Helping a brother out

For my last blog post, I wanted to share an encouraging message with you all.

Throughout the course of this semester, we have considered the stereotypes that follow being a part of the Greek fraternity/sorority system (usually resulting in scoffing). Due to the large Greek population on IU’s campus, it is important to remember the massive platform that these kids have tapped into by joining their respective groups. Speaking from experience as an avid non-Greek, I admit that I, on numerous occasions, have passed sweeping judgements. However, I recently stumbled upon a post entitled “Here’s a heartwarming story from a very unexpected place” on Upworthy, a social media site that I visit frequently. After opening up the note, I was surprised to find a group of three fraternity brothers asking for donations to pay for a prospective brother’s top surgery.

Link: http://www.upworthy.com/here-s-a-heartwarming-story-from-a-very-unexpected-place

After their FTM brother was denied insurance coverage, they hopped on the Internet with the hope of not only raising money, but raising awareness. As a result, the fraternity raised 10 times their goal and got the University to clarify their insurance policies to ensure future coverage of the surgery.

This tid-bit got me thinking about the exclusive ability of the Greek system to reach thousands of people all over the nation and increase awareness about issues that effect their peers. Tapping into the privileged socioeconomic, white, cis-gender, heteronormative class allowed for this group to spread a message and “help a brother out.” Even though it is very unlikely that this act will make a difference in the lives of highly disenfranchised trans* individuals, it does call attention to the existence of trans* issues in places known for perpetuating hegemonic ideals. Thus, giving me a little hope.

-e.nash

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Doing Gender the ‘Right Way’

By MK Worthington

As I’ve struggled to navigate the many obstacles which have appeared in my path since I made the decision to come out and pursue transition from female to male a year ago, the binary gender system has proven to be my worst enemy. Allies have been incredibly hard to come by and, in far too many cases, support is only extended so far as gendered expectations are met.  

A few weeks ago, Thomas Beatie, the (in)famous “Pregnant Man” who made the news several years ago when he decided bear children so he and his wife could have a family, appeared in the news again, this time because a judge denied the couple a divorce. The Arizona judge decided to ignore Beatie’s legal status as a man based on the fact he’d had children, declaring him a woman and thereby invalidating the couple’s marriage, calling it instead a same-sex union, something not recognized by the state of Arizona.

A fairly good article discussing this problem and a video of the Barbara Walters special interview with Beatie is located here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/pregnant-man-thomas-beatie-appeal-divorce-denial/story?id=18863380#.UX0zbcr_E35

A couple of weeks ago, when this story was making the rounds in the news, my employer went on a rant, telling me how she felt about Beatie and his life choices. She began by reminding me what a great friend she’s always been to me, and expressing her love and support for me and my journey. For Thomas Beatie, however, she did not have any such charitable feelings. “Men cannot have babies. They just can’t, and if that person really wanted to be legally recognized as a man, they should have accepted that limitation.”

I disagreed—vehemently. The binary gender system attempts to shove people into one of two—and only two—tiny, limited boxes that very few, if any, individuals actually fit into.

 In my employer’s opinion—and, indeed, in the opinion of the judge in Arizona and countless other Americans, giving birth to his own children disqualifies Thomas Beatie for the label of ‘man’. In one quick motion, ‘womanhood’ has been reduced to the simple act of giving birth. If Mr. Beatie had not chosen to have children his claims of manhood could be accepted—but getting pregnant and having a baby makes a person a woman. So, where does that leave infertile women, like Beatie’s wife? Does her inability to bear children make her a man then?

 Transgender individuals, like all people, fall somewhere outside of the limits of masculinity and femininity. We choose to take hormones—or not—based on what we need to feel comfortable with ourselves in our own bodies. What my employer, and others like her, seem to expect is for us to adjust our lives and our bodies to a place where THEY can feel comfortable. Those demands are unfair and even cruel. Thomas Beatie endured the acute misery of going through puberty in a female body, he housed healthy, fully functioning female reproductive organs—why the hell shouldn’t he use them if that is what he wants?

 The eventual outcome of the Beatie divorce is a much bigger issue than many people realize. Arizona is claiming the right to determine—and alter according to its own whim—Thomas Beatie’s gender. The outcome could potentially place even more devastating limits and requirement on transpeople seeking to legally change their gender status—and on the choices they can make about their own bodies.

Un-transitioning, after a lot of work.

Stephanie Miller

So, I have fallen behind on my blogs so I’m going to catch up.  I started thinking about the whole transition process.  I know that individuals have to do a ton in order to get to transition.  When we watched Be Like Others, I noticed that many of the individuals stated that they would not have transitioned/ had GRS if they did not feel forced. 

Originally, I suspected that no one ever un-transitioned.  It is so much work to get through the gate keeping practices by medical professionals.  To un-transition, there are still gate keeping issues, but not nearly as harsh or severe.  I found a True-Life episode which followed some individuals who are ‘re-thinking their gender’ as MTV puts it.  These people appear to be taking steps to un-transition.  One actually states it in this manner. 

It is an interesting watch and available on Netflix.  True Life: I’m questioning my gender again

I am pretty surprised that this episode aired.  When I watched it, It seemed like the individuals (2) had some other motives.  Both said that it was for themselves, but (ah pronoun confusions!) the individual transitioning back to female had family issues with her transition.  The individual transitioning back to male was worried about his job outlook. These concerns are real and do affect those transitioning. 

I’m just a little concerned that this was aired because it is still so difficult for individuals who want to transition to find and receive the care they need and deserve.  I feel like this reversed some of the progress that some have had in their thinking.  I started worrying about my friend who is starting his battle with the gate keeping process and if he would be doing this all to just go back.  Obviously, putting that seed of doubt in my brain started the worries, which I shouldn’t really be worrying so much about. 

My stance on transition has been reaffirmed though.  I feel if someone is willing to go through all of the scrutiny they are currently forced to deal with to transition, it is probably something that they feel will bring them a happier life.  The decision to transition should not be forced or coerced like it seems to be with those in Iran, but should be an individual decision to alter themselves in ways they see fit.

 

Transgender Representation in Media

Colleen Griffin

            As I searched the web for a possible topic for my last blog post, I turned to what I know best: media. Being a telecommunications major, I thought to representations of transgender people in the media. When searching for articles, I came across two different articles representing two different media forms and their representations of transgender folk. The difference between the two is very interesting to me, one leaning more towards negative representations and the other positive.

            The first source I found was an online essay written about transgender representation in movies. You can find the article here:

http://www.calpernia.com/diary/favorites/transsexual-cliches-and-stereotypes-in-media/

Written by Calpernia Addams in 2009 under the diary section of the website, she talks about the problematic representations transgender people have on the screen and the bad “requirements” that are associated with the various categories of on screen media. She starts her article off by addressing the fact that what she writes are “unpolished thoughts” and that the essay is a work in progress. But then she quickly assures that this critical view does not take away the talent that went into these projects by the actors, but that this critical viewing must also be taken into account to more accurately represent transfolk in media. The first category she tackles is “documentaries/reality television.” Under this category she first mentions the “Ultimate cliché Hall-of-Fame” and how certain shots are shown and fetishized in this type of film. “Subject putting on lipstick (usually in the mirror), sliding foot into high heel shoe or stockings, painting fingernails, shopping for clothes. Usually done in close-up on the body parts. Typical dissection of us into fetishized, sexualized body parts and easy broad-stroke telegraphing of a director’s ideas about femininity.” The next thing she mentions is how the before and after photo of the person’s transition is a common requirement. This also goes for a name change as well. Lastly, the mentions the “surgery and process focus” explaining how the actual medical transition is a way to keep the viewer entertained. This of course is terrible because the process is seen as entertainingly gruesome rather than a needed medical health procedure.

The next category she tackles is “Narrative Film/Television.” The first topic she addresses are the four P’s: prostitute, punchline, psycho, and poor thing! and how these titles are the roles transgender representations fit in this type of media. She then goes on to saying how most transgender roles (mention earlier) have a negative focus. Lastly, she states that all transgender roles have an assumed monolithic community.

In the end her conclusion is to ignore these common regulations and resist the stereotypes. She makes it a point to say that past all the physical appearances and the ways one represents oneself, there lies the core being of a person who is still a woman (in reference to trans-women, which the entire article is geared mainly towards.)

My next source is about the newest famous person to admit to being transgender, Tom Gabel. As the lead singer of the well-known band Against Me! it wasn’t until recently that he publically addressed his transition, and of course the Rolling Stone did an article on it. Here is the article:

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-secret-life-of-transgender-rocker-tom-gabel-20120531

In this interview, Gable talks about his struggle with gender dysphoria. When talking about early signs of trans-ness he addressed his home life and the hardship his parents’ divorce caused. As he grew older and his band took off, he used music as an outlet for secret confessionals. In his lyrics, he would write down thoughts related to gender dysphoria and put them in songs. He used his lyrics as a way to “out himself.” Yet those around him were still oblivious until one day he outright told them. All were shocked; both his band and his wife give their reactions. At the end of the interview some days later, she invites the interviewer back to her house and interviews again, but as Laura her trans-self. The last bit is informative about the process she is going through and overall positive. The comments under the article by readers were either critical of proper terms for trans-people (ex. pronouns) or encouraging and praising the article for its moving story.

I think it is interesting that film is the negative media outlet, but music is more understanding. This leads me to think that hearing someone’s story is easier than seeing it. But it is good to know that the article about Gable was more recent (this month’s issue of Rolling Stone) as opposed to the four year old article written by Addams. Hoping that positive representations reflect the year they were made rather than the type of media used is what I like to think is more accurate reasoning to these two articles.

–          Colleen Griffin

Becoming Transgender

In the Transgender subreddit on Reddit, I found this picture posted as the third post from the top for the month.  It is from about a week ago, humorously titled “Why I Hate People”:

http://i.imgur.com/8Ju3uJb.png

The picture shows a screencap of a stream of facebook comments with names whited out (we’ve all seen these before).  The focus of the picture is a poster who has a red equal-sign gay rights profile picture and some opinions on trans issues that really give truth to the idea of gay and trans rights not always being fully compatible because some people who feel they are deeply involved in the entire LGBT community are not as involved in the “T” part as they think.  This poster in particular, misunderstands a couple of major things about trans rights that sadly many people also commonly misunderstand.

One of the biggest problems with her post is her first line – “That’s a very sweet child, but no 6 year old is psychologically ready to become transgender.”  Become transgender – there is so much error in this idea, but sadly it is not too uncommon.  So often being trans* is spoken of in terms of a change which occurs within a specified amount of time, rather than being talked about as the complex thing that it is.  As Susan Stryker has talked about, it sometimes is a lifetime of change and discovery, just as many people’s journeys with other things are.  If more people could hear narratives like this, perhaps they would be able to understand being trans a little bit better.

The woman in the screencap then states a general rule which she believes should apply to everyone, “I believe no one under the age of 18 should become transgender.”  Her reasoning for this general rule is her own personal insight into the situation, which is actually sheds a lot of light onto her entire post, “I have a 6 year old that likes to pretend he’s a girl.  I am nowhere near ready to even consider it.  He’s 6!  He’s pretending.  It’s part of being a kid! . . . No way my kid is going to be a transgender while in elementary school.  I think that’s ridiculous.”  She can admit her own denial and personal issue, but she continues to project her own feelings both on her own child and on others, gaining many thumbs up and praise from fellow posters.  Saying that “no way” her child is going to be transgender in elementary school is pretty presumptuous of her.  He might already be trans* – it’s not really in her control.

Everyone has their own issues with denial, whether they are about themselves or their children, but they shouldn’t spread their misinformed opinions justified as personal experience around.  If people could work to include trans topics of conversation, maybe people could learn and understand better.  Misinformation is spreading just as accurate information is.

-Chrissy Goss

Complex Personal Narratives

A few weeks ago, I had a guest speaker come into my Constructing Sexuality class.  His name was Daniel, and he was a FTM.  He began telling his personal narrative, describing how he perceived himself as more masculine than other females growing up.  He thought, at first, his “manliness” was caused by hanging out with more males than females.  His parents similarly attributed his masculinity to lack of female friends, and they tried to “socialize” him by enrolling him into female-only sports and activities.  By high school, he had started experimenting with the female gender – growing his hair long and dating men.  Because he felt comfortable around men and held similar interests with them, he said he never had a difficult time finding a boyfriend.  He had one serious relationship during that time and, after it ended, he realized he was more interested in women.  In college, he began exploring trans* issues and identifying as queer.  Then, when he realized he could identity as trans* without transitioning medically, he began adopting a trans* identity.  After college, he started binding his breasts and exclusively wearing men’s clothing.  He began hormones around seven months ago, and he said he was immediately more sexually attracted to men and sexually driven because of the testosterone.

While listening to Daniel’s story, I found it both intriguing and contradictory.  On the one hand, he is challenging traditional gender norms, describing his gender and sexual orientation as fluid, complex entities.  On the other hand, he falls into a Western paradigm crux, discussing how he shared similar “masculine” interests with other men, such as playing video games and watching action movies.  Additionally, he naturalized heterosexuality by attributing the female gender with dating men.  Thus, he ends up reinforcing a binary world, one that separates men and women and normalizes heterosexuality.

In addition, his described situation with testosterone reminds me of Patrick Califa’s story.  Califa described how after taking T, he would have physical sensations that “acquired a piquancy and an immediacy that is both entertaining and occasionally inconvenient” (437).  His desire for instantaneous, casual sex grew rapidly, and he said he suddenly understood sexual differences between the sexes after his intake of T.  Similarly, Daniel describes an intense, sexual urge for men and desire for casual sex.  What’s largely problematic about both accounts is that it presents women as sexless beings (who don’t have desires or impulses!) by attributing sex drive to an increased testosterone level.

This type of narrative is similarly highlighted in PLENTY of articles, especially in this cringe-worthy Men’s Health article called Why You’ve Always Been So Horny.  It “describes” how testosterone affects the body:

“The first [burst of T] produces a male brain: one that’s more interested in objects, actions, and competition. The left (parietal) lobe flourishes in the testosterone bath and helps you visualize objects in three dimensions (good for catching a football or watching a woman cross the street), and it boosts your aptitude in mathematics (that’s how you estimate that she’s about a 34DD).  In addition, testosterone beefs up your hypothalamus, the area of the brain that’s interested in sex. The hypothalamus is twice as large in men as it is in women.”

A part of me wants to believe this is a joke because of its BLATANT sexism but, alas, I honestly think this was printed.  Anyhow… while Daniel and Patrick clearly are complicating and challenging identity categories within their narratives [unlike this terrible, terrible article], I do think their attributions of sex drive to testosterone are perhaps troublesome and even reflect notes of biological essentialism.

http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/understanding_sex_and_the_brain/Why_You_ve_Always_Been_Horny.php

-Anna Sekine

Don’t Want My Help? Then Face My Wrath…

BY: MK Worthington

Over the past few months I have come across several online instances of shocking transphobia on blog posts and in the news from people who refer to themselves as allies. Personally, I find this trend greatly disturbing for a number of reasons. Bloggers and writers who paint themselves as martyrs who are suffering as a result of the unreasonable and ungrateful trans* community invite criticism and even hostility toward trans* people across the board. The message seems to be: “If you don’t want my help, then you can face my wrath.” And, worse still, there are plenty of people out there willing and eager to back them up based on a strange, misguided sense of righteous indignation.

 The most recent example I have of this phenomenon is a blog post that I was directed to via Facebook by a fellow author in an increasingly problematic writer’s group that I belong to. The blog post was penned by an author of gay male romance named WT Prater. Mr. Prater’s blog is public and available for everyone to see, and he actively recruited viewers for this particular post by advertising it on Facebook and in other various forums for fans and fellow writers alike. Naturally, I followed one of his links and ended up on a post titled: HELP NOT WANTED: A Letter to the Transgender Community

If you are interested, check out the post here, and read the responses as well:

jwasg.blogspot.com/2013/04/help-not-wanted-letter-to-transgender.html

It makes for a fascinating read.

Now, let me give you a rundown of my experience and knowledge of this post—and of Mr. Prater himself.

First of all, the title: HELP NOT WANTED: A Letter to the Transgender Community

This title implicates the entire Trans* community across the board, with no exceptions. Despite Mr. Prater’s claim in a response: “I did not state ALL people this or that…” – YES, he did. The title does just that.

Next, let me examine the content of the post. Mr. Prater approached an LGBTQ center because he wanted to start—and participate in—a transgender support group. When the officials at the center, (who, by the way, were not trans* people themselves), tried to explain to Mr. Prater that his involvement in that particular venture would not be appropriate, he decided to respond with this punishing rant against trans* people, turning the situation into an imagined competition over who suffers more and worse from various forms of discrimination!

Mr. Prater’s experience is NOT, as he claims, an example of the Trans* Community discriminating against another member of the “LGBTQ” community. It is, however, a clear example of Cis-entitlement and disconnect. Mr. Prater, a Cis-gendered “gay” man, did not ask HOW he could help the Trans* community, he insisted on being allowed to do what HE wanted and offer the ‘guidance’ HE knew they needed… When someone tried to explain the problems with his chosen form of involvement he turned around and attacked the very people he said he wanted to help…

The opening paragraph of his post alone is enough to turn the stomachs of most Trans* people.  He begins by saying:

“I feel like I should start this letter off by saying I am Cis-gendered male and I am gay. I have known I was gay since I was five years old and I have never yearned to be female in any way, shape or form. True, I love the female ability to dress wildly and accessorize outrageously, but I would not give up my penis for the world.”

His argument throughout the post is that he UNDERSTANDS what Trans* people are going through, but that intro proves he has NO idea… And, as if that weren’t enough, it is also a strategic misrepresentation of who he is. Mr. Prater chose to refer to himself as a ‘gay man’ for the purposes of this post, garnering a great deal of sympathy from readers who idolize gay men in an almost fetishistic way—however, within the writing community, it is common knowledge that Mr. Prater is married to a charming woman named Julie, and the pair represent themselves on that forum as bisexual. He doesn’t work alone, he works with his wife, and as a pair the dynamic is much different from simply that of a single gay man.

I believe Mr. Prater has the idea of a ‘support group’ confused with an ‘activist’ group or even a ‘pride’ group, and his desire to participate in the group reads like a creepy, voyeuristic desire. Given the frequency of violence trans* people experience at the hands of Cis-gendered individuals, gay and straight alike, his presence WOULD make vulnerable and frightened trans* people uncomfortable and unwilling to attend. He happens to be a physically huge Cis-man, intimidating on many levels. It isn’t a reflection on him as a person or even on the potential members that he’s been asked not to attend the support meetings. It is a reflection of the reality we live in. It is similar to the way an ex-Army drill sergeant would not be an appropriate group leader for a group of sexually abused women… Marginalized groups deserve to have their own groups where they can feel comfortable.  Mr. Prater is NOT trans*, nor does he have any relevant degrees or experience which would qualify him to participate in such meetings… in fact, the comments and attitude of his post show him to be a singularly bad choice for the position.

Unfortunate, his claims of being a ‘rejected ally’ cause quite a stir, lending a sort of justification to further hostility toward the Trans* Community

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transparency and Dignity: The Struggles of the Intimate Relations Specific to Trans*folk

Falling in Love with Chris and Greg serves as an excellent aid to close the semester in both tone and content.  A relatively short series of events, chronicled awkwardly but striving for self-awareness—it is almost a farcical mirror of gender studies itself.  More importantly, I find that the series’s focus on the relationship between a cisgendered man and a transman confines the plotlines of most episodes, and they wouldn’t be the same any other way.  The conversations that the characters have, contingent on Chris’s trans* identity (Episode 2, “Road Trip TV Special!”’s conversations about marital loopholes and reproductive opportunities) highlight the differences between trans*folk and people of other queer identities, and the discomfort that can cloud the personal identity and integrity of the trans* person.

In focusing on issues that highlight the corporeal challenges that trans* individuals face in their growing relationships with others, I found a few rather opinionated but well-meant articles about taking the T out of the LGBT acronym for the better of all queer-identified folk (one here: http://thenewgay.net/2011/02/trans-rights-idealism-vs-realism.html), but they did not seem to get at the core of what specifically creates bodily conflict inherent in that seems to address these issues candidly was OUT Magazine’s article devoted to trans*men and their problems with relating to people who tend to objectify and misunderstand their embodiment.  The first subject of the article, Hunter, laments, “After we have sex a lot of guys are like, ‘I really like your setup.’ They’re trying to be complimentary, but either way they lose. On the one hand, I want them to be OK with my equipment, but on the other hand, I don’t want them to be — because I’m not OK with it” (OUT 1).  The article points to bodily integrity as intrinsic in a trans* individual’s life, and demonstrates via first-person narrative that this particular pursuit is misunderstood by cisgendered individuals of any sexual orientation.  Even the article, though, iterates “the Trans 101 discussion” (OUT 1) to its readers, though—the exact patronizing about which the aforementioned Hunter has mixed feelings.  The author explains,

“[…] these guys aren’t really women. They were born female, yes, but they now live their lives as men. FTMs (female-to-male transsexuals). Tranny boys. Trans men. But also gay men, just like any gay men — yet with one small difference (no, not that difference — I’m referring to their second X chromosome in place of the Y that determines an infant’s sex at birth to be male)” (OUT 1).

Gay publication (apparently not quite trans* enough to give a less ‘recap’-like explanation for its article’s subjects) OUT Magazine’s focus on the specific trials of intimate relations for trans* individuals reflects the dilemma for the character Chris of the Falling in Love… series.  His anatomy is scrutinized multiple times in the first, second, fourth, and fifth installments by his partner, Greg, who outwardly “others” his partner on the basis of his genitals, and, in the fourth installment, a bit on his gender presentation.  The fact that their intimate relationship remains uncompromised—with the exceptions, of course, being their episodic follies and pursuits of understanding—is a humorous tribute to the trans*man’s struggle for bodily integrity.

OUT article:
http://www.out.com/entertainment/2008/03/16/trans-fags

          – Marie Kosakowski

“Trans 100” list and “Batgirl #19”

Due to the fact that there are no assigned readings for this week I decided to scour the web and enlist my roommates in helping me find a topic to write about for my blog post. Thankfully it all paid off! My wonderful roommate and best friend sent me to two websites this past weekend regarding the “Trans 100” list and the new “Batgirl #19” issue which just came out last week.

First, I’ll talk about the list which  “recognizes the work of 100 transgender individuals, both pioneers and emerging voices, who are working to break down stereotypes and show the true diversity of the transgender community.” This list is filled with fantastic people! They are doing great things for the trans community as well as society as a whole. What is even more amazing is my roommate’s cousin Jaan Williams was selected as one of the “Trans 100”! Jaan is a transman, activist, and “a program manager at the Victory Fund and Institute who runs the organization’s Victory Congressional Internship and assists with the Presidential Appointments Project.” (As a side note, Jaan married his long time love Pri at the beginning of March <3) It thrills me to know someone who is making such a difference!! Things like this restore my faith in humanity and the hope that more people could come to understand the immense amount of ignorance surrounding non-normative lifestyles. 

Now onto “Batgirl #19″…which even without mentioning the new transgender aspect of the comic, is GREAT. Who doesn’t like a superhero who has a paralyzing accident, heals, then continues to kick ass?? Outside of the awesomeness of Batgirl, there is a new twist to the comic which has come at a great time given current news and events (part of which being the “Trans 100” list). According to the Q&A with the writer of the comic, “Comics have, of course, always been incredibly LGBTQ-friendly, and there are many major gay characters, but Alysia will be the first (reality based) transgender character in a mainstream comic.” Alysia is Barbara Gordon’s (Batgirl) roommate in the series. When asked about the treatment and acceptance of LGBTQ characters in comics, Gail Simone (the writer) said, “I actually feel like we have a ways to go. There’ve been some wonderful steps forward lately, even in mainstream comics like “Batwoman” and “Runaways,” all of whom have LGBTQ characters in starring roles. But it wasn’t that long ago that any mention of sexuality was outright forbidden in mainstream comics at all. We have some catching up to do. But there’s a large LGBTQ readership in comics, the audience is hugely diverse. It’s wonderful. Our common language is nerdhood. I love that. We may come from different continents, but dammit, we can recite the Green Lantern Oath! It’s pretty great to see LGBTQ characters being accepted widely, it shows that this stuff is way, way overdue.”

I have to agree with Simone, this stuff is extremely overdue! I’m just as excited, if not more, about Alysia’s background and story coming into the series as I am about the “Trans 100” list. I feel like these are huge steps forward especially with so much hate and ignorance being spewed daily. We need more positive non-normative stories and happenings like these to be published and widely spread! So please read and share these links with your friends, heck even read the comic! People need to know the great things going on in the world and the media!

http://www.gaypolitics.com/2013/04/09/victory-staffer-on-inaugural-trans-100-list/

http://www.newnownext.com/batgirl-exclusive-writer-gail-simone-talks-new-transgender-character/04/2013/

-Jocelyn Crizer

Erratic Femininity

The chapter of Gayle Salamon’s essay in Assuming A Body entitled “Boys of The Lex: Transgender and Social Construction” discusses a concept Salamon coins homoerratic, which she defines as “a libidinal economy of sameness whose participants nevertheless wander or stray from their customary or expected courses in unpredictable and surprising ways and whose energy depends on the very unfixablilty of those erotic identifications and exchanges” (Salamon, 71). In other words, homoerraticism refers to the ability for different individuals to consciously occupy a sense of sameness that, within it, houses specific types of deviations and fluid interpretations of that sameness.

I would argue that this concept, one of homoerratics, could be applied to the gamut of ways of enacting femininity as well. Femininity, in its essence, denotes a sense of sameness under the banner of an interpretation of what it means to be woman. However, just as Salamon notes that “homoerotic is an unhelpfully flat adjective that cannot quite keep up with libidinous and identificatory refractions,” I would argue that femininity is often misused, and ill defined in its traditional and most common usage (71). I would, then, call for a term that does what homoerraticism attempts to do and does quite well, but would instead describe a sort of “unfixability” in the multiplicity of the possible interpretations of femininity.

Perhaps erratic femininity could come to stand in the place of the traditional term femininity. Based on this argument, then, I suppose an erratic masculinity must be put into place, as well as an erratic androgyny and perhaps general erratic gender subjectivity. To me, Salamon’s term homoerratic has simply opened the floodgates and rendered a knew image of sameness under specific identities and subjectivities.

-Sally Stempler