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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

transfeminist, trans feminist, gender 1, 2, more than 2

This is a makeshift post, because I've got all sorts of problems with a broken leg and medication at present. Maybe, I'll firm it up later, but in the meantime....
I was reading the excellent CLMinou and made the following comments on a post of hers.
Thinking about one relatively small point that I find reasonably important. Is there a difference for you between identifying as trans feminist or as transfeminist ?
Trans feminist for me is a trans identifying person who identifies as a feminist.
Transfeminist is by contrast someone who's feminism is centred to a significant degree on the trans experience.
Personally I'll identify as primarily a transfeminist in that my conceptualisation of gender identity through my experience has led me to a position rather distinct from most feminisms vis-a-vis gender essentialism, the nature of gender identity, etc.
I think this does make a difference in how one approaches the broad church of feminism. As a trans feminist issues of trans inclusion are paramount. As a transfeminist I'm obviously still majorly concerned with these, but equally I'm concerned that mainstream feminist theory should relate to my transfeminism in a mutually respectful and productive way.
Because she indicated she'd think about an answer, I tried to expand it into a post, but one I'd see now as necessary to preface with a brief statement as to my personal beliefs around the gender binary, as follows.
I totally and utterly support the gender binary in so far as I have known two gender states, centres of perception giving rise to stable functioning relationships vis a vis emotional and cognitive states. I believe these to correspond generally to male and female gender systems. There may be others. The number of ways gender can be learned, performed, read, erased, elected, selected, named and shamed ,roled and enroled, may be infinite but there appear to be far,far fewer 'genders' where stable functions between the elements of normal consciousness coexist.
So if I was to encounter one person who comes to the local cafes in summer and presents female apart from a well-trimmed bushy moustache, I'd have no difficulty identifying them as a woman, should they so wish. On the other hand, a sex goddess with typical male emotional make up, and I'd have to be concerned about how that person constituted their mental health.
So to the substance of the post, and a personal statement of what transfeminism, a set of places within feminism centering on the trans experience, constitutes for me...

From one of the more ridiculous rad fem sites, the following comment:-'Just what contributions do transwomen ever make to the feminist movement ? They could be making significant contributions by telling women how to overthrow male supremacy, how it works from the inside, but they don't'.
What makes this particularly frustrating, for me as a transfeminist, is not the sheer illiteracy, nor even the peculiarly kyriarchic blame shift and shame, but the fact that that is exactly what we do. That we do tell other women exactly that. When other women read me with knowing eyes, then its wonderful to know that I am telling, consciously or not, something I come to know well, in the deep grammar of gender the possibilities of its own subversion. And when they don't its horrid. A year into transition, and I feel like I can still do a metaphorical pigtail tug. There's such sadness if my narrative is taken as that of the changeling child returned from under the hill, grown old and sick on faery wine of privilege. And instead of the hearth space of refugee, if I'm marked by distancing eyes as spy not sister. And if my speech is heard as seelie babble, rather than offering up the few keys I have to help the great commensality of women gain access to the ways of men.
I'm only too happy to be part of any feminism that doesn't see gender as necessitating social roles, but one which denies gender entirely negates both my narrative and my value as a bearer of information. Because where else could any meaningful analysis of kyriarchy be locate itself than in the deep structure of humans, in the fragmented contracts of gender that comprise the recalcitrant sub-stratas of agreements with which we make sense of the world ? If we try to confront the problems of male violence, if its not possible to construe the gender contours that make different teaching techniques more or less effective through gendered mediation of learning, how is good strategy to be made ? How can we construct our own meta linguistic paradigms if we fail to take account of male gendered language and, for example, its typical necessitating of agency ? In showing what I can be as a woman without a girlhood, without so many of the forces which normally shape a woman's being having impinged on mine, if I can't be fully the woman that I'd love to be, then at least I can be a different light for our common identity, a strange, encumbered, halt Godiva, stripped to bare gender.
I was recently posting on a thread that mentioned transexuality and paleoanthropology. I put forward the notion that I still see as quite attractive as an idea, that there could be a genuine evolutionary role for transgenderism. Skill sets in primates tend often to be gender specific, because of adherence to gendered behaviour norms. Occasionally seeing whether this specificity is warranted by allowing for transgender communication of sex specific knowledge and skills to the opposite gender, would thus be a positive evolutionary function.With a gender power balance so overwhelmingly tilted, I'd see the role of the contemporary transfeminist as a very vital one within that context.
Hopefully it goes without saying that this isn't to be construed as an attempt to set up some separate feminist system or a trans only area. It just seems that this is one set of areas wherein transfeminists can be most productive within the general movement , and where we can and do show with our lives the weaponry and organization of the enemy, his dispositions and their distances, until kyriarchy falls...

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