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Visibility, Representation and Trans Identities

While visibility and diverse representation are important parts of, they’re not the end of the story. How and what is publicly presented and depicted about transness is an important aspect, too. It has already been touched upon the normative ideas that come along with transness and how they do harm to people who live up to them, as well as the coinciding in/visibility and also hypervisibility and how they relate to violence and harassment.

All of these are important to discuss in a mainstream that is adamantly interested in accurate representation. It seems only logical that trans people should also have a say in cultural productions about trans identities, e.g. newspaper articles, movies and art, as has been recently pointed out by Reina Gossett. She did extensive research on Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans activist in the Stonewall Riots, and created a documentary about Marsha’s life (“Happy Birthday, Marsha!”). In the meantime, another film producer, David France, published a documentary “The life and death of Marsha P. Johnson” on Netflix. Gossett accuses France of having used parts her material and research and hired her staff as producer for his film. France denies this and points out that both have been in contact to secure that their films are sufficiently different from each other. Put aside what really happened, these kinds of situations happen so often, that one cannot but see a structural element to this. Marginalised persons too often do not get the chance to tell their stories. Thus, it remains important not only that trans stories are depicted and told but that they get the chance to tell them themselves, as reporters, artists, film makers, producers, authors etc. In an interview, conducted in 2015, Gossett says :

 ‘We’re in this moment where so much of trans representation is not written by us, or the stories that cis people tell are designed for a cis audience. We’re never the intended people in the movie theatre. ‘

 

Gossett’s statement highlight how the intended audience is also vital for cultural productions, and following her argument, it is also not enough that trans people are depicted ( often actually by cis people, instead of trans actors) in a way that matches expectations of cis people. Or worse, further fostering and stabilising normative assumption on transness. This development, cis people (or generally more privileged people) capitalising on trans stories and experiences (or other marginalised, underprivileged positionalities) for other cis people, is downright harmful and also very much connected to modern ideas of art production, as Grace Dunham puts it very plainly:

 ‘For a long time, a bunch of old assholes acted like the artistic position was one of distance and removed objectivity. But the work of so many radical trans artists and women of colour artists has shown us that so often, we can’t separate who we are from the art we make.’

 

This idea, that those who are affected by some form of discrimination e.g. cannot provide an informed, interesting perspective on their reality, in scientific or cultural productions, delegitimises these people and their work and is a common misconception of objectivity that is especially nonsensical in art and culture. (Also following that line of argument, only cis white heterosexual men could ever be objective, also: can there ever be a perspective that is purely objective?) We delve into love stories, we are touched by personal accounts of history and experience, so why not put those in charge that actually live them?

 

All quotes are to be found in this article: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/28653/1/happy-birthday-marsha-say-her-name

More information on the case of Reina Gossett:

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/reina-gossett-marsha-p-johnson-op-ed

https://www.colorlines.com/articles/icymi-filmmaker-reina-gossett-says-death-and-life-marsha-p-johnson-director-stole-her-work

http://www.newnownext.com/david-france-marsha-p-johnson-death-life/10/2017/

 

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Invisibility and hypervisibility: trans identities

Diskursiv, a queer Austrian research collective, titled their 2001 paper ‘Where have all the trannies gone…?’ and consequently this is a question very applicable to nowadays’ discourses on trans matters, especially in mainstream discourses. The paper outlines the various ways in which trans movements in Austria were founded and dissolved over fundamental questions and precarious structures in activism, mainly. As I have outlined before, reporting about trans people has found its way into public discourse, e.g. Chelsea Manning’s case, but this neither purely positive, nor do these help all trans people in the same way.

Not only are certain trans identities, especially those that do not fit the criteria of the good trans person, erased and ridiculed, there are rigid double standards at work when it comes to how trans people are supposed to present. Alok Vaid-Menon, a gender nonconforming artist and performer, talks in his performances about the violence and harassment they face as a trans femme. Yesterday they published a post reporting an incident (from a year ago), where a white man assaulted them on public transport. They write:

“He screamed: “i am okay with gay people but you are too much!” and then he got off on the next stop. i do not say anything. i am still, quiet. i want to be invisible. i want to disappear. “

Alok goes on to explain, how they receive quite some attention in left, queer, progressive sourroundings but this does not protect them from being stared at, assaults and constant harassment in public. They add:

“gender non-conforming transfeminine people are only permitted to exist on a screen, in a photograph, on a stage — something staged, never real. how people still understand us as parodies and costumes that only exist to entertain, to fascinate, to inspire. “

 

This is a striking feature about raising public awareness of transness: certain types of trans persons become more visible medially, but transphobia and anti-trans violence does not decline ( for both trans femme and masculine people, as this study shows). Alok also touches on another point: Admiration and praise online and for stage performances do not necessarily translate into a rushing to help on the streets. In this way trans people are more visible, but it doesn’t result in more solidarity.

 

This is also true in feminist and leftist communities, even in trans circles, there is implicit or explicit policing of gender expression, which doesn’t nurture inclusivity.

For example, a trans woman who won’t shave arm pits, legs and what not, is not as believable and real and their gender identity is immediately questioned. Which is strange when you come to think of it, no cis woman (a woman who identifies with the gender assigned at birth) is ever considered not a woman simply because she decides not to shave her legs. This is also referred to as femme-phobia. The later does not only occur generally in society, but also in WLTI* spaces (women, lesbian, trans, inter) trans women and trans femininities face discrimination and exclusion, at least suspicious looks. Their behaviour is policed, they are accused of being socialised as males and therefore are expected to stick to ‘feminine behaviours’ all the more, ironically (Faulenza, 2017). That these expectations do not help to transgress the dreaded boundaries of an oppressive binary gender system, is an overlooked and underestimated part of discourses in LGBTQIA communities and the mainstream.

 

Passing privileges individuals insofar as that they can ‘sink’ into spaces and remain invisible and can go by unnoticed, like a background decoration, they are able to fit into spaces (Ahmed, 2004). Consequently, they are evading the hypervisibility of not passing as the presented gender, which many trans people cannot achieve. To be hypervisible is then a constant experience of sticking out, every move is on public display and results in higher vulnerability to be assaulted and harassed, much like Alok’s story. Trans persons experience a lot of harassment and verbal and physical violence in everyday and virtual life. Marginalisation only adds to the risks of being subjected to violence.

 

https://www.advocate.com/commentary/2015/07/23/op-ed-trans-men-experience-far-more-violence-most-people-assume

https://diskursiv.diebin.at/index.php%3Fid=35.html

Ahmed, S. (2004). The Cultural Politics of Emotion. New York: Routledge.

The good trans person: On being trans, non-binary and invisible

 

Gender identity is a funny thing. Many humans will never question theirs, but for some of us it is a topic of mismatch and insecurity. As with sexuality, gender norms are only ever apparent when there’s doubt, a feeling of not quite fitting in the box. In the last years, we have seen a rise in media coverage of trans identified persons. For example, Laverne Cox starring in ‘Orange is the new Black’, a popular Netflix series, has received much praise in trans communities around the world. Many stories about trans identities cover only a certain type of trans folks: those who are visibly, physically transitioning into one of the binary genders, who have had surgeries performed and take hormones. In fact, one could even argue, there is a certain narrative that’s evolved on how to be a good trans person.

 

The good trans person is ‘trapped in the wrong body’ and needs to transition badly, into the ‘other’ gender. Accordingly, there are little boys who wants to be girls and girls who are actually boys. They have known their whole life and either have been denied access or couldn’t afford it but in the happy now, they are ‘fully transitioned’. The story will go on to cover the physical process of change, how hormonal therapy changed them, how they had gender confirmation surgery(/ies) and now live their life as the ‘other gender’, passing as the ‘other gender’. Some reports won’t even refrain from showing Before/After shots, deadnaming (using a name that the person did not choose for themselves) or misgendering them (using a pronoun that the person did not choose for themselves). The good trans person is also often able-bodied, white and fully adopts the new gender as their own.

Whenever a trans person outs themselves to others, these quickly assume which steps are next in a transition, accompanied by intrusive, deeply personal questions of whether certain surgeries were performed on them, or more bluntly ‘How they look down there’. Apart from obvious discrimination and ignorance, this points to a normative idea of how to be trans. And this is harmful on many levels: There is no one way to be trans, and depicting the same story over and over again makes other ways to be trans invisible and discoursively less legitimate. Some trans people do not identify as female or male, but belong to the non-binary spectrum. They identify as agender, bigender, two- spirit, genderfluid, demiboy/girl, … (an exhaustive list of many LGBTQIA+ terms can be found here: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2013/01/a-comprehensive-list-of-lgbtq-term-definitions/#sthash.L8SIn0Zg.dpbs ). There are some trans persons who don’t experience being in the wrong body, rather they experience dysphoria linked to a certain body part for example, or social dysphoria, that occurs e.g. when others address them with false pronouns and labels. Other trans people don’t experience incongruence between their body and their gender identity at all and therefore don’t want and need any physical changes to feel comfortable. Access to physical changes, as surgeries and hormonal treatments, is given by medical gatekeepers, a fact that also plays a role in who seeks out medical treatment and who doesn’t (or can’t).

Public perceptions also find their way back into the community, numerous people question whether they’re even allowed to claim trans as their label, because they cannot fit all or some criteria the ‘good trans person’ narrative imposes on them. These normative assumptions work against an originally very inclusive term and leave some vulnerable and out in the open, left to wonder where they belong, or worse, excluded on grounds of ‘not being trans enough’.

Though being trans means simply that a person cannot identify with the gender they have been assigned at birth, there are many societal expectations exceeding this definition. These, among general discrimination, violence etc. contribute to the invisibility of the multitude of genders and gender expressions. Additionally, normative imaginations of transness hinder political organisation and solidarity among trans and gender nonconforming people.

Resources:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/connorkemuo/honest-comics-for-the-queer-soul?sub=3067165_2575772&utm_term=.av89y3QrgW#.ts8r4B7PGk

Stone Butch Blues

My last post is not going to explain how we categorize but rather talking about consequences people must face when they do not fit into one sex category. I was inspired to write about this after reading the book “Stone Butch Blues” by Leslie Feinberg.

The story takes place in the 1950th and 1960th in the US. The main character is called Jess Goldberg who is a girl but looks like a boy and runs away from home when she is 15 years old. Keep in mind that at this time homosexuals and transgender people suffered a lot social and legal discrimination and violence against them. For example, there was one law which stated that as a girl you must wear at least three female clothes otherwise the police is allowed to arrest you.

There were many passages that stayed in my mind but I will only talk about two of them which I consider suitable for this post. One of them is that Jess always tries to avoid public toilets. The reason is that because of her rather male appearance women inside the woman toilet stare at her in disbelief or even tell her to leave the toilet or that she is a freak. This is very humiliating and to avoid these encounters she tries to just use the toilet at home or in places she knows it is safe.

The second one is about Jess taking hormones. At one point in her life she decided to start taking hormones because she could not endure any more violence against her or any other humiliation and restriction of her life. She decided to take hormones and have a breasts surgery and try to ‘pass’ as a man. It was the only way she saw to survive in the world. Her hope was that her “world could open up“ (p.163). In some ways it did. She was not looked at when she went to the man’s bathroom and she was able to maintain a job for a longer period. On the other hand, she was more isolated than before. Since she was not a butch anymore she did not belong to the lesbian community but she also was not a ‘real’ man so she did not feel like she belonged to that group neither. After some time, she decided to stop taking the hormones because she felt like her whole live was a lie. After the effect of the hormones stopped Jess notices people staring at her again. “Before, strangers had raged at me for being a woman who crossed a forbidden boundary. Now they really didn’t know what my sex was, and that was unimaginable, terrifying to them” (p.244)

Jess experiences show that categorizing is very important for people in everyday life (e.g. choice of toilet). Not fitting into the categories of male or female made Jess feel like an outsider who did not belong anywhere. Which eventually forced her into taking hormones to get rid of social pressure.

If you are interested in reading the book here is link where you can download the whole story for free: http://www.lesliefeinberg.net/

The 10 most unfair inequalities between men and women athletes

  1. Do you know how much the highest paid male football player wins and the highest paid female football player?                                                                                       Cristiano Ronaldo wins 93 million euros while Alex Morgan “only” 2.8 million euros
  2. What are the minimum wages in the NBA and WNBA?                                                    In the 2015-16 season, the NBA had a minimum wage of 500,000 euros, for the 37,000 of the WNBA.
  3. How many IOC presidents have been in history?                                                           Any. The nine presidents that have existed since Demetrius Vikelas (named in 1894) to Thomas Bach (in office since 2013) have been men.
  4. Do you know the difference in income between an ATP ‘Top 100’ tennis player and his WTA counterpart?                                                                                                             An ATP ‘Top 100’ player earns an average of 150,000 euros more per year than a WTA ‘Top 100’.
  5. How much money does the male golf circuit award? And the feminine?                     In 2015, the men’s circuit allocated 322 million euros for prizes, for the 57 million female circuit.
  6.  How many of the 66 Spanish sports federations are presided over by women at the moment?                                                                                                                                Only 3:Lifeguard, Boules and Sailing
  7. How much do the national teams of women’s and men’s soccer world champions enter?                                                                                                                                Germany added 35 million euros to win the 2014 World Cup and the US ‘only’ 2 million to win the 2015.
  8. Total income: What is the difference between the athlete who enters and his female counterpart?                                                                                                                                In 2016 Cristiano Ronaldo entered 85 million euros, for the 27 of Serena Williams.
  9. What is the maximum distance in the men’s and women’s swimming events in the Olympic Games?                                                                                                                    1500 meters in the case of men and 800 in the case of women Can not swim the same distance?
  10. Spanish flag-bearers in the Olympic Games How many there have been?                       Only 2: Infanta Cristina de Borbón in Seoul 88 and Isabel Fernandez, in Athens 2004.

gender role

Defining the concept of gender (male / female) requires distinguishing it from the concept of sex, which refers to the set of biological differences between male and female; it’s natural. Gender is the trait attributed to each sex, depends on factors acquired; is cultural and is changing according to historical and social dimensions. The fundamental difference seems to be placed in an intrinsic value of the feminine and the masculine, based on deeper issues of the feminine and the masculine, based on deeper questions, although women have the possibility of accessing more and more to tasks considered specific to men, there continues to be at some point a “reserved male domain” less excluded: politics, religious, business responsibilities; spaces that could be thought of as power and decision making.

Stereotypes are based on beliefs, preconceived ideas and expectations with which to evaluate people’s behaviour. Gender stereotypes “are responsible for the differential treatment that women and men are subjected to, from the beginning of childhood, by those responsible for socialization”. It responds to different characteristics at different times, which makes it possible to assume that it is not so immutable as it is sometimes described. This is reinforced by the idea that it also functions as a factor of social control: to maintain stereotypes is to keep fixed the roles of men and women.

Analysing children’s play, this being the form of learning par excellence, and always speaking in terms of general characteristics, while girls play “to the dolls” (future role of mother), children “to the cars”; they have a greater offer of expressive and individual activities, they, of sport and group activities; they indoors or in enclosed spaces (future home) “to the house”; them on the street or in open spaces, “on the ball”. These children’s learning guides the future of the adult and it is at this stage that the representations of the “feminine” and the “masculine” are forged. The stronger and more structured these mandates, the more difficult it is to modify them.

By the table shown down and the essay before we can conclude that roles are expected and created

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the essence of creation

 

It is just natural that women want kinds one day. It is their hormones. No matter if they would like to have children or not, at a certain critical age, the social environment is going to worry about their future. ₁ Because as a women without a family as a matter of fact you are going to end up alone and depressed. Huge regrets and a lot of cats. Of course.

But the perspective is changing completely when disabled women are considered. Suddenly the natural reproductive drive, the maternal nature is not so fundamental anymore. As they are missing important female attributes. Their gender is questions in general. The stereotype of disabled women indicates a lack of attractiveness. They learn from very early on that they will not be desired; the role of a mother and wife is beyond question. This impacts also the question of reproductive rights. It is way easier to get a late abortion or sterilization than the actual support to carry a baby. In contrast to able-bodied women, disabled girls are raised to be strong and independent- because they will not marry anyhow.

By this example we can see that the connection between gender and naturalism is a perfidy networked structure. In fact, there is no need for disabled women to get children; they will not be discriminated against if they do not. All the same for migrant women. Finally only a certain part of women are meant to be “female” and the natural explanation is simple but strong legitimations for the existing hierarchy of power.

 

 

References and further Information

http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2014-12/kinderlose-toleranz

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/leben/familienplanung-ich-will-kein-kind-so-what-1.2761917

Köbsell, S. (2007) Behinderung und Geschlecht – Versuch einer vorläufigen Bilanz aus Sicht der deutschen Behindertenbewegung

Höfs, M: (2007) Kritische Männerforschung und Behinderung

As I wrote in the last article, intercourse is still regarded to be the one and only sex. Such a normative discourse about sex poses pressure, especially for women to have sex even if they don’t really want it. Or other than that do not really like it. The inequality between the sexes is strongly displayed in sexuality and sexual satisfaction. For example, young women are more likely to depend on the  satisfaction of their partner, compared to young men relying on their own sexual satisfaction. They also do engage in active oral sex more often even if they do not really want to. ₁  To satisfy their partner. Of course there is the bigger picture about patriarchy, power and sociality but here we want to concentrate on the processes of naturalization. I do not want to deny that there are certain biological differences between the sexes, yet they are rather tiny compared to the social and psychological consequences resulting out of it. In turn, underlying pretended naturalizations encourage and legitimize differences which must not exist.

Considering sexuality, a certain correlation between the nature of sex and the psychological disposition is assumed. ₂ Women are seen to be the receiving part of the coitus. She is passive and does not have such a strong desire. She wants a child and her nature is meant for that. While men are giving subjects with a strong  drive to spread their sperm to reproduce their genes. I am quite surprised how common that idea still is. In articles about the question of who has more sex and why or simply when men try to justify why they cheat on their girlfriend (Yes, it is stupid but people still do so). That young women in America qualify good sex by the absences of pain while young men don´t, as Peggy Orenstein cites a big U.S. research, is worth discussing. ₃

Therefore, language should be considered in the first place. There is an urgent need to find appropriate words for sexual organs. In German there are very few words for our sexual organs or otherwise they are so deprecate that you don´t really want to use them while you have sex. Especially for Woman’s sexual organs this is a problem. I am constantly surprised how many women, even adult women cannot tell you the difference between Vagina and Vulva. But if you want to tell somebody what you would like them to do with you. You should be able to name it. Right?

 

 

References and further Information

₁  https://www.ted.com/talks/peggy_orenstein_what_young_women_believe_about_their_own_ sexual_pleasure#t-300836

₂ Wrede, B. (2000). Was ist Sexualität?

 

https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/neepb8/the-science-of-female-pleasure-still-needs-more-attention

Durex: Studie zum Sexleben der Deutschen (http://www.presseportal.de/pm/115990/3253390)

 

Theoretical bisexual?

When I was in Germany and I had free time I usually watched my favourite Spanish tv program called “El Hormiguero”. Sometimes there is a collaborator called Mario Vaquerizo . Is a famous Spanish personality and singer at his 40s and husband from a famous singer called Alaska. He always wearing a gothic-punk style, with leather black trousers and black t-shirts and jackets, usually wears black-eyed shadows and has long black hair. What can be said to be a person from the gothic tribe. What its more famous about his marriage and career is his personality and the way he acts. He has an extrovert personality, a talkative person saying a lot of jokes and with an outburst of laughter. Is impossible not to laugh when he does it. But most characteristic is how he acted. That is when he is a subject of study for categorizing sex and sexuality. He walks very stylistic, near jumping, sometimes with boats with heels. He doesn’t walk like a man, as John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”. Not only that. How he expresses and speaks can’t be considered properly as a man if we consider the gender stereotypes. He moves like a “woman” like shake his hair, talk about him as “her” and use Spanish vulgar adjectives like “cari” and “nena”, used by women. Is like a gothic woman with a man body.

By his aspects and features it can be said that he is a man, but how he acts and speaks its properly from a woman. It can be said that he is a stereotype of gay people, a man that acts as a woman. As information, he considered himself as bisexual, but not a normal bisexual, a “theoretical bisexual”. “I’ve always said that I’m a theoretical bisexual, because if I see a guy who seems handsome I say it without any problem. Being surrounded by homosexuals, the desire between men is part of my life, but I think not today I get the boys to go with some to bed. I cannot imagine having them in love and sexual situation, so I am in theory but not in practice. “

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