Can Whipping Girl Please Stop Flogging Trans Guys and Enbies?

This is an important book. Julia Serano’s analysis of the role of misogyny in trans-misogyny is groundbreaking, and she also helped popularize the idea that gendering/misgendering people is an active process on the part of the observer rather than the “passing” paradigm that puts the onus on us and presumes the observer is a passive party. There is some uncomfortably outdated language (repeated uses of “male-bodied” etc being possibly the worst offenders), but I’m not even going to complain about that because I get it. My biggest complaint is something far more big picture.

Every time this book talks about how privileged nonbinary people are in trans spaces I feel like I’m reading an account from a parallel universe. (The book also does that super annoying thing where it mentions intersex people and gender variant people from other cultures but only to make points about white trans people, despite paying lip service to that being a bad thing when other people do it.)

Look, I’m not even going to get into half of this book’s bizarre statements about nonbinary and trans guys, and really anyone who is trans and not a trans woman. It would get really repetitive. I’m just gonna hit you with a couple passages.

The moment when I decided this had gone beyond something that pinged my radar and into the realm of Something I Needed To Talk About is a particular passage where in literally the same paragraph the book says “masculine girls can grow up to be lesbians, trans men, or heterosexual women” and “trans women can be bisexual, straight, or lesbian.” And just. Wow. Weird how you knew not to call all AMAB people “men” but didn’t do the same for AFAB people. There’s also a passage that insists that the main point of friction between binary trans people and enbies is that enbies “feel that identifying outside of the male/female binary is superior to, or more enlightened than, identifying within it.” Uhhhhhh sure. Enbies bullying binary trans people is a very common and real problem that is definitely happening in real life. Definitely. Totally not usually the reverse. Nailed it.

Also, I was really excited to learn that trans guys being objectified and misgendered by lesbians is (checks notes) “preferential treatment.” Seriously. That’s a real thing this book explicitly argues.

I’m inclined to say the book helps more than it hurts, and it’s basically impossible to be taken seriously in trans academia if you haven’t read it, but wow we can do better. And there are a lot of other arguments that don’t hold water or seem to be coming from a very strange place, but I’m not even going to try to catalog every single one of them (it would be pretty unfair since I’m not trying to catalog every single argument I agree with, either). But none of those bother me as much as the fact that every time it mentions enbies or transmasc spectrum people I just find myself bracing myself to be its whipping enby.


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