US: Science magazine’s new cover receives backlash for being transmisogynistic

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Science, an academic magazine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has debuted a cover for a July issue that has been called transmisogynistic.

The cover features a photo of two transgender sex workers from Indonesia in dresses and high heels. Their heads are cropped off the top margin of the cover.

The articles accompanying the cover photo talk about the current state of AIDS and HIV research and treatment.

The magazine says transwomen are depicted on the cover because they are a high risk group often overlooking in AIDS and HIV research.

But some readers have called the photo and message it sends transmisogynistic.

When Science careers editor Jim Austin received backlash via twitter from readers who called the cover sexist toward women, Austin responded: “You realize they are transgender? Does it matter? That at least colors things, no?”

After being further challenged by Twitter user Jacquelyn Gill, who called the images “dehumanizing” and “male gazey,” Austin responded: “Interesting to consider how those gazey males will feel when they find out.”

The lesbian blog Autostraddle said that Austin’s response plays on the “trans panic defense” used in cases where cisgender men murder transwomen.

The defense plays into the idea that cisgender men have a right to know if a woman is transgender and that cisgender men are not at fault for so-called uncontrollable, violent reactions to a transwoman’s gender identity.

Science editor in chief Marcia McNutt added an addendum to the cover on the magazine’s website, stating: “The cover showing transgender sex workers in Jakarta was selected after much discussion by a large group and was not intended to offend anyone, but rather to highlight the fact that there are solutions for the AIDS crisis for this forgotten but at-risk group.

“A few have indicated to me that the cover did exactly that, but more have indicated the opposite reaction: that the cover was offensive because they did not have the context of the story prior to viewing it, an important piece of information that was available to those choosing the cover.

I am truly sorry for any discomfort that this cover may have caused anyone, and promise that we will strive to do much better in the future to be sensitive to all groups and not assume that context and intent will speak for themselves.


McNutt also tweeted from her personal account: “From us at Science, we apologize to those offended by recent cover. Intent was to highlight solutions to HIV, and it badly missed the mark.”