Further thoughts on trans* theorizing about the body
April 9, 2012
(Originally posted at Womanist Musings. Reposting here for archival purposes.)
My post last week requires some clarification. It wasn’t necessarily about how trans* discourse manages to construct a uniquely trans* mind/body dualism, but rather the ways that trans* discourse relies on a larger philosophical context of Cartesian dualism.
This context needs to be teased out for the ways that it privileges some trans* narratives over others and for the ways that it erases non-Western trans* experiences. It also serves to illuminate a tension in trans* discourse of the relationship between socially constructed meanings and the bodies on which they are forcibly placed.
Part of my argument last week was that the word ‘trans*’ or ‘transgender’ itself depends on this context of Cartesian dualism. And, as I spent the week pondering and mulling over this, it became even clearer why I dislike the term so much.
My experiences as a gender variant person more feel to me as a continual becoming (perhaps, flowering). I started my life as the person I was going to be and I am now in an ongoing process of becoming that person. I am not, transitioning, transforming, transcending anything. Not my body and not the socially constructed gender role I’m forced to live my day-to-day life as. Instead I work on becoming.
Not becoming myself… since I cannot be anything but myself. But becoming the self I have the potential to be, if only I were free. Free of socially constructed gender roles. Free of euro-centric/western hegemonic narratives. Free of colonization. Free of racism. Free of fear. Free.
I am the flowering of the love, attention, and care I give to myself. I am the fruit of the mind numbingly difficult labor of decolonizing my mind. I am the product of my past. Of my family. Of the love and joy I’ve experienced. Of the disappointment and heartbreak.
While I change and grow, I do not cross over, go to another side, go through myself to become someone else. Someone more ‘authentic.’
I am already authentic. I am real.
But where is the space for my story in trans* discourse? How can I articulate my experiences, my feelings, my self, when to be trans is to be a traveler on a road to a place I have no wish to go?
As Supermattichine wrote:
Why do we stay in this paradigm of motion—across, over, beyond? I propose instead a paradigm of revelation.
We do not “cross over” to our genders; we reveal our genders, which people had assumed were the ones assigned to us at birth. The process of what is now called transition could be liberatingly reconfigured as revelation. What one’s true name is, what one truly looks like, what one is, having shed the restrictions of an oppressive enforced gender. (source)
But it is important to expose how deeply embedded this discourse is in western philosophy because of how this discourse is used to legitimize and privilege certain narratives over others. For how white, western trans* people set themselves up as the authorities on gender. How they use this discourse to act as gatekeepers to the community. It is how they become the face of the community and movement and how the push aside, alienate, and marginalize any person who does not fit within this narrative.