First Comes Cultural Context…

The essay “Transgender Theory and Embodiment” by Katrina Roen takes a look at the “Risk of Racial Marginalization” facing trans* people transnationally. Specifically, Roen chooses to discuss trans* people of different races and cultural identities who live in New Zealand.

In the case of Don, a 45-year-old Samoan fa’afafine, culture precedes sexuality. By positioning his Samoan identity before his sexuality, Don point out the importance of cultural context and its effects on subject hood. Approaching identity and subject hood this way, scholars, academics and anyone studying trans* individuals can avoid the western/nonwestern binaristic thinking that does not necessarily or accurately asses one’s subjectivity. 

The summer after my freshman year I lived in New Zealand and can say from experience that these same sentiments are shared by many of the people who live there. Upon a trip to parliament, I realized how freeing it must be to live in a country where your cultural identity surpasses the other aspects of identity, created a shared sense of unity.  This is not to say that the intricacies and differences that create subjectivity are over looked. Oppositionally, they are simply not treated as a determining factor in one’s ability to live, work, and run the country of New Zealand. Members of parliament include gay men and women, trans* individuals as well as individuals with religious and spiritual beliefs that could be considered on the fringe, including a Rastafarian member of parliament. Just as well, a certain number of office and parliament positions are reserved for Maoris.

It is the cultural familiarity of the members of New Zealand’s parliament that allow them to negate discriminatory office policies, just as Don’s hopeful narrative insists. In attempting to remove one’s own cultural bias (which, essentially can never fully be eradicated), and position oneself at a cross sectioning of relative culture, gender, sex, and sexuality, one might be able to address theories pertaining to transnational, trans* embodied folks with less western/nonwestern undertones.

-Sally Stempler

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In a constant state of transition

Reading the personal accounts of Green and Califa in addition to Serano’s definition of trans-misogyny allows us to consider a wide variety of trans* experience and embodiment.  The narrative heard over and other of a pre-transition, debilitating lifestyle, a transitioning period (including hormones, surgical procedures, and/or the practice of gendered social habits), and, lastly, living the rest of one’s life in the seemingly “correct” body, forces onlookers to see trans* embodiment as a temporary point in life.  In this way, a person inhabits one type of body, transitions, and inhabits another body.  With this, the common expectation is drawn that trans* experience includes is the erasure of one’s “previous” being.  This not only creates a horrific reality for those unable to “pass” and fully function in society as either male or female due to economic status, bodily limitations, and surgical willingness, but also creates a nearly impossible way of life for those seeking the trans* category as a life-long process and identification.

According to Julia Serano, trans* women are particularly vulnerable to social ridicule and misogynistic behavior.  This is not something that Green and Califa discuss in their accounts to maleness, but they do point out the issue of androgyny the discomfort that genderqueer individuals bring when moving through social spaces.  That is to say, whether one seeks masculine or feminine recognition, they are forced to decide between passing fully as a male or fully as a female in order to avoid social injustices and constant misgendering.  As Green and Califa both attest, they have a unique and specialized understanding of life that comes having experienced several different forms of being.  However, in each phase of their lives, Green and Califa have been trans* beings and this allows for yet another unique position.  So why is there such a force to renounce one’s trans*ness and adopt a fully male or female mode of living?  The reality of disappearing into a world of “maleness” or “femaleness” rather than a world of trans*ness is that important issues like trans-misogyny fall away with the erasure of life previous to and during transition.

Tranarchism, a term I am sure many of you are familiar with, is a term used to describe the radical sociopolitical movement that calls for gender anarchy.  One of several sites promoting current trans* topics of controversy and, specifically, trans-feminine matters is Tranarchism.com/.  Though highly controversial due to its main contributor, Asher Bauer, the blog has become a popular resource for news, opinion, and upcoming events.  With popular posts like “Not Your Mom’s Trans 101” and “Anarchy 101,” with site offers unusual perspective for those seeking to learn more about the tranarchism movement and what it means to abandon one’s conflicting, yet powerful, identities.

-Elizabeth Nash