Like most gender non-conformists, I occasionally encounter inquiries from cis and trans* folks alike that trespass
on my personal space, most notably; Why do you dress in women’s clothes? Are you gay? When are you going to
transition? Do you suffer from a fetish based in Blanchard’s theory of autogynephilia? Do you realize that you
really don’t “pass” as a woman?
Good questions, all of them, but no one’s business, unless I choose to share. Perhaps it is more appropriate to
inquire, “Why do you ask?” Fear, homophobia, transphobia, third-gender aversion?
Julia Serano, noted author and activist (her book, Whipping Girl is required reading for the cast of Amazon Prime’s
“Transparent” series), suggests that these intrusive insults are the result of sexism on many levels. Oppositional
sexism is the belief that all humans can be neatly divided into two distinct groups, male and female. Traditional
sexism supports the hierarchy of male privilege; men viewed as strong and rational, women meek and emotional.
And finally, cis-sexism promotes the misconception that individuals whose gender identity aligns with their
biological sex are more “normal” and “natural”.
I happen to agree with her. The incessant inquiry and “policing” by others as to my identity and motivation may
not be based in fear as much as buried underneath accepted and unconscious assumptions by the general public,
both cis and trans* alike.
It seems to me that confronting sexism is a cause worth renewing for the Trans* and supporting queer
communities. Simply promoting an identity in opposition to cis-gendered individuals or attempting to secure the
queer middle ground in between, still doesn’t address this system of assumptions that are ingrained in our
Sexism hurts all of us, regardless of identity, orientation or expression. We need to admit that all of us are
perpetrators as well as recipients and, often times, the issue is confounded with the other “isms” of race, age and
ability. A “real time” awareness as it happens and acknowledgement that we all could do better is the place to
If there is interest, I would like to organize an online book study group that would delve deeper into sexism and
other important issues that preclude community development. I propose that we start with one or both of Julia’s
books, Whipping Girl or Excluded. To accommodate personal schedules, actual group meetings would be limited
to once per month at the Pride Center of Vermont, with weekly posted “assignments” in between. Comments,
thoughts and questions would be posted in a Facebook group, giving everyone the opportunity to review
responses at their leisure. Rather than a real-time Google Chat, this format would allow participants to reflect and
compose their responses.
No prerequisite courses required, nor any exams to pass. Rather, the yearlong seminar would culminate in a small
group discussion with Julia, herself, during her visit to Vermont in September to deliver the keynote address at the
second annual Gender Pride event at Contois Auditorium in Burlington during Pride Week 2015.
Let me know if you are interested in joining the group, which will start in January, by sending me an email at
meantime, check out Julia’s website, juliaserano.com, to find out where to purchase her books, either hardcover
or digital. And hang in there, we are all gonna make it through the holidays and our spirits will be renewed by the
lengthening days and increasing sunshine as spring approaches. Maybe a good book is what we need to help.
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/thebbp/93235624/">the bbp</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>