According to The DCist, a Metro ad features a dialogue between two women where one women is informing the other of how it takes over 8,000 miles before a Metrobus breaks down. The other women in response asks, “Can’t we just talk about shoes?”
In reading about trans* issues, and reading the works of trans* author Dean Spade, I thought about one question that really stood out in my mind: What is normal?
To put a gender onto a set of organs is inaccurate at best and incredibly harmful at worst. In Dean Spade’s reading “About Purportedly Gendered Body Parts,” he talks about how reinforcement of certain organs being attributed to certain genders is inaccurate and enables the perpetuation of stereotyping and enforcing certain gender norms. It additionally presents unfortunate consequences to the people that don’t align with the gender that people typically associate with that set of genitals. This can also pose problems, as brought up in Spade’s other reading “Resisting Medicine Re/Modeling Gender” with regards to there being such a heavy influence on organs and gender that people who identify as non-cisgender who would like top/bottom/”facial feminization”surgeries (I recognize the also heavily gendered connotation of the phrase “facial feminization” however that is the only current term for what that surgery does) need a special diagnosis of GID to even get it because of how heavily gendered the body parts are. Another way that gendering body parts is dangerous is very explicitly outlined in “The Sexual Politics of Sickness” where it is discussed that not too long ago, all ailments of cis women were blamed entirely on the uterus and ovaries. There was an assumption that cis women (which was really the category of “all women that anyone cared about”) and the gendering of that specific body part led to thousands of women being forced to lead a life that caused them nothing but depression because of some “mysterious” illness that was the “female condition” relating heavily to the uterus and ovaries.
The vast majority of people understand gender discrimination through the narrow lens of women’s issues. Though they are indisputably important components of the fight against sexist oppression, our understanding should be more inclusive to those who do not necessarily fall into this traditional definition of gender discrimination, but still suffer for defying society’s expectations of a gender binary. Dean Spade offers a more holistic and inclusive definition in Resisting Medicine, Re/Modeling Gender, saying that “sexist oppression requires that all people adhere to two narrowly defined gender categories; that all people work, dress, reproduce, and generally behave according to the standards set out as appropriate.” With this new definition, we can acknowledge that more than cisgendered women suffer from gendered expectations. As Dean Spade writes, transgendered people suffer gender discrimination as they receive mistreatment and prejudice for failing to adhere to “expectations of the gendered category they have been assigned,” in appearance, demeanor, and behavior. Intersexuals likewise suffer; as activist and intersex person Eden Atwood describes in a youtube video, “out of a great deal of fear and prejudice, a scalpel is raised in order to normalize the genitals and force a gender identity onto the child.” Thus, intersexuals are denied of their autonomy and self-determination, and surgically altered as birth. Even cisgendered men can suffer gender discrimination if they deviate from their masculine expectations, like the father Belkin described the New York Times that struggled to succeed professionally because he prioritized parenting- a task usually designated for women. Though the plights of these people have often been ignored in the larger understanding of gender discrimination, we as progressive thinkers in the modern era should include them in our goals of ending sexist oppression.
video, “inter thoughts” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ-GNZ5QA4Q
Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times Magazine. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web.
Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal (2003): 32. Web. 14 July 2003.
After our class discussion on Beyoncé, I have been thinking a lot about the question “For what are you responsible?”. I do not believe that anyone is responsible for furthering the feminist (or any other) cause beyond simply not hurting it. While I would hope that everyone would want to actively pursue equality, I don’t think that any one person is required to do so. This point is eloquently addressed from a different angle by an essay entitled “Please Don’t Thank Me for Loving My Wife.” In it, the author discusses how much it bothers her that people treat her relationship with her trans wife as if it were a “charity project,” since she is not married to her wife to promote trans* rights but because she loves her. The author is not responsible for working for trans* rights and the assumption that responsibility is what motivates her love seems to underlie her discomfort when people express their gratitude. While she does works to promote trans* rights, she does so out of love for her wife, not the other way around.
Reid, Genevra. “Please Don’t Thank Me for Loving My Wife.” Accessed Sept. 14, 2013. http://www.autostraddle.com/please-dont-thank-me-for-loving-my-wife-192747/
Within the last month, California governor Jerry Brown approved Assembly Bill No. 1266, an amendment to the California Education Code commonly known as the “transgender bathroom bill” for Clause (f) which states that students can participate in activities and use facilities our their gender identity instead of their prescribed gender.
Despite the polarity of reactions ranging from celebratory to outraged, AB-1266 raises societal questions on how we define gender and sex, and how we conceive their construction/identification. Based on the Clause line “irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records”, it appears in Californian legislation terms that gender and sex have an intertwined relationship, if not mean the same thing. Their construction are culturally based and solidify that gender comes before sex as the transcripts are read by markers of gender, not biological genitalia. In expanding the construction of gender and the subsequent gender identification assumed in AB-1266, it answers the question of whether gender is something we have or are by allowing gender to transcend biological fact (have) and develop into our identity (are).
Ammiano. “AB-1266 Pupil Rights: Sex-segregated School Programs and Activities.” California Legislation Information. N/a, 12 Aug. 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2013.
In the reading “The Whipping Girl” by Julia Serano, one of the things that she talks about in relation to deciding to physically transition, and one of her reasons for being able to comfortably come to identify as a woman, were what she called “body feelings.” The feelings that one has towards ones body are largely shaped by society, but also by societal expectations of what a particular sex is supposed to be based on visual representations of primary, secondary, and tertiary sex characteristics. It is definitely possible for there to be a trans* person who does not experience negative body feelings towards the body that they have. There are people that are very comfortable identifying as being a woman without undergoing hormone replacement therapy, top surgery, or bottom surgery. There are people who are genderfluid whose gender feelings (and body feelings) vary day-to-day. The question is, how much are the body feelings that people feel rooted in societal sex expectations? Is there so much internalized cissexism intrinsic in society that there is an assumption that a woman cannot truly “feel like a woman” without having a physical transition?