Thursday, December 10, 2015

Julia update: new books for 2016!

So yesterday I sent out my latest email update. In it, I discuss:

1) Whipping Girl 2nd edition to be released in March 2016!
2) my 3rd book Outspoken to be released late winter/early spring 2016!
3) introducing Kat Cataclysm
4) Spring 2016 events
5) a few new(ish) essays

You can read the update in all its glory here.

If you want future julia updates emailed directly to you, please sign up for my email list.

enjoy! -j.

Michelle Goldberg's relentless anti-trans bias

People are asking me to respond to the latest Michelle Goldberg article, wherein she paints transgender activism as this horrible activist movement that oppresses both feminists and its own transgender constituents.

I don't have the time or energy to fully respond to this particular piece at the moment. But I do want to remind/alert people that Goldberg has a strong & persistent anti-trans bias that has been articulated by me here, and has been chronicled by the Columbia Journalism ReviewBitch Magazine, Autostraddle, Bilerico, and New Statesman.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Critiquing the "Political Correctness Run Amok" Meme (yet again)

For those of you who may have missed it, last week I wrote another article critiquing the recent and increasing trend of anti-"political correctness" articles. [My previous critiques include That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore (and it’s not because of “political correctness”) from August, plus Noah Berlatsky's interview with me on the subject back in February.]

Anyway, the new piece is called How to Write a “Political Correctness Run Amok” Article. It is both a critique of these articles' one-sidedness and the many important issues they typically ignore. It was also more specifically a response to a Katha Pollitt recent piece "Feminism Needs More Thinkers Who Aren’t Right 100 Percent of the Time" (her op-ed about the Germaine Greer/Cardiff University controversy), which I felt had similar shortcomings.

The original piece (link above) appeared on Medium -- the way that it works is that the more "hearts" it gets (icon at bottom), the more likely it will appear on other people's Medium feeds. So please "heart" it if you like it!

The piece was subsequently picked up by Salon - so you can read it there by clicking that link.

I also wrote a follow-up piece addressing many of the questions and concerns that some readers on Medium raised.

Finally, I encourage folks to check out Noah Berlatsky's article about how coverage of the Germaine Greer "no platform" debates typically failed to include any trans voices - both myself and Katherine Cross are interviewed in Noah's piece.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Julia Serano on Judith Butler

Note added in 2021: In the years subsequent to this essay being published, Judith Butler has come out as nonbinary and now uses they/them pronouns. 

For starters, my apologies about the eponymous blog-post title—I simply wanted this piece to be readily “findable” for people who do web searches using both our names.

Over the years, I have read and heard numerous reactions to my first two books—Whipping Girl and Excluded—that presume that I have negative or antagonistic views of gender theorist Judith Butler. This is not actually the case. Others have presumed that some of my work is a “misreading” of her theories, when in actuality I have never directly critiqued Butler’s work (only misinterpretations of her work). So to set the record straight, I have penned this blog-post, which will admittedly only be of interest to a small subset of readers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

consider bringing Julia Serano out to your college campus!

So a new academic year has begun, and as always, I am looking forward to having the opportunity to speak/perform at various colleges & universities this year!

If you are affiliated with a college - especially if you belong to a trans, LGBTQIA+, women's and/or feminist-related organization - please consider bringing me out to your campus. And even if you aren't associated with a college yourself, feel free to forward this onto people that you know who are students or staff elsewhere.

For those interested parties, I have a recently updated "booking" webpage ( containing pertinent information, including short descriptions of some of my most frequently requested talks.

a PDF version of this booking info can be downloaded at this link:

Best wishes, -julia

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Regarding Trans* and Transgenderism

Last year, in the second half of my piece A Personal History of the “T-word” (and some more general reflections on language and activism), I described what I call the activist language merry-go-round. Here’s how it works: Because trans people are highly stigmatized and face undue scrutiny in our culture, all of the language associated with us will face similar stigma and scrutiny. At some point, every single trans-related term will be called out as “problematic” for some reason or another—e.g., its origin, history, aesthetic quality (or lack thereof), literal meaning, alternate definitions, potential misinterpretations or connotations, or occasional exclusionary or defamatory usage. And supposedly more liberatory or inclusive alternative terms will gain favor. But over time, these new terms will eventually be challenged too. Because the crux of the problem is not the words themselves, but rather the negative or narrow views of trans people that ultimately influence how these words are viewed and used by others.

So rather than constantly trying to eliminate certain words and inventing new replacement terms, I argue that we would be best off challenging the narrow or negative views of trans people that sometimes latch themselves onto trans terminology. That is a brief synopsis of the activist language merry-go-round; I encourage you to read the linked-to essay above, as I make my case far more thoughtfully and thoroughly there than I have in these two paragraphs. 

The reason why I am bringing this up now is because I want to share some of my personal thoughts regarding the terms trans* and transgenderism, both of which have come under activist-language-merry-go-round scrutiny lately.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Regarding "Political Correctness" (my first post on Medium)

Those of you who have read my book Excluded (particularly the last chapter, "Balancing Acts") know that I have long been concerned with the ways in which activist language and strategies are sometimes employed in ways that are counterproductive, or which have the effect of silencing other disenfranchised individuals. My goal in doing this is to foster more robust, thoughtful, and inclusive conversations and communities.

However, in the last year, there has been a rash of mainstream articles about this phenomenon, often framing it under the rubric of "political correctness." For the most part, these are one-sided short-sighted attempts to condemn "language policing" without giving any thought to how we might balance that with the concerns of marginalized groups.

So I have just written a response to one of these recent articles - it's called That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore (and it’s not because of “political correctness”). If you click the link (and please do!), you will notice that I have posted it to Medium. I did so because I am hoping that it gets some attention outside of the "activist bubble" - which it will, provided enough people "recommend" and "share" it.

So I encourage you to read it! And if you like it, please "recommend" and "share" it! Thanks! -j.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The real "autogynephilia deniers"

Note: updated links and additional entries were added to this post in October, 2019. A more thorough review of autogynephilia theory and the many lines of evidence against it can be found in my peer-reviewed article Autogynephilia: A scientific review, feminist analysis, and alternative ‘embodiment fantasies’ model [PDF link]. The underlying rationales that lead some people to still support the theory despite its lack of scientific validity are explored in Making Sense of Autogynephilia Debates. Finally, toward the end of this essay, I provide examples of how the theory is routinely cited by those who wish to undermine transgender people, rights, and/or healthcare—many more recent examples of this are discussed in my 2021 piece Autogynephilia and Anti-Transgender Activism

A little over a week ago, James Cantor (a sexologist who works at CAMH) published the following provocative tweet:

Of course, the trope of "autogynephilia deniers" has existed for about as long as the theory itself has.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cisgender and dictionary definitions

This is happened two weeks ago, so some of you may have already heard the news. But for those who didn't, cisgender was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

I first started using cisgender and cissexual almost ten years ago, while I was working on Whipping Girl. At the time, few people (even within trans communities) were aware of these words, so it has been amazing to see them garner acceptance over time, even within certain mainstream settings.

It has also been interesting to watch these terms (and the ways people use them) evolve and diverge over time. For those who are interested, last year I wrote two essays on this very subject: Cissexism and Cis Privilege Revisited - Part 1: Who Exactly Does “Cis” Refer To? and Cissexism and Cis Privilege Revisited - Part 2: Reconciling Disparate Uses of the Cis/Trans Distinction. Both essays explain the usefulness of these concepts, while also addressing some of the negative aspects or unintended consequences of cis terminology.

Both posts are significantly longer than a dictionary entry. But sometimes words are more complicated than a straightforward definition would have you believe.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"What Makes/Is a Woman" and the false "feminists vs transgender activists" binary

Last weekend, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Elinor Burkett called "What Makes a Woman?" If the title looks eerily familiar, it's probably because of Michelle Goldberg's "What Is a Woman?" article that appeared in The New Yorker last year. And they have more than their titles in common: They both perpetuate an absolutely *false* "feminists vs transgender activists" binary, and portray trans people (and especially trans women) as undermining feminism.

I've had many people ask me to write a response to it, but I've been too busy. Besides, I basically debunked each and every one of the assumptions Burkett makes in my book Whipping Girl. If you don't have time to read the book, here is a short piece I wrote for Ms. Magazine debunking the trans-activism-vs-feminism binary.

But lo and behold, today I will get to respond to Burkett's piece on HuffPost Live at 4pm EST! I am told that my interview will likely be in the 4:05-4:15 range - here is the link for the show if you want to watch:

I will try to post a permanent link for the segment after the show...

Postscript: The show can now be viewed here. My segment runs from about 6:50 thru 14:20.

[note: If you appreciate my work and want to see more of it, please check out my Patreon page]

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reconceptualizing “Autogynephilia” as Female/Feminine Embodiment Fantasies (FEFs)

[note added November, 2016: This essay (with additional material!) now appears as a chapter in my third book Outspoken: A Decade of Transgender Activism and Trans Feminism. If you want to read that updated chapter, it can be downloaded here]

Note added 7-14-15: a follow up post (of sorts) detailing all of the recent scientific papers demonstrating that Blanchard's theory is incorrect can be found in The Real "Autogynephilia" Deniers.

In 2010, two review articles appeared in the peer-review literature: My article The Case Against Autogynephilia was published in The International Journal of Transgenderism, and Charles Moser's article Blanchard's Autogynephilia Theory: A Critique appeared in the Journal of HomosexualityBoth of our papers presented numerous lines of evidence that disprove the main underpinnings of autogynephilia theory, namely, the assertions that trans female/feminine-spectrum people can be readily divided into two clear-cut categories based upon sexual orientation and the presence or absence of “autogynephilia,” and that “autogynephilia” is the primary underlying cause of gender dysphoria and desire to transition in trans women who experience it. (Note: subsequent analyses by Talia Bettcher and Jaimie Veale have further demonstrated that autogynephilia theory is incorrect.)

Where our papers differ is that, while Moser continues to use the term “autogynephilia” to refer to sexual fantasies and patterns of arousal in which the “thought or image of oneself as a woman” plays a contributing role, I instead argue that we should no longer use this term for the following reasons:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Julia update May 2015 - new writings & stuff!

So today I sent out my latest email update. It offers links to some new (& newish) writings, including my op-ed on the Jenner interview in The Guardian, my contribution to the new illustrated sex-ed book Girl Sex 101, a French/Français translation of Whipping Girl, plus a February interview with me regarding recent online debates about "political correctness" and "call-out culture."

You can read the update in all its glory here.

If you want future julia updates emailed directly to you, you can sign up for my email list here.

enjoy! -j.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

So about that whole Jenner thing

note added 5/2/15: a few days after posting this, I wrote an op-ed for the The Guardian (US edition) about the Bruce Jenner-Diane Sawyer interview.

I had no intentions of writing this. Celebrities come out as trans once every year or two or three. For me, it's like a comet, or perhaps Mercury retrograde. It always keeps happening. I've lived through numerous permutations of this before. For me, this is history repeating itself, albeit somewhat differently each time.

I haven't even watched Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer yet. I DVR'd it. On purpose. It is a buffer. The media often screws things up, so I wanted to hear about how it went before watching it. So I could prepare myself, just in case. Because it's hard to watch a newly out trans person answer a barrage of intrusive questions about their gender and identity, when you've personally been a newly out trans person who had to endure a very similar (albeit not publicly broadcasted) barrage of similar questions regarding your own gender and identity.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Alice Dreger’s disingenuous campaign against transgender activism

an introduction added September, 2015:

This post started out as “Alice Dreger and making the evidence fit your thesis” (which can be found in its original form below). Dreger’s new book Galileo’s Middle Finger had just come out, and it contained her critical portrayal of the backlash against J. Michael Bailey’s trans-misogynistic book The Man Who Would Be Queen. Most people outside of certain transgender and/or sexology circles are probably unaware that this particular part of Dreger’s book first appeared in 2009 as an article in a research journal along with numerous peer commentaries—one of which was written by me, and most of which criticized Dreger for being highly selective with the evidence she presented and/or for blatantly misrepresenting trans activists’ concerns and motives in the process. So I initially penned this post to inform potential readers about those past critical reviews of Dreger’s depiction of this particular matter.

And I thought that would be it. I had no reason to believe that she had any kind of vendetta against transgender people or trans activism per se (although some trans activists certainly did think this). Frankly, my impression at the time was that she had a story that she wanted to tell about “activism gone awry and constituting a threat to scientific freedom,” and that her narrative would be easiest to sell if she played down the trans community’s legitimate concerns and played up a handful of incidents that seemed to bolster her case.

But now I believe that I was wrong. Not about Dreger’s disingenuous portrayal of the backlash against Bailey’s book—I stand by that assessment. Rather, now I do think that she has a vendetta against transgender activism, as she has since penned a series of articles wherein she repeatedly 1) criticizes ideas and policies that are forwarded by, and generally accepted amongst, transgender activists, 2) presents selective and/or distorted evidence (usually via “straw men” and false dichotomies) to bolster her argument, 3) points to instances where some trans activists have supposedly “gone too far” (in her mind, at least) in order to paint us as unreasonable and/or extremist, 4) ignores all reasonable and knowledgeable trans activists and advocates whose view points would illustrate that the topic is way more nuanced and complicated than she is presenting it, and 5) inevitably drops in a few comments to make it seem like she is “trans-positive,” or an “ally” or “advocate” of the trans community, when in reality the only trans people she seems to respect are those who buy into psychopathologizing theories about trans identities and sexualities.

Monday, March 16, 2015

crowdsourcing for instances where "autogynephilia" is used to sensationalize or invalidate trans identities - please help & share with others!

As many of you may know, over the years I have written a lot about Ray Blanchard's theory of autogynephilia, which wrongly argues that trans women are sexually-motivated in our transitions - I debunked the theory in the article provided in the link, and further discuss how it sexualizes and invalidates trans women here.  

I am currently working on a piece that (in part) compiles instances where people outside of science/psychology cite "autogynephilia" in their efforts to sensationalize trans people or to promote anti-transgender agendas and policies. 

I have a few examples of this in hand - most notably, from Sheila Jeffreys's recent book, one from an anti-trans Catholic organization, that horrible Rolling Stone article about Lana Wachowski published before she came out as trans, and of course, last year's New Yorker article in which Michelle Goldberg used the theory to slut-shame me

I have seen many more examples than this, but I have found them to be especially difficult to track down online, as the bajillion webpages and posts discussing and debating the theory itself overwhelm any and all search engine queries I have attempted.

So that's where you come in (hopefully!). Perhaps you know of articles, news items, or stories along this line? If so, please pass along a link, a description, or a few key words so that I can search for it myself. You can do so by:

1) leaving a comment below
2) Tweet it to me @juliaserano
3) email it to me - my address can be found here:

Thanks in advance! -julia

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Nobody reinforces the gender binary & nobody subverts it either (plus some retrospective thoughts about Whipping Girl)

I usually don’t publicly respond to critiques of my writings. People inevitably interpret (or misinterpret) things that I have written in all sorts of ways, and I usually just strive to articulate my ideas better the next time around. However, in the last two weeks, I have stumbled across numerous instances where people have accused me of claiming that two-spirit and other indigenous non-binary-identified people “reinforce the gender binary.” This notion so goes against everything that I believe and have written in the past that I feel compelled to address the matter here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How Double Standards Work (understanding the unmarked/marked distinction)

This is one in a series of blog posts in which I discuss some of the concepts and terminology that I forward in my writings, including my recent book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive

In Excluded, I argue that instead of focusing on only one or a few forms of sexism and marginalization, we should acknowledge that there are myriad double standards out there. And given this, it is crucial for us to more generally recognize and challenge double standards whenever and wherever they occur.

To be honest, I think that we as activists tend not to be very good at doing this—it is a main reason why people who are quite familiar with one particular form of marginalization (typically one that they are personally impacted by) will nevertheless continue to single out and invalidate other groups of people, often using the exact same tactics that they abhor when used against members of their own group. In other words, a failure to recognize and understand how double standards function in a general sense is what enables various forms of exclusion to run rampant within our movements. It is also what enables numerous forms of sexism and marginalization to proliferate in society at large.   

I discuss this issue over the course of Excluded, but I address it head on in Chapter 14: “How Double Standards Work”—it is one of the pieces of writing that I am most proud of.