Dictionary corner: gayjacking
Helen G // 6 June 2010
Gayjacking: A portmanteau word combining gay and hijacking, it refers to the process by which TS/TG people’s self-identification is invisibilised and our lived experiences appropriated and repositioned to fit cis people’s agenda, and exempt themselves from acknowledging their own privileges and prejudices. The result is to present trans people as being always and forever our assigned sex and once that malicious assertion has been made, it’s a simple matter for cis people to pronounce that, for example, a relationship between a trans woman and a cis man is “really” a same sex relationship. Additionally, amongst other things, it sets up the conditions necessary for implementing the “trans panic defence” beloved of many a cis man who, on discovering that the woman with whom he has just had sex was born male-bodied, uses that as a justification for murdering her in a brutal and cruel way. (There are useful analyses of the trans panic defence in the context of the murder of Angie Zapata by Holly at Feministe and by Jillian Weiss at The Bilerico Project)
Gayjacking is not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, but it does seem to have become more prominent with cis people’s still-dawning awareness of terms like transgender. From Compton’s Cafeteria and Stonewall in the 1960s (and before), through the annulment of April Ashley’s marriage in 1970 and the continuing anti-trans bigotry of many radical feminist cis women, to the almost universal misgendering of Tiwonge Chimbalanga by the mainstream media (along with so-called LGBT activist groups and numerous human rights organisations), this dehumanisation of TS/TG women has been a recurrent pattern of anti-trans hate, discrimination and discrimination for far too many years.
Even as I write this, reports of an LGBT group (associated with a major UK political party) being refused service in a London pub “because they were gay” – thereby instantly eradicating any trans, as well as bi and lesbian members, a textbook example of gayjacking – continues to unfold on Twitter, Facebook, BBC London News and one or two of the more enlightened cis women feminist blogs..
However, not only has gayjacking been around for a long time but it seems set to continue unchecked. For that to happen would, of course, require a tipping point to be reached in the positive evolution of mainstream cis society’s attitudes to my community, and it’s increasingly obvious to me that that is highly unlikely to happen any time soon.