Whipping Girl by Julia Serano

Whipping Girl by Julia SeranoWhipping Girl is an outstanding book on transsexual women, feminism and trans-misogyny. Serano draws well thought-out lines from general societal misogyny to the hatred and fear of gay men, feminine men, and trans women. She blows up a lot of tired paradigms of sex, gender, gender presentation, gender identity and all that stuff. M

y main complaint is that she confuses two different definitions of class, one that refers to social/economic differentiation (as in “working class”, “upper class”, etc) and one that refers to a category or group of something (like in “class action lawsuit”). Through this confusion she mostly avoids conversation about the intersections of trans identity and class status, shielding and invisibilizing her own class privilege. The same thing happens with race- Serano is almost completely silent on how race intersects with trans identities. Once again she covers up her own privilege when in fact nearly every facet of life in the racialized US is affected by racial identity, including trans identity.

Critiques aside, there is still much to be gained from the book. I found the following quotes quite illuminating:

“[M]ost of the anti-trans sentiment that I have had to deal with as a transsexual woman is probably better described as misogyny.” pg.3

“From my own experience in having transitioned from one sex to the other, I have found that women and men are not separated by an insurmountable chasm, as many people seem to believe. Actually, most of us are only a hormone prescription away from being perceived as the “opposite” sex. Personally, I welcome this idea as a testament to just how little difference there really is between women and men. To believe that a woman is a woman because of her sex chromosomes, reproductive organs, or socialization denies the reality that every single day, we classify each person we see as either female or male based on a small number of visual cues and a ton of assumption.” pgs.51-52

“The fact that we perceive two major categories of gender enables us to view women and men as “opposites”—a premise that is founded on a series of egregiously incorrect assumptions. [I]n order for the two sexes to be “opposites,” they must first be mutually exclusive. Therefore, on a societal level, we purposefully ignore that variation that exists in sex characteristics and create the illusion that there is absolutely no overlap between the sexes.” pgs.102-103

“Cissexuals may want to believe that their genders are more authentic than mine, but that belief is dishonest and ignorant… [T]he major difference between my life history as a woman and theirs is that I have had to fight for my right to be recognized as female, while they have had the privilege of simply taking it for granted.” pg.169-170

“Not surprisingly, no aspect of my social transition has been more difficult for me to adjust to than the way I am treated by some (but certainly not all) men… On an intellectual level, I knew that I would sometimes be dismissed or harassed once I started living as female, but I underestimated just how frustrating and hurtful each one of those instances would be. Words cannot express how condescending and infuriating it feels to have men speak down to me, talk over me, and sometimes even practically put on baby-talk voices when addressing me. Or how intimidating it feels to have strangers make lewd comments about having their way with me as I’m walking alone at night… [W]hile I had numerous run-ins and arguments with strange men back when I was male-bodied, I’d never before experienced the enraged venom in their voices and fury in their faces that I somtimes do now—an extreme wrath that some men seem to reserve specifically for women who they believe threaten their fragile male egos.” pg.223

“[T]hose who patrol the gates of women-only spaces are often dead set on discriminating against me, driven by the ridiculous belief that my girly little estrogenized penis is somehow still pulsating with hypermasculine energy.” pg.229

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