International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 139-164

First online:

“Brain Says You're a Girl, But I Think You're a Sissy Boy”: Cultural Origins of Transphobia

  • Jody NortonAffiliated withDepartment of English Language and Literature, and Women's Studies Program, Eastern Michigan University

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The author argues that transphobia—fear and hatred of transgender persons—is a variant of homophobia understood as hatred of the queer, where “queer” means any formation of sexuality and/or gender that deviates from the norm of reproductive heterosexuality. The male-to-female transgender incites transphobia through her implicit challenge to the binary division of gender upon which male cultural and political hegemony depends, and through her capacity to initiate an uncanny rememoration, in the heterosexual or homosexual male, of his own primal (pre- and postnatal) participation in the female. Medical/sexological discourse and films such as To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar have struggled to curtail the freedom of self-actualization, and to discipline the meaning, of the m-t-f transgender, especially through the institution of regimes of binarism (male/female, heterosexual/homosexual, healthy/perverse, appropriate/inappropriate). The film Paris Is Burning documents the subversion of binaries of gender and sexuality by trans persons and other queers.

homophobia queer transgender transsexual transphobia