that funny moment when i almost kind of agree with a crusty white trans woman
June 15, 2017
So Riki Wilchin dropped another hot turd of an article where she muses about whether or not nonbinary ppl are cis (and not trans). This is very much in line with the other article I remember of hers, the one about trans dinosaurs (where she takes a dump on early transitioners).
The long and short of the article is that Wilchin’s, as a True Transsexual(tm), wonders about what happens when nonbinary ppl identify as trans. Like, clearly being trans means you have to transition since trans means crossing. One must ‘cross’ to the ‘other’ side in some physical way. Being trans is about hating your body (or at least being very dissatisfied).
I mean. We have nonbinary ppl who are okay with their body and, more or less, change nothing about their gender, gender presentation, or sex. Like.They don’t change how they dress. They don’t try to get legal documentation that aligns wth their gender identity. They don’t have to worry about accessing public accommodations like restrooms. How is such a person trans?
And if such a person isn’t trans, they (of course) must be cis.
Because those are the only two options. You are either cis or trans.
This somewhat amuses me because the very first post I ever wrote was about how this binary falls apart when seen through a decolonized lens. Some Wilchins herself even mentions in passing (how there are some ~third sex~1 ppl in “manmy places” who identify as trans and whose political interests might overlap). Its possible that she isn’t speaking globally but I’m reading it that way.
Strangely, if you have the stomach to make it to the end of her article, she does say that the possibilty of nonbinary cis ppl is the end of gender and that’s a good thing. Put another way, her basic claim is that a destabilization or even a dismantling of the cis/gender binary is a good thing.
I happen to agree. The difference, however, is that my motivations are and always have been different. I don’t see the modern emergence of nonbinary people as evidence that this binary ought to be dismantled. Rather, I think the historical and modern existence of ‘third sex’ ppl (like myself) have always challenged and necessitated a rethinking of this particular binary.
Viewed through the lens of a non-white logic (specifically Indian logic) instead of looking at cis/trans as a dilemme we can understand it as a tetralemma. So the reality becomes: a person is either trans or cis or neither or both. Those of us who are an indigenous ‘third sex’ are most likely neither trans nor cis or both.
Our existence has always disrupted and challenged the varying gender binaries constructed and enforced by white ppl. The first and still most damaging binary being the man/woman one. I’ve discussed the relationship of the gender binary and colonialism in many other places2. Its not a real big surprised that a ‘trans movement’ constructed within this context likewise erases and harms us.
And this does harm us. In many other countries ppl of the ~third sex~ have been and continue to be targets of extreme violence. Indeed, globally the majority of deaths are in Latin America (especially Brazil). We were early targets for extinction during the ‘golden’ age of colonialism and we remain targets today as we live in societies fundamentally changed bc of colonialism.
All of this and Wilchins wonders what possible political interests of ours could intersect with that of white ppl and the mainstream trans movement. It would be laughable if not for the real fact that ppl are dying.
How’s this for political interests: we want to live and be free.
This means, yes, being able to change our legal documentation to whichever gender we want (a third gender option like some places in South Asia or ‘crossing over’ to the ‘opposite’). This means, yes, we’d like access to public accommodations. It means (shockingly) that we want protection from discrimination in the workplace. It means that we need targetted efforts to reduce HIV in our communities (rather than being lumped into MSM). It means access to healthcare. This means, sure, we need targetted efforts to reduce intimate partner violence. It means an end to incarceration for flimsy means (or abolishing prisons altogether).
But golly. I wonder if us ~third sex~ ppl have political interests that overlap with teh trans movement3.
Please not that I’m using ‘third sex’ bc she does but this is really about any indigenous gender. ↩
In reality the contemporary non-academic discourse on the gender binary has been heavily influenced by my writing on this topic. These are some of my most popular posts. And yet… me and my contributions have largely been erased from this. Instead, a lot of trans ppl (included twoc who don’t like me) cite academic resources that I bundled up and shared. If ur wondering whether or not I’m bitter about this, the answer is ‘yes’. My erasure by other twoc is particularly galling. ↩
you know the saddest thing of all? the fact that a bunch of those things really are non-priorities in the mainstream trans movement. i see more efforts to ensuring trans ppl can serve in the military than efforts to reduce intimate partner violence despite the latter being a factor in many violents deaths of twoc globally). ↩