11 May 2013

Misgendering, Misogyny And Murder

A week and a half ago, I wrote about the way Cleveland Plain-Dealer reporter John Canigilia maligned murdered transwoman Ci Ci Dove, and how his editors wrote a headline that further trivialized her death.  

As Dana Beyer points out in an excellent Huffington Post article, Caniglia and the Plain-Dealer's errors are not merely breaches of rules laid out in the AP Stylebook or lapses of decency and respect.  As Beyer writes, "Misgendering has implications beyond murder and is often used by religious and feminist fundamentalists to dehumanize trans persons." She correctly identifies it as the root of "the 'bathroom bill' meme", which fosters fear about "men" in women's bathrooms. It's also the basis of the "gay panic" defense men invoke after beating or killing women whom they discover to be trans because, they believe, being attracted to trans women makes them gay. 

At the bottom of such misgendering is (ironically, given its use by feminist fundamentalists) misogyny.  One researcher found, in the words of an interviewee, that "transgender is just a long word for 'gay'."  To people who share such a belief, a cisgender man who makes love to another cisgender man is no different from a post-operative transsexual like yours truly.  Each is seen as a man who behaves in a "feminine" manner, which means that we have violated the code of masculinity.  In such a system of belief, a man who fails to be a man is a failed human being who deserves, at best, contempt or, worse, the kind of brutally violent death that claims too many of us--and struck Ci Ci Dove.

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