I just attended a really powerful breakout session called “In/Out of Focus, Broadening a Feminist Lens: Gender, Non-Conformity and the Media” which was moderated by Kate Bovitch and featured Jack Aponte, Miriam Zoila Perez, and Julia Serano.

Each panelist spent a few minutes talking about themselves and then started a discussion about how the feminist community can make room for gender variant people even if they do not identify with the word “woman.”  There was also quite a bit of discussion about the media and how it creates and perpetuates many of the transphobic assumptions found in our society. 

This session was so insighful and full of incredibly important questions about gender and feminism that I know I cannot do it justice here.  I took so many notes and know that I will be pondering these issues for quite a while.  However, there are some highlights I want to point out immediately:

  • I wish everyone in the world could be exposed to the brilliant insight of Julia Serano, the author of Whipping Girl (if you haven’t read it yet, you must…right now!).  As a transwoman, she has experienced misogyny two ways–when people see her as a woman and when people see her as a transgendered woman.  Transphobia and sexism are deeply rooted and related to each other, so much so that feminists should be concerned about transphobia and other trans issues. 
  • Gender variant people, like many other marginalized groups, are invisible in our society and media depictions help shape the way others see them.  Media and pop culture coverage of gender variant people often include objectification, exploitation of the body, intrusive questions, etc. 
  • To loosely quote Jack Aponte, some people feel strong kinship with the female community, but don’t want to squeeze into a gender binary for the cause of solidarity. 
  • There are many ways that transgender allies can show their support.  First, it’s important that if we’re writing about gender variant people, we do so without exploiting them or trying to come across as a trans expert.  As Julia pointed out, we need to educate ourselves and listen to the issues that the community raises–not the issues that people outside the community are interested in reading. 
  • We need to have a large discussion about gender and feminism, not just in the context of gender variance.  Everyone needs to question and study their own gender.