Raymond: A Proponent of Myths

Most of us would probably agree that Janice Raymond is crazy.  To put it pretty bluntly, and not to oversimplify the issue, but it is probably true!  Her radicalism makes her crazy.  Most can often see two sides to every issue – I consider myself a pretty open-minded person, as I can usually understand the dissenting opinion to my own pretty well, even if I don’t agree with it.  I can even understand crazy at times.  There are some points that Raymond tries to argue that I can honestly actually understand where she is getting them from, but for the most part really, anybody who reads this chapter can probably see that her reality is a little off from everybody else’s.  Her radicalism is just so extreme and it is shocking and a little hard to understand how she had such a loud voice and influence in society.  I would argue that it is probably her radicalism that gives her a sort of… charisma.  But besides that, we need to talk about, what I consider, her dysfunctional schema of the way the world is supposed to be run.

After reading her article and thinking about it, I was reminded of a video from a youtuber, Laci Green, that covers pretty elementary ideas concerning gender and society that we discuss in Gender Studies classes that Raymond most certainly would not agree with.  Oftentimes, people share a general similar idea of the way the world works, with details being nitpicked at times and disagreements developing that way.  But for the most part, usually people can agree on general ideas.  I feel that it is these basic and pretty general ideas and beliefs that she does not share that leads to her radicalism.

In her video, Laci talks about “three myths” that she says need to be debunked.  Here is the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sHBAVjahp8&list=UUJm5yR1KFcysl_0I3x-iReg

Myth #1:  There are two rigid genders.

Her little segment about boundaries exemplifies this idea.  Although later she complains about people posing the question about gender differences, she encourages the idea herself.  She believes that there is a special feminine energy, as she puts it, which I can understand and I believe does exist, but she feels that, “These women also fail to recognize that accepting transsexuals into the feminist community is only another rather unique variation on the age-old theme of women nurturing men, providing them with a safe haven, and finally giving them our best energies” (137).  She seems to think that “feminine” energy only applies to women, and the idea that biologically born males might understand stereotypically “feminine” feelings or energies is lost to her.

Myth #2:  Sex=gender.

Clearly, Janice Raymond supports this myth as she constantly refers to trans women as “male-to-constructed-female transsexuals,” and talks about them in such a way as if it is a farce and a mere attempt to “infiltrate” and “invade” female spaces.  She also refers to numerous trans women with the pronoun of “he” rather than “she.”  Even though she acknowledges the socialization of gender, she seems to reject the idea that it is much more complicated than she seems to imply and does draw bigoted opinions on how one defines gender.  Which brings me to the last myth discussed in the video.

Myth #3:  Others can define YOUR gender.

On the issue of defining gender, she acknowledges the socialization of it, but also rejects the idea that gender is fluid and that one can choose for oneself.  Her idea of gender is the gender that one is raised being called by others.  In discussing intersexed babies, she says that, “Thus those who are altered shortly after birth have the history of being practically born as male or female and those who are altered later in life have their body surgically conformed to their history.  When and if they do undergo surgical change, they do not become the opposite sex after a long history of functioning and being treated differently.”  While she brings up a good point, as the way one is raised is highly important, but her opinion seems to lie in what one is called throughout childhood, not what one calls oneself based on his or her own experiences or feelings.  Sometimes one is raised as one gender but has much more complex experiences and feelings.

These are all basic ideas and values which we probably all share, but not Janice Raymond, and that is what makes her so crazy!  While calling trans women rapists, she overlooks the fact that trans women are not in fact trying to “steal” the feminine energy, but rather are putting themselves in the position of being treated like second-class citizens.  So instead of continuing the marginalization of trans folk, she might want to consider trying to understand another person’s viewpoint, even if it differs from her own.

-Chrissy Goss


“Pretty fuckin’ presumptuous, ain’t I?”

“Dunno if it matters that I mean well,” “… it’s just that I’ve learned some truths about myself that I have a hunch apply to you.” These are the words of Lou Sullivan and his article A Transvestite Answers a Feminist blew my mind. Maybe it’s because my life intersects with his, or maybe it’s because he has a lot of really awesome, very applicable points in response to the parts of feminism that attempt to be against the trans* population. He and Dorothy make their arguments in colloquial English and aren’t afraid to use offensive words to prove a point. The most interesting part of this article is that it was written when Sullivan identified as a female transvestite, so the article is a rare view of a particular kind of life at a very unique stage of development into being. However, all of these things pale against the fact that his article is solely comprised of notes passed back and forth between two feminist-identified people with slightly different perspectives on life who were challenging each other to think outside of their own heads. Dorothy and Lou exchange an odd form of communication that is both a sister- and a brotherhood simultaneously, while also being a new form of camaraderie foreign to the gendered sphere.

My first introduction to anything trans* was Ash Kulak’s Q-project. It was comprised of interviews asking trans* individuals at IU about their views on the options the University offered them, usually involved with housing arrangements. However, there was a teacher at IU who was interviewed and he said that he does not reveal his trans* identity to his class, especially when teaching on feminism, because it ends up distracting from the message that the class is trying to convey. Coming out to his students would invariably cause them to excuse his viewpoint’s legitimacy because they see him as actually being a girl from that point on. All they can think about is how being trans* works, not the material that he was trying to teach them.

What I want to know is: would this article exist if Sullivan had already transitioned, or even just started that process? Would the conversation have happened if Sullivan was just a self-proclaimed trans-man? The way Dorothy approached the topic of gender and gender roles in society would have been rather different if she had known the full extent of Sullivan’s gender non-normativity. That was why this article in particular blew my mind. It only exists in its beautiful way because two people found each other at just the right time and mood to have an intense conversation that started over nothing and escalated into a discussion of trans* issues and a defense of trans* identities by a feminist, even though Dorothy was not, in all probability, intending her words to be read in that context. The IU teacher did not come out to his students for the sake of teaching something  meaningful to his students. Lou Sullivan did not fully come out to Dorothy until the end of the stream of notes, which allowed a comfortable conversation between co-workers and friends to happen before identities got in the way. 

– Skyler Powell

Transgender Individuals and Genital Reassignment Surgery: Is the Personal still Political?

“The personal is political.”  This is a well-known slogan used by the Second Wave Feminist movement which served to politicize women’s experience of sexism in their personal or private lives; this politicization of experience- or the re-coloring of incidents with an eye for power dynamics- was meant to show women that their individual encounters with oppression were in fact part of a systematic and institutionalized prejudice. 

 http://faculty.uml.edu/sgallagher/Williams.htm  (great article about personal/political within feminism and also analyzes the Monica Lewinsky scandal (-: )

“To say that ‘the personal is political’ is to say only that private life is implicated in networks of power;” in the case being dealt with during Second Wave Feminism, the most concerning network of power permeating the private space was a gendered network of patriarchal power.  In the specific case of transgender individuals seeking GRS (Genital Reassignment Surgery), personal realities are often determined by underlying dynamics of heteronormative and patriarchal power.

            Another implied meaning of this slogan is a little more aggressive: if “the personal is political,” then every personal action can be interpreted as an enactment (subconscious or intentional) of political convictions, and the personal sphere becomes the setting for political change.  For example, say a heteronormative, feminist woman is told by her husband that she is terrible at driving; she protests, and he responds, “It’s not your fault- all women are bad drivers!”  Her reaction to this, whatever it may be, is political: if she acknowledges that what he says is true, she is acknowledging his power to define her reality; if she confronts him for being sexist, then she is challenging the (patriarchal) power dynamic he is trying to set up.  The idea that “the personal is political” would suggest that the woman’s personal decision about what to do in the described circumstance ought to be determined by her political convictions about how power dynamics should be set up in the world.  Thus, if the woman is a feminist and believes in the equality of men and women, she ought to challenge sexism (rather than accept it or ignore it) when it is encountered.  This interpretation suggests that there is a symbolic political meaning or weight attached to personal actions. 

            I began thinking about this idea of the personal being political while reading Janice Raymond’s “Sappho by Surgery.”  In this article Raymond shows a shocking loyalty to the bizarre and paranoid notion that transexual women (especially those that identify as lesbian-feminists) are secret male agents attempting to infiltrate lesbian-feminist organizations and halt the progression of women’s liberation.  Obviously, Raymond starts inviting problems long before she reaches her strange dystopian conclusion.  What interests me more than unraveling her strange brand of crazy, though, is to explore what on earth makes Raymond so eager to interpret a highly individualized life choice like GRS as an organized male attempt to attack femininity and feminism. 

On page 153 of our reading for this week, Raymond writes that just because MTF transwomen transitioned “does not mean that they are un-men, and that they cannot be used as ‘keepers’ of woman-identified women when the ‘real men,’ the ‘rulers of the patriarchy’ decide that women’s movement should be controlled and contained.”  Raymond’s language and suggestions in this passage betray her ultimate paranoia: not only does she seem to believe that there is some organized collective of “real men” who might “decide” to control things out there, but she suggests that transwomen are the duplicitously oppressive (ultimately male) agents of this organization and that they only seek out lesbian group formations as a way of keeping tabs on feminist activity. 

Obviously, there is a lot of room between the trope “the personal is political” and the way Raymond interprets the choices of individual transwomen to pursue GRS as an organized, political attack on femininity and feminism.  However, the question remains: regarding this choice to change one’s body, is the personal political?  When a person undergoes GRS, is there a larger political significance to her action?  I could truthfully answer this both ways and not at all.  There is so much stigma attached to GRS in Western culture that it seems unbelievable that any individual would undergo it without being incredibly personally compelled, and accounts of transpeople considering suicide after being repeatedly denied surgery evidences this compulsion.  Beyond cultural stigma, individuals seeking GRS often encounter obstacles like medical bureaucracy or flatly unwilling doctors, and they must intensely persevere in order to achieve their goal.  These factors suggest that despite any political implication others might try to impose upon the act, choosing GRS is a fundamentally personal and private action.  But this need not necessarily be true: I think it is important to leave the negotiation of meaning to the person who undertakes the action.  Thus, just as GRS can be personal (and not necessarily political), GRS can be simultaneously personal and also political in the sense of allowing for trans agency and self definition. 

-Roz Rini

Janice Raymond & Transphobia

Janice Raymond’s “Sappho by Surgery” left me feeling very shocked, bewildered, and above all else, angry.  Judging by the other recent blog posts, it looks like I’m not the only one.  I was shocked at Raymond’s absolute disgust and hatred of male to female transgender people.  I could not wrap my head around the fact that she was so hostile to a group of people who had never caused her any personal harm. 

I was bewildered by the fact that she was so transphobic because she is obviously knows a great deal about being victim to patriarchy and homophobia.  I could not understand why she would want to exclude a group of people who had experienced similar forms of oppression.  If there is one thing that I’ve learned from taking gender studies classes, it’s that men are not the only ones who uphold and reinforce patriarchy.  Raymond argues that transsexual women do as well.  “Transsexually constructed lesbian-feminists challenge women’s preserves of an autonomous existence.  Their existence within the women’s community basically attests to the ethic that women should not live without men.” (141)  I would like to counter that and argue that Raymond (and other transphobic people) is the one who is perpetuating patriarchy.  Under patriarchy, women who do not fit into conventional ideas of femininity are rejected by the larger society.  This is exactly what Raymond is doing when she suggests that transsexual women are not “real” women. 

I found this video on youtube of a person who has personally experienced transphobia.  I think he does a really nice job of articulating the same kind of shock and bewilderment I felt while reading Raymond’s article.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaaGzsyZN_M

While Raymond’s general transphobia certainly made me angry, there was one particular part of her article that really set me off.  “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves.” (134) When she equated transgender women identifying as lesbian feminists to men raping and violating female bodies, I really lost my temper.  Since my freshman year, two very close friends of mine have been raped.  I witnessed firsthand as they dealt with this traumatic event.  I watched one of them suffer through panic attacks, paranoia, and depression.  I watched the other get ostracized by her peers when she came forward.  I have seen how sexual assault can wreck the lives of its victims.  This is why I was so angry that Raymond could compare transgender women expressing their identity to something as awful as rape.   Transgender women do not rape women by virtue of their existence.  Saying so further ostracizes an already marginalized group of people.  I felt that this article was not only transphobic but very disrespectful to sexual assault survivors.    

-Zhaleh Breen

Janice Raymond’s “Transsexually Constructed Lesbian-Feminist” : A Belligerent Political Othering of Trans* Embodied Person’s .

As Riddell emphasizes in her article “Divided Sisterhood,” Raymond’s motive behind writing about subjects she refers to as, “transsexually constructed lesbian-feminists,” is a means to other their existence and acceptance in women’s spaces and political discourses; “Ms. Raymond makes her position absolutely clear. Trans-sexual women ‘are not women’” (Riddell 145).

For Raymond it seems a female-identity may only be claimed by those born to a female-embodiment and who have been “encumbered by the scars of patriarchy” (Raymond 133). Disregarding for the moment the naturalist argument behind this re-defining of female-as-category; Raymond emphasizes the influence of our lived experiences of our embodiments within a patriarchal structure as central to our constructions of self-hood. She denies that any person or embodiment which has experienced male-privilege could ever truly understand female struggle, let alone articulate anything on the matter through their involvement with feminist political struggles. Raymond therefore refutes solidarity with trans-women, and others them by marking them as essentially different from “true” female-embodied persons. She claims that their past-embodiments somehow protect them from comprehending the violence and prejudice of a patriarchal system. For Raymond the female/male binary is the flipside of a coin, as irrefutable a difference as black and white. This is evident in her disregard for these subjects’ female identity through her constant use of the wrong or un-preferred pronoun when referring to them as a means of intentionally misgendering them, and marking them as separate or other-than female.

Much of Raymond’s argument and her explicate line drawing between racial politics of whiteness/blackness and the gender binary, caused me to draw a parallel between her essentialist argument of XX chromosomes (139-140) to historic scientific knowledge produced under the thumb of Colonization to medicalize and naturalize racial difference. For these scientists there was a corporeal difference which naturalized whites as “the superior race”.

In much the same way Raymond is arguing that female-embodied persons have a unique view or more naturalized experience of the oppressive nature of a patriarchal system, that male-embodied subjects cannot attain. Or more-over that the physical male anatomy informs the psyche of males to always be penetrative, even for post-operative female transsexuals. While I am not attempting to disavow the important influence of male-privilege, or white-privilege, for that matter, in the lived experiences of people; I theorize that male-embodiments are just as equally upheld to rigid-constructions of maleness as female-embodiments who are expected to conform to feminine constructions. In other words, all bodies are implicated always in the histories which have motivated our constructions of race and gender. Where female embodied subjects have been inflicted by the violence of a patriarchal system which is systematically constructed against women, trans* individuals have been afflicted by this system’s appropriation of these individuals into gender categories they do not self-identify: TO DENY THEIR ENTRANCE INTO THE GENDER CATEGORIES THEY IDENTIFY IS JUST AS ABOMINABLE A SEXIST PRACTICE AS THE BARRING OF FEMALE SUBJECTS FROM “MALE SPACES”. To me this dualistic thought is the most dangerous aspect of Raymond’s argument as it works to reify the power of the binary; an overly simplistic model for any theoretical understanding of embodiment whether male or female, black or white.

The work of artist Kara Walker can be used as a tool for seeing through these dangerous binaries. Her work turns the use of an ambiguous silhouette on its head to comment on our assumptions of racial caricatures and demonstrates how race works to define us. Her work symbolically splinters our binary of blackness/ whiteness.


Looking to her work as a means of strengthening how to see past the binary, we may begin to separate our own assumptions about male/female embodiments. When we look at these silhouettes we mark embodiments as male or female, black or white, but this marking of subjects is precisely our projection of how we categorize these subjects based on our socialization, because the subjects appear in monochrome silhouettes we simply conjecture what race/gender these subjects are. Similarly hetero-normative individuals that pass gender-liminal bodies often become obsessed with deciphering whether these bodies are embodied male or female, because they are threatened by these bodies’ ability to actively deconstruct the gender-binary.

-Sophia Koehler-Derrick



What a Drag!

By: MK Worthington

Janice G. Raymond’s chapter “Sappho by Surgery: The Transsexually Constructed Lesbian-Feminist” is filled with reactionary rhetoric to unsubstantiated ‘facts’ about transsexual women who identify as women– and even as lesbians. Her biggest claim seems to be “As one woman put it: “A man who decides to call himself a woman is not giving up his privilege. He is simply using it in a more insidious way.”” (137) In Raymond’s point of view, transsexual women are in fact men masquerading as women in an attempt control them and gain access to female spaces and privileges they otherwise could not experience.

While this assertion is damning and false for transsexuals, the entertainment industry has frequently cashed in on straight male characters who did just that. Consider Robin Williams’ character in MRS. DOUBFIRE, for example, a man who transforms his outward appearance to that of a woman to gain access to a traditionally female job. Also, in SOME LIKE IT HOT, Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis portray men who disguise themselves as women in order to join an ‘all woman’ big band. Cartoons are full of examples as well. Disney, Warner Brothers, Dreamworks—they all periodically feature characters in drag who use their ‘feminine appearance’ to their advantage in some uncouth way.


 In the beginning of the chapter she goes so far as to make the claim that: “It is not accidental that most male-to-constructed-female transsexuals who claim to be feminists also claim to be lesbian feminists. In fact, I don’t know of any transsexually constructed feminists who do not also claim to be lesbian.” (132)  In her position as a leader of the ‘lesbian feminist’ movement it makes sense that she wouldn’t personally know any heterosexual transsexual feminists; such individuals would, by definition, belong to broader Women’s Movement. This little detail, however, is not mentioned in her argument.

Later, Raymond goes on to imply her vague and wild arguments are unquestionable truths, and she furthers her argument with the claim: “At this level of analysis, it might seem that what men really envy is women’s biological ability to procreate.” (135) This, just a few short sentences before she contradicts herself by pointing out the idea that overpopulation is fast making women obsolete, their ability to procreate their downfall rather than something men covet.

This line of thought brought to mind scenes from the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, JUNIOR.

In the film, Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito play a pair of male doctors and scientists who are working on an experimental new drug that would improve the chances of a high-risk pregnancy lasting through term. Right off the bat it is a tale of ‘men’ trying to fix a problem that is exclusive to ‘women.’ Their efforts are blocked by laws and regulations – written by ‘bad men’ – and, in order to circumvent these barriers, our two heroes, two ‘good men’, must use a ‘male’ body to carry out a task exclusively achieved by the ‘female’ body. They, of course, are acting for the good of women. They are taking it upon themselves to improve the lives of heartbroken women the world over. How on earth could anyone be critical of that? (That last was written sarcastically.)

In Junior, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character is anything but feminine. He is quite the opposite actually, the epitome of masculinity, but during the course of his pregnancy he develops a softer side and a distinctive feminine quality. By becoming pregnant, during the course of his pregnancy, Schwarzenegger’s character essentially becomes a ‘female man’- ruled by irrational mood swings and the urge to nurture. To my mind, Raymond’s argument is that ‘female transsexuals’ are the first step leading to this very outcome—men replacing and eliminating women altogether.

But let’s back up a minute. I thought society was ruled by ‘white, heterosexual, males.’ …seriously, why on earth would they want that?

Divided Sisterhoods

It is very obvious from the beginning of the chapter “Sappho by Surgery” that Janice Raymond does not like transsexuals. But she especially mistrusts what she calls “transsexually constructed lesbian-feminists,” or rather, those MTFs who identify as lesbian and are active in feminist organizations.  Raymond believes that “all transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves,” and “in the case of the trannsexually constructed lesbian-feminists their whole presence becomes a ‘member’ invading women’s presence and dividing us once more from each other.” (P.134) She believes that clear boundaries need to be put into place by lesbian-feminists about who can and cannot be a lesbian-feminist, and she asks, “if feminists cannot agree on the boundaries of what constitutes femaleness, then what can we hope to agree on?” (P.137) She wants all the women-born-women to be kept in, and the women-born-men to be kept out.

What may not be immediately obvious from Raymond’s writing, however, is the fact that Raymond herself may in fact be the one spreading this contention. In Carol Riddell’s critique of Raymond’s book, Riddell gives us actual numbers. Where Raymond paints us a picture of transsexual women infiltrating every aspect of lesbian-feminist society, Riddell reminds us that there is “one trans-sexual for every 25,625 people who are not seeking a sex change.” (P.145) Where Raymond basically ignores transsexual men, Riddell explains that she has to deny “the significance of trans-sexual men…for their existence refutes her axiom that trans-sexualism is a creation of man, for ‘men.’” (P. 149)

Raymond’s distrust of transsexual women because of her belief that they are truly men ‘infiltrating’ all-female, all-feminist spaces, seems to hearken back to a time before lesbians were even allowed to be in feminist groups.

It reminds me of the “Lavender Menace.”

The Lavender Menace was a term thought to be coined by writer Betty Friedan. The phrase was in reference to the fact that lesbians were seen as a threat to the growing feminist movement, and the fact that many women within the movement thought that the inclusion of lesbians would make the movement a joke.  The 1970s era lesbians were, of course, denied entry because they were not taken seriously by the world at large rather than because they were a group of infiltrators, but it was still a refusal on the part of early second wave feminists to work in conjunction with a set of people who needed feminism just as much as any other group did. Transsexual women need feminism just as much as anyone else, and to deny them their opportunity to become involved is detrimental to both them and the feminist movement at large.

Karla Jay speaking about the Lavender Menace

-Caitlyn Smallwood


Is Janice Raymond Dead Yet? (Sadly not.)

While I’m sure we were all suitably disgusted with the Raymond piece, I think we would all benefit from a reminder that Raymond’s arguments aren’t dead. We all know that transphobia still exists, but having been educated in an inclusive Gender Studies Department we might not realize that Raymond’s arguments and the casual exclusion of trans* people and their concerns are still very much a part (if a diminishing part) of feminism. We talked about the exclusion policy of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in class already, so I went ahead and trawled around the internet for a few other relevant stories.

Recently a British news magazine, The New Statesman, published an article by the feminist writer Suzanne Moore. In the article, Moore “joked” that modern women simply can’t compete with the ideal standard of beauty embodied by the “Brazilian transsexual.” There were already echoes of Raymond in this “joke” (transsexuals as unreal women who conform to neatly to patriarchal beauty standards), but it was only when Moore was criticized that she let loose the full fury of her transphobia, claiming that she didn’t “prioritise this fucking lopping bits off your body over all else that is happening to women” among other transphobic vitriol. She has since issued several backhanded and utterly facetious apologies that do nothing to address the transphobic feminist discourse she was channeling. If you’re interested in a fuller summary of events with tons of links to direct sources and rebuttals, scope this article written by an internet friend of mine:


Of course, feminist discourse isn’t confined to British magazines. A few years ago, the prominent feminist blog Shakesville posted a eulogy for Mary Daly, a feminist scholar and professor. You might recall Raymond approvingly citing Daly in our reading assignment, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Daly was herself a transphobe who used the term “Frankensteinian” to describe trans* people. So it caused quite a stir when Shakesville uncritically mourned her passing and when criticized responded with harsh counter-accusations before closing the comments section of her blog. You can find a fuller description of the incident, as well as one person’s personal story of struggling with feminist “allies” here:


Now, these are just two incidents from the past few years, but they do demonstrate that the transphobic feminism we associate with Janice Raymond and her ilk is far from a thing of the past. We can’t afford to treat the battle as won or the discourse as salvaged. Raymond’s heirs might not be quite as vitriolic, and they might hide behind a thin screen of inclusivity, but we’ve seen that their real attitudes often emerge with little prodding. It’s a sad truth that too many contemporary feminists have still not realized that the liberation of all the victims of patriarchy is bound up together.

Aidan Crane

Bad publicity

Valentine outlines the historical definitions of ‘transgender’ in conversation with and against homonational discourses about gay respectability. According to Valentine, the identity category ‘transgender’ is able to “absorb the gender transgression” associated with homosexuals, especially gay organizations invested in the formal legal equality and liberal rights that seem to follow normative gender performance (64). The dominant legal logic seems to be: If they’re like us, they can be treated like us. Gender-normative gays have made clear that trans* folks are not-us, which raises the question of who us is and can be.

For all Valentine’s spot-on skepticism about exclusionary homonormativity and the gender policing involved in the reproduction of the gay/trans* binary, he doesn’t address the normativizing potential within the trans* community itself (at least not in this intro). 

I know Chaz Bono is so 2000-and-late as far as objects of study go, and disastrously token for trans* political discussions, but: He seems like a good representation of bad representation. 

Bono got himself in a bit of identity politics hot water for his disorder-ly narrative and transmisogyny. He self-pathologizes his childhood experiences as a birth defect and naturally attributes his misogyny to T. He’s entitled to self-represent his life as fit, but pop media have elected him the trans* representative. Speaking the lived truths of his experience is one thing, speaking publicly on behalf of trans* folks everywhere is another. The danger lies in the seductive accessibility of Bono’s identity (gender-binary-conforming, misogynistic, pathological) to dominant culture. 

Fellow celebrity-offspring Stephen Ira wrote out against Bono’s status as the premiere trans* spokesperson in U.S. mass culture. Ira addresses points raised by Valentine’s hypothetical: “[W]ho is included in ‘transgender’?” (37). Thanks to language similar to Bono’s, many gender-non-conforming and anti-normative trans* individuals “assumed that transgender could never refer to them.”

It’s especially important in pop representations of trans* folks to articulate intracategorical differences and the insecurity of gender identities. Otherwise, normative and exclusive language by transgender individuals about ‘transgender’ could redefine trans* to create space only for the assimilationist-minded.

⊗ Patrick beane

Ps Please forgive my transgressively belated post. I can’t write before the witching hour.