Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday Theory Links and Pictures

C'eci ne pas un half-pipe over at Cute Overload

Mik over at Coffee and Gender wrote about Kate Bornstein's new TransMentors program. Basically, it's a place where trans folks can turn to other trans folks for support, advice, and mentoring. Mik sums it up pretty well, saying
Too many transpeople rely on the advice of cisgender specialists to guide them - therapists, doctors, psychiatrists all operating from various different interpretations of a transphobic text. Assisting each other to transition keeps our communities more united - and ensures at least the majority of advice is correct.
So yeah. It's great! I'm currently grappling, theoretically and personally, with what it means to be trans, and how trans people work the system of cisgender medicalization and still make it out okay at the end of the day. Dean Spade has a great essay about grappling with how cisgender folks are gatekeepers for trans bodies called "Mutilating Gender". Check it out here.

Second, over at Pam's House Blend, Autumn brings to light something quite political, personal, and physical about the sex/gender divide that many folks (including Judith Butler) define. Specifically, as she highlights from a Homeland Security update:
The second phase of Secure Flight begins August 15, 2009, when passengers will be required to enter their date of birth and gender when booking airline flights. TSA said the additional data will help prevent the misidentification of passengers who have similar names to individuals on the watch list, and better identify individuals that may pose a known or suspected threat.
That sucks a lot for trans people, many of whom have different names and different sexes on different goverment documents. So yeah, sex is socially constructed, if you didn't know, and it's not a clear cut divide, and it's often used as a tool to fuck trans folks over.

Third, over at, 7 Dirty Tidbits about Louis Althusser. Are you
a hipster Marxist?

Finally, (this one is old) The Guardian determines that the
ultimate postmodern novel is actually a film

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday Theory Links and Pictures

LolFoucault, Panopticon division
via tn_jackrabbit at LOLTHEORISTS lj group


Signifer/Signified? And the importance of underpunctuation
over at Cake Wrecks!

In Austin they recently held the 32nd annual O. Henry pun-off.

In Canonball news, I'm starting History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 today for my senior thesis, so you'll get to go along with me on that trip. I'll keep you updated; I'll also be summarizing and critiquing some Foucault introduction books.

Oh, and thanks for everyone who stuck up for me at Feministing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

some self-definition and summer plans

This summer is shaping up really well--I have a lot to do to prepare for my BA thesis next semester, I'm going to revise my Butler paper, and I'm going to try to blog here more frequently. As I delve into theory more and more, I realize that I need to go back and read the stuff I really don't want to read, namely all the old white guys. But it will be okay, we'll survive together.

Here's my theory reading list for the summer:
Butler again--reading Gender Trouble and Undoing Gender
Foucault's History of Sexuality, at least volume one.
Sandoval's Methodology of the Oppressed
and then a list of heavy hitters that I'll compile later. Probably some Hegel and Lacan since I'm reading so much Butler. Oh, and Barthes for the GRE, as well as some more general intro to theory books.

I'll also keep doing some more current responses to things going on in the world, like yesterday's post, which got a sort of derailed response at the Feministing community blog.

So that's the plan so far. Obviously this plan is lopsided and doesn't have a lot of what I really must read.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

cis as an academic term

A central question that I have as I delve into theory is the concept of “academic language.” As I mentioned in my previous two posts, academic language is divisive and convoluted. But I think there is another piece of the puzzle into which I really want to dig deeper—what does it mean to write a theorist, a branch of theory, or a whole community off as being too academic?

A few weeks ago, queenemily over at Questioning Transphobia wrote two great posts about how “cisgender” is dismissed as an academic term, rendering the calling out of cisgender privilege easily deflectable. queenemily noted that “cis” comes from internet listservs and discussion boards from the 90s. The folks in my community who I talked about it with have said that it comes out of a chemistry term, cis-trans isomerism which I can’t verify but is a neat connection. Here’s the wikipedia article on cisgender as well.

I think it’s important to note that cisgender didn’t necessarily come straight from the academy, or from the pages of Judith Butler. I don’t think that doesn’t mean there isn’t some sort of academic connection to it, though—internet access in the 90s was still scarce, so the folks who may have been actively creating cis might have been academics after all, or at least folks privileged enough to have consistent enough internet access to create online communities. I wish there was a clear citation or link back or path to the origins of cisgender!

queenemily also brings up probably the most important point to me that seems to be forgotten particularly in feminist discussions of trans issues—words that start with cis may seem esoteric, but how many times are words like “sexism” and “heterosexism” thrown back at groups who work to end oppression as too academic? queenemily puts it as the following:
Now obviously, cissexual isn’t a common, everyday term. But neither are other terms commonly used in feminist discussions online, like essentialism and heteronormativity. None of these are very difficult to make sense of, to read around, or to just fucking google it.
queenemily defines this up as the power/privilege to be ignorant about an issue. I agree wholeheartedly. I also feel like there is something about calling something “academic” that makes it seem like it is less true, less everyday, less important, more theoretical. What does it mean for something to be theoretical? What does it mean to say something isn’t real because it’s theoretical? Reading over at Womanist Musing’s comment thread at her post about Radical Feminism, one commenter repeatedly discussed how trans people are not able to change their sex, though they can change their gender all they want, and by not being able to change their sex many radical feminists won’t respect both their gender and their sex. What the commenter seemed to be getting at was that sex is NOT socially constructed and gender is, and because it’s socially constructed—read THEORETICAL—it is not what the conversation is truly about.

What does it mean to have a theoretical body? I think it means a lot of different things. Speaking from my experience, I see my body as theoretical, my sex as well as my gender, because I am intimately aware, as many people are, of how power that is not usually mine constructs my body, and how that construction doesn’t match what I think of my body to be.

What does it mean to be academic? Does that mean theoretical? Or does it mean esoteric? Hard to understand? If words that start with cis are hard to understand, what is it that makes them that way? It could be that not many folks use words that start with cis. Or it could be that by saying something is hard to understand, you can ignore what is being said.

Sara Shalil, as I talked about earlier, says that’s the argument often leveled at Judith Butler’s work—it’s too hard to understand, so I’m not going to read it or try to understand it. Are trans people’s lives, experiences, critiques, bodies, and needs expendable because cis people think they are theories too hard to comprehend?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

shenanigans, part one

time to go to bed when you write: "By identifying Orlando's gender neutral clothing as Turkish, the narrator wraps up her switch in gender in colonialist pants."

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About Me

I'm a young trans person living between two states, trying to make ends meet, both intellectually and monetarily.