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Biography Critique Essay Nonfiction Social Sciences

Misgendering and Its Moral Contestability

By Stephanie Julia Kapusta, 2016

In this article, I consider the harms inflicted upon transgender persons through “misgendering,” that is, such deployments of gender terms that diminish transgender persons’ self-respect, limit the discursive resources at their disposal to define their own gender, and cause them microaggressive psychological harms. Such deployments are morally contestable, that is, they can be challenged on ethical or political grounds. Two characterizations of “woman” proposed in the feminist literature are critiqued from this perspective. When we consider what would happen to transgender women upon the broad implementation of these characterizations within transgender women’s social context, we discover that they suffer from two defects: they either exclude at least some transgender women, or else they implicitly foster hierarchies among women, marginalizing transgender women in particular. In conclusion, I claim that the moral contestability of gender-term deployments acts as a stimulus to regularly consider the provisionality and revisability of our deployments of the term “woman.”

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