Thursday, August 27, 2015

Regarding Trans* and Transgenderism

Last year, in the second half of my piece A Personal History of the “T-word” (and some more general reflections on language and activism), I described what I call the activist language merry-go-round. Here’s how it works: Because trans people are highly stigmatized and face undue scrutiny in our culture, all of the language associated with us will face similar stigma and scrutiny. At some point, every single trans-related term will be called out as “problematic” for some reason or another—e.g., its origin, history, aesthetic quality (or lack thereof), literal meaning, alternate definitions, potential misinterpretations or connotations, or occasional exclusionary or defamatory usage. And supposedly more liberatory or inclusive alternative terms will gain favor. But over time, these new terms will eventually be challenged too. Because the crux of the problem is not the words themselves, but rather the negative or narrow views of trans people that ultimately influence how these words are viewed and used by others.

So rather than constantly trying to eliminate certain words and inventing new replacement terms, I argue that we would be best off challenging the narrow or negative views of trans people that sometimes latch themselves onto trans terminology. That is a brief synopsis of the activist language merry-go-round; I encourage you to read the linked-to essay above, as I make my case far more thoughtfully and thoroughly there than I have in these two paragraphs. 

The reason why I am bringing this up now is because I want to share some of my personal thoughts regarding the terms trans* and transgenderism, both of which have come under activist-language-merry-go-round scrutiny lately.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Regarding "Political Correctness" (my first post on Medium)

Those of you who have read my book Excluded (particularly the last chapter, "Balancing Acts") know that I have long been concerned with the ways in which activist language and strategies are sometimes employed in ways that are counterproductive, or which have the effect of silencing other disenfranchised individuals. My goal in doing this is to foster more robust, thoughtful, and inclusive conversations and communities.

However, in the last year, there has been a rash of mainstream articles about this phenomenon, often framing it under the rubric of "political correctness." For the most part, these are one-sided short-sighted attempts to condemn "language policing" without giving any thought to how we might balance that with the concerns of marginalized groups.

So I have just written a response to one of these recent articles - it's called That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore (and it’s not because of “political correctness”). If you click the link (and please do!), you will notice that I have posted it to Medium. I did so because I am hoping that it gets some attention outside of the "activist bubble" - which it will, provided enough people "recommend" and "share" it.

So I encourage you to read it! And if you like it, please "recommend" and "share" it! Thanks! -j.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The real "autogynephilia deniers"

I highly encourage readers to excerpt, cross-post, and/or share this post, especially with individuals; science, gender & sexuality blogs; and news outlets who claim or infer that autogynephilia theory is still scientifically valid. Because it's not. Period.

A little over a week ago, James Cantor (a sexologist who works at CAMH) published the following provocative tweet:

Of course, the trope of "autogynephilia deniers" has existed for about as long as the theory itself has.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cisgender and dictionary definitions

This is happened two weeks ago, so some of you may have already heard the news. But for those who didn't, cisgender was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

I first started using cisgender and cissexual almost ten years ago, while I was working on Whipping Girl. At the time, few people (even within trans communities) were aware of these words, so it has been amazing to see them garner acceptance over time, even within certain mainstream settings.

It has also been interesting to watch these terms (and the ways people use them) evolve and diverge over time. For those who are interested, last year I wrote two essays on this very subject: Cissexism and Cis Privilege Revisited - Part 1: Who Exactly Does “Cis” Refer To? and Cissexism and Cis Privilege Revisited - Part 2: Reconciling Disparate Uses of the Cis/Trans Distinction. Both essays explain the usefulness of these concepts, while also addressing some of the negative aspects or unintended consequences of cis terminology.

Both posts are significantly longer than a dictionary entry. But sometimes words are more complicated than a straightforward definition would have you believe.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"What Makes/Is a Woman" and the false "feminists vs transgender activists" binary

Last weekend, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Elinor Burkett called "What Makes a Woman?" If the title looks eerily familiar, it's probably because of Michelle Goldberg's "What Is a Woman?" article that appeared in The New Yorker last year. And they have more than their titles in common: They both perpetuate an absolutely *false* "feminists vs transgender activists" binary, and portray trans people (and especially trans women) as undermining feminism.

I've had many people ask me to write a response to it, but I've been too busy. Besides, I basically debunked each and every one of the assumptions Burkett makes in my book Whipping Girl. If you don't have time to read the book, here is a short piece I wrote for Ms. Magazine debunking the trans-activism-vs-feminism binary.

But lo and behold, today I will get to respond to Burkett's piece on HuffPost Live at 4pm EST! I am told that my interview will likely be in the 4:05-4:15 range - here is the link for the show if you want to watch: http://huff.lv/1Gkjp54.

I will try to post a permanent link for the segment after the show...

Postscript: The show can now be viewed here. My segment runs from about 6:50 thru 14:20.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reconceptualizing “Autogynephilia” as Female/Feminine Embodiment Fantasies (FEFs)

Note: please feel free to share and/or reference this article. If you require a "proper" citation (e.g., for an academic article) for Female/Feminine Embodiment Fantasies (FEFs), you can reference Julia M. Serano, “The Case Against Autogynephilia,” International Journal of Transgenderism 12, no. 3 (2010), 176-187.

Note added 7-14-15: a follow up post (of sorts) detailing all of the recent scientific papers demonstrating that Blanchard's theory is incorrect can be found in The Real "Autogynephilia" Deniers.

In 2010, two review articles appeared in the peer-review literature: My article The Case Against Autogynephilia was published in The International Journal of Transgenderism, and Charles Moser's article Blanchard's Autogynephilia Theory: A Critique appeared in the Journal of HomosexualityBoth of our papers presented numerous lines of evidence that disprove the main underpinnings of autogynephilia theory, namely, the assertions that trans female/feminine-spectrum people can be readily divided into two clear-cut categories based upon sexual orientation and the presence or absence of “autogynephilia,” and that “autogynephilia” is the primary underlying cause of gender dysphoria and desire to transition in trans women who experience it. (Note: subsequent analyses by Talia Bettcher and Jaimie Veale have further demonstrated that autogynephilia theory is incorrect.)

Where our papers differ is that, while Moser continues to use the term “autogynephilia” to refer to sexual fantasies and patterns of arousal in which the “thought or image of oneself as a woman” plays a contributing role, I instead argue that we should no longer use this term for the following reasons:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Julia update May 2015 - new writings & stuff!

So today I sent out my latest email update. It offers links to some new (& newish) writings, including my op-ed on the Jenner interview in The Guardian, my contribution to the new illustrated sex-ed book Girl Sex 101, a French/Français translation of Whipping Girl, plus a February interview with me regarding recent online debates about "political correctness" and "call-out culture."

You can read the update in all its glory here.

If you want future julia updates emailed directly to you, you can sign up for my email list here.

enjoy! -j.