A working definition of transphobia

How could we define transphobia? The working definition of Antisemitism might be a good start. The same techniques, of mockery, and attempts to inspire anger or fear, are used in both. The IHRA explanation starts with a definition then has illustrative examples.

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. For us, I would specify what that perception may be: a perception of trans women as a class, rather than trans individuals, as a threat; and attempts to make others perceive us in the same way.

Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. So we are abused, and others are told we are dangerous, ridiculous, or disgusting.

There is also this definition of Islamophobia Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness illustrated by a range of examples.

Should we describe a root? Transphobia is rooted in a right wing desire to preserve gender stereotypes or a Left wing desire to- what? Preserve cis women’s rights with no concern for trans people? The trouble is, the campaigns do nothing for cis women’s rights. When someone says she feels sick if she is referred to as “cis”, that shows more than “a concern for cis women’s rights”. On the Left it is revulsion. Islamophobia is linked to racism, and because atheism is unobjectionable, and some of Islam can be reasonably criticised, it is the racist root that must be emphasised. Slurs for Muslims are like slurs for BAME people: racist.

Saying it is rooted in revulsion adds nothing. I would not describe a root. There is revulsion, even if a transphobe can maintain some politeness speaking with a trans person. I am open to suggestions. There is a difference between right wing transphobia and left-wing transphobia, though: on the Right, transphobia preserves gender stereotypes, but on the Left those who loathe stereotypes may still be transphobes.

I would say this. Transphobia discounts the experience, history and needs of trans people. It may claim that as a class trans women are a threat to cis women, or that trans men are incapable of knowing themselves or making decisions. Non-binary and binary trans people are subject to transphobia. It may manifest in physical violence, abuse, or apparent reasoned defence of moral values.

Then the definitions go on to specific examples.

I don’t think a belief that women need women’s space is transphobic, but a belief that trans women necessarily vitiate it is transphobic. Trans women need women’s space too.

It is transphobic to vilify trans people where their being trans is the reason for vilification. For example, the Times reporting criminal cases against trans women, where any similar case against a cis person would not be reported.

It is not transphobic to say “Sex is real”. Of course sex is real. It is transphobic to make transphobic conclusions from the fact that sex is real, such as, that trans women should not be in women’s space.

It is transphobic to refer to trans people who are criminals or who behave offensively, and draw conclusions about all trans people from their crimes or other behaviour, which is as wrong as it is with any other class of people.

It is transphobic to allege that gender recognition reform will affect anyone other than trans people. Some transphobes suggest that it will introduce “self-id” so that men will use it to enter women’s spaces. Diagnosis and Equality Act rights are based on self-declaration already, and men enter women’s spaces without any need to claim they are trans. Getting a gender recognition certificate in order to enter women’s space for criminal purposes would be an aggravation of the offence, and so is unlikely.

Transphobia may be expressed in apparent reasoned, moderate language, or as passionate defence of the rights of other groups such as women or children.

Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust is antisemitic, and accusing trans people of exaggerating our deaths, suicides or the hate crimes against us is transphobic.

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor. And saying that people should not transition when they want to and their doctors recommend it is transphobic.

It is transphobic to divide trans people into good and bad, or genuine and false, for any reason.

Trans people are exposed to societal transphobia, which they internalise. Trans people can be transphobic.

Misgendering may be an innocent mistake, but may also be transphobic, depending on context.

Prejudice against gay, lesbian and bi people expressed as disapproval of their failure to conform to gender stereotypes is transphobic as well as homophobic or biphobic.

This definition and examples clearly indicate that WPUK and the LGB Alliance are transphobic organisations. It may be reasonable to exclude a particular trans woman from a particular women’s space, but not all of us all the time, as WPUK advocates.

There is transphobic discrimination: trans people are less likely to get jobs after interview than straight people. Trans people may be treated less well by services.

Who defines it? Trans people should, like we do with hate crimes and hate incidents: The Macpherson report said: “A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.” That was later widened to the five “monitored strands” of hate crime, “race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender” (sic). In Manchester there was a consultation on what other strands should be added recently. But, I am uncomfortable with anyone suggesting that what I see as reasonable criticism of the government of the state of Israel is antisemitic. Possibly pushback is unavoidable, but I would want cis people to accept trans people’s definition of transphobia unless there is absolutely clear argument they should not. (If we could ever agree on anything- we are not some monolithic bloc.)

All comments welcome.

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