In their article on Bodily Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) Neil Levy and Timothy Bayne discuss gender reassignment as analogous to wanting a limb amputated. While discussing the accuracy of this analogy is another post altogether, I was shocked at what they had to say about transsexuals. Keep in mind this article is fairly recent (2005). They write:
One might think that the desire for cosmetic surgery (and gender-reassignment surgery) is more problematic than the desire for amputation. Men who believe they are really women ‘trapped in a man’s body’ – and the overwhelming majority of transsexuals are male-to-female – typically reinforce a stereotyped view of femininity, and contribute, however unwittingly and obliquely, to gender inequality. The essential woman they seek to be is weak and helpless, obsessed by appearance, and so on.
Wow. Where to begin? First of all it’s simply empirically FALSE that the “overwhelming majority” of transsexuals are male-to-female. Where did they get that statistic from? It seems like they simply pulled it out of their asses. Looking at any recent literature clearly shows that the ratio is more like 1:1.
Second, where is the evidence that trans women “typically” are stereotypically feminine? Or that they desire to be weak and helpless and are “obsessed by appearance”? Research has actually been done on this question and it turns out that MTF transsexuals are no more likely to be feminine in their gender expression or behavior than cis women. There is a huge diversity in the gender expression of trans women and this idea that trans women are shallow weak creatures obsessed with looks is a majorly distorted picture based on biased media depictions. The true reality is that trans women are a diverse population and any generalizations are bound to fail for the same reason it would be wrong to say cis women are weak and helpless and obsessed with appearance. Neil and Levy should be ashamed of themselves for being so uncritical in their acceptance of false stereotypes about trans people. It saddens me that this is a PUBLISHED paper and went through the peer review process.
Third, Neil and Levy misgender trans women by saying they are “men” who merely “believe” they are women instead of the more accurate description which is that trans women are women who moved away from their assigned sex at birth which was male on the basis of their genitals. Trans women are not men. Repeat that. Trans women are not men.