Rape culture and trans violence
I hope everyone is doing well. If you can read this than you are doing better than some. I was upset to read that a 13th (reported) transgender woman in America was reported as killed yesterday. This has been a terribly violent year for transgender women, not only in America but globally as well. There is so much that I would like to write on this topic but I will do my best to keep some sort of thought stream.
As I look at the violence towards trans people I can’t help but notice such a correlation with other minority violence that we have seen throughout history. My girlfriend recently made the statement that “transgender issues and women’s issues are too closely connected not to look at together”. I couldn’t agree more with this statement. You need only to change “rape culture” to “trans violence” and you will see what I mean.
Victim blaming: This is an area where both of these topics have exactly the same problem. In rape culture it becomes common practice to claim that the victim asked for or deserved to be raped. Perhaps people will point out her clothing choices or her promiscuity. They might say she should not have been in an area at a particular part of the day. This is the same in the case of transgender violence. People may say that a trans person should have passed better, or should not have gone out without passing. They may ask why a trans person would choose to go to a certain place. Think about this for a moment. A person is assaulted, sexually or physically. This is a crime, a felony in most cases, and we look to the victim and ask them why they were doing what they were doing. Would we ask an arson victim why they built their house of wood? If your identity is stolen do we criticize you for not wearing pants with buttons to make it harder to steal your wallet? These are two areas where the victim is commonly criticized as if they are somehow responsible for the offender’s actions.
Inappropriate humor: While it is on the decline there is still a common occurrence of rape related jokes. Both in mainstream media and around the water cooler jokes that are demeaning to women and humor suggesting that it’s ok to force yourself on a woman are part of our culture. This happens to transgender people as well. From Caitlyn Jenner to Chelsea Manning we can’t talk about trans people without an of color joke. This humor will commonly extend to jokes about violence. These sorts of jokes make violence seem acceptable in both cases.
Dehumanizing: In the case of both cisgender women and transgender people mainstream America has no problem discussing genitalia. These “private parts” are commonly a part of public discussion. While Bill O’Reilly has on several occasions talked about what is between Caitlyn Jenner’s legs, we have never heard Caitlyn Jenner discussing Bill O’Reilly’s private parts. Whether we are discussing the size of a woman’s breasts or making light of a transgender person’s private parts these discussions are both unacceptable and common.
Discrediting: Often the rape victim will be called a liar. People will point out her previous sexual encounters or other illegal activities in an effort to make them a less credible victim. In the case of transgender violence people will call the victim crazy. The previous sexuality of the victim may also be called into question. Many transgender violence victims are sex workers and are seen as less trustworthy because of it.
Courtroom leniency: We have seen rape convictions, as well as convictions for assault and murder of transgender people where the attacker receives less than the minimum required sentence. Martha Stuart did more jail time than many rapists or those who assault transgender people.
Poor press coverage: Reporters who choose to say that a victim “had sex” instead of was raped. Media coverage that points out a victim’s profession if she was an exotic dancer but not if she were a lawyer. In the case of transgender violence press who uses terms like “used to be a man” or miss genders the victim. All of this takes the blame away from the aggressor.
There are many other commonalities just in these two issues but I think I have illustrated the point. We commonly use hashtags now and so often it’s # ------- livesmatter. You can fill in the blank as you see fit. Transgender issues and women’s issues are linked. Ultimately we are talking about the right to be treated as an equal and the right to have control of your body. This is why I claim the title feminist. Both as a member of the transgender community and as a woman I want these things, for myself and for everyone.
Thank you for listening to me rant. My hope is that if our voice is louder than the voices of those spreading hate then our cause will be visible enough to warrant attention.
"Nothing is too girly and nothing is too masculine. But I do love color, and maybe that's a little girly - especially pink." Stacy London