Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"GLBT" newspaper's transmisogynistic framing of assault erases Janey Kay's gender

Spot the issues here:

How is Janey Kay identified in the headline of this piece?

Though this attack has tones of cissexism, transmisogyny, and straight-up misogyny (a strange man attacking a woman in a dark public space), Ms. Key is not a woman in this article. She's barely even a person. She's just ... a transgender. And Ray Young's manhood is unmarked: he is a gay man, not cis, just, you know, regular.

Headlines are important to defining the key elements the writer or newspaper wants to highlight in the story that follows. And in this headline, the article or headline writer chooses to identify the perpetrator's gender, and clarify his position with two adjectives - drunk and gay.

Ms. Kay, however, is nothing. She is reduced to the adjective, without any mention that she's a woman on the recieving end of violence from a man. She's just a transgender. Practically an "it".

And no, it's not just because it's shorter to say transgender. Trans woman takes no longer to write.

This article from Metro Weekly spends as much time defending the attacker as it does covering the attack. He was drunk, he supports local gay areas, and after all - Ms. Kay attacked him! After all, he's one of the family! (What is "the family"? Is being cis necessary for inclusion?) This is particularly disappointing from a newspaper that claims to cater to the trans community by tacking on the "T" to the GLB.

Violence against women is unacceptable, and I'm pleased the perpetrator in this incident is being held responsible. But in coverage of such violence, it's crucial to remember that this is, indeed, violence against women. Ms. Kay is not "a transgender"; she's a woman, a trans woman, attacked by a man, a cis man, for not fitting into his gendered, sexist, cissexist expectations, for not being "part of the family". Reducing someone to an adjective is dehumanizing and degendering. Referring to her by simply her transition status is sexist, cissexist, and transmisogynistic.


  1. GLBT publications often forget that little t at the end when they operate. This doesn't really surprise me.

    Just more cis privilege at work.

    I mean, geez, you'd know that they would never title a story as "a gay assaults a transgender"

    Why do they think the former is bad but the latter is okay? Because they don't really give a damn about trans folk.

  2. I feel similarly about the term lesbian-- why is it a noun, while "gay men" are allowed to have "gay" as an adjective to their identity. It's as though gay women magically transform into some alien creature..

  3. A good post. I thought this context might illuminate it further tho.

    This was most definitely a hate crime. The hair pull is a typical feature of hate crimes against trans women.
    Basically the perp thinks that she or he is entitled to show that the trans woman is "really fake" and by extension, her body parts are not real, not flesh and blood.
    They always are, of course, and the drawing of blood only enrages the attacker further. People will do just about anything to erase and destroy our lives; it is never a simple bashing. That pattern of proving us as fake by ripping chunks of our bodies off is a central feature to many of these attacks, just as much as the media is complicit in stripping us of our humanity and our womanhood.

    That woman is very lucky to be alive, and we are all lucky that that gay misogynist is being punished, and forced to confront his hateful nature, and the drug abuse abetting it.

    @colewardell Your claim is somewhat appropriative, unless, like me, you are all of trans and a lesbian. If not, you may want to think of how you can even make that comparison at all.

  4. "I let her know I was part of the family." Yeah I guess you did asshole. You must be the abusive alcoholic husband in the family.

  5. Colwardell

    Gay as an adjective to describe women is certainly sometimes used, though it strikes me as a little archaic. If anything, I would've guessed that the decline in it's usage was because gay women were objecting to it, and were trying to emphasize a separateness from gay men.

  6. Oh god. So, so horrible.

    Thank you for the context, voz. :(

  7. I really like this blog so far -redundant analysis of em em notwithstanding - but I have a problem with your use of GLBT. The acronym was originally and usually still is LGBT. the placing of the G before the L for absolutely no reason just reaffirms cis male privilege above lesbians, bisexual people and trans folk. Also, as an aside, a few extra letters would not go astray; A to represent asexuals, I to represent intersexed people, and Q to represent queer/questioning people also. Many queer folk don't fall into the LGBT binary.

  8. Brian; as a queer woman who sometimes describes herself as gay, I prefer it to lesbian as lesbianism is so fetishized in western culture. However I know other lesbians who absolutely will not self describe as gay as they consider it a gendered term.

  9. HoneyNee, the descriptor "GLBT" is not mine but the newspapers. Thus the quotation marks.


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