It has been noted on numerous occasions that the relationship between trans and feminist theory—much like the one between trans activists and feminists—has not been an easy one. In fact, the relationship was off to a rocky start with the publication of lesbian feminist scholar Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male, and Sandy Stone’s rebuttal, The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttransexual Manifesto. Central to this feud was whether or not MtF trans should be “allowed” to take part in lesbian, feminist and women only events and movements. Raymond famously claims to have “fel[t] raped” by her encounter with Stone, then an engineer at the all-women recording studio Olivia Records. By joining Olivia Records, Raymond asserts, Stone exhibited typical “masculine behavior”: “After all his male privilege” Raymond wondered whether Stone was set “to cash in on lesbian feminist culture” as well. Raymond’s charge on transpeople was not limited to personal attacks on Stone, but aimed far wider. Raymond, in fact, views MtF people as enacting a transition meant as an assault on women. “All transsexuals” Raymond claims, “rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves”. Furthermore, they “cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive”.
Raymond’s writings have been criticized as transphobic, constituting hate-speech against trans men and women, a fact that might be more self-evident today. Since the publication of Raymond’s incendiary book, feminists and trans allies have hashed it out on numerous tribunes—conferences, edited volumes and special journal issues. It is therefore surprising to read, today, similar attacks on trans people launched in the name of feminism. In Julie Burchill’s now infamous January 13, 2013 Observer column, the professional loose-cannon likened MtF trans to “chutzpah” for cutting off their “cocks […] and then plead[ing] special privileges as women—above natural-born women”. Burchill’s language is surprisingly offensive, especially for a high circulation publication like The Observer. For instance, Burchill used words such as “a bunch of dicks in chick’s clothing”, “a gaggle of transsexuals”, “screaming mimis”, “trannies”, “shims”, “shemales” and—for reasons that escape me—“bed-wetters in bad wigs” to describe trans people. This verbal diarrhea of insults, topped with a vague threat of retribution (“You really won’t like us when we’re angry”) was indeed scary—though perhaps not for the reasons Burchill had in mind. To be fair, Burchill is a “habitual line-crosser” with a tendency to go off on over-drawn, public, spiteful rants punctuated by personal attacks , and The Observer has both removed the piece and issued an apology for its ill-advised publication .
Aside from the University of Arizona’s commitment to foster trans as a field of study, trans studies’ foothold in academia is limited. Trans issues are usually addressed—when addressed at all—within women’s studies and gender studies programs. As Gayle Salamon puts it, however, while trans challenges the “fixed taxonomies of gender”, women’s studies, as a discipline, “depends upon the fixedness of gender: “The category of ‘woman’, even if it is understood to be intersectional and historically contingent, must offer a certain persistence and coherence if it is to be not only the object of study but the foundation of a discipline”. Hence, “a subject formation that describes a position of referential resistance might not be easily incorporated into such a schema” (Assuming a Body, 98).
Most often, Salamon continues, trans studies has been lumped with lesbian and gay studies, a most confounding agglomeration. Trans* has to do with gender identity, not sexual preference. Gender, sex and sexuality are intimately linked and they often match, but this isn’t to say they are the same. A transwoman might like women and consider herself a lesbian, but she might also like men and enter into heterosexual relationships. The dating pool is a separate issue from one’s gender.
 See Rose, Katrina C. (2004) "The Man Who Would be Janice Raymond." Transgender Tapestry 104, Winter 2004, Julia Serano (2007) Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, pp. 233-234, Namaste, Viviane K. (2000) Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People, pp. 33-34 and Hayes, Cressida J., 2003, "Feminist Solidarity after Queer Theory: The Case of Transgender," in Signs 28(4):1093-1120.
Anchoring my project on Dorothy Arzner is an exploration of gender through Trans Studies. Here I post snippets of my research on the theoretical aspects of Trans Studies.