When Body Snark Becomes Even Uglier: The Problem with Calling People ‘Tr*nny’

Warning: Triggering language below.

The impetus for today’s article.

Whether it’s your first time here or you’ve been a reader for years, I firmly believe that talking about lingerie doesn’t mean just talking about bras and panties. Lingerie is also an excellent lens to talk about other, important things that are happening in our world. Very often, these other conversations center around topics like body image or self esteem or beauty standards, and I very much see today’s blog post as a continuation of those discussions.

In the conversation on beauty standards within the lingerie industry, especially as related to body shape and size, there are usually only two sides represented: thinner women and thicker women. But women don’t just come in two sizes or or two shapes or two body types, and all the body celebration talk can start to feel a little exclusionary if you have a build that’s neither ectomorphic (thin) or endomorphic (thick).  And as I was thinking about some of the unique issues mesomorphic (muscular) women deal with in the lingerie and fashion and beauty industries, I also began to think about some of the related (but by no means identical) issues transgender women face in the same spaces. And all this stuff has been percolating in my mind for the last few months, until I finally felt like I had to talk about it.

In the previous paragraph, I mentioned transgender women. I’m not a transgender woman. The gender I was assigned at birth and the gender people see me as is also the one I personally identify with. I’m aware that puts me in a privileged position, so I want to be clear that I’m not speaking for or on behalf of anyone. This is specifically an article about my personal experience with the word. However, I understand how difficult and delicate talking about these topics can be, and I hope this article serves as a spark for conversation within the comments section or even a guest post from someone within the transgender community. I’ve also tried to be as aware and careful as possible in the language I’m using (which does include some offensive/potentially triggering words), but if I’ve made a misstep, please do tell me. And of course it goes without saying that transphobic and/or homophobic remarks, of any kind, will not be tolerated here.

The first photo that elicited the slur. By POC Photo.

As many of you know, there are lots of photos of me online, usually in the pinup style. I have pretty stable self-esteem, so I’m not terribly bothered when people call me ugly or what have you. If I’m not your cuppa, great. But about a year ago, as TLA was starting to get a lot bigger, I noticed the beginnings of a strange new pattern. People started calling me a “tr*nny” in the comments of some my photos. Even now, as I’m typing this, my brows kind of furrow into a confused expression.

It’s not that I’m offended and appalled anyone would think I’m transgender (because, obviously, there’s nothing wrong with being a transgender woman. They’re, you know, women.), it’s just that I’m a bit taken aback people would attempt to use gender identity as an insult. 1) How is being a woman, trans* or otherwise, a bad thing? 2) Why in the world are you still using those slurs?

But as it happened more and more (never what I’d call “frequently,” but often enough to take notice) and as The Lingerie Addict established itself as an anti-bullying environment, that whole thing got me thinking about body snark. One of the most offensive aspects of body snark is that it’s used to delegitimize women (as the popular phrase like “real women have curves” makes clear). Suddenly, instead of just being a woman, full stop, there are degrees of ‘real’ womanhood to aspire to. And if you don’t make the cut, then I suppose you’re a fake woman or a false woman. Which is just weird. And silly. And wrong.

The MAC ad Samantha refers to in her piece.

As I mentioned early on, the conversation on body snark is very often limited to just thin and thick women (the “skinny vs. curvy” debate) as though women come in only those two body types and no more. That makes women with my kind of build (muscular/athletic), feel like the ‘odd chick out’ because it’s not only alienating, it also makes us invisible…which makes insulting us easier. And as highlighted in a Blisstree article by Samantha Escobar last year, muscular women face a very specific kind of body snarking, described in detail in the excerpt below:

“We all know that our society often fat shames people they deem overweight and sometimes body shame those declared too thin, but many men and women consider very muscular women to be “gross” or “unappealing.” I find this strange, since — while I don’t remotely condone it — fat and thin shamers tend to at least cite health as a typical reason for being assholes. When it comes to insulting muscular females, this logic makes no sense; typically, those women work out frequently and eat incredibly well in order to achieve the bodies they have. Why insult them?

Well, it goes back to that “balance” thing regarding our bodies. We’re “allowed” to be strong and toned, but give us some solid definition, and bam — suddenly females are not “feminine” enough anymore. They’re constantly accused of doing steroids or being men, which is both absurd and insulting. On television, ultra-muscular women are typically cast as transgender (which is by no means a negative identity, but most muscular women were not born men; plus, television tends to insult the transgender community through most of these plot lines, as well).”

Way back when…

I definitely empathize with this Catch-22. In my past, pre-Lingerie Addict life, I was an avid martial artist, runner, and weight lifter. My particular body type allows me to build a lot of muscle very easily, and that also means I appear muscular and ‘in-shape’ with very little effort. I’m asked at least twice a week about my ‘killer arm routine’ when the honest truth is…I don’t have one. And I’ve had some very awkward conversations with guys saying they couldn’t date me because I was “too strong” and they were worried I’d “beat them up,” (as an aside, needing to have a partner that’s physically weaker than you is very interesting to me…but that’s a subject for another time).

What’s even more distressing is how often these claims of being “overly masculine” or “inappropriately muscular,” are also linked to race. While prepping this article, I spoke with a couple of models I know who are black, and they revealed that the “you look like a man” remark was unusually common for them as well…at least far more common than it was for white models they knew. Even when looking at remarks that other models of African descent have received, there’s a disproportionate amount of commentary on how they look “less” feminine…because beauty standards are not only built upon size, they’re also linked to ethnicity.

It’s like people are so confused/threatened when you don’t the current feminine ideal, that it becomes open season on questioning your gender. It’s, in effect, saying “Your body is so unattractive to me that I have decided you don’t even count as a woman anymore. You are a fake woman. You are incorrect. And you need to conform.” Rest assured, it’s body snark, taken to a very ugly extreme. But that’s not the worst part of all this. My experiences with obnoxious gender policing aside, being called a “tr*nny” has made me think even more about how marginalized actual trans* people are.

The second photo. By Viva Van Story.

When someone calls me that, whether they’re attempting to be insulting or not, I’m able to say “no” and move along with my day, confident in the knowledge that the conversation is over. But I wonder…if I really was transgender and said “yes,” what would happen? And it’s not a pleasant question to think about when you consider the extreme and horrifying violence that trans* people (especially trans* women, and, even moreso, trans* women of color), face in our society.

If I was a transgender woman and out and publicly visible about my trans* identity, would people feel like they had the right to be awful towards to me? To insult me or harrass me or encourage violence against me? While these particular possibilities are mostly a thought experiment for me in this context, they are very real concerns for transgender people. And I can’t imagine what it must be like to constantly worry people will turn against you and want to hurt you (verbally, physically, or otherwise) over circumstances you literally have no control over.

And the third. This time, I took a screenshot of the comment.

From my perspective, someone’s gender identity is their own personal business. If you’re not sleeping with that individual, whatever’s happening below the neck has nothing to do with you. And asking if someone is transgender is not the kind of thing you casually inquire about via a poorly-worded Facebook comment. Not all women are “thin” or “curvy.” Some of us are broad, muscular, powerful, athletic types. And if you do feel the need to ask if someone is transgender or not, first ask yourself why. Why is it your business? Why do you need to know? And will it change anything you think about this person? Finally, just avoid the word “tr*nny,” altogther (along with its analogues “shemale,” or “he/she”). Gender is more than your body shape, and one’s gender identity is not a slur. So let’s move past all that.

I know I’ve talked about a LOT of stuff in this article, so it’s definitely time for some conversation. What do you think about the snark against women with muscular body types? How do you feel when someone uses the words mentioned above as an insult? And have you ever personally encountered any of the things I’m talking about here? I’m looking forward to chatting in the comments.

Cora
Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. I started TLA in a small studio apartment in 2008. Since then, it's become the leading lingerie blog in the world, and has been featured on the websites for Forbes, CNN, Time, Today, and Fox News. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that every who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

81 Comments on this post

  1. Jessica says:

    Perfectly put.

  2. Taryn says:

    This article is Spot. On. It’s not okay to assign genders to other people. It’s important to check in and ask how people identify. And it is NEVER okay to use someone’s gender or identification as a slur. While “tranny” is being reclaimed by some people, it is still considered a slur to the majority of people. I can’t eloquently put into words how frustrating it is to watch things like this still happen, but they do. Every day.
    Thank you for writing this. It’s important.

  3. liz says:

    this is really well written! a great follow-up article would be a response or similar reflection by a trans* lingerie addict, i think.

  4. denocte says:

    Really great article.
    I very much hope for a follow up article, because this is super important.
    I very much like that you adressed your privilege right in the first few sentences <3

    • Clement says:

      I think this is a great article, I would like to comment in defense of the word, “tr@nny”: I have mixed feelings on that post, but it just seems like politically correct goes to far when it removes marginalized peoples identities. Even if that identity is considered negative by some, it may be considered a source of power by others. I guess the world would be a better place without the “n” word, but now that it is out of the bag it is a fools errand to erase it from history. I think it is unacceptable to remove the word “nigger” from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or remove it from music.

      The title of this article contains the verb “Calling” which implies bullying and obviously that is terrible regardless of the noun attached to it. But switch it from a word that evokes thoughts of bullying to a word that would evokes thoughts of friendship and i would suggest that the “T” word is just the same as “black” or “white”. Its the usage of the world that makes it bad or good. What if the article was called, “I took a tranny to prom and it was amazing”?

      OK, I am opening up my umbrella so you can throw tomatoes at me now. I am still deciding if I am wrong, but as a “T” friend, I want to defend a word that I have used to show my support. Please don’t erase their identity.

      • I do understand that there’s quite a few people within the trans community that seem to like or even use the T word.. thinking that there’s no harm in it or even saying that they’re “reclaiming” the word. The big trouble is that it has decades of association with porn, slander and hate. As a gay male friend put it once in reference to a different term: “What most people don’t think about with the term “faggot” is that for most gay guys, just hearing it brings up memories of getting punched in the face by the person who just said it”. Using the word “tranny” is just like that for most people.. From my experiences, the ones who use the word who are themselves trans or some variation thereof have been lucky in evading violent and hateful behaviors from people using the term towards them.. for the rest of us however, it’s one of the few words that can spark a suicide attempt or deep levels of depression. I hope this helps for another perspective on why the T word shouldn’t be used

      • Ava Smith says:

        Hi clement! I am a trans woman and I’d like to address your comment :)

        I think what the author was trying to describe was the usage of the term, rather than the term itself.

        The point of the article was to point out the stigma towards trans women and women who are perceived as masculine in our society, and that she wasn’t speaking on the actual word, “tranny.”

        That being said, I believe a conversation needs to be had in general about who may own the term, and who may not in a similar way to how there are social guidelines in place today which dictate who may own the N word (african americans).

        It’s not my place to tell a black person how or when, or if they ever should use the N word because I am white. I don’t have the right to assume I own that word, one of the main (but not the only notable) reasons being that a group of people should be able to own the words that define them.

        In the same way, “tranny” is a word whose fate should really be determined by the community it’s affecting (the trans/GNC community).

        The author seems to address this very gracefully, saying that she could only really speak to her own experiences with the term.

        As a trans person, I do NOT like it when cis people assume that they own the term and use it around me without even asking if I am OK with it. It feels as if people are intruding in on my identity. It feels as if all the stigma and transphobia that has constantly been thrown at me by cis people and without my consent for as far back as I can remember is being thrown at me by yet another cis person and yet again without my consent.

        Notice that the focus is on the concept of who has the right to own the term. I never said the word “tranny” was inherently negative: some trans people are fine with anyone using it because they’ve had literally zero hardships associated with the term.

        However, I’m sure many of my trans siblings would agree that only trans people should have the right to own the term in terms of who uses it and who doesn’t because a cis person who uses that term without consent is essentially invalidating the negativity and weight that the term carries for most trans people.

        • Ava Smith says:

          Clarification: I do not feel comfortable when a cis person refers to me or another trans or gnc person as a tranny without my consent. If it is to quote someone else, then I am OK with it.

          However, other trans people may not feel that way.

  5. Laura says:

    Wow… This is all so right on, I don’t even have stuff to say! I’m sharing.

    (Also, all that about lingerie being a LOT about body image and self-esteem.,.. I’ve been trying to say that to everyone!)

  6. Elegy says:

    Hey, Treacle! While I appreciate the message behind the article, there’s one thing as a cis woman that you should not do, and that’s use the t-slur uncensored, even to talk about it. It’s uncensored in the screenshot, and we know which word you’re referring to, so as to prevent your cis privilege to further marginalize and alienate trans women, it would be best to edit this article’s use of the word to the censored version: tr*nny. Consider it in the same fashion as when other major news outlets censor the n-word to either “the n-word” or some other variation with an asterisk (*).

    Thanks!

    • Elegy says:

      Actually, amendment, that word is only for trans women (not all trans people can reclaim that term or use it uncensored either- it’s specifically against trans women). Here is a video featuring Ms. Janet Mock (a black trans woman) that helps explain the connection:
      http://femmepoweredmhc.tumblr.com/post/43991857040/janet-mock-and-isis-king-are-so-inspiring-janet

      • Elegy says:

        *Isis King (also a black trans woman) explains the connection, and the question is asked by Janet Mock- my bad!

      • Buck Angel says:

        Actually that is only her thoughts and I disagree with that. I have been called a tranny for many years..sometime not in a good way and sometimes with love. I had my change over 20 years ago.

        I am not sure why some trans women only think it’s about them? That word has been used in many ways to hurt people. As you can see above.

        What about the use of the word “queer”? Remember when that was a bad word? Now it is ok to reclaim by some? Some people in that community hate that word.

        I hope you get my point.

        Thanks again for the awesome article

        Buck Angel®
        Pioneering Filmmaker, Speaker, and Advocate

    • Aaron Tsuru says:

      I disagree.

      Censorship is a distraction to a very important conversation & worse, it’s waters down the slur. I think in a frank (and wonderful, might I add) discussion on a slur being casually tossed at someone, that person should use the word, they should make the reader just as uncomfortable with the slur as some random bigot online made them feel.

      • Elegy says:

        The problem with that is that the person being made uncomfortable is often the same person who is the target of said slur. It doesn’t work to their benefit (and if we’re prioritizing someone who isn’t marginalized by a slur over someone who is, there’s something very wrong going on), and I’m happy Treacle understands this. I would not want a non black person using the n word to talk about it to me, a black person, as it does not benefit me to hear or read it. I know what the word is, I don’t need to see it or hear it in tact to have a visceral response. Nor should anyone else with compassion.

        • Ava Smith says:

          I believe the word carries the same weight to us as trans people whether or not it is censored. I feel it is better uncensored because the term is used in reference to other people using it and censoring it may create confusion among readers who may not be familiar with the term. The author isn’t using it towards anyone, and she put a trigger warning on the top of the page. For me, that’s enough.

      • Seleena K says:

        I agree with Aaron. In this context, using the actual slur is fine. If just one person is confused about what “tr*nny” is, then a disservice has been done.

        • Cora Treacle says:

          Hi Seleena!

          I understand. It’s also why I haven’t substituted the word with any of its other euphemisms like “T-word” or “T-slur.” As I mentioned in my response, not everyone hangs out in these spaces or is familiar with this language, and I would hate for someone to leave the blog completely confused because they didn’t know what “T-word” I was referring to. Because that defeats the entire purpose of writing the article…a purpose which includes reaching out to people who don’t usually encounter these conversations.

          However, because I really didn’t want my use of the word to become to the focus of this piece (as I believe that defeats the purpose of writing the article as well), the edits were made. I want to thank you so much for giving your perspective on this subject in the comments, Seleena.

          Thanks again,
          Cora

    • Cora Treacle says:

      Hi Elegy,

      Thanks for the link.

      I used the word uncensored within the text of the post because it is a shocking word, and because I wanted my readers (most of whom are not transgender and many of whom do not hang out in feminist or LGBTQ spaces) to understand the full impact of the slur…a impact which is diminished by censorship (as that’s the entire goal of censorship). In addition, I asked several of my transwomen friends to read the post before it was published, and they saw no issue with the word as used in the context. However, that’s obviously neither here or there if other people are bothered by its use.

      Now that all that explaining is out of the way, I’ve edited the word in the article to the censored version “tr*nny” as a sign of good faith and to avoid alienating some of the people I’m talking about, which is always an issue when one is discussing hierarchies one isn’t affected by. I don’t want this particular conversation to become the focus of the post as it’s a distraction to the content within the article…which I’m sure some people will find offensive enough all on its own. I understand the issues with giving the impression (even accidentally) that the word is okay to use in any or all other contexts, and I also acknowledge that my intentions, whatever they were, may not come across appropriately here. Thank you for your comment.

      Best,
      Cora

      • Elegy says:

        “Now that all that explaining is out of the way, I’ve edited the word in the article to the censored version “tr*nny” as a sign of good faith and to avoid alienating some of the people I’m talking about, which is always an issue when one is discussing hierarchies one isn’t affected by.”
        Thanks!

  7. Michelle says:

    I am glad that I read this. I have to admit that I am guilty of wondering if a person is transgender–and, you are right: it’s none of my business. As a “big and tall” woman, I sometimes used to feel that I didn’t look feminine….what an odd thing to think. Feminine isn’t a formula, and–so true, Trea–all women of all identities, shapes, colors, and origins should be appreciated and embraced. Great writing!

  8. Renina says:

    This is some good interneting here. From rooting your work in your personal experience, to talking about the violence done to trans women in general, Black transwomen in particular. And the dope call out (trust me I stay getting called out, but with the call out we grow) by Elegy with regards to the slur and the fact that you fixed it and didn’t fight.

    This is my favorite kind of blogging space. Good job gina!
    ~Reneens

  9. phylisanne says:

    dear very pretty woman,i am a transgendered person and in our community there are many lovely girls and un fortunately there are people out there that look upon us as trannys,which we are not.we love wearing lingerie and making ourselves as the best looking women as we can .most of us can pass and we move about in this world as women.and loving your web site and all your lovely photos ,you go GIRL.love phylisanne.

  10. I love this article, Treacle! I’ve talked about this before, but it sucks how the judgment of what does/does not make a woman bleeds over into lingerie with real implications for gender non-normative or trans* people. Uggh, I hate how the T-word is thrown around like it’s no big deal.

  11. jstanthrgrl says:

    Wow! This article is so great to read and I fully agree with what has been said by you Treacle.
    I have found it especially eye opening and interesting as I have a close friend with a daughter who from a very young age has identified herself as a transgender. Its great to read someone’s perspective on the topic, especially how you’ve stated that gender is such a bizarre thing to use as form of bullying. I’ve seen my friend’s daughter be picked on numerous times, even by adults, just for who she is. Like you’ve said, gender is more than just how you look or what box you fit in. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I’ll def be passing this on!

  12. Avigayil says:

    One of my best friends is a post-op male to female. She was the maid of honour at my wedding, so this topic is near and dear to my heart. People have this strange desire to keep sex and gender the same thing (when they are not) and display them as complete binaries – either you are one or the other. This is pretty much a product of our society, as a child you are a boy or a girl, not really a ‘person’. Socially constructed identity is rarely introduced to us until a much later age when these binaries are already in place. Some people are far more mailable – I have very open views on gender and sexual preference as I view them as more of a scale than two extremes of each other. But other people are uncomfortable with anything outside their ‘norm’. I hope that as these issues become more prevelant people will become more conformatable with the variety of wonderful people that exist and not feel the need to stick labels upon them.

  13. Becca says:

    You address a serious issues but I feel the racial component of using transgender as a slur is becoming more and more common. It is if it is an “acceptable” way to attack non-euro centric beauty ..and not just random net trolls but television media, look at how the media talked about women at the recent olympics.

  14. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and its a shame that these prejudice exist. people with these attitudes cause harm to women not strong enough to see beyond the remarks of small minded people. Situations like this have potential to deflate a women’s self confidence. I live by the notion is you have nothing good to say then say nothing at all.

    This post was very insightful, a good read!

  15. Sophie says:

    This article brings to the fore a very important (but very under-discussed) topic – indeed, it’s an issue which I’ve never given any serious thought to previously.

    The issue of gender identity goes hand-in-hand with the issue of the ‘perfect’ woman. I feel like my puppy fat puts me at a disadvantage to other women because, quite simply, I’m not feminine enough. Why should I have to feel like that? What’s wrong with a cheeky bit of chub?

    In the same vain, why should people be penalised for having a muscular build, being too tall, being too short, or any other physical aspects which aren’t generally considered to be ‘feminine’? Transsexualism delves slightly deeper in that it is also a mental state of mind for the person – which, in my eyes, is all the more reason to treat it with respect. Just as men and women alike are becoming increasingly respected for asserting their personal traits (be it masculine or feminine – the stereotypical ‘meterosexual’ male is being celebrated and adored en masse, as depicted by characters such as The Big Bang Theory’s Raj Koothrappali), people who have overcome the hurdle of accepting an ‘unconventional’ gender identity should be praised, appreciated and celebrated for their divine uniqueness.

    After all, what would this world be without diversity?

  16. liz schofield says:

    A beautiful soul is a beautiful soul, The body is wrapping paper. Some of us have great packaging, others are more utilitarian. But, when all is said and done, the wrapping is discarded and the gift is inside.
    Focus on the gift that we all bring to each other, not on the packaging…….Who cares how we are wrapped?, it’s irrelovent.
    Keep going Treacle, you have a gift for communication, and I love the lingerie!

  17. Arabelle says:

    You are killing me with these amazing posts Cora. <3

  18. Amber says:

    Treacle, I just want you to know that i appreciate your grace so much. They way you carry yourself, and the way you run this blog. You do it all with great taste and true heart, and it shows in all you do and share with us, your readers. I remember first finding your blog back when I was starting my own blog too, when you were using the Stockings and Lingerie Blog name, and you’ve turn this blog not only into a truly gorgeous lingerie blog but a movement also. A movement for women to love themselves and accept their bodies, while also accepting others bodies for their similarities or differences. I don’t comment here much, but I do read often. Just thought it was time that I let you know.

  19. Jacqueline says:

    I definitely agree you’ve brought up some great points and think the dialogue that can begin from this can only be beneficial to all women of all backgrounds and body types…I think you made an important point too when you brought up the differentiation between races. It made me think of the body snark and criticism Venus & Serena Williams have to face. It also made me think of how certain muscle builds are “acceptable” while others are not. For example, sports illustrated models have toned bodies as well, but carry their muscle differently than someone who is heavily into sports or body building. I personally have had to deal with having a slender frame all over which is often described as being “boyish” (a term that I despise). & this points to the same idea that if a woman does not encompass the so called image of “womanhood”: curvy, soft, etc she has to be identified with words that insinuate she resembles a male. Some of the most beautiful women I have met in my lifetime have been androgynous. I never had a moment when I look at them & thought “oh, they are less of a woman.” I think it will take another 2000 years or so for people to loose their hangups about gender, masculinity, femininity, and the expectations that those terms lend. as always BRAVO! Pleasure reading your blog.

  20. Louise says:

    Passing this on to my sister who does academic research and outreach with the trans community.

    Your writing is always excellent and this is no exception.

  21. This was really good, thank you so much for writing this.

  22. Jacquie says:

    Really interesting blog which raised lots of good points. I have been asked this question myself so I can relate. I think it is being asked purely to insult. Which offends not just the person who it is being directed at but all so transgender people as well. I put it down to ignorance and jealousy, oh yes and a very poor imagination!

  23. Santos says:

    Hi Treacle,
    As a trans* lingerie addict I must thank you for writing this article. There is a lot of body snark around lingerie already and when that intersects with the body snark of also being a transgender woman things can get even more hurtful, even hostile.Partly because there is much stigma within the trans woman community to not look like a “man” or a “cross dresser”.

  24. Lily says:

    I’m glad someone has written about this, who has such a varied range of readers of all types of sexuality and gender. Every time I hear the word “tranny” used as a slur I cringe. It is very, very unfortunate, some of the things we have normalized in this society.

  25. Lori Smith says:

    This is a well written, well thought out post on a fascinating and important topic. This is why trans women don’t like to be referred to by that word… because some people still use it as a hideous insult towards people they don’t think are feminine enough. This is indeed body snark of the worst kind.

    I’m constantly baffled by the opinions some folk shove in others’ faces without being asked. As you say, why does it matter so much to them? A person’s gender is only relevant to them and others should stick with the visual cues they are given, or ask polite questions if they feel the answer is really genuinely important. Most of the time, it really isn’t though.

  26. Elegy says:

    Besides the overall note of the article helping to advocate for trans women, particularly trans women of color, these two quotes really struck a chord for me, and they’re very real:

    “One of the most offensive aspects of body snark is that it’s used to delegitimize women (as the popular phrase like “real women have curves” makes clear). Suddenly, instead of just being a woman, full stop, there are degrees of ‘real’ womanhood to aspire to. And if you don’t make the cut, then I suppose you’re a fake woman. Which is just weird. And silly. And wrong.”

    “What’s even more distressing is how often these claims of being “overly masculine” or “inappropriately muscular,” are also linked to race. While prepping this article, I spoke with a couple of models I know who are black, and they revealed that the “you look like a man” remark was unusually common for them as well…at least far more common than it was for white models they knew.”

  27. Megan says:

    *slow clap* Brava!
    Every single sentence had me nodding my head, my heart elated to be reading this in this space (though saddened it had to be written in the first place.)
    I also get asked if I’m a trans woman, and I know that I can answer “no” and be done with it, and I always feel… not exactly guilty, but something close to it knowing that I get this easy way out while other people don’t. That isn’t right or fair. I love seeing that I’m not the only cis woman thinking about this stuff and I love that you’re talking about it.
    Also, “as an aside, needing to have a partner that’s physically weaker than you is very interesting to me…but that’s a subject for another time” I would love to hear more on that subject another time.

  28. Seleena K says:

    Personally, I think you’ve done a wonderful job with the entire article. It’s a great read, deals compassionately with some touchy subjects, asks some very provocative questions and, in many ways, was an eye-opener for me.

    And speaking as a person who has experienced much of the adversity you describe, transgender rights, though wonderful and necessary, are not the way to change public sentiment. Articles like this are the answer.

    Treacle, thank you so much for having the courage to do this and for applying your usual eloquence!

  29. Carina Benjamin says:

    I confess I’ve been a lurker on your site for a while, but had to pop my head up and comment for the first time- beautifully written, eloquently argued, just a great piece.

  30. Hey Cora,

    Well, another fabulous (and well articulated) article and I am pleased to see so much dialogue opened up as a result.

    I totally agree – whether somebody is transgender or not, it’s nobody’s business and it certainly shouldn’t be used as a slur. I’m also so saddened to see that you are subjected to comments such as this expressed in a negative way but I am glad it equips you to use your audience to build awareness and open dialogue.

    Otherwise, all I have to say on a personal level is that I would chew off my right arm to have your left muscley one!!! Your figure is amazing and every pin up shot I see of you totally inspires me to get fit (though I would need to put in a LOT more work than you do!).

  31. ASpaceBoyDream says:

    My friend linked this article, and I’ve never really done this before, but I felt like commenting.

    For the last couple of weeks my friends and I have been discussing gender roles and double standards and all of that, and have sincerely hoped that some real progress has been made to equal things out for people of all types. We’ve seen some improvement within our own lives, but it’s really heartbreaking to see so many people go through such abuse.

    I think this article is amazing, and I know it goes without saying, but never stop being yourself. I think every time someone speaks out and stands up for themselves this world gets a little bit better. Thanks for the inspiration!

  32. Sarah says:

    Beautifully written….. makes you think about things that more often than not go unsaid. And just for the record 1. you don’t look like a man to me and 2. you are absolutely right, it is irrelevant anyway.

  33. Beelzebelle says:

    Great post as usual, really intelligent, considered and compassionate. Those three qualities are why your blog works so well.

    Can I just say that I really admire the position you’ve taken on ‘body snark’. I would argue that criticism of women’s bodies is so ingrained that people don’t even realise they’re doing it – but then again most of them REALLY know they’re doing it! We all deserve to be the women we are, and to love and appreciate our shape. As one doctor once told me “You can change your size but not your shape”!

  34. Tammi-Lee says:

    A very well-written post. Thank you – firstly for having the courage to talk about this subject openly and honestly, and secondly for the tact and sensitivity with which you’ve done so.

    I’m transgender. I’m not “trans and proud”, because that would be applying pointless labels to myself and to others, but I AM proud of how I look. I make an effort – whether that’s more or less of an effort than other women (whether trans* or not), doesn’t matter – *I* personally do, because I’m a perfectionist, and ever-so-slightly vain! ;)

    I’m also tall – when I walk down the street in my heeled boots, I do stand taller than most people, men and women; it gets me looks, and I guess my vanity likes to think people are looking because I look good, rather than because I look odd to them. Only once has anyone made a comment with the T-word; two teenage girls burst into squealing laughter, calling out “Is that a tr*nny”.

    I’d actually wondered, on and off, how I’d react if/when it happened. I guess I’d been luckier than some in that it hadn’t happened before. As it was, I kept walking – head held high, didn’t even stop and look at them. They weren’t worth acknowledging, so I didn’t.

    The same can’t be said for the little old lady walking a few paces ahead of me. Without pause, she did a complete 180, squared up to them from several paces away, and called out firmly “nobody wants to listen to you”.

    Now, in many cases, when I get “odd” looks, it’s from the more elderly people, I suppose because by and large they grew up in a time when either this wasn’t something that “happened”, or went on “in the open”, and certainly society’s views on it were, let’s say, more reserved then than they are now! So to receive such support from that particular source was especially heart-warming.

    I’ve told this little story for two reasons. The first is because it’s relevant to the article. The second is because, out of the article and all the comments so far, there has only been one comment that made me go “NO”, and oddly enough it was a comment by a trans* woman. That comment was “most of us can pass”.

    i hav to say this; I’m female. I’m a woman. The fact that I may have been born with the ‘wrong’ parts between my legs (sorry to be blunt, but there you go) does not make me any less of a woman. The fact that I’ll never have a period or get pregnant does not make me less of a woman. Believe me, I’d happily go through that every month rather than have gone through everything I *did* go through, but that’s another matter.

    When someone says “you pass”, that actually insults me at least as much as the t-word. Is there some unseen “bar”, or level of how good I look, which determines whether I’m an “acceptable woman”? Like hell there is. If I was a TV, then “passing” as a woman might be something I’d aspire to – but I say “might” because I don’t know; I’ve never been a TV, so I’m just guessing. But “passing” as a woman, when what you feel inside and outside, what you’ve ALWAYS felt, is that you are a woman? Why the hell would I need to pass as what I am? Who determines whether I “make the grade”??? How I look, how I dress, is my choice; as an aspiring model myself, I like to think I dress well, and look good, but as I said before, that’s because I’m proud of my appearance. Nothing to do with gender, nothing to do with “passing”, or “being convincing”. Such phrases are belittling to all women.

    Sorry if I’ve gone on a bit, but I thought that point needed making. Wonderful post though, thanks again; as someone said, public discussion is what will break down society’s walls. :) x

  35. strangedays says:

    To echo the others, this was a wonderful article, and I thank you for posting it!

  36. Ruby True says:

    It saddened and shocked me when the UK Tv show Snog marry avoid used the words Tranny and Transvestite as a insult to someone’s chosen make up look!
    Also some how I’ve been called all these things! To fat, to thin to much muscle (footballer legs apparently, been told I need to watch thd muscle I’m building in my back makes me look broad)
    :/

    • Ruby True says:

      I am using my phone and only just seen Elegy point out the word should be Cencored and after thinking about it yes I can see why.
      Accept my apologys for not censoring and thank you for educating me.
      I know saying it offends so why shouldn’t typing it.

  37. Frank says:

    After I got over the’ WTF?’ I thought, ‘Oh Internet, just when I thought you couldn’t surprise me with your crassness anymore..’

    As far as your subject for another time; They probably figured you couldn’t actually beat them up, but if their guy friends thought it looked like you could – double shot to their little.. egos..

  38. Paul Quintus says:

    Treacle, you are a beautiful woman with a beautiful mind. Thank you for the sensibility you display in your writing. I pledge to see the beauty in all body types and to never again get involved in “body snarking.”

  39. rebecca says:

    great writing, love what you had to say. I am sorry that this is the kind of remark that you have had to contend with. I have always thought you looked beautiful. Isn’t one of the most amazing things about the human race diversity? I know that insecure people/communities/nations want everyone to be the same, as it comforts them in some way and “difference” is what leads to all the problems we have. Why can’t we just allow all women to be what they are? If a woman is tall and strong and athletic, let her be. If she is short and muscular and strong, let her be. If she is slim and small, let her be. If she is big and voluptuous, let her be. I think this is yet another way of insulting and attempting to degrade women and making them feel unworthy of being called a woman. The best we can do is not listen. No woman is excempt from these kind of insults, and we can’t win, no matter how we look. The very least we can do is support one another and not lower ourselves to make any kind of degrading comment about other women’s bodies.

  40. Danielle says:

    I’ve been following this blog for a while and I’d just like to pop my head in to tell you how great I think this article is. You did a really good job.

    Ok, back to lurking. :)

  41. This is a really interesting article from a trans persons perspective. I find it empowering that cisgender woman feel so sisterly towards us. The T word is like the F and N word. Its considered defamatory. But it wasn’t always like that. In my life time it has gone from being a special term of endearment to defamation.
    If it had been up to the vast majority of us that would not have changed but….There is a element within the LGBT culture, mainly gay men, who are extremely transphobic, misogynistic and antagonistic They used that word maliciously as a weapon against us claiming they were ‘reclaiming’ it for us.

    Eventually the LGBT community as a whole got wise them and responded by elevating transgender people’s stuture by empowering us with respect, which was exactly opposite of what those people wanted..

    Although I am not a POC of cis I would venture we have many shared experences with the T,N,and F words.

  42. Brooke Cerda says:

    I’m %100 woman, I don’t want
    “transgender rights”
    Vaginas & uterus don’t make a woman,
    That’s objectification as Baby making machines.
    Bottom line womanhood is inconsepualizable,
    Our essence can not be market.
    Our intrinsic value is UNIVERSAL
    Slurs are an attempt to inform us
    we are not really a woman, as if we are
    a diluted version of the original
    Same concept is applied to race.

  43. Marzie says:

    Treacle, when I met you at BlogHer in 2010 I already thought you were ‘all that.’ You totally rock, woman.

  44. Maya says:

    I never really understood this modern day appeal for thinness. Coming from an artistic background, I’ve always viewed the athletic woman to be the ideal. The Renaissance in me (I know women back then weren’t all that athletic, but I’m talking about applying the Renaissance ideal to today’s women) would give several reasons to this…a woman who has muscles is one that takes care of her body. She cares about her health and knows about the dangers of muscle atrophy since being ‘skinny fat’ (skinny but with very little muscle) is not going to cut it.

    I also love how the athletic, female body looks in dramatic lighting. They are my ideal when it comes to life drawing, as I can see the muscles clearly, thus improving my anatomy skills and maintaining accuracy.

    I wish the fashion industry would see it the same way as I do.

  45. Thank you for writing this post, I really identify with it and I’ve been through similar experiences myself. I’m not transgender, but in the last year I had someone harass me to the extent of needing a restraining order and they frequently called me a tr*nny in their harassment. They altered pictures of me and posted them on the internet, and it got really out of hand to the point where there were death threats made towards me. The whole process has been emotionally conflicting, because while I know the term really should not offend me it definitely has. I want to feel feminine and beautiful and womanly, as I’m sure many transgender individuals do. I think tr*nny has become a term used more frequently for harassment and negativity and it really depends on how someone directs it toward you. I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling someone transgender a tr*nny anymore, because I feel like it’s become a hateful term in the same way n*gger is.

  46. Tiff J says:

    So glad I happened upon this blog, and especially upon this wonderfully written and thought-provoking post calling out trans-phobia. I also appreciate you mentioning how often the dreadful “T**nny” slur, is hurled at cis-gendered Black women.
    I’m reminded of the many comments I’ve come across, mocking the Williams sisters (Venus and Serena), and the scrutiny and derision South African runner Caster Semenya came under a few years ago, after she competed.

    I look forward to reading more of your post and browsing your blog some more!

    Best,
    –Tiff J

  47. Lisa says:

    CA very well written post. As an out Trans woman my self I do totally relate to the issues you mention. I have been in situations myself were not only has my gender been brought to question(very devastating for me) but a genetic woman that was with me and a very close friend got call out as a trans woman herself! I don’t know who was more shocked!

    I am full time now and with a lot of very supportive friends that I have to say usually hear the negative comments before I do! Probably because I’ve switched off to that sort of sad behaviour. However, my friends tend to be a feisty bunch that all rally to my defence. Usually without my knowledge.

    One such friend once said to me that we(she to has Gender Disphoria, yes it does have a medical term) are not Trans to stay trans, we want to change our physical appearance to match our gender identity therefore the term trans relates to the process we go through to achieve this and not our actual gender.

    I embrace the fact that I’m trans and am proud as it highlights the journey I am going through to become complete as a woman. When I get called a tranny or someone calls me a man I quite simply say that “No, I’m a Woman in training!”. Most people do not know how to respond to that.

    I love your Blogs and hope you keep up the good work.

    Xxx Lisa xxX
    A woman in heart and sole

  48. Laura O says:

    For the last 6 months, I’ve followed several lingerie sites & blogs….yours (obviously) and Lingerie Lesbian fairly religiously and two others less so. Have yet to see anyone tackle such an important subject as you have in “snark”…it’s offensive to even read what you have posted…it sickens me that people/women are so shallow in their addressing of others…huggggs and kudos for your willingness to be real…as real as you truly are…you are an amazing and inspiring woman…thank you…Laura

  49. Chanel says:

    This article really spoke to me! I’m seventeen, and I’m, by most people’s definitions, ripped. I wrestle, and I’m seriously committed to it as well. I used to do competitive gymnastics before I changed sports, and wrestling has simply made me stronger- as well as giving me seriously toned muscles. I don’t especially lift weights or anything, but I gain muscle easily, and on my shorter frame (I’m 5’3″) it’s very apparent.
    While, I am proud of my strength (and muscles!) sometimes I get a little fed-up with it. I love fashion, and lingerie, but sometimes, I just can’t wear certain pieces, since they were made for skinny waif-like girls, like when my forearms ripped a new shirt… Guys think I’m ripped, admire me a bit for being the most ripped girl they’ve ever seen, but this also means I lose basically all femininity in their eyes. They tend to be scared of me, as well. Most of the guys on the wrestling team, for example, respect me (I mean, I got voted as one of two captains of the team…) , but this also means I am not really considered “a girl” in their eyes. I’m sort of gender-less to them, it seems.
    While my self-esteem doesn’t depend on the opinion of guys, I am a teenage girl. Sometimes I’ld /like/ to be considered a pretty girl by a guy I like. And not realize that 90% of guys will never go out with me because of how I’m too strong, too intelligent, or have my Asian parents ask where all my femininity went.
    This is just my very long 2 cents on being one of the “muscular girls”, hah. I really love your blog, by the way. It’s just fabulous, and it’s just awesome that you can bring up issues like this.

  50. eric saunders says:

    You are AWESOME! I love the work you do, I LOVE your look and I love your writing!

    eric

  51. Tamara says:

    I love this. Yes, you said a lot, and so very eloquently. Thank you. I only hope more and more people will begin to get the message(s). xoxo

  52. HyeKeen says:

    As I read your article and the comments, I was pondering on another related issue and am wondering if they’re somehow connected. “Manly” men sometimes call each other c*nt or p*ssy as derogatory terms – as in “You’re such a woman / part of a woman’s anatomy, that you’re bad/wrong/unmanly.” I was just thinking that a “manly” man calling another man a “tr*nny” is another form of this kind of desparaging another male, via reference to being a woman and that being a bad thing. But when it’s used “against” a female cis gender person, it then is potentially an insult against her (lack of) femininity. In any case, society as a whole seems to have a problem with those who do not “fit” into the biologically assigned role that is assumed – some of us aren’t woman enough, and some of us aren’t man enough.

  53. becky says:

    im a curvy blogger, my measurements being 40x32x47 and ive had the word ‘tranny’ thrown at me as an insult because i dont often post photos of my body and face together… in my experience its a way of men insulting women who post their bodies on various forms of social media in order to pressure them into posting more… i do not post my private parts and ive had men harass me and hurl that word in my direction because of that. thankfully ive never succumb to that pressure, but its just another way for men to try to control women who identify as women while simultaneously insulting transgender individuals.

  54. Jenna says:

    ‘I’ve had some very awkward conversations with guys saying they couldn’t date me because I was “too strong” and they were worried I’d “beat them up,” ‘

    They’re worried we’d beat them up? How are we supposed to feel! Compared to men I am short and light; it would not be hard to overpower me. And that’s something I think about constantly. Yaaaaaay rape culture.

  55. Alice says:

    Brilliant piece. Keep up the great work Cora :)
    You are an inspiration!

  56. Susan says:

    Great post! I’m not trans, but I really identify with your comments about levels of womanhood and the little foray into men who are afraid of strong women. I’m neither very thin, nor very curvy, nor very muscular. I’ve got thin muscular legs and large breasts, but a chubby belly and no waist or hips/butt. It often bothers me that hip-to-waist ratio is a common definition of femininity, even when the “real women have curves” campaigns try to bash thinness, they still like to show a smaller waist and big hips/butt.
    I used to do a lot of boxing and martial arts, and I’ve heard the “you’re too strong/could beat me up” line a bunch. The other turn-off that was rarely said but I often noticed: “too smart”. It’s amazing that a woman with an advanced degree, a career, or a refusal to act stupid is considered unattractive because that’s the man’s role. But it still happens a lot.

  57. […] asked by The Lingerie Addict to review a blog entry (prior to publication) that dealt with body image and transgender world (Cora is my girl-crush; I […]

  58. Vienne says:

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    • Rose says:

      Hi, Vienne! This comment looks like it was intended for “Queer Representation in Lingerie Ads”, perhaps? Thanks for sharing; these ad images are attractive without feeling exploitative, which is always a joy to see.

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