s always hurtful when cis people make trans-misogynistic attacks on trans women’s gender expression, and I doubt I shall ever understand why they think they are entitled to do so. The barbs are bad enough when they’re aimed specifically at me as an individual, but when they target my entire community they inevitably seem only to add insult to injury.

I’ve just seen an example of this mindless hatred emanating from Apple computers; a company which makes products of which I’ve been a long-time fan – indeed, I’m writing this on my much-loved PowerBook and I’m soundtracking my blogging with music played on my iPod. So to then view the cheap shot that is their latest commercial is a huge disappointment, to say the least.

GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has already formally requested Apple Inc to withdraw the advert (you can read the details here) which they describe as follows:

The ad features model Gisele Bundchen, who is supposed to be the embodiment of a home movie made using iMovie. After the Mac presents Gisele, the PC presents a person wearing a dress identical to Gisele’s, in a wig, with no breasts, a five o’clock shadow and an abundance of exposed chest hair.

The ad ends with the line:

“Work in progress?”

For me, perhaps the worst thing about this is the perpetuation of a stereotype founded on pure ignorance. The point that so few cis people ever seem to understand is that transsexual women like me transition as a way of managing the intense morphic dissonance we experience. Do you not think that if we simply wanted to be cross-dressing caricatures as depicted in the Apple ad, then we would? Does it not occur to you that we turn our lives upside down, we lose families, friends, loved ones, jobs, houses, cars – everything – because that is what we need to do to survive? Do you really believe we “choose” to be transsexual, that transitioning is nothing more than a “lifestyle choice” that we could freely reverse if only we would see things your way?

And really, the idea that every transsexual woman wants to look like some fictitious ideal of a femme-y woman is as much of a stereotype as the “bloke in a frock” image on which it’s founded – and I say that both stereotypes are wrong. Transsexual women’s gender expression is every bit as varied as cis women’s; a fact conveniently ignored by the oh-so-cool hipsters in the marketing department in Cupertino, CA.

There’s a very pertinent quote in “Crossing: A Memoir” by Deirdre Nansen McCloskey (link here), when she was asked why trans women learn stereotypical feminine gestures.

She said: “It’s to keep from getting murdered, dear”.

And, certainly for me, that’s the main reason I wear skirts and dresses. Camouflage. Self-preservation. It’s not the perfect match for my gender identity – but it’s damned close, close enough for comfort. My comfort. To blend in; to merge with the background; to be just another face in the crowd. I do it so I can get from A to B without winding up in A&E. I don’t do it to meet some dumb-ass enforced criteria of how I should look. I’ve spent my life doing just that, from one side or other of the binary divide. And I’m sick of cis people imposing on me their unreasonable preconceptions of how I should look – and then attacking me for failing to meet their frankly ludicrous standards; standards which they never seem to apply to themselves. Funny, that.

Like all of us, cis or trans, I am who I am and I let my presentation reflect that. But apparently this is such a huge big deal to the advertising staff at Apple Inc that the only way they can deal with the existence of transsexual women is by ridiculing us in this hateful, hurtful way.

I say it’s time to stop the trans-misogyny once and for all. Like my PowerBook, it’s old and tired; and like Apple’s advert, it’s not even vaguely amusing.


33 Responses to “Trans-misogyny? There’s an app for that.”

  1. Youngsook Says:

    utterly disgusting! And whether trans or not, women are presented as male assets.

  2. Weasel Says:

    Have hated this entire, tacky, up it’s own arse series of adverts. Really doesn’t surprise me that they’d stoop to t transmysogeny too … though it does sadden me.

    I hope GLAAD can get them to pull it … and actually realise /why/ they are being asked to do so.

  3. Helen G Says:

    As we know, it’s cool in some circles to bash organisations like GLAAD, but they’ve done some good work this year (coverage of the Angie Zapata murder trial and action on the KRXQ-FM radio transphobic hate speech debacle come to mind). This has been thanks (I think) in no small part to Andy Marra – their Senior Media Strategist – who’s been very active in campaigning, very high profile – and who’s also a trans woman. Let’s hope they can help Apple understand where they’ve gone so badly wrong with this advert…

  4. Mykell Says:

    What’s even more depressing are the comments on YouTube. On the rare occasion that they mention the contents of the ad (as opposed to arguing over which OS is better) transphobic comments all have positive ratings and comments pointing out transphobia have negative ratings. YouTube users are notorious for posting immature crap, but I didn’t realize that they were also transphobic.

  5. Just Jennifer Says:

    Now let me start by saying that I am one of those awful HBS people who does not identify as a “transgender woman,” “trans woman,” “transgender” or any other such nonesense.

    That said, I find the ad to be quite funny, and I do not find it to be offensive at all. In fact, the only people I can see possibly finding it offensive are those who are so delusional that they think that simply putting on female clothing makes one a female. The person in the ad is clearly making no attempt to actually present as female. Now, having worked on a research project that targeted “transgender people” I can say that yes, I have met people who looked that bad. And, quite frankly, they were generally mentally ill individuals who, in truth, simply have issues unrelated to classic or true transsexualism, or HBS.

    And to be honest, in dealing with such people it is often a matter of either laugh or cry. And in many cases, I did both.

    It is reactions like the one here that really make ads like this one from Apple all the funnier. I mean really, give it a rest. Unless, of course, that is how you see yourself. Then, I suppose, you might have reason to be offended…and the rest of us will all have a reason to have a good laugh…or cry…or both.

  6. Helen G Says:

    Whatever I say to you will be wrong, so I’ll just say thanks for stopping by and wish you a good evening.

    ETA: On further reflection, if you do check back, maybe you can explain something to me.

    What I can’t fathom about people like you, “those awful HBS people” (your words, not mine), is why – for all your talk about transsexuality being something which happened in your past and which you’re now over, why you persist in referring to it; why it still seems to affect your life to the extent that you need to maintain an online platform and presence from which you endlessly denounce other transsexual women – people like me – who don’t share your views.

    If you really are just “a woman” now, why even bother with the HBS adjective? Why go to the trouble of leaving a comment in which you tell me to “give it a rest”? Why not just get on with your no-longer-transsexual life and simply ignore “delusional” people like me?

    I mean, I’m flattered that you take an interest and appreciate your concern, but really – why do you bother with transsexual women like me? Why are we such a vexation to you?

  7. […] Trans-misogyny? There’s an app for that […]

  8. dyssonance Says:

    Helen, I have some answers for that from time spent studying them, but they won’t like that I have such answers, and would change their positions solely for the act of disagreeing with me.

  9. sadie ryanne Says:

    Oh goodness… what is it with the HBS folks? Seriously, I totally get why people go stealth, I prefer it myself when it’s not relevant to whatever I’m doing. But for all the criticism they give people like me who *choose* to be out in order to organize and be an activist or whatever, they sure seem to do the same thing. They’re loud about being “True Transsexuals” when it comes to harassing and making fun of anyone they deem not-transsexual-enough. Give it a rest, indeed!

    Also, I think this ad is harmful to more people than just us transsexual women… it’s harmful to *actual* crossdressers, too! (Men who prefer dresses do exist, after all). And no, I don’t think just putting on a dress makes you a woman, either… but we’re often affected by very similar systems of oppression, and so I don’t see why we don’t make common cause with them more often.

    Sure, trans women and crossdressing men are very different (and face very different challenges and oppressions, too) and that *needs* to be acknowledged, since far too often cissexism denies trans women’s identity precisely by confusing the two. But, also *because of that*, it means crossdressing men and trans____ women are both screwed over by transphobia, so why not be allies?

    I mean, or we could just be totally insensitive and heartless toward those who are different from us, which seems to be the preferred attitude of most HBS women I know (though not all of them).

  10. Just Jennifer Says:

    Well, we tried just that, ignoring you and all, but you have strived, repeatedly, to be the public face for those who actually are born with a medical condition, and you have demanded to drag us under the transgender umbrella, and refuse to acknowledge that true or classic transsexuals, or even people with HBS, are not transgender. So, because this causes us problems on the rare occasion that someone discovers our past, or when we are forced to reveal (for example to physicians or to potential husbands), as well as causing problems for those who are seeking treatment for your problem, we are no fighting back.

    And as to Dyssonace…it is not so much a matter of not liking the answers (who doesn’t like a good joke) it is that Dyssonance is simply a very unbalanced individual who has some serious delusions of grandeur, and who is nothing if not a persistent troll.

  11. sadie ryanne Says:

    And just to clarify, by “being stealth” I mean being seen as a cis woman… And I prefer it because (a) it’s safer and (b) I identify as a woman, and since most people think trans =/= woman, I often have to choose which identity to have validated. And also because what I was assigned at birth is really quite irrelevant to most of my life! But I’m quite proud to identify as a trans(sexual) woman, and “other such nonsense.” ;)

  12. sadie ryanne Says:

    Also, Jennifer… I identify as transsexual, and I support the fact that many transsexual people do not consider themselves transgender. I organize with the DC Trans Coalition and have tried to make sure that in all of our material we specify that we advocate for “transsexual, transgender and gender nonconforming people”… because, as I said, I think noting the differences is important, but ultimately I’m interested in coalition building and creating allies.

    So you have one valid point. But, why must you continue to label anyone you decide doesn’t have a “medical condition” as mentally ill and worthy of ridicule? Why can’t we recognize our common struggles and, while respecting everyone’s right to self-determine their identity, build communities with one another?

    (BoP, sorry if I’m feeding the troll…)

  13. Helen G Says:

    Just Jennifer: Well, we tried just that, ignoring you and all, but you have strived, repeatedly, to be the public face for those who actually are born with a medical condition, and you have demanded to drag us under the transgender umbrella, and refuse to acknowledge that true or classic transsexuals, or even people with HBS, are not transgender.

    Have I? Have I really said or done all those things? I must say I’m not convinced that I have but, well, if you say so…

    Perhaps you’d be kind enough to point out where I made all those assertions? If you could post the links, URLs, that sort of thing, that would be very helpful.

    So, because this causes us problems on the rare occasion that someone discovers our past, or when we are forced to reveal (for example to physicians or to potential husbands), as well as causing problems for those who are seeking treatment for your problem, we are no fighting back.

    Again, I’m puzzled. I don’t understand how something that I may or may not have said on my blog causes you problems in the real world as a direct result. Do I, the sole blogger on a low-traffic site, really have such influence? That’s quite an eye opener. What did your physicians and potential husbands say about me, if I may ask?

  14. Helen G Says:

    Sadie: (BoP, sorry if I’m feeding the troll…)

    No, not at all. It’s an interesting discussion although I suspect that, in the end, we’ll still be no closer to bridging the divides between us. That’s kind of sad, but there we are.

  15. Just Jennifer Says:

    Sadie, how can an ad showing a rather outrageous image of a person in bad drag be harmful to anyone, other than possibly, people in bad drag (and in such a situation, I seriously doubt that the ad will make much of a difference)? I mean, really, please use some common sense. Making an issue out of this ad implies that you identify with that person, and if that is true, then it just confirms everything I have said about those who identify as transgender.

  16. Just Jennifer Says:

    See, that is the issue. I am a “cis woman,” to use your rather insulting term. To be clear, I am a woman. My body and my mind are aligned. I see no need to cling to my past. We are fighting so that those who have corrected a birth defect can get on with their lives. Now, it is increasingly clear that there are those who did not do this, but who, for whatever reason, decided they wanted to change their body but who do not really identify as women. They identify as, at best, “women who used to be men.” They seem to take some delight in having been men…they cling to it with same ferocity that so-called non-ops cling to their penises. They don’t want to be women, they want to be different, or other. These people are extremely vocal, and they tend to insist on portraying themselves as being the same as true transsexuals, and often as the norm. The medical term, in such cases, is autogynephile. While I generally reject the whole of Blanchard’s and Bailey’s pseudo-science, I do realize that such people do exist.

  17. Helen G Says:

    Jennifer: “Women who used to be men”? And you say they’re synonymous with autogynephiles? Oh dear. *Sigh* I have neither the time nor the inclination to keep up with these endlessly generated divisions and categories. I’m a transsexual woman, nothing more and nothing less. My surgery was not a cure-all, a silver bullet; it’s just one way to help me manage my condition. For some reason my take on it seems to antagonise you, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I am what and who I am; my identity, my experience, my life are not up for negotiation.

    As regards the advert, I’ll reiterate that I find the stereotype objectionable, what it represents and the fallacies it perpetuates – not the actor.

    And on that note, I think I’m now going to bow out of this discussion. As I feared, it’s going nowhere and I need to do other things. If you and Sadie wish to continue locking horns, then be my guests – within the constraints of my commenting policy, of course.

    Thanks for stopping by; no doubt I’ll see you again out on the web.

  18. Just Jennifer Says:

    Helen G., it is a fallacy to try to make this personal. You are just one of many. I specifically objected to the silliness about the ad. Making an issue of this is the real harm. By raising issues, you imply that the person presented in the ad is the norm for “transsexuals,” when no one who actually is a woman would present in public in that manner. At best this person might be some variety of gender queer, and as such would be seeking to look as outrageous as possible. But by making an issue, this is the image that becomes linked to transsexuals. Why would you want that?

    And, quite frankly, I, and a growing number of other people, have no desire to bridge the gap. We simply want to make it as clear as possible that the gap exists, and that it will not be bridged.

  19. […] Trans-misogyny? There’s an app for that. « bird of paradox – view page – cached + Just Jennifer on Trans-misogyny? There’s an app for that. + Helen G on Trans-misogyny? There’s an app for that. — From the page […]

  20. queenemily Says:

    “So, because this causes us problems on the rare occasion that someone discovers our past, or when we are forced to reveal (for example to physicians or to potential husbands), as well as causing problems for those who are seeking treatment for your problem, we are no fighting back.”

    See this is just the usual HBS wishful thinking. *As if* the transgender umbrella in all its problems caused that, and continues to. As if. Most people in my experience, including those potential husbands, tend to know very little about transsexual women beyond the fact that we are “really” men. That’s just “common sense,” and has absolutely fuck all to do with transgender politics.

    Prior to the 90s embrace of the term, didn’t twoo transsexual women have to deal with the exact same BS? If not worse?

    Omg, it’s almost like the problem exists independent of the transgenders who you’re so desperate to not be confused with, that it may in fact lay in the hearts and minds of the good kind cissexual (no that’s not you petal, you’d fall into the transsexual part of that classification) people you’re so eager to let off the hook.

    If the term “transgender” died tomorrow and you were suddenly always correctly described as HBS women or true or classic transsexuals, you’d still have to deal with the exact same attitudes.

  21. Youngsook Says:

    A trans person can be transphobic… shocking because this kind of transphobia is already based on the idea that cisgender (because true transsexuals are true women) is superior than other gender variants. This hierarchical concept, not only between cis and trans but also between transsexual and non-transsexual, is what exactly gender binary society wants to inject and wants us to suffer from.

    I do respect one’s subjective feeling ‘I don’t belong to a trans community’ but this subjective feeling does NOT have to be followed by the negative attitude towards majority members of a trans community.

  22. Just Jennifer Says:

    Actually, it is not the “term” that is the problem, it the social and political movement that has grown up around the term that is the problem. When I transitioned in the early Nineties, the closest we came to that term was “transgenderist” which simply meant full-time crossdresser. Back then, you were either a transsexual, or you were a transvestite, or if you wanted to be pretentious, a crossdresser. I remember first encountering “transgender” as a term in the mid-Nineties. At the time it seemed relatively innocuous, though I did argue against those who wanted to align with the LGB movement. Ironically, exactly what I predicted then has happened, including those like Barney Frank who tried to toss “transgender” under the bus to get ahead.

    Even then there was some discomfort with the idea that we were lumped in with crossdressers, who were clearly not the same. Then, things began to spiral out of control. Gender deconstructionists, and radical activists have taken over, claimimg that people change their sex by simply saying they have changed their sex. We have people saying that that there is a spectrum and that transsexuals are completely same as crossdressers, that is just a matter of degree. And all sorts of other ridiculous ideas.

  23. queenemily Says:


    If all those yucky transgenders and gender deconstructionists suddenly STFU tomorrow all teh hawt men beating down your door would still be prejudiced and I suspect you know it.

    But it’s much easier to slag off your neighbours then fight the world innit though?

  24. Just Jennifer Says:

    Uh, Youngsook, that is exactly the sort of bigotry that many are coming to object to. You demand that people respect your “identity” and yet, you demand the right to impose an “identity” on others. First off, there is no “hierarchy.” We are not a part of your little club, so we are not superior, inferior, or the same. We are different. Period. Don’t lump us in, and there is no issue of superiority. The “gender variants” can all be equal, and you can simply ignore us, and when you do, and you leave us completely and totally alone, we will gladly leave you alone.

    You see, many of us ARE a part of “gender binary society.” I totally reject any other idea, as it is simply crap.

    And “transgender” is highly subjective. No one is even clear on exactly what it means. No, our feelings are not “subjective.” I am stating, quite objectively, I am not a part of your little club. I am not “transgender” or “trans.” I do not “transgress” or “transcend” gender. I am simply a woman, born with a medical condition that was treated, and I am tired of you trying to co-opt me into your social and political movement which I completely reject.

    I am not part of a minority in the “community.” I am simply not a part of the “community” at all.

    I really could care less how you identify, but please don’t tell me what I am.

    Can I make myself any clearer?

  25. queenemily Says:

    “Transference” Freud would call it.. but I just call it being a solipsist prat, really.

  26. Just Jennifer Says:

    First off, it took time for things to get as bad as they are, and it will take time for things to improve, so your remark is simply silly.

    And second, as always I simply not that the weaker the arguments, the louder the insults.

  27. Helen G Says:

    Jennifer, a quick question, if I may – are you assuming that Youngsook is trans?
    I ask only out of curiosity.

  28. queenemily Says:

    Yes, it’s an exaggeration, a rhetorical example. But true enough.

    To much of the population, you will always be “really” a man. End of. And transgender, transsexual, none of that means shit. That doesn’t mean they’re meaningless to us, that means they’re irrelevant to discrimination.

    So yeah, I’m insulting you. One tends to do that with the hatefully delusional. But I suspect nothing will snap you out of the bait n switch. Life’s much easier if you don’t have to face reality, innit?

    One final word and I’m done with you…


  29. Just Jennifer Says:

    It doesn’t matter whether Youngsook is, or is not. The attempt to impose the identity of “transgender” on people is objectionable whether someone is “trans” or not.

  30. Just Jennifer Says:

    Simply put, I don’t take responsibility for the ignorance of bigots. Yes, to some, IF they discover my past, I might well be seen as a man. But that rarely happens.

    And I am glad you admit you are insulting me. That is a start. Now, simply realize that this is because you cannot actually counter my arguments, and you will be well on your way to learning something.

    Otherwise….oh well.

  31. Helen G Says:

    And on that note, I think I’m going to close comments on this thread.

    Thank you all for your participation.


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