The Transvestite, the Transsexual and the Trans Woman: The Transmisogynist Representation of Transgender Killers in Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs and The Mantis
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This thesis examines three stories revolving around the transmisogynist trope of transgender female serial killers: the 1959 novel Psycho by Robert Bloch and its film adaptations by Alfred Hitchcock and Gus van Sant, the 1989 novel The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and its film adaptation by Jonathan Demme, and the Netflix Original series The Mantis. By historically contextualizing these texts and critiquing contemporaneous conceptualizations of transgender individuals through a modern-day trans activist lens, the way in which past societal beliefs contributed to the transmisogyny in the texts is explored. Norman Bates in Psycho is portrayed as a crossdressing man, which is presented as a symptom of being dangerously disturbed, linking gender nonconformity and mental illness to extreme violence. Jame Gumb in The Silence of the Lambs is portrayed as a transgender woman who is denied access to health care services needed to medically transition, enforcing the idea of a “false transsexual” which encourages disbelief of trans people’s self- identification. Virginie Delorme in The Mantis is portrayed as a trans woman who was similarly refused sex reassignment surgery and is rejected by men because of her poorly performed clandestine vaginoplasty, supporting the transphobic notion that post-operative trans women are merely mutilated men. The uncovered flaws in representing transgender women fairly and accurately point in a direction for future views on trans women that are not conducive to the production of such harmful fictional media.