A Response to Laverne Cox’s Speech by gndsgirl11

Although society has come a long way from the days of segregation and the hatred of gay marriage, there are still obvious signs of old beliefs in the new age, which is seen particularly strongly among the LGBTQ community. As Laverne Cox informs us in a video where she explains the intersection of transphobia, misogyny and racism, transwomen (MTFs) experience 54% of all violence within the community (Cox). They will receive further hatred and violence if they do not conform to the ‘societal norm’s that come with being a women in today’s society. It is automatically believed that women must behave in a certain way in order to be accepted. Women are portrayed in advertisements as thin, sexual objects, and often times due to the brainwashing of media, if one does not conform to these beliefs their womenhood is degraded.

After the male-to-female transition a transwomen experiences, they are often treated with contempt. There have been cases in the United States where transwomen have been walking down the street and have been beaten or stabbed to death simply due to the fact that they are transgender (Cox). It is an unfortunate reality that even in our present society, transwomen experience gender harassment simply because that is who they truly are. Gender harassment is something that majority of transwomen suffer from due to the fact that they are no longer receiving the privileges one does from simply being a man. It can be argued that this is because men feel intimidated and unnerved by MTFs because that do not understand the meaning or reasoning of transitioning, and many of them refuse to even try to understand what MTFs feel.

Another thing that transwomen may experience after their transition is quite the same as to what women who are born as women experience through the act of misogyny. Misogyny is similar to contempt in the way that they are both aggressive forms of hatred towards an individual group, however misogyny is directly inflicted upon women. The fact that women are portrayed in such a poor light in media is only furthering the allowance of misogynistic remarks and unrealistic expectations towards women.

Laverne Cox is a MTF black woman. Being black and transgender is an ultimate form of intersectionality, and one that is most difficult for some people among society to understand. Black people are constantly discriminated against by the power structure that cisgender white men seem to have over black transwomen, and that white transwomen do not experience the same levels of violence as black transwomen (Cox). Laverne Cox provides us with an excellent example. One day when she was walking down the street, a Latino man and a black man were catcalling her, the Latino called her ‘momma’ and the black man tried to correct him by saying that she was an N-word. Cox had the two struggles among today’s society of being black and a transwomen, neither of which affects who she is as a person. It is unfortunate, again, that these women are exposed such degrading behavior just for being who they really are.

It is extremely important for all members of society to move past their fears of all members of the LGBTQ community in today’s society. There is no way violence and aggression towards members of the community; MTFs in particular, will come to an end until there is all around acceptance of the differences of others. All members of society need to be aware that just because someone is different than you are, does not mean they are a bad person, nonetheless do they deserve to be beaten or stabbed to death. The known violence towards the LGBTQ community often results in them being too afraid to be open about their preferred sexualities and gender which can result in an unintentional segregation between members of our society. If members of our society were more open about everyone’s sexual and gender preferences, it would create a more accepting society where all people could feel comfortable in their own skin. To further one’s education about the dangers the MTFs experience in their day-to-day lives, I would recommend everyone to watch Laverne Cox’s speech about transgender awareness. If more people were to educate themselves on this issue, it could very possibly lead to a more positive society for all.

Works Cited:

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2015.

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8 thoughts on “A Response to Laverne Cox’s Speech by gndsgirl11

  1. Moira

    Hi gndsgirl11! Thank you for your blog this week. I liked that you took an intersectional approach to this video – it is true that Cox’s positionality puts her often on the receiving end of misogyny, trans-misogyny, and racism. I had a question about one of your observations – that women are “portrayed in such a poor light” in the media. I agree that there is a lot of sexist media out there, and I wondered what specifically you were thinking of when you mentioned this. I also wondered how you see trans individuals portrayed in popular culture, or if you do at all. Do you see any trends in the ways that trans women are portrayed? Do you think there is a difference between trans-misogyny and the prejudice against trans men? How do you think this relates to misogyny itself, and the way we stratify women and men with respect to power? Again, thanks for posting, I look forward to hearing from you in the future!

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    1. gndsgirl11 Post author

      Hi Moira,
      Thank you for these questions! When I mentioned how women are portrayed in such a poor light in the media I was generally referring more to the fact that, particularly in advertising, women are often shown as nothing more than sex objects. Alcohol is sold based on the women in their ads, often wearing nothing at all, or just a bikini showing off their body in a highly sexualized way. Also Axe is sold based on the idea that the better one smells, the more women will flock to them for sexual favours.

      I have seen very little amounts of trans individuals portrayed in popular culture. The one time I have, was in Sons of Anarchy. I am not sure if you’ve ever seen this show, but there is one character that I have in mind. The character is a trans women named Venus. Venus ends up developing a relationship with a straight man, and all of the characters are highly accepting of Venus as a person and are able to look past the fact that she is trans and accept her for the person she is. Another time I have witnessed trans women in media is Orange is the New Black, through Laverne Cox’s character. I appreciated the fact that she was placed in a women’s prison, given that it could have been very possible for the justice system to be ignorant about her gender and choose to see her as man, based on the fact that she was born a man. However, they accepted her for her true nature of being a woman. Thus, I feel as though this is a very positive light in which the LGBTQ community is represented. However, there are definitely times in which trans women and trans men are portrayed in a negative light. I cannot imagine that all television shows are as accepting of trans men and women, and if they are shown in a negative light I believe that it would be in a way for them to show the viewers that violence against the LGBTQ community is a very common thing in today’s society and that it is unacceptable.

      Like I mentioned in one of my other comments, I have this theory that trans women are generally less accepted based on the fact that it is so widely unacceptable for men to behave femininely. In my experience, I have witnessed more feminine men be treated far more poorly than masculine women. I think that on a deeper level this definitely has negative connotation among trans women in society. That’s just a theory, though.

      Thank you very much for you questions!! I appreciate the discussion.
      -gndsgirl11

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  2. Darkling

    Hi Gndsgirl11!
    Thank you for posting this, your second of three blog assignments! I also wrote about Laverne Cox’s speech on transmisogynoir, although I took a different approach to it. It seems that you focused more closely on explaining Ms. Cox’s experiences, positionality, and beliefs than on doing broader analysis. The assignment parameters were really vague this time, so I’m sure that both of our approaches are acceptable. I do know that we were asked to analyse more broadly, but Ms. Cox already does such a good job at locating her experiences within a larger social narrative of oppression and injustice that it is difficult to approach it differently! It was a really good video for us to watch!
    Overall, you made some great points: a few things that stood out to me as possible errors or places for improvement are as follows:
    You refer to Laverne Cox, and trans women more generally, as “transwomen” and “MTFs.” The textbook and some online materials may be a little out of date, but it is generally understood that “transwomen” is grammatically incorrect. In the same way that you wouldn’t call a woman with blonde hair a “blondewoman” or a cis woman a “ciswoman” or a black woman a “blackwoman,” transgender women shouldn’t be referred to as “transwomen.” When they are called “transwomen” while cis women are only called “women,” it implies that trans women are not women without qualification, while cis women are women innately. Obviously, this is untrue, although our society very much reinforces this idea. Similarly, referring to trans women as “MTFs” puts emphasis on their assigned sex instead of on their gender. The term is widely falling into disuse with younger generations, and in general, it shouldn’t be used once the gender of the person to whom you are referring has been established. If you need to explain to someone what being a trans woman entails, you can say “she was assigned male at birth (AMAB)” and after that it isn’t necessary to bring up her assigned sex. At one point, you also refer to “women who are born as women”: I know you are using this language to differentiate between the experiences of cis and trans women, but in the future, it is better to say “cis women” than to say “women who are born as women.” If you need to talk about this in terms of how society imposes and upholds gender on the basis of sex, you can say “women who are assigned female at birth (AFAB).”
    One other thing you said that kind of stood out to me was that “[g]ender harassment is something that majority of transwomen suffer from due to the fact that they are no longer receiving the privileges one does from simply being a man.” I understand what you’re saying here, but I would be cautious to associate trans women, regardless of whether they have had surgery or taken hormones or begun publicly presenting as their gender, with cis men. Many prominent trans women in the last few decades have argued against the idea of trans women accessing male privilege. While being read as male can protect you from certain forms of harassment, a trans woman’s experience of being read as male is often painful, disorienting, and dysphoria-inducing–whereas a cis man can comfortably accept the privilege tied to being perceived as male.
    Those are my main concerns! I think this is an excellent start! I don’t think that either of us touched on this in detail, but what did you think of Laverne Cox’s assertion that most homophobic violence and bullying is directed at people for failing to fulfill the expectations attached to the gender they have been assigned? I thought that was really interesting, as I’d never considered it that way before! Do you think that the lack of representation of trans women in the media contributes to transmisogynistic violence? Why do you think it is that trans women and transfeminine nonbinary people are more likely to be the targets of violence than trans men and transmasculine nonbinary people? Does this tie into the way in which femininity and womanhood are conceptualized as inferior in our society?
    Anyway, thank you so much for posting! Keep learning!

    -Darkling

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    1. gndsgirl11 Post author

      Darkling,

      As I was writing my blog post, I knew that I was most likely using some of my terms incorrectly, and as I ran out of time to discuss with Zoya beforehand, I truly appreciate your commentary on my work. I feel as though you always correct me in a polite way. You continue to educate me more on these topics than I feel the course can, and I appreciate it more than you can know. Coming into this course, it has been difficult for me to understand and learn all of these new concepts. I have always been very forward thinking in these ways, and never quite realized how ignorant I have been. I always considered myself to be educated on the topic of the LGBTQ community, however now that I am learning more, I realize that I have a very long way to come. I always look forward to your insight and response to my posts, because I am confident in the fact that I will learn something new. Thank you so very much for correcting me on my word choice in this light, and I will ensure that I will continue on in life without using words such as “transwomen”. The point you made about transwomen being grammatically incorrect was a very good point, and really opened my eyes. Again, thank you very much.

      In regards to your question about my thoughts on Laverne Cox assertion that most homophobic violence and bullying is directed at people for failing to fulfill the expectations attached to the gender they have been assigned, I thought it was a very interesting statement. Similarly to you, I had never quite thought of it that way, and when she mentioned that I thought “what an excellent point of view”. It really made sense to me, as I find that people are often very ignorant and forward thinking in terms of the LGBTQ community, and even with the growing acceptance of the community, there is still a very concerning about of people in this world who are offended by how these people live their lives, because that is truly who they are. I believe people are afraid of the fact that is in in fact possible for a female assigned at birth to want to be a man, because that is who she truly is. Personally, I do not believe that some people in society want to accept that there are different ways of living life, and that not all people can or want to conform to their assigned gender.

      I definitely believe that media plays a huge role contributing to violence in real life. It promotes bullying, by making the bullies seem “cooler” than the people who get bullied, promotes anorexia by having size 0 models, and I find that unless it is a show on HBO or showtime, the gay community is often pushed aside and not represented, and if it is shown, they are often mistreated, resulting in viewers believing that the LGBTQ community should not be accepted as part of society. I hope I portrayed this opinion correctly.

      As I am still very uneducated on the topic, based on what I have learned so far and what I can see among society and with the help of Laverne Cox’s video, I believe that trans women and transfeminine nonbinary peopel are more likely to be the targets of violence than trans men and transmasculine nonbinary people, perhaps because there is such a large stigma towards men being masculine. Generally, from what I have experience, men who are born men are taught from a young age to “be a man”, fight like a man, men don’t cry, etc. If a boy in elementary school behaves in a feminine way, he will be bullied. Thus, I believe that trans women are portrayed in a more negative light because men are ‘not supposed’ to be feminine. I also find, for some reason, it is more acceptable for girls to behave more as boys, which could be why there is less violence towards trans men in society. For example, girls who are considered ‘tomboys’ are not looked down upon. From my experience, ‘tomboys’ (I understand this is not a correct word to use and that it is offensive, I just honestly have no idea how else to address this example), are generally more accepted by both the male and female aspects of groups in school, which is, in my opinion, most definitely part of the reason why there is such a negative and violent view towards trans women and transfeminine nonbinary thinking people.

      Again, thank you so much for your input, and great questions.
      Talk soon,
      gndsgirl11

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  3. Elin

    Hi gndsgirl11,

    First off, I want to applaud you on succinctly summarizing Laverne Cox’s chilling piece. I thought that your connection between the violence experienced by transgendered individuals and gender harassment was quite interesting and thought provoking. Further, your dialogue and summary adequately encapsulated the magnitude and severity of the systemic issues which faces both the transgender community and individuals, by doing so you allotted the subject matter the respect and attention which this topic deserves. Throughout the piece you talked specifically, as Laverne Cox did, about the discrimination that MTF transgendered people specifically face, in your research for this piece did you come across anything that addressed any hardships or discrimination that FTM transgendered people face?

    ~Elin

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    1. gndsgirl11 Post author

      Elin,

      Thank you so much for this question! While I was doing my research, I did not come across nearly as many articles or pages addressing hardships that FTM transgendered people face. I found this to be very fascinating yet concerning, considering that it is just as important for people to be aware of the fact that all members of the LGTBQ community face. While Laverne Cox was focusing on trans women, which is most likely due to the fact that she is one herself, it does not mean that other members of the community are not facing the same hardships and violence. I would encourage everyone to do deeper research and further educate themselves about the violence being experienced by other members of the community.

      -gndsgirl11

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  4. Rosa Queen

    Hey Gndsgirl11!
    I once again enjoyed your blog entry on Laverne Cox’s speech. In particular, I found that your method of isolating each of the factors of black MTF individuals’ intersecting personality quite enlightening, as we as a society tend to label people as a plus or minus, desirable or undesirable, without any thought of the human that they are addressing. It seems as though men primarily are unable to understand the MTF population’s willing loss of privilege associated with being a man, and therefore are unable to empathize with this group. Another argument is that men are particularly discriminatory towards the MTF population as they are uncomfortable with their own attraction towards them and thus allow themselves to degrade these people. What are your views on this? You also addressed the issue that it is primarily white cisgendered men that antagonize black MTF persons. This is quite interesting to me as these two populations represent polar opposites in terms of our standardized power structure, how can we bridge this gap? There are so many factors playing into the discrimination faced by the black MTF population, how can we attempt to start the healing process? With gender equality? Racial equality? Equality for the LGBTQ population? It seems to me that the struggles faced by this marginalized group is the result of ongoing discrimination on all these fronts. Why do you believe we should start with acceptance of the LGBTQ community over these other factors?

    Looking forward to your next blog!
    -Rosa Queen

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    1. gndsgirl11 Post author

      Rosa Queen,

      Thank you very much for your input! I had never considered the fact that men are uncomfortable with their own attraction towards trans women. This was a very interesting thought to me, and it makes complete sense. Many men are uncomfortable with the thought of being sexual with another man, and this opened my eyes to an entirely new side of things. Of course men will feel uncomfortable knowing they are attracted to someone who used to be a man, however the key word in that sentence is used to. People in society need to realize that trans people are the gender that they are, and not the gender that they were assigned at birth. Just because a trans woman was born a male does not mean that she is a male. Men need to move past this point and realize that trans women are specifically women, therefore they are attracted to a woman, and not a man. Very interesting thought. Thank you for opening my eyes to further ideas about the fear men have of trans women.

      -gndsgirl11

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