The Angry Tranny: Tone Arguments and Trans Women

This is a guest post by gudbuytjane.

(Note: This essay is not about Lady Gaga, and I will not discuss the telephone video or any of the commentary surrounding it. If you want to discuss the video, there’s an entire internet to do that in. This essay is about derailing, so as such I’ll probably be on guard for that in the comments.)

Despite being a mostly-unknown trans activist and blogger whose target audience is usually quite small, I recently found myself at the centre of some internet drama over a piece I wrote at my blog critiquing Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video for what I perceived as transmisogynist content. My arguments were initially picked up and discussed on a few feminist blogs, Twitter, and the typical places I was used to seeing these kinds of ideas debated. A few days after I put up the post, though, it was cross-posted in its entirety to Oh No They Didn’t, a pop culture community on Livejournal. Almost immediately, my page hits increased by orders of magnitude. With the shift from academic/queer/Feminist/oppression politics sites to a mainstream audience came a nearly complete disintegration of argument, and my inbox and comment queue began to fill with hate mail. In almost every letter the author concluded with an accusation like “And maybe you ****ing trannies would get somewhere if you weren’t so ****ing angry!”

I get the irony.

The Angry Tranny trope is a variation of the classic tone argument aimed specifically at trans women (it is used against trans men too, but as I suggest later I see the implication is specifically to de-gender trans women as angry men), a derail which suggests people would listen to you, if only you were nicer. This is never attainable, however, as the dominant groups retains the right to decide what is and isn’t acceptable tone, and dissenting ideas are inevitably considered impolite, rude, or angry. Angry Tranny takes this one step further, and beyond merely classifying arguments as angry trans women themselves are framed as threatening.

While they can be applied to any dissenting voice, tone arguments contain deeply transmisogynist implications when used against trans women. They imply that trans women aren’t just angry, but dangerous, feeding cissexual fears of trans women being threatening. In a number of comments cis commenters expressed fear for expressing their thoughts on the subject. This fear of trans women expressing themselves, especially in feminist spaces, is based on seeing trans women as men, and then applying to them the cis person’s expectations (while denying the lived experience of the trans woman). To suggest that trans women are in a position of social privilege which can silence cis voices is ridiculous on its face, as it is to suggest I had – as an unknown trans activist and blogger – privilege over the literally thousands of cis voices disagreeing with me. Like most derails in oppression politics tone arguments are riddled with doublespeak and knee-jerk accusations of the same behavior being pointed out in the first place. The anger against threatening cis dominance is projected back on those trans people speaking up.

Having been around discussions of trans inclusion politics for some time, especially those conversations which have happened in queer and feminist spaces, I feel I have a deep familiarity with Angry Tranny. Its consistency of use has shaped my own activism, pushing it to a more radical stance – although I am sure some cis people might gasp and point fingers at this assertion, arguing they’re being silenced, but honestly when it comes to trans inclusivity and rights activism I do not care what cis people think. That is not to say that cis people are not a part of my politics and are often close allies in the actions I take part in, or that some cis people have strongly influenced my ideas about fighting oppression, but the average cis person on the street, or even an average commenter on a progressive blog? Nope. Cultural investment in the dominance of cis voices over trans does not imply good faith in discussions, so with cis people I approach with caution.

The ultimate aim of tone arguments against trans women is to present our voices as unreasonable and thus remove us from discourse. This is so deeply woven into our culture it is nearly impossible to not be influenced by that bias without doing any work to identify and acknowledge it – work the vast majority of people just haven’t done. Until I know people have done that work I don’t expect them to have their own ideas or voice in discussing cis/trans issues, instead I expect them to repeat the silencing and erasing arguments they’ve learned from their cissexist culture. And they do.

While it is clear in the instantaneously angry dismissals in a place like ONTD, trans-focused tone arguments happen in any environment dominated by cis people. Academic and intellectual discussion takes on a more polite language, but the implication of anger or being unreasonable is still common. While it might not be flat-out assertions of anger (That still happens, mind you, the amount of anger people read into my comments at a place like Feministe might not seem apparent to a cis audience but I imagine those used to arguing marginalized positions are familiar with the behaviours) there is the tendency to frame dissenting trans voices as unreasonable or external to discourse. I think of this as taking away the middle ground.

Taking away the middle ground suggests unreasonableness by focusing only on the extremes of one’s position. One of the common responses to my critique of Lady Gaga was the sense I was comparing her video to violent transphobes. By willfully ignoring degrees of transphobic and transmisogynist behaviours this allows any criticism by trans people to be waved away as unrealistic or unreasonable. In a similar vein, one LGBT blog reported on my piece alongside a homophobic FOX News segment, and this was picked up on a few sites. The implication there was clear, dissenting trans voice = right wing homophobes. The well was poisoned, and although I hadn’t explicitly been called angry (well, the commenters did, but that always happens) the blog succeeded in making trans people seem unreasonable by association.

Dissenting ideas will provoke anger before they provoke discussion, so if they provoke anger in dominant groups you can’t expect much more than that. When I see discussion happen in the wake of that anger I’m glad, because that is where change happens, but I certainly don’t expect to see it immediately. Instead I’m used to hate mail and being shouted down, because I know the most we can hope for is to get ideas into the mainstream culture. In a culture which so violently enforces gender norms being trans is a revolutionary act whether we want it to be or not, and the act of silencing is just one of the ways we’re erased. The greater the challenge to dominance all the louder we’ll be shouted down. The Angry Tranny response will exist as long as cis dominance exists.

____________________________
gudbuytjane is the feminism, trans politics, and glam rock blog of Canadian social justice activist A. Hamilton. When she’s not busy being an angry trans woman online, A. keeps meaning to write about pop culture at I Fry Mine in Butter.


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42 Responses to The Angry Tranny: Tone Arguments and Trans Women

  1. Dorian says:

    You are fabulous. While I’ve thought about the tone argument before, and while I try to be cognizant of trans* issues, I’d completely failed to consider how the former recontextualizes itself when used against a trans* women. And I think you’ve done a really good job of making that point in a really lucid, awesome way.

    I need to get better at recognizing this myself. And you’ve reminded me of that fact. So thanks!

  2. Marilyn says:

    Though I’m ignorant about a lot of trans issues, I am seeing a comparison between the ‘Angry Tranny’ and the ‘Angry Feminist.’ Just like the ‘Angry Black Person,’ ‘Angry Single Mother,’ and even the ‘Angry Teenage Girl.’ Essentially, it seems that when any oppressed group starts getting vocal about their oppression, they are immediately told to calm down, because they are only making the problem worse. Women need to smile, be nice and patient and maybe then equality will come. Black people (or any oppressed/minority race) is told the same thing; wouldn’t it be easier if they all just acted ‘normal’ instead of being different? If they all acted/dressed/talked/chose the same careers/had the same lifestyles as the majority (white) people, then equality will come! And on and on. It’s easier to dismiss all the ‘Angry Trannys’ as hysterical or overreacting rather than stop and think they might have a reason for all the anger.

  3. Lisa Harney says:

    I’ve had a lot of discussions about trans stuff in cis-centered spaces on the internet, and I have to say that it just doesn’t matter what tone I use – I could be all sunshine and puppies or I could be sturm und drang, but I get the same responses. Cis people try to play the drowning maestro and use what they think is a subtle code for “shut the hell up” by dressing it up as “you’re too angry for me to listen to you.”

    It’s about control, authority, and putting others in their place. It’s nothing more than the reinforcement of privilege and oppression.

    It’s kind of interesting how the form these dismissals take is always so consistent.

  4. cathy says:

    I’m curious about how you see the ‘angry tranny’ as primarily about de-gendering trans women. I have tended to see it as a specifically transphobic version of the ‘angry bitch’, the strawman used to say that women’s anger is illegitimate and about us being angry bitches instead of beign a reaction to real problems. “unreasonable or external to discourse”, this is the angry bitch idea to a tee. Am I wrong here? Is angry tranny not a transphobic extension of angry bitch (like angry black woman is a specifically racist extension)?

  5. gudbuytjane says:

    @Lisa: So true, and we’ve seen lately with cis responses to trans criticism of films that exploit dead trans people or Dan Savage’s ongoing and often unchecked transphobia it is always framed that we’re screaming, angry, and our concerns are to be dismissed..

    Thank you for the links, too, they are important resources as well as a reminder for any cis person who thinks I’m silencing them: many cis people influence my approach to trans politics. I really want to make it clear how much many women of colour have influenced me with their writing and their analysis of oppression. It’s the expectation cis people have that their voice is of importance in the discussion of trans issues that I don’t buy.

  6. Lisa Harney says:

    It can be both misogynist and transphobic at the same time. The thing is that the way transphobia is mobilized against trans women applies both misogynist assumptions along with transphobic assumptions, so we end up being “angry bitches who are really men” sometimes, or just “angry men in dresses” at other times. It’s not exactly a clear-cut thing, but the degendering is pretty constant whether or not the misogyny is there.

  7. queen emily says:

    It is a transphobic extension of “angry bitch” but given that the most elemental form of transphobia is the assumption you’re not “really” your sex then it shouldn’t be surprising that the transphobia would modify the way this plays out. Namely, trans women are very often told the most basic of sexist shit (don’t take up too space, don’t be assertive, prioritise others even when it hurts you) *whilst* having our femaleness denied. Or “real” femaleness gets held out as *being* about that self-denial, which trans women can never attain.

    It’s a double bind, and you can never win.

  8. herong says:

    Thank you for this. The opposition will always use “anger” as a devaluing agent. It takes the power out of arguments and makes others focus on the “rage” instead of the person. And when used for female persons, it’s even more effective because women are seen as “irrationally emotional” as well as “powerless.” Using it against a trans women is the icing on the cake. Transphobia adds fear to the mix, creating the image of an “angry,” “irrationally emotional,” “powerless” person to be feared.

    Apathy is incredibly powerful, as is ignorance. The “anger” myth allows others to be apathetic to someone’s suffering, while maintaining their ignorance.

  9. C.L. Minou says:

    I wonder too if there’s often a Privilege Olympics of a very specific kind going on here–because given the relative numbers, when a trans person talks about cis privilege she or he is basically talking about almost everybody else in the world. And just like there were a lot of white Second Waver feminists who used to dismiss the criticisms of black feminists (especially when black feminists pointed out that their concerns were often not being addressed by the feminist movement), a lot of progressive, forward-thinking, even feminist cis people have a hard time dealing with the idea that they’re expressing cis privilege.

    I think you see this a lot in the visceral reaction to the use of cisgendered. It’s astonishing how often there’s such an angry, dismissive response to being called cisgendered. Almost as if they were being accused of something. Well, in a sense they are: of having a privilege that often was exerted unconsciously, without even a name for it. But more: I think a lot of progressive folks have come to terms that the old standards of “normal” are breaking down, that being white or male or born in Western countries are all accidents of birth, full of privileges stated and unstated, and that if you have that privilege it’s important to be aware of it and work to neutralize it.

    But being cis? That remains normal in a way that even being straight doesn’t. And that allows people to use the whole panoply of dismissive and silencing attacks. Including the infamous tone argument. Down to even the use of the word cisgendered, a subject I’ve touched on before.

  10. PrettyAmiable says:

    Keep in mind that I’m relatively ignorant of trans issues – at the very least, none of my friends openly admit to being trans – so thank you for this. I actually have never heard of the “angry trans” stereotype but likely because I immediately cut out anyone who makes me want to punch them. I’m fascinated by the de-gendering interpretation because it makes so much sense.

    Thank you for writing this – it’s important for me to seek out pieces that help me check my privilege and this piece is an excellent starting point.

  11. April says:

    The ultimate aim of tone arguments against trans women is to present our voices as unreasonable and thus remove us from discourse.

    I’ve admittedly used “the tone argument” in different ways across the blogosphere (getting better at avoiding it these days), and I have to say, the reason for using the argument was certainly never to remove a trans woman (or anyone else receiving the tone argument from me) from discourse.

    I don’t think the tone argument is ever really used by most people on most progressive blogs for that reason. I do think, though, that most people who use it actually do fail to realize that if the person in question hadn’t been “yelling,” or angry, that they wouldn’t have paid any attention, anyway. A lot of people pay think they would have, but I don’t really believe that’s the case for everyone.

    I think you broke down the dynamic really well, either way.

  12. kung fu lola says:

    This post is very challenging for me to read. When I was younger, I made a choice to prioritize my friendships and interpersonal relationships over other things. I made a conscious effort to nurture my emotional intelligence and learn skills to facilitate communicating. To me, it seemed obvious that when someone felt attacked (which I assumed was a natural instinctual reaction to being confronted with an angry, accusatory person,) they would become defensive, and defensiveness is the enemy of productive dialogue. I didn’t often think of reactions to anger in the way that they are described in this post.

    Is it possible for attempts to verbally disarm or protect oneself from a very angry individual to be non-political attempts at emotional self-preservation?

    • Cara says:

      Of course there is, kung fu lola. I don’t think that the post was in any way pro-bullying or in favor of emotionally abusive tactics. And those, too, are problems in social justice communities.

      What the post speaks out against, as I read it, is dismissing anger at oppression simply because it is expressed angrily, and saying that speaking angrily towards those doing the oppressing is somehow inherently abusive. It’s also speaking out against reading any and all criticism of oppressive behavior coming from marginalized persons as full-throttled, red-hot, uncontrollable rage. Criticism is very frequently read as unreasonably “angry” when it comes from a person who speaks from a marginalized personal experience — even when the criticism is entirely reasoned, and any anger entirely justified — in ways that the same criticism is not read when coming from a different person.

      (As this is my first comment on this thread, I also just want to note that while I will sadly show up in comments as the “author” of this post, I am of course not. Just a mod, this time around!)

  13. kung fu lola says:

    “It’s also speaking out against reading any and all criticism of oppressive behavior coming from marginalized persons as full-throttled, red-hot, uncontrollable rage. Criticism is very frequently read as unreasonably “angry” when it comes from a person who speaks from a marginalized personal experience — even when the criticism is entirely reasoned, and any anger entirely justified — in ways that the same criticism is not read when coming from a different person.”

    This is very concise, thank you.

  14. Butch Fatale says:

    Thanks. I have very little I can add that feels on-point as I’m currently smarting from some iterations of the “angry” trope in my own life, and I’m having trouble separating my experience from other people’s discussion of the use of this silencing tactic against them. But I read your original post on the video, and some discussion of the hate mail you’ve received, and now this post. I just wanted to say thanks for continuing to blog despite that terrifying treatment, and that I really appreciate reading your thoughts whenever I cross paths with them.

  15. gudbuytjane says:

    @kung fu lola: Most definitely I don’t want this piece to suggest unrestrained, abusive anger is acceptable. Cara broke it down well, for me this is largely the application of angry tone arguments as a silencing technique. I am very invested in non-violent communities and victim’s rights activism, and the angry tranny tone argument frames me as those very things. It is a very frustrating feeling when it happens.

    Anger in general is an important discussion, especially in queer and activist communities, where it often gets ignored. I believe we’re all responsible for our anger, the space it can take up, and how that intentionally or unintentionally affects others.

    The Angry Tranny tone argument applies anger to another person, though, so I believe it is important as a member of any dominant group to question our initial responses to people of marginalized communities when we read something they say as angry. I do it with the privileges I have, and I’ve often found the things that make me a bit irritated at someone seeming angry were actually issues I needed to address in myself.

    @C.L. Minou: “But being cis? That remains normal in a way that even being straight doesn’t.”

    So so true. It is an odd thing for me to feel my gender is equally as valid as a cis person’s, in ways that their worldview wouldn’t be incomprehensible when placed against a trans life. I’m lucky in that I’ve known quite a few cis people who do get it at level, but it is rare.

  16. nahui says:

    Thank you for shooting down the Tone Argument. You did it for both its general use, which tries to make invalid the arguments of anyone disenfranchised, in any way, because you are (perceived to be or actually) angry, and delegitimize anger, because it weakens the position that they -reasonable, open-minded people- would otherwise agree with; and for the specifically transphobic, gender-policing way it’s used against transwomen, who could not possibly be “real” women, because anger is inherently alien to women, doncha know? It’s bullshit and you rock for calling it.

  17. lapidary says:

    Thanks for this. At the beginning of the post I had the same reaction as some of the early commenters, namely, “why, that’s an extension of all the tone arguments against feminists!” but the post and Queen Emily’s comment about the specific connotations of anger and how the tone arguments against anger acted to defeminize trans women really made me think about this issue in a deeper way. The tone arguments then re-inscribe both sexism (women shouldn’t be angry) and transmisogyny (therefore you fail at being a woman) at the same time.
    Thanks for the reminder: “Tone arguments: why they are so very terrible”.

  18. Ami says:

    Very interesting read…trans issues are something I am trying to learn more about and this was very helpful.

    I think many marginalized groups are told they’re just angry as a way to ignore their points, as was asserted by others. What’s particularly interesting about this type of defense is that you really can’t get out of being further labeled as angry or too emotional once it happens. By trying to state you’re not angry, and what they’re asserting is unreasonable, it’s taken as further evidence of your alleged anger. It’s like when someone labels another as crazy…anything they say about not being crazy past that point is just you being crazy.

  19. Shelby says:

    Oh wow, I never thought about the tone argument as being a weapon for de-gendering trans women before. As a cis Black woman, I’m familiar with the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype being used to de-feminize me–it makes a lot of sense that it would be used to deny trans women their womanhood.

    “I am sure some cis people might gasp and point fingers at this assertion, arguing they’re being silenced, but honestly when it comes to trans inclusivity and rights activism I do not care what cis people think. ”
    I think this is SO important to be firm & confident about! Because before the activism, the fighting, the movement-making– *my* goal is to SURVIVE and for my peeps to survive too! Even if that means we need to part ways for one or both of us to stay safe– I just want to stop us from dying.

    Great post, thank you :)

  20. GinnyC says:

    Thank you for writing this!

  21. Bagelsan says:

    because given the relative numbers, when a trans person talks about cis privilege she or he is basically talking about almost everybody else in the world.

    I definitely have seen the numbers thing become a problem all by itself — even if the tone argument never comes up explicitly, just having a very small group of people talking to a very large group of people makes it easy for the less-numerous group to get shut out or drowned out.

    When there’s only you in a huge crowd, you have to raise your voice to get any airtime. And then you’re yelling you crazy bitch, what the hell? :p Or you’re being forced to respond to everyone by yourself and do it very quickly but super-politely, and you’d better be prepared to repeat yourself endlessly with no complaining.

    “Women” as a very broad minority don’t have the numerical disadvantage that many other (more specific or intersecting) groups do, so it’s can be easy to balance out a discussion of “men vs. women” while balancing a discussion with less even distribution requires work, which is icky for the people in the crowd with the privilege at that particular moment (ie. cis women in this case.) If you’re underrepresented but you don’t want to have your opinion underrepresented you end up doing a lot of talking — how improper! How angry! Etc.

  22. Bagelsan says:

    They imply that trans women aren’t just angry, but dangerous, feeding cissexual fears of trans women being threatening.

    This reminds me of the books/movies/etc. where some dangerous beast* is accepted into a family to be raised — like a baby bear is adopted by a kid or whatever, or the baby of the villain is taken in by a simple farmer. There’s always the scene where some misunderstanding occurs or evil teenagers are teasing it and it lashes out and accidentally hurts someone. Then the townspeople get all “oh, we knew it all along now it’s true nature is revealed OMGBBQ!1 Save the children!!”

    The Angry Tranny thing gets that whole vibe — cis women (or whoever) get to throw up their hands and say things like “look at the angriness of this person! We took her into our bosoms but now the true angry masculinity is apparent! We were too loving and trusting and that trans person is super mean and not a proper woman at all!”

    So yeah. Except the oppressive people in real life unabashedly skip the last scene of the movie which is always the anvilicious “the ignorant townspeople are the BAD ones — who is the true monster now??” I guess everyone missed that moral. 9.9

    *obviously, trans people != dangerous beasts. But you totally know that’s the kind of movie that is being implicitly referenced by the tearful betrayed pearl-clutching that goes on when someone has the temerity not to be a cute and quiet lil bit o’ diversity.

  23. valeriekeefe says:

    @cathy I think actually, that “angry feminist” is intended to be just as degendering as “angry tranny.” It just cuts a little closer to the bone with most trans women for a number of reasons that should be self-explanitory.

  24. amandaw says:

    gudbuytjane – excellent post, and I admire that you are able to push forward shedding light on these thousand cuts – I know what time I’ve received wider exposure like that, I felt crushed. I hope you’ll accept my sympathies for the negative consequences of wider exposure – it can be rough.

    General stuff –

    I think the “angry [x]” stereotype is, really, an indication that a person is transgressing the boundaries of acceptable [x]-ness. But here’s the thing: there’s no such thing as acceptable x-ness. Ever. No matter how demure and appeasing and self-loathing you can make yourself, you will still find your interactions deemed unacceptable by people with power over you. People think “if they just did [y] they’d be acceptable!” but it’s just not the case. Ask anybody who’s tried being nice, unendingly patient, forgiving of any and all offense, etc. and still gotten burned as angry/emotional/irrational/otherwise-dismissable. Your very existence as [x] is grounds for declaring you unacceptable at any time.

  25. cheshire says:

    here, f*ing here, this is a really good post. Yes you are absolutely right on the degendering of trans women who are angry and there showing their “true” maleness. Thankyou for putting it so clearly

    fwiw: the trans male version of this I have see is to treat anger or frustation as a sign that the guy in question is a hysterical women, unstable, can’t be trusted…..

  26. denelian says:

    i haven’t be by in a while [it’s shocking how much *less* i can do, now that i’m so disabled i can’t work or go to school :( sigh…]

    is there no longer a way to contact a moderator? i have a question, that this article/post brought back to my mind; the problem with just commenting is that, while i don’t think it falls under “101” level, it’s definately not at graduate level. and i *really* don’t want to offend anyone – i’ve stepped in it before, because i’m still not as savvy as i’d like to be when it comes to intersectionality…

    so – is there someone willing [and able; time is a commodity, i know] to have a brief [i hope!] email dialogue about the intersection of feminism/trans-issues/cisgendering?
    [i’ll *try* to come by here fairly often, but my email is denelian at yahoo dot com]

    thanks :)

  27. copcher says:

    I only recently started reading this blog, and I’m so glad I dropped by today and read this. One thing that I find incredibly frustrating when talking about oppression is the defensiveness I often see on the part of people with privilege. As someone who has a lot of privilege (white, cis, able-bodied, conventionally attractive woman), I do my best to make sure that the language I use or the arguments I make aren’t oppressive. I hadn’t heard of the angry trans stereotype before (although I’ve heard other oppressed groups be referred to as angry when they speak out, so it doesn’t at all surprise me), and I’m really happy that I’m aware of it now and can actively try to speak against arguments that use it.

    The thing that’s always really baffled me about the angry [whatever] stereotype is that, really, don’t these people have a reason to be angry? Being angry because your rights aren’t respected (or don’t exist) seems perfectly reasonable to me. The unreasonable people are the ones who are angry that their privilege might not be maintained at the expense of other groups. Of course, since they’re usually the ones who make the rules, anyone who calls them on that is generally just being angry and unreasonable so shouldn’t be listened to.

    sigh

  28. Julisa says:

    I, a trans woman have noticed that many trans women online use the tone argument with cis women, but don’t like it applied to themselves. Of course they don’t blatantly refer to them as “tone” but they often give off this air of “why are YOU angry, you don’t have it as hard as me”. Does this make sense? However, I agree the comments directed at you were very ignorant, but, the “angry [insert minority here]” trope doesn’t only apply to us trans women but I do think this needs to be addressed, especially because your criticism (NOT anger, were you even angry?) was mistaken for uncontrolled, unwarranted, anger when it was not.

  29. Wonderful post, AH. This really demonstrated exactly what a “tone” argument is and MOREOVER demonstrates how teasing it out further clarifies the ways in which different privileges/oppressions exist within the same person and how important it is NOT to engage in games of privilege oppression or privilege level playing field dash.

    While they can be applied to any dissenting voice, tone arguments contain deeply transmisogynist implications when used against trans women. They imply that trans women aren’t just angry, but dangerous, feeding cissexual fears of trans women being threatening. In a number of comments cis commenters expressed fear for expressing their thoughts on the subject. This fear of trans women expressing themselves, especially in feminist spaces, is based on seeing trans women as men, and then applying to them the cis person’s expectations (while denying the lived experience of the trans woman). To suggest that trans women are in a position of social privilege which can silence cis voices is ridiculous on its face, as it is to suggest I had – as an unknown trans activist and blogger – privilege over the literally thousands of cis voices disagreeing with me.

    This floored me with its brilliance. Thank you for writing this, despite it bringing back into focus an extremely painful experience.

  30. @ denelian,

    Serano, Julia (2007). Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. ISBN 1580051545. OCLC 81252738

  31. gudbuytjane says:

    @Julisa: Oh, I didn’t mean to suggest only trans women experience tone arguments, they happen in all dominant/marginalized dynamic. The Angry Tranny is a subset of the tone argument that just applies to trans women.

    As far as trans women using it, well, any group is going to have people who are less invested in acknowledging their privileges. All I can do is speak for myself, and if I ever feel someone in a group I have privilege over seems angry to me I step back and consider what role my privilege might have in feeling that way. I definitely don’t tell them they’re angry.

    @amandaw: Thank you! I know you’ve experienced suddenly being the lightning rod for privileged reaction too, and it is not at all an affirming experience.

    I like the X and Y explanations. Maybe this will make it easier for people to apply the same dynamic on the next situation they encounter, because it certainly feels like people get taught the same lesson with different details again and again.

  32. gudbuytjane says:

    @Cara: Thank you for having me, by the way.

    Thanks everyone for the comments! -A.

  33. Lisa Harney says:

    Julisa,

    I, a trans woman have noticed that many trans women online use the tone argument with cis women, but don’t like it applied to themselves. Of course they don’t blatantly refer to them as “tone” but they often give off this air of “why are YOU angry, you don’t have it as hard as me”. Does this make sense?

    Cis women use that exact argument with trans women, usually with the implication that trans women do not and cannot experience sexism, that transphobia doesn’t even exist, and that trans women experience male privilege.

    I can’t think of any examples of trans women using it on cis women.

  34. Lisa Harney says:

    Not that, btw, this means no trans woman ever uses tone arguments on cis women, but I think if a trans woman is questioning a cis woman’s anger at “cis”, for example, that this is not the same thing as a cis woman questioning a trans woman’s anger at transphobia. So I’m curious what you mean by trans women using tone arguments on cis women.

  35. denelian says:

    Emelye Waldherr;

    thank you! the Library has 2 copies, and only 3 people on the waiting list.

    does it have further suggestions, or a biblio? [we have *great* librarians here in Columbus, we really truely do – what we don’t have are many books about trans. and they’re not in a seperate section, everything is filed under “gender”.]

    but it’s a further step, and i appreciate it.

  36. annaham says:

    This is a great piece, gudbuytjane. I’m a bit tired at the moment and so don’t have much to add to the discussion, but thank you for being such a cogent voice.

  37. Emmett says:

    Well, cheshire, it’s either that or “‘Roid rage! It’s the T!”

  38. queen emily says:

    @Denielian

    Julia Serano has a list on Amazon which I would second the recommendations of. All are more academic than Whipping Girl, but there’s value in all – and all are actually written by trans people (something surprisingly rare, sadly).

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/listmania/fullview/R14EOT1M6BR6VQ/ref=cm_lm_pthnk_view/002-8687272-6790427?ie=UTF8&lm_bb=

  39. denelian says:

    Queen Emily;

    !! thank you! i’ve read the Namaste [or, at least, large portions of it, PDF, for a class], but a re-read wouldn’t go amiss, and i can’t believe i forgot about it.
    sadly, “Second Skins” doesn’t seem to be available at the public library; i guess i’ll be finding out if i still have University library privileges tomorrow. but the public library *does* have “Evolution’s Rainbow” – i’ll order it, too :)

    thank you!!

  40. Natalie says:

    This piece is great.

    On the offense at the label “cis:” I have hopes that in a few decades it will be possible for people to nonchalantly accept it as they do heterosexual or straight– both terms that had to be introduced into the discourse to replace “normal.”

    My reaction to tone arguments tends to be, “Are you kidding me? Even if she is deeply angry, if structural injustices that cost people their lives aren’t worth getting angry about, then what the fuck is?”

  41. Heretofore Anonymous says:

    It is about shifting burden, including reversing cause-and-effect. Such as, who provoked whom.

    For example, the reality may be that, the TS person started out completely nice, polite, respectful, etc, and was abused solely for being TS. She the responds by becoming much less nice, polite, or respectful. If the abuse persists long enough and hard enough, she gets angry.

    The way to neutralise this, is to accuse her of just waking up one day, and deciding to be an angry person. And then spewing her mindless rage at innocent targets. Like all those people who were being so nice to her. Then, those targets responed negatively to her personally, because of her initial hostility. Nope, no bigotry there.

    It extends to other things besides transphobia. I have even seen it directed at survivors of child abuse, who grow up to feel angry at the abuser. “Wow, you must have been a really horrible, nasty child, to cause your poor little mommy to hit you. Your current anger is evidence of this.”

    Basically, it is a way of saying, “You started it.” A self-defence fantasy. A cis person is likely to relate to any random other cis person (even whom they’ve never met), much more than they relate to a TS person. And, the person to whom can best relate, is assumed to the be innocent party in observed conflicts.

    Another angle is attempting to distort what the person is angry about.

    For example, you may feel negatively about lesbians telling you that you should be denied hormones and surgery, even if that results in suicide. Especially when they tell you that, they are “helping” you by saying this.

    The way to neutralise that, is to claim that, your negativity is just because some lesbian didn’t want to have sex with you, and you were too immature to respect that. This feeds to the “deceptive tranny predator” idea. If you have ever encountered hostility from a lesbian, it “must” be because you lured her into bed, and pulled out a surprise.

    Or someone may lie to you for the purpose of manipulating and using you. And you get angry about in response.

    Let’s neutralise that, by saying that your anger is because you can’t handle the truth. And, in fact, the person lied to you to spare your feelings. Or because they were legitimately afraid of your anger.

    Yet another angle is to suggest that, your negativity is caused by “not” being a legitimate TS person. After all, if transitioning had been the right thing to do, then you be talking about how much fun it has been. The moment you say that it is difficult and painful, that is twisted into alleged regret. This partly links to the assumption that, the only motivator for transitioning is get a certain social reaction, (rather than having neurological body-mapping issues, or other internal stuff.)

    Even acting like transitioning requires effort and financial cost, is de-legitimised. There are cis people out there who actually believe that hormones and surgery are just handed out for free. So there “must” be something dysfunctional about you for acting so downtrodden about something so quick and easy.

    And, of course, you cannot possibly have any reason to respond negatively to people who judge your legitimacy, womanhood, etc, based on your inability to afford surgery at the moment. Since it is free or extremely cheap.

    I have also experienced similar de-ligitimisation attempts regarding the general issue of trust. I am allegedly bad/disordered for being cynical. Because, of course, nobody ever lied to me or otherwise abused my trust or vulnerability.

    In numerous areas of life, there are people who accuse you have acting in unprovoked, potentially dangerous anger, even when you haven’t. Because they need to establish that, you are the abuser. Merely because you didn’t give them (or be) what they wanted, while kissing their arse. I have seen this down to things like when I refused to be platonic friends with someone.

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