The Red for Gender blog, which centers on “feminist conversations on Caribbean life,” posted the following article on the role women play in homophobic violence—a sad situation. The author quotes a provocative hypothesis by Maurice Tomlinson and invites readers to answer several questions posited about non-trans women’s transphobic and homophobic violence. To comment, remember to click on the Red for Gender link below:
A 17 year-old trans woman was killed at a street dance in Jamaica. Allegedly after being outted as trans by another (non-trans) woman. LGBT rights activist, Maurice Tomlinson, draws attention to the role women play in homophobic and transphobic violence in the Caribbean:
“What is particularly troubling is that there appears to be a pattern of these anti-gay attacks being instigated by women. In yesterday’s incident, the news report indicates that the cross-dressing teen was outed when “a woman at the party recognised him and told persons at the party that he was not a female.” Jamaican women have also been documented as inciting homophobic mob attacks in Kingston and other parishes. These mobs have inflicted grievous bodily harm on numerous gay and cross-dressing men across the island.”
He attributes women’s role in this violence to their competition with each other for the sexual attention of men: “There is a view within Jamaica and the Caribbean that some biological females feel threatened by trans females who are deemed to be competing for the already limited supply of suitable and available male partners. This leads some women to initiate an incident that a man must act upon, as his masculinity is threatened if he does not respond to the female’s cry to ‘do something.’”
I’m not sure that I agree that the root of women’s transphobic and homophobic violence is competition for a scarcity of eligible men. I think that quite simply, women too are part of very homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic societies. Just being assigned female at birth does not grant you the kind of consciousness which respects everyone’s the right to be. It does not make you more aware of your own privilege. Neither does it mean that you question the taken-for-grantedness of normative gender relations, expectations and identities. We need to do more consciousness-raising work so that we stop oppressing and killing each other.
Maurice argues that women’s groups and LGBT rights groups need to collaborate more. I agree 100%.
What do you think? What accounts for non-trans women’s transphobic and homophobic violence?
What has been your experience with women’s organisations in the Caribbean? Have you found them to be largely trans and homophobic? Willfully ignorant of LGBT issues?
Edited to add: the term non-trans is used instead of cis or cisgender since neither of the latter two terms are used widely (and I assume understood) in the Caribbean. In addition, people who are assigned female at birth may be sexed as female but not gendered as women due to (usually) racist understandings of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be human.