the letter z

On “stealth”

Posted in Uncategorized by z on 2009-09-30

I really should have a spine and stop reading PHB. Especially after this.

I can’t believe that some trans people seem to want to tear down and attack other trans people for their completely valid decisions, especially decisions that matter as to whether they live or die.

Let me spell it out. Stealth* does not imply that you’re a bad trans person. Stealth does not imply that you’re not a trans activist, or that the fact that you’re stealth and choose not to out yourself widely mean that you’re incapable of defending and upholding trans rights.

It is that simple.

Doing anything that defends and upholds trans right is good activism. You can do that if you’re out to everyone you meet, or if you’re deep stealth. You can donate to organizations that help and care for trans people if you’re out or if you’re stealth.

We should be looking at other trans people by their contributions to the cause, not their personal decisions. Our opponents tear us down enough by attacking us for our personal decisions enough, thank you very much.

* While there’s many degrees of stealth, and sadly stealth usually gets conflated with deep stealth, that doesn’t change my point.

A dream

Posted in Uncategorized by z on 2009-09-27

I dreamt last night that I was having a tete-a-tete with Juliet (presumably, the Lost character, and no, I’m not going to go into a fangirl thing here), after passing up the choice to talk with some other notorious people.

After I half-woke up, I realized this dream must have been some subconscious expression of my utter social ineptitude — that I’m quite good at being a “good listener”, hearing someone talk, being supportive in that sort of framework — but when it’s time for group interactions, I fail miserably.

Then I wondered why Juliet? Perhaps she’s the only character on Lost that I vaguely relate to?

Why I write

Posted in Uncategorized by z on 2009-09-21

I write so I can have a voice, even though no one may listen.

I write to vent my rage, even though it may not effect change.

I write to tell the truth, even though it feels like I’m mired in lies.

I write to feel less alone.

Posted in Uncategorized by z on 2009-09-21

When I think about my life, and what’s happened, sometimes I feel sick and like there’s a few choices I’ve made that have been a horrible mistake.

The only selfish choices I’ve made, I haven’t regretted…

On “gender performance”

Posted in Uncategorized by z on 2009-09-20

[Ed. Let’s publish this for now, maybe I’ll have the stamina to write this up as a series of posts.]

My mind drifted back to the notion of “gender performance” as famously expounded by Judith Butler today, namely that gender (as well as sex and sexuality, but I will focus on gender) is the repeated acting of certain behaviours. (As means of disclaimer, it’s been a while since I’ve formally read any of this and the criticisms of this I’ve read I don’t remember so clearly, so excuse any inaccuracy/psuedo-straw-men apparent)

I believe some use a conflation of gender performance as an excuse to explain away the notion of gender identity — they would suppose that if gender is just a matter of learned behaviour, then any idea that someone innately knows what gender they are would be meaningless. First, the term gender, I believe, has been sorely overloaded, so let us step back and define and examine some terms (not their “classical” definitions, but how they should possibly be defined to look at gender with a mind to gender performance):

  • sex: a set or element of one set of physiological characteristics (body shape, genitalia, hormonal makeup, genetics, etc)
  • gender: a particular (any) performance of behaviours, actions, clothing, etc
  • gender role: a set of genders socially thought appropriate to perform for one’s sex
  • gender identity: The classical explanation of this is to say, perhaps inaccurately, what gender one believes oneself to be — it is more correct I think to say that what sex one believes one to be. To clarify, an absence of gender identity is meaningful too.
  • cisgender: A person of one sex who has a gender identity that matches that sex
  • transgender: not cisgender
  • transsexual: A person of one sex who is changing one or elements of sex to that of another set

More mathematically, we could say that sex is a point in the space of physical characteristics, that a particular gender (a particular performance) is a point in the space of behaviours and non-innate attributes, and that gender roles are subsets of of that space deemed acceptable for two of the sex points.

Well, that’s enough definitions for now. Hopefully these definitions are somewhat self-evident; let us pick apart an example, the typical “jock” stereotype is someone with a particular sex, male, that is, male body shape, male genitalia, male chromosomal makeup, etc., who has a particular narrowly-defined gender expression amongst the male gender role, which includes an interest in athletics and athleticism, particular style of clothing and a dominating attitude towards others.

Through this lens, let us reexamine gender performance. A person may change gender performances from time to time, and not even in significant ways, for example, they may decide to change jobs (which is certainly an aspect of gender, cf., “male dominated” jobs and “female domainated” jobs, stock trader versus hairdresser), or they may choose to change their hair style, but typically, a cisgender person will change gender performance, if ever, within the confines of their gender roles. The confines of the gender roles are defined on a sociological basis, ie., the gender role boundaries exist because they have been arbitrarily decided to be this way, such as, because it is traditionally or historically defined to be this way, and not because of any real boundaries.

The idea of drag was proposed in conjunction with works such as Gender Trouble, but, as far as I know, within the confines of talking about cisgender persons only. If we consider trans people and gender performativity, the conversation becomes more complex. I also want to make brief mention of all this and intersex people, but not being intersexed myself, I’ll probably restrain myself out of fear of making myself look stupid and/or privileged. Let’s hope I can get this out for next time.

A preview?

Posted in Uncategorized by z on 2009-09-19

So my mind’s wandering back to my thoughts on “gender theory”, and I really need to work on this post in the works about Judith Butler, gender performance, perception-as-cis (or “passing privilege”) and subversivity, but the ideas are all trying to get out at once, and I feel more annoyed that I’ve only really read Butler’s gender theorizings from a second-person perspective…

Posted in Uncategorized by z on 2009-09-10

While I prepare some draft posts on some lengthier topics, let’s revisit Caster Semenya again.

The media are gleefuly reporting that Caster’s “gender test” is in, and she’s intersex (eg., here).

Neglecting the whole sickening affair, there is the potential for things to get ugly now. I don’t know much about South Africa, but the country rallied around her in light of this. And now, they find that Caster is intersex — what are they going to do now? Toe the old cisgender line and drop all mention of her, shun her, never to speak of her again? Or are they going to stand by her in future? Or something else?

Caster’s life is going to be thoroughly ruined now, thanks to the spoilt, entitled voices of the few who sent her off to the army of gender testers who felt that they looked more appropriate to wear medals on their chest. She’s never going to be able to do anything athletic again without people gossiping and feeling that because she’s intersex, that she’s not deserving to race on the same track as her.

And there’s the utter galling prospect that they’re going to award a second gold to the second place winner; congratulations Caster, you’re not really the winner here, but hey, you get to keep this gold medal, but we really know what that means…

Feel proud, everyone. This is what society and humanity has worked towards — the utter ruin of anyone who looks slightly different, who has a different body make up — see what happens when you dare try and compete against everyone else, and win.