Dictionary corner: gayjacking

June 6, 2010

Gayjacking: A portmanteau word combining gay and hijacking, it refers to the process by which TS/TG people’s self-identification is invisibilised and our lived experiences appropriated and repositioned to fit cis people’s agenda, and exempt themselves from acknowledging their own privileges and prejudices. The result is to present trans people as being always and forever our assigned sex and once that malicious assertion has been made, it’s a simple matter for cis people to pronounce that, for example, a relationship between a trans woman and a cis man is “really” a same sex relationship. Additionally, amongst other things, it sets up the conditions necessary for implementing the “trans panic defence” beloved of many a cis man who, on discovering that the woman with whom he has just had sex was born male-bodied, uses that as a justification for murdering her in a brutal and cruel way. (There are useful analyses of the trans panic defence in the context of the murder of Angie Zapata by Holly at Feministe and by Jillian Weiss at The Bilerico Project)

Gayjacking is not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, but it does seem to have become more prominent with cis people’s still-dawning awareness of terms like transgender. From Compton’s Cafeteria and Stonewall in the 1960s (and before), through the annulment of April Ashley’s marriage in 1970 and the continuing anti-trans bigotry of many radical feminist cis women, to the almost universal misgendering of Tiwonge Chimbalanga by the mainstream media (along with so-called LGBT activist groups and numerous human rights organisations), this dehumanisation of TS/TG women has been a recurrent pattern of anti-trans hate, discrimination and discrimination for far too many years.

Even as I write this, reports of an LGBT group (associated with a major UK political party) being refused service in a London pub “because they were gay” – thereby instantly eradicating any trans, as well as bi and lesbian members, a textbook example of gayjacking – continues to unfold on Twitter, Facebook, BBC London News and one or two of the more enlightened cis women feminist blogs.

However, not only has gayjacking been around for a long time but it seems set to continue unchecked. For that to happen would, of course, require a tipping point to be reached in the positive evolution of mainstream cis society’s attitudes to my community, and it’s increasingly obvious to me that that is highly unlikely to happen any time soon.

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Cross-posted at The F-Word

3 Responses to “Dictionary corner: gayjacking”

  1. Topsy.com Says:

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  2. William Says:

    I see this everywhere, from the fact my LGBT group campaigned heavily for a lesbian and not at all for Steven and Tiwonge, to the erasure of my partner’s non-binary identity just because I ID as hetero to people constantly refering to the LGBT group as “the gays”. (Including by our new LGBT Officer who was offended by me referring to them as “the queers” because she doesn’t ID as queer.) Through to the homophobic abuse, the stares and the heckling my trans girlfriend and I recieve if we hold hands, kiss or hug in a public place, the insistence that my cis girlfriend needs “a real man” (which I’m apparently not because I have a vagina) and my brother not understanding why a lesbain trans woman wouldn’t just “stay a man” to widen her choice of potential partners.

  3. msruthmoss Says:

    Only the other day I was talking to a young woman who was saying how she hated it when people (like me) would called themselves or talked about other people being “queer” because it was old fashioned and offensive. She said, “you might just wanna try ‘gay'”. Which, yeah, erases everyone else. But apparently, there isn’t anyone else, or something.

    And I do think it’s particularly nasty when it comes to gayjacking of trans people (usually trans women’s) lives. Or more often, deaths, or when something awful happens. Because the awful shit that happens to so many trans women can be used to support the very pressing and important matter of, I dunno, gay marriage (in the US) or something similar.

    Oh, I could be wrong, but I read recently that “Tiwonge” is actually the male form of the name Tionge, kinda like Alexanda/Alexandra. Of course, the media has reported her as “Tiwonge” everywhere. :-(


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