All Things to All People: Some Brief Notes on Solidarity and Free Speech

If transgender people have a “superpower” it is our remarkable ability to stand for anything:  living, breathing “floating signifiers.” Our meaning d’jour is, for some on Fleet Street, “a professionally offended, Left wing lobby group” that is now the latest “post-Leveson” threat to free speech and a free press. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of things—fleeting as these meanings are, such that we can even speak of stable oppositions—Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill had accused trans people of dividing and distracting the Left from its “important” goals and its “true” cause. If this seems exasperating and contradictory, you ain’t seen nothing yet, as they say. But for now, it is enough to deal with these two absurdities one at a time and bring a bit of light to a decidedly un-illuminating heat. Free Speech: From Posturing to Substance Toby Young and all the other vacuous, fly-by-night defenders of “free speech” filch lovely rhetoric that whistle stops past all manner of liberal … [Read more...]

Immoral Women: Why We Need More of Them

This article is due to be published on Border House this coming Tuesday. In case its raging nerdular nerdence doesn't give it away, it's about video games specifically. Enjoy! One of the most irksome things I hear when I make arguments for ‘good/positive portrayals’ of characters from traditionally marginalised backgrounds is that my interlocutors immediately assume I’m calling for portrayals of moral paragons. They seem to think I’m saying “if you write a gay male character, he must be the most righteous dude ever.” In a word, no. That’s what today’s article is about, particularly with regards to women characters. The reality of the situation is that the portrayal of women as pure, stainless alabaster icons of virtue is a huge problem that arises from cultural stereotypes of women. The notion that women are inherently more virtuous, kinder, and so on is part of the limiting and fetishising pedestalisation that serves to fence us off from being thought of as persons. Human … [Read more...]

Body of the Law: Trans Bodies in Cis Law (Adventures in Transgender Studies, Part II)

As I engaged in the ritual striptease meant to appease the airline gods at Denver International Airport, standing at the bin that I had claimed as my own with an advert I paid no attention to staring at me from its bottom, a TSA agent walked up to me. I was depositing my grey blazer in the bin, my belt soon to follow, and I grew nervous, my throat tightening as it often does on security lines. But all that the blue uniformed man did was smile at me and say “Good morning to ya, ma’am.” At that moment I knew, as if a disembodied computer voice had said in my head “Conditional Cissexual Privilege Activated” that I was safe. For now. I escorted my belongings, the worn leather boots that could theoretically contain a bomb, the belt that could theoretically contain a trigger mechanism. Or cocaine. My handbag full of feminist literature (now there’s something explosive). That was when motion caught my eye and I saw something ominously towering over the old fashioned metal detector. The … [Read more...]

A Social Symphony: The Four Movements of Transphobia in Theory

In analysing the place of transgender and transsexual people in the theorising of various disciplines one finds several common threads that link together the entire enterprise. Society can often be quite messy and yet paradoxically can also be found to have identifiable mechanisms of operation that grind certain social forces inexorably forward. So what am I getting at with this? What are the common threads? Well, with the invaluable assistance of an expert social theorist who happens to be a trans woman, I believe I have found four. Trans people are not the only group of people hard done by social and political theory; there is a lot to be learned from analysing how theoretical paradigms have utterly excluded other marginalised peoples. In her 2007 book Southern Theory, sociologist Raewyn Connell articulates an excellent exegesis of Western social theory that lays bare its deeply Eurocentric assumptions as well as the colonial enterprise that underlay it. The colonised world, she … [Read more...]

Theory is Yours: A Brief Archaeology of Trans Feminist Awesome

This post will appear as a crosspost on QT very shortly and was addressed chiefly to its audience, and thus the 'this space' term refers to Questioning Transphobia. Otherwise, enjoy! In looking out at the vast, expansive canon of gender studies literature, and in light of even the most superficial analysis of its myriad failings it is easy to feel dispirited by what it has to offer trans people. It is all too easy to understand the instinct to abandon both queer and gender studies as a privileged exercise in neo-pathology, the postmodern turn of the same ideologies that guided the hegemonic psychiatrists of decades past. One could find yet more examples, of course. Judith Lorber, someone readers of my blog may remember my past disagreements with, had this to say in 1994 about trans people: “[trans folk do not challenge the gender order because] their goal is to be feminine women and masculine men” (Lorber 1994, 20). Yet again we find the tireless obsession with … [Read more...]

I Am Whoever You Say I Am

In the long march into academia one naturally becomes intimately acquainted with the geeky and esoteric minutiae of whatever discipline one has chosen for their career. Over the last two years I’ve found myself up to my eyeballs in gender studies text and find it utterly fascinating. I’m often seen scurrying to and fro with a book or two tucked under my arm and my desk is covered in all manner of books appertaining to my passions. But importantly, when you are trans-anything and delving into the wild and woolly world of gender studies you have to be ready for the fact that there will be lots and lots of highly credentialed, intellectual academics theorising about you who do not know what the hell they’re talking about. This occupational hazard is, to put it bluntly, both annoying and the reason I’m doing the sociology of gender in the first place. The only way this is going to be truly fixed is when we start writing the theory and we start conducting the … [Read more...]

Lost In Trans-lation: The Final Chapter/Reckoning/Cliche something-or-other

I'll not preface this essay with very much, only to say that it is a swan song for the last month and an interesting opportunity that I seized to neatly tie up and summarise my academic and- dare I say- personal journey over the course of the class. My final grade in the course was an A and so was my grade for this essay. The question I'm answering here is, basically, what did I learn over the course of the last month and how did the readings challenge (or not challenge) me and the views I held when I walked in. My response is as follows: I walked into the class having done a good half of the assigned reading and with a fair amount of foreground knowledge of both emancipatory politics in general and feminism specifically- both its virtues and its foibles- as well as already being familiar with concepts like intersectionality, epistemological or materials hierarchies, disability studies, pivoting the centre, and many others to boot. Yet I also knew I was going to learn … [Read more...]

At the Crossroads and Other Mixed Metaphors: Intersectionality

This essay, as I mentioned yesterday, got an A (which is the highest grade my professor will bestow as he doesn't believe in A+s for one reason or another). The 'question' I had to answer was really more of an essay unto itself but here it is: This essay has three parts, which should be integrated into a single essay, and not answered separately. Explain the concept of intersectionality. You should discuss at least race, class, gender, and sexuality, but you may also discuss other aspects of social inequality we’ve talked about in class. This section should focus on Crenshaw and the Combahee River Collective, but you may use other texts as well.  Do not just quote a definition here, explain the concept in your own words and in detail. Discuss one or two particular historical events, periods, or issues in the context of an intersectional analysis of multiple axes of oppression. Use at least two readings not including Crenshaw. How does … [Read more...]

Lost in Trans-lation: A Journal of Women’s Studies, Part III

The early chapters of Angela Davis’s Women, Race, and Class were palpably powerful and forthright in their analysis of black women’s enslavement and empowerment in 19th Century America. These twin, interwoven narratives tell a story whose importance demands one’s attention. For my own part her vivid descriptions of the horrors visited on black women in the institution of slavery caused me to pause in my reading, staring at the page before finally closing my eyes for a moment, offering some feeble form of remembrance for the women whose stories she brought to life. They were not just passive recipients of abuse, however, but active agents in their liberation. Brave resistance seemed to meet, blow for blow, every whip, cruel word, sexual advance, balled fist or backbreaking labour that these women’s masters could bring to bear or muster. In this lies the point of Professor Davis’  narrative. This point is twofold: one, it is meant to elucidate on the gendered realities facing black … [Read more...]

Lost in Trans-lation: A Journal of Women’s Studies, Part II

Here follows part two of the amazing epic story, nominated for six Golden Raspberries, and a Grammy for Best Kazoo Solo: Lost in Trans-Lation. The witty title of this series will, I hope, reflect, what focus on trans issues I can provide in the context of our readings. But as you'll see today, save for one cisfail at the end, there wasn't much discussion this time around. That said, the connections that exist between all three of these readings: biology utilised to buttress discrimination, power and privilege, and neo-bigotry disguised as liberalism all bear heavily on transgender people in our daily lives and are part of understanding our particular social locality. There is also the fact that while quotas may not exist for affirmative action, this blog has a quota for a certain number of trans-puns per year. So, bear with me on that. Now, without further ado, the curtain rises on our gallant heroine going way past the page limit of her homework assignment... The New York … [Read more...]