Monday, August 11, 2014

The Trouble With Trans Discourse

My God, I am sick of trans discourse.

I am sick of the toxicity of each subculture of trans ideology toward those who do not share its particular rigid orthodoxy (none of which are adequate anyway). I am sick of the bitter infighting, and I am sick of the calls for unity. I am sick of the holier-than-thou posturing of the language police, and I am sick of the pretensions to bold truth-telling in the face of censorship. I am sick of hearing what's a slur and who needs to lighten up. I am sick of hearing who's a true transsexual, who's a newly-minted queer, who's a gendertrender, who's a quisling shill for the cissupremacy/patriarchy, who deserves necessary medical treatment or basic fucking human respect based on whether or not they agree with your definitions. I am sick of everybody wanting to eradicate everybody else.

I'm sick of radfem ideology. I'm sick of the oversimplification of claiming that, because the social construction of the gender binary as we know it is harmful, gender as such needs to be eradicated. I'm sick of the reduction of sexism to the nakedly biological, as if sexual dimorphism were the entirety of biological sex/gender diversity, as if patriarchy could be exhaustively described by “people who can't get pregnant oppressing people who can get pregnant,” as if its complex matrix of the material and the discursive could be adequately described in terms of uteri alone, as if the Foucauldian soul had never been posited.

I'm sick of truscum ideology. I'm sick of the oversimplification of asserting that being trans is always and necessarily reducible to a medical condition. I'm sick of the implied reification of medical conditions, as if they were eternal, subsistent, and external to the culture that diagnoses them. I'm sick of the binarism, the refusal to treat nonbinary genders as legitimate. I'm sick of the biological reductionism that dovetails exactly with the TERF understanding of sex and gender, differing only in the degree to which they believe trans people should have access to medical care.

I'm sick of genderspecial ideology. I'm sick of the reduction of gender to a feeling, to something that has no overlap with the flesh in which it is manifest, to a garment that can be donned or sloughed with the day's outfit. I'm sick of the holding sacrosanct of potato genders and nounself pronouns, placing them above critique just because someone nebulously “identifies as” them. I'm sick of the disembodiment of gender just as much as I'm sick of the biological reductionism thereof.

I'm sick of appeals to chromosomes or gonads, of claims of “deception” or the knowability of “true sex,” of the kind of biological reductionism that binds me to my birth assignment. I'm sick of born-this-way-ism, of brain sex and prenatal hormone exposure, of the kind of biological reductionism that is nothing but trans apologetics. I'm sick of airy-fairy gendering that erases the body so utterly as to make people believe that medical care is not a necessity for those who require it.

For most of my master's degree, I avoided writing about gender. I was undertaking the coming-out process, and I felt that, in a life where gender (what it is, how you know, what mine is) consumed my every waking thought, my academic work constituted a single blessed corner of relief. I would talk about Derrida and Johannine Christology and new media theory, and I could immerse myself in deep topics where for once, for once in my life, I didn't have to think about gender.

Now, in my doctoral work, engaging with gender seems unavoidable. It's still not my primary interest – I'm more interested in disability and crip theory, Eucharistic theology, and phenomenology – but I can't seem to talk about anything else without also talking about gender.

I fantasize about quitting Tumblr, about shutting down this zombie blog, about leaving trans discourse altogether. I believe in listening more than I talk, and most of the time I suspect that what I have to say is neither interesting nor valuable.

But, my God, anyone should talk who can add a little nuance to the trans wars 2k14 and their relentless, horrifying oversimplifications.

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