Transphobia (or less commonly transprejudice, or trans-misogyny when referring to transphobia directed toward trans women as it intersects with misogyny) is a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards transsexuality and transsexual or transgender people, based on the expression of their internal gender identity (see Phobia – terms indicating prejudice or class discrimination). Researchers describe transphobia as emotional disgust, fear, anger or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who don't conform to society's gender expectations,[1][2] and say that although it is similar to homophobia, racism and sexism, those attitudes are becoming generally considered unacceptable in modern society, whereas some individuals still maintain transphobic views without fear of censure.[3]

The related term cissexism, which is sometimes used as a synonym of transphobia, refers to the assumptions that due to human sexual differentiation one's gender as either a man or a woman is determined solely by a "biological" sex of male or female respectively, and that trans people are inferior to cis people. Whether intentional or not, both transphobia and cissexism have severe consequences for the target of the negative attitude. Many trans people also experience homophobia and heterosexism from people who associate their gender identity with homosexuality, or because they also have a non-heterosexual sexual orientation. Attacking someone on the basis of a perception of their gender identity rather than a perception of their sexual orientation is known as "trans bashing", as opposed to "gay bashing". Homophobia and transphobia are correlated.[4]

Etymology and use

Transphobia is a portmanteau word patterned on the term homophobia. It derives from the English neo-classical prefix trans- (meaning "across, on the far side, beyond") from transgender and the root -phobia (from the Greek: φόβος, phóbos, "fear") found in homophobia. Along with biphobia, homophobia and transphobia are members of the family of terms used when intolerance and discrimination is directed toward LGBT people.

Transphobia need not be a phobia as defined in clinical psychology (i.e., an anxiety disorder). Its meaning and use typically parallel those of xenophobia.

The adjectival form transphobic describes things or qualities related to transphobia, whereas the noun transphobe is a label for people thought to harbor transphobia.


The transfeminist theorist and author Julia Serano argues in her book Whipping Girl that transphobia is rooted in sexism. She locates the origins of both transphobia and homophobia in what she calls "oppositional sexism", the belief that male and female are "rigid, mutually exclusive categories, each possessing a unique and nonoverlapping set of attributes, aptitudes, abilities, and desires". Serano contrasts oppositional sexism with "traditional sexism", the belief that males and masculinity are superior to females and femininity. Furthermore, she writes that transphobia is fueled by insecurities people have about gender and gender norms.[5]

The transgender author and critic Jody Norton believes that transphobia is an extension of homophobia and misogyny. She argues that transgender people, like gays and lesbians, are hated and feared for challenging and undermining gender norms and the gender binary. Norton writes that the "male-to-female transgender incites transphobia through her implicit challenge to the binary division of gender upon which male cultural and political hegemony depends".[6]


Harassment and violence

Harassment and violence directed against transgender people is often called trans bashing, and can be physical, sexual or verbal. Whereas gay bashing is directed against a target's real or perceived sexual orientation, trans bashing is directed against the target's real or perceived expressed gender identity. The term has also been applied to hate speech directed at transgender people[7] and to depictions of transgender people in the media that reinforce negative stereotypes about them.[8] Notable victims of violent crimes motivated by transphobia include Brandon Teena, Gwen Araujo, Angie Zapata, Nizah Morris, and Lauren Harries.[9]

According to the American Psychological Association, transgender children are likelier than other children to experience harassment and violence in school, foster care, residential treatment centers, homeless centers and juvenile justice programs.[10] Researchers say trans youth routinely experience taunting, teasing and bullying at school, and that nearly all trans youth say they were verbally or physically harassed in school, particularly during gym class, at school events, or when using single-sex restrooms. Three-quarters report having felt unsafe.[2]

As adults, transgender people are frequently subjected to ridicule, stares, taunting and threats of violence, even when just walking down the street or walking into a store.[11] A U.S. survey of 402 older, employed, high-income transgender people found that 60% reported violence or harassment because of their gender identity. 56% had been harassed or verbally abused, 30% had been assaulted, 17% had had objects thrown at them, 14% had been robbed and 8% had experienced what they characterized as an unjustified arrest.[4]

A study of 81 transgender people in Philadelphia found 30% reported feeling unsafe in public because they were transgender, with 19% feeling, for the same reason, "uncomfortable." When asked if they had ever been forced to have sex, experienced violence in their home, or been physically abused, the majority answered yes to each question.[12]

When transgender people are murdered, they are often shot or stabbed repeatedly, riddled with bullets or bludgeoned beyond recognition.[13]

Misgendering and exclusion

Misgendering is a word coined by transsexual American writer and biologist Julia Serano to refer to the experience of being labeled by someone as having a gender other than the one you identify with. Misgendering can be deliberate or accidental. It ordinarily takes the form of a person using pronouns (including "it") to describe someone that are not the ones they prefer,[14][15][16][17][18]calling a person "ma'am" or "sir" in contradiction to the person's gender identity,[19][16][20] using a pre-transition name for someone instead of a post-transition one,[18][21][22][23] or insisting that a person behave consistently with their assigned rather than self-identified gender, for example by using a bathroom designated for males even though the person identifies as female. The experience of being misgendered is common for all transgender people before they transition, and for many afterwards as well.[24] Transgender people are regularly misgendered by doctors,[10] police, media and peers, experiences that they have described as mortifying,[25] hurtful, especially to transgender youth,[26] cruel,[27] and "only making our lives harder."[26] Knowingly and deliberately misgendering a transgender person is considered offensive.[26][27]

In August 2013, after murdered 21-year-old New York trans woman Islan Nettles was referred to as "he" by a speaker at her memorial service, transgender actress Laverne Cox characterized misgendering as "part of the violence that led to Islan's death."[26]

In 2008, Allen Andrade beat to death Colorado transgender teenager Angie Zapata, who he afterwards described to police as "it."[26]

Transgender people often are excluded from entitlements or privileges reserved for people whose gender identity they share, but whose assigned gender they do not. It is very common, for example, for transgender women to be stopped or questioned when they use public bathrooms designated for women.[11][18]

Homeless shelters, hospitals and prisons have denied trans women admission to women's areas and forced them to sleep and bathe in the presence of men.[28] This situation has been changing in some areas, however. For example, on February 8, 2006, New York City's Department of Homeless Services announced an overhaul of its housing policy with the goal of specifically ending discrimination against transgender people in its shelters.[29]

As users of healthcare

A study of 81 transgender people in Philadelphia found 14% said they had been refused routine medical care because they were transgender. 18% answered yes when asked if, when they went in for a check-up, "being transgendered create[d] a problem" for them.[12]

Transgender people depend largely on the medical profession to receive not only hormone replacement therapy, but also vital care. In one case, Robert Eads died of ovarian cancer after being refused treatment by more than two dozen doctors.[30] In the US-based National Center For Transgender Equality's 2011 survey, 19% had been refused medical care due to their transgender or gender non-conforming status,[31] showing that refusal of treatment due to transphobia is not uncommon. Another example of this is the case of Tyra Hunter. Ms. Hunter was involved in an automobile accident, and when rescue workers discovered she was transgender, they backed away and stopped administering treatment. She later died in hospital.[32]

In many European countries, any transgender person who wishes to change their legal gender must first be sterilized. Several countries are reviewing this law; Sweden repealed it in December 2012.[33]

In the workplace

Transphobia also manifests itself in the workplace. Some transgender people lose their jobs when they begin to transition. A study from Willamette University stated that a transsexual person fired for following the recommended course of treatment rarely wins it back through federal or state statutes.[34]

News stories from the San Francisco Chronicle and Associated Press cite a 1999 study by the San Francisco Department of Public Health finding a 70 percent unemployment rate amongst the city's transgender population. On February 18, 1999, the San Francisco Department of Public Health issued the results of a 1997 survey of 392 trans women and 123 trans men, which found that 40 percent of those trans women surveyed had earned money from full or part-time employment over the preceding six months. For trans men, the equivalent statistic was 81 percent. The survey also found that 46 percent of trans women and 57 percent of trans men reported employment discrimination.[35]

A 2002 American study found that among educators, trans educators are 10-20% likelier to experience workplace harassment than their gay and lesbian colleagues.[2]

In the hiring process, discrimination may be either open or covert, with employers finding other ostensible reasons not to hire a candidate or just not informing prospective employees at all as to why they are not being hired. Additionally, when an employer fires or otherwise discriminates against a transgender employee, it may be a "mixed motive" case, with the employer openly citing obvious wrongdoing, job performance issues or the like (such as excessive tardiness, for example) while keeping silent in regards to transphobia.

Employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression is illegal in some U.S. cities, towns and states. Such discrimination is outlawed by specific legislation in the State of New Jersey and might be in other states (as it is in the states of California, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington) or city ordinances; additionally, it is covered by case law in some other states. (For example, Massachusetts is covered by cases such as Lie vs. Sky Publishing Co. and Jette vs. Honey Farms.) Several other states and cities prohibit such discrimination in public employment. Sweden and the United Kingdom has also legislated against employment discrimination on the grounds of gender identity. Sometimes, however, employers discriminate against transgender employees in spite of such legal protections.[36]

There is at least one high-profile employment-related court case unfavorable to transgender people. In 2000, the southern U.S. grocery chain Winn-Dixie fired longtime employee Peter Oiler, despite a history of repeatedly earning raises and promotions, after management learned that the married, heterosexual truck driver occasionally cross-dressed off the job. Management argued that this hurt Winn-Dixie's corporate image. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Winn-Dixie on behalf of Oiler but a judge dismissed it.[37]

Sometimes transgender people facing employment discrimination turn to sex work to survive,[38] placing them at additional risk of such things as encountering troubles with the law, including arrest and criminal prosecution; enduring workplace violence; and possibly contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.[35]

From government

Transgender people also face the denial of right of asylum or inhuman treatment in process of asylum-seeking. For example, Fernada Milan, a transsexual woman from Guatemala was placed in an asylum center for males in Denmark and while there, was raped by several men. She is now in danger of deportation into Guatemala where transgender people have no rights and face possible execution.[39]

Transgender disenfranchisement is the practice of creating or upholding barriers that keep transgender individuals from voting and therefore restrict the principles of universal suffrage.

Transphobia and social conservatism

The Christian Right has become increasingly involved in campaigning against transgender inclusive antidiscrimination legislation. Much of this transphobia is based on conservative Catholic natural law theory, derived from the work of Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and then modified by John Finnis, Robert P. George and other conservative Catholics to posit human 'essences' that are 'immutable' (like 'biological sex' or 'genetical or chromosomal sex') to discourage government funding for reassignment surgery, or inclusion within anti-discrimination legislation, such as Canada's contemporary Bill C-279, intended to outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

According to the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance website, under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican adopted its current opposition to reassignment surgery in 2000, although it was not made official until 2003. Other Christian Right opponents of transgender rights include the US Family Research Council, the late Charles Socarides and the American Family Association, REAL Women of Canada, Focus on the Family, Canada's Lifesite and Family First New Zealand. Transgender rights activists and LGB and other supporters question why a sectarian religious philosophy, such as "natural law" theory, should be binding on those who do not share these a priori religious conservative perceptions of gender identity and the morality of reassignment surgery or transsexuality, citing religious freedom, freedom from religion and religious compulsion and separation of church and state as benchmarks of healthy democratic societies.[40][41]

Transphobia in feminism

Radical feminist Janice Raymond's 1979 book, The Transsexual Empire, was and still is controversial due to its unequivocal condemnation of transsexual surgeries. In the book Raymond says, "All transsexuals rape women's bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves .... Transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive."[42]

Perhaps the most visible site of conflict between feminists and trans women has been the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. The festival ejected a transsexual woman, Nancy Burkholder, in the early 1990s.[43] Since then, the festival has admitted "womyn-born-womyn" only. The activist group Camp Trans formed to protest the "womyn-born-womyn" policy and to advocate for greater acceptance of trans women within the feminist community. A number of prominent transgender activists and transfeminists were involved in Camp Trans including Riki Wilchins, Jessica Xavier, and Leslie Feinberg. The festival considered allowing post-operative trans women to attend, however this was criticized as classist, as many trans women cannot afford sex reassignment surgery.[44]

Kimberly Nixon is a trans woman who volunteered for training as a rape crisis counselor at Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1995. When Nixon's transsexual status was determined, she was expelled. The staff decided that Nixon's status made it impossible for her to understand the experiences of their clients, and also required their clients to be genetically female. Nixon disagreed, disclosing her own history of partner abuse and sued for discrimination. Nixon's attorneys argued that there was no basis for the dismissal, citing Diana Courvant's experiences as the first publicly transsexual woman to work in a women-only domestic violence shelter. In 2007 the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear Nixon's appeal, ending the case.[45][46][47]

(Outside Canada, not all rape survivors organisations refuse to support transsexual rape survivors. Indeed, Wellington Independent Rape Crisis featured former sex worker, New Zealand Labour Party MP and the world's first transsexual elected national representative Georgina Beyer on one of its "Take Back the Night" marches as a rape survivor herself, and Beyer has also assisted the Auckland-based HELP Foundation for sexual abuse counselling, prevention and support, appearing in a poster campaign to call for higher levels of government funding.)

Transsexual women such as Sandy Stone challenged the feminist conception of "biological woman". Stone worked as a sound engineer for Olivia Records from about 1974 to 1978, resigning as the controversy over a trans woman working for a lesbian-identified enterprise increased.[48] The debate continued in Raymond's book,[42] which devoted a chapter to criticism of "the transsexually constructed lesbian-feminist." Groups like Lesbian Organization of Toronto then voted to exclude trans lesbians.[49] Sheila Jeffreys labeled transgenderism "deeply problematic from a feminist perspective and [stated] that transsexualism should be seen as a violation of human rights."[50]

However, few[original research?] feminists are transphobic: not all feminists are radical feminists and not all radical feminists share views on this issue with Bindel, Jeffreys, Greer, and Raymond or disapprove of transition. Andrea Dworkin, a noted anti-pornography feminist supported the right of transwomen to be considered 'authentic' women in her book Women-Hating (1978). Other cisgender feminist support came from the work of poststructuralist feminist Judith Butler, particularly her books Gender Trouble (1990) and Bodies That Matter (1993), which argue that the violent 'inscription' of gender as a social construct on human bodies leads to violence against those that violate such binaristic male/female dichotomies[51][52] It should also be noted that Butler is lesbian herself and that most younger lesbian and other cisgender feminists strongly dissent from feminist transphobia. The latter is now generally regarded as archaic, rooted in feminists' historical distrust of patriarchal medical definitions of and interventions into women's physicality.


Transprejudice is a similar term to transphobia, and refers to the negative valuing, stereotyping, and discriminatory treatment of individuals whose appearance and/or identity does not conform to current social expectations or conventional conceptions of gender.[53]

Transphobia in the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities

Some members of the LGBT communities are uncomfortable with transgender individuals and issues. Authors and observers have written that "there are social and political forces that have created a split between gay/lesbian communities and bisexual/transgender communities, and these forces have consequences for civil rights and community inclusion. 'Biphobia' and 'transphobia' are a result of these social and political forces, not psychological forces causing irrational fears in aberrant individuals."[54][55][56]

Trans author Jillian Todd Weiss traces this back to social constructions created by early sexologists which split homosexuality into sexual orientation (sexual object choice) and gender identity (sexual self-identification as male or female): "This scientific rationalism and medicalization of homosexuality confirmed it as a unitary, monolithic phenomenon. This created a monosexist (exclusively same-sex) 'homosexual identity,' and a corresponding tension between identification as homosexual, on the one hand, and passing as heterosexual and/or engaging in heterosexual relationships."[54]

Historian Joanne Meyerowitz documented transphobia within the gay rights movement in the mid 20th century in response to publicity surrounding the transition of Christine Jorgensen. Jorgensen, who made frequent homophobic remarks and insisted she was not connected to or identified with gay men, was a polarizing figure among activists:

In 1953, for example, ONE magazine published a debate among its readers as to whether gay men should denounce Jorgensen. In the opening salvo, the author Jeff Winters accused Jorgensen of a "sweeping disservice" to gay men. "As far as the public knows," Winters wrote, "you were merely another unhappy homosexual who decided to get drastic about it." For Winters, Jorgensen's story simply confirmed the false belief that all men attracted to other men must be basically feminine," which, he said, "they are not." Jorgensen's precedent, he thought, encouraged the "reasoning" that led "to legal limitations upon the homosexual, mandatory injections, psychiatric treatment – and worse." In the not-so-distant past, scientists had experimented with castrating gay men.[57]

Several prominent figures in second wave feminism have also been accused of transphobic attitudes, culminating in 1979 with the publication of The Transsexual Empire by lesbian ethicist Janice Raymond, who popularized the term she-male as a slur of trans women.[42]

Trans women are sometimes denied entry to women's spaces. The feminist Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, for instance, has received much criticism for limiting its attendance to "womyn-born womyn".[58] Kay Brown of (“Transsexual, Transgender and Intersex History” - no longer online) has set forth a long chronology of the ejection of those who we now know as transgender from gay organizations starting in the 1970s.[59]

Some trans men face ostracism and rejection from lesbian communities they had been part of prior to transition. Journalist Louise Rafkin writes, "There are those who are feeling curiously uncomfortable standing by as friends morph into men. Sometimes there is a generational flavor to this discomfort; many in the over-40 crowd feel particular unease."[60] Trans men were part of the protest at the 2000 Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, "the first time the 'womyn-born womyn only' policy has been used against trannie boys, boydykes, FTM's, Lesbian Avengers and young gender-variant women."[61] While many gays and lesbians feel that transgender is simply a name for a part of their own community (i.e. the LGBT community), others actively reject the idea that transgender people are part of their community, seeing them as entirely separate and distinct.

Nor is it solely radical feminist lesbians who are antagonistic to transgender rights and inclusion. The centre-right Independent Gay Forum website has opposed transgender inclusion within the proposed US Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity within the area of paid employment within the United States, arguing that sexual orientation alone was a more pragmatic objective. However, New Zealand LGBT individuals have repeatedly called for the direct inclusion of gender identity within New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993, its national anti-discrimination statute, instead of the current indirect inclusion that exists.

In the early 1970s, conflicts began to emerge due to different syntheses of lesbian, feminist and transgender political movements, particularly in the United States. San Francisco trans activist and entertainer Beth Elliott became the focus of debate over whether to include transsexual lesbians in the movement, and she was eventually blacklisted by her own movement.[63][64]

The nature of the terms man and woman also become unclear in a similar way under this philosophy, and many feel that the only real recourse is to accept that the mind and feeling of a person is the only thing that gives that person identity, and so a person that has a female identity and mind is indeed a woman. According to this thinking, it becomes clear that in at least a categorical sense, transgender people should only be accepted in the LGB community if they themselves self-identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and the blanket assumption on the part of some gay, lesbian and bisexual people on the nature of those transgender people who are in their LGB community with a view to dis-inclusion constitutes an issue of transphobia.[59] The implacability of this question has been overcome by the rise in the 1990s of queer theory and the queer community, which defines queer as embracing all variants of sexual identity, sexual desire, and sexual acts that fall outside normative definitions of heterosexuality; thus a heterosexual man or woman as well as a transgender person of any sex can be included in the category of queer through their own choice.


Transphobia creates significant stresses for transgender people which can lead them to feel shame, alienation and inadequacy. Transgender youth often try to cope with the stress by running away from home, dropping out of school, using drugs or cutting.[2][65]Although it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics, suicide rates among transgender people are thought to be especially high, because of how they are treated by their families and by society.[13]

See also

Transgender portal


External links

  • Remembering our Dead
  • Survivor bashing – bias motivated hate crimes
  • Translatina documentary (2010)
  • Press For Change - UK law organisation for transgender people
  • Transgender Law Center - US
  • The European Commission, 2012.
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