“One of Stone’s goals in critiquing previous representations of transsexualism was to encourage new forms of self-expression capable of revealing the deep and powerful ways we all construct a sense of self in reference to our particular form of embodiment” -Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle
Sandy Stone’s essay, The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto, functions as an exceptionally effective rebuttal to Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire in that, rather than attempt to disavow Raymond’s arguments on her own terms (which we’ve discussed in class as being inescapably problematic), Stone lays out a new framework for future theory, thought, and commentary on studies pertaining to, about, and by trans* individuals.
I find manifestos to be unusually complex. By definition, manifestos speak on the intentions and politics of a specific group of individuals and are written by one or a sum of those individuals themselves. They’re inherently exclusive by nature. In its disruption and reimagining of trans* norms, Stone’s Manifesto, however, allows not only for broader definitions and variations of trans* embodiment, but is laden with theory applicable to ample forms of gender defiance and of personalized sex/gender/sexuality configurations.
In her Manifesto, Stone first lays a framework for reconfiguration, stating, “[i]n the case of the transsexual, the varieties of performative gender, seen against a culturally intelligible gendered body which is itself a medically constituted textual violence, generate new and unpredictable dissonances which implicate entire spectra of desire” (Stone, 231). In other words, the spectrum of dissonances and disruptions trans* people create in their embodiments has the potential to produce new discourses regarding what it means to be trans*.
This theoretical framework of Stone’s drew my thoughts away from her incomparably concise Manifesto and unto a movement of sorts, contemporaneously permeating social media outlets YouTube and Tumblr among others. “Trans* Enough,” combats the believed abstractions that all trans* individuals feel as thought they were born in “the wrong body,” that they wish to transition completely (top surgery, bottom surgery, hormone therapy etc…), and that there is a specific way to be trans* as dictated by not only popular culture and medicine, but the trans* community itself. These ideals coincide with Stone’s demand for “a deeper analytical language for transsexual theory,” one with “ambiguities and polyvocalities” ( Stone, 231). Stone’s voice seems to be infused into the Tumblr posts and YouTube videos that proudly claim trans* identity as something that does not necessarily need to be “readable” or easily defined.
As someone who does not identify as trans*, I still feel completely drawn to Stone’s theories of “ambiguities and polyvocalities,” as well as her stance on “passing” as denying mixture and variation (Stone, 231). With so many outlets (political, cultural and otherwise), dictating what it means to iterate identity (gay, straight, trans*, queer, cis) the “right way,” embracing “mixing” and blurring as a sort of rebellion seems to be (for me, anyway) the more revolutionary thing to do. While Stone’s Manifesto speaks to and of trans* people first and foremost, I find it speaks to all individuals who embrace variation and non-normative representations of identity.