I'm just wondering, do you believe that nobody should transition?
Hey Anon, So I’ve answered this kind of question before, but I’m gonna take a different approach this time.
When someone asks me this, I have an odd, trapped feeling. Because already, within the framing of the question, we’re starting from a paradigm I don’t share anymore. So I’ll try it at an angle. This is relevant, I promise:
I used to think about bdsm from the perspective of the masochist, because that’s the position I was familiar with being in. I could follow the “logical” arguments about it and didn’t see what was wrong with it. I thought, “The only way out is through.” I thought, “Everyone is in power dynamics with each other and only bdsm people are honest about it and actually negotiate about it.” I thought all kinds of things. I stopped practicing a long time ago, instinctually moving away, but I didn’t “get it,” fully and consciously, until later–that bdsm is abuse; it means eroticizing fear, pain, and shame; it is re-traumatizing; and it is not really defensible. What changed my understanding?
I was talking to a friend about her own relationship and I could clearly see her partner was using bdsm as a cover story to abuse her with impunity. At one point she was making excuses for her partner’s abusive actions, and I said, “If the situation were reversed–if you did X to her, instead of her doing X to you, would it be abuse?” She saw right away that it would be. That’s how it worked for me, too. When I thought of the times I had tried being in the dominant position, in my scene days, I understood why it did not, could not work. Those scenes never made it past negotiation, because I always asked questions about what was in it for the would-be sub, and the answers uniformly left me disquieted, very far from turned on, and unwilling to proceed. One “negotiation” meetup ended with me sending the would-be sub to Al-Anon instead. So I thought about the things people had done to me and whether I’d be capable of doing them to someone else, and why or why not. I would not. Could not. Even if she “wanted it,” I could not. Objectively, it’s harm. I could not bring myself to harm other women so deliberately, let alone get off on it.
So to bring things back to your ask. When you ask me this question, I think about gender therapists and srs surgeons and informed consent clinics providing hormones. Do I relate and empathize with the desperation for hormones and surgery, from the patient perspective? Of course, I understand the position of making that demand. Can I comprehend what would possess a surgeon to treat a psycho-social issue by cutting up our bodies? I can’t, anon. I can’t.
I always felt like a boy. Take one look at the pictures of me in toddler clothes, and you will see that even though most of the mothers were clothing their children in frilly dresses and skirts, I wanted to be frocked in a train conductor’s outfit handed down from my cousin. Although I had very loving and accepting parents, gender stereotypes were still quite prevalent when I was a kid. Even as a young child, I knew that I would not be accepted by society at large unless my body changed. As an elementary school child, I had zero female friends, asked for my hair to be cut very short, and carried myself as a boy. I strongly recall a period of time when I was about six or seven years old in which I prayed to God every night (my parents were religious and I was raised in church) asking that when I woke up in the morning I could have a penis. Every morning I would wake up and check to see if it was there. Eventually, I put things in my pants and walked around the house pretending that I have the genitalia of a boy.
But I wasn’t a boy. I never will be.
My reason for starting this blog is to share my own personal experience, and to hopefully spread some awareness that there are many of us who feel gender-neutral, but that this is not a negative experience, or worthy of self-mutilation and hatred. The alarming rate at which people, especially young people, have been forced by a conservative stereotypical society to change their bodies just to please the onlooker is quite disturbing to me. Had I been born 20 years later then when I was, I would be writing this blog as a transitioned man, rather than an at-peace, empowered woman. I feel so lucky that this current wave of gender dysphoria and pressure towards transitioning was not part of my childhood, because there is no way I would be who I am today if I had made those changes to myself. I hope that this blog provides an opportunity to share and question the current paradigm, and that my experience gives some insight to other women who may have felt the same way that I did.
Remember that who you are is enough. What people see is completely disconnected to the person that you are inside, and no matter what you do to your body, that person will remain, because it is you. Whether or not you like what you see when you look in the mirror, focusing on that will only inhibit your development as a true soul, because who we ultimately fall in love with is much more contingent on their essence as a person than their physical appearance. Who cares what the person in the mall thinks about the way you look? Do they know you? Do you want them to? And, most importantly, do you want to know them?
I felt like a boy for most of my young life. Sometimes I still do. However, I have come to realize as an adult that this is perfectly okay, but in no way does “feeling like a male” mandate that I alter my beautiful body to that of a man’s. I change my own oil and do WORK on the basketball court. I lift weights. I surf. I cook amazing food. I wear the clothes I feel most comfortable in (lol I guess I kind of dress like a teenage surfer) I’m also the single mom of an amazing 3 year old daughter. She has given joy to my life that I cannot even express in words. Every day I realize the gift I was given when I was born a woman, and had I or my parents decided to change that, my life would be completely different. I am certain that it would not be better, but quite empty. Because I am not a boy.
I hope that this blog will be a place for people to discuss their feelings concerning this subject, and for detransitioners to understand the love women all around feel for them, regardless of their past decisions. It is not a place for hate or judgement, so angry posts will be ignored. If you do not have something constructive to add, ask, or discuss, keep trolling. I would like to avoid a lot of the common terms ( cis, TERF, etc), because this blog is about reality, not society’s conservative constructions about what women should be, or what we call ourselves. I am sure there are many of you out there that consider yourselves to be liberal and accepting of others and their decision-making, this is great, but when it facilitates self-hatred, I think it’s time to take a step back and listen to each other. And love each other. For who and what we are.
If the paradigm of “female” as a sex is one that oppression occurs through…why is it worth keeping? What about sex, specifically, makes it worthwhile, useful, or anything other than a way of categorizing bodies so that they may be gendered, the apparently separation of structures into a social and a biological in order to obscure the biopower at work?
“Female” and “male” as designations are not neutral, they are not unideological, they are not unconstructed. The construction of this category leads to the finding of differences between the two, these differences are not ontologically necessary as manners of dividing the body. These differences, in short, are not meaningful on their own.
What is the meaning of sex outside of directing the taking of labor and exertion of violence? What is sex when the power that directs it is removed? Why is it important to have these two categories? Acknowledging that they have been constructed, in order to acknowledge that their production upon the body leads to the production of gender (claimed as a separate structure entirely despite their interconnectedness and the reliance of one upon the other for comprehensibility) and in turn acknowledging that these constructions result in the assemblage of discursive restrictions around the body leads one to understanding sex as primarily meaningful in the context of assigning and constructing gender.
Abolition of gender, as a colonial construct that has forced a binary of understanding upon colonized cultures (both colonized internally and externally) is an important part of postcolonial and decolonial work, in addition to being an absolute necessity for ending gendered violence. But the preservation of sex as a structure, considering the way in which it produces gender, is only allowing for the production of gender through that which is understood as sex. The notion that gendered power cannot simply be reascribed to sex if it could not be ascribed to gender is naive, it is not understanding how these structures of power function, it is capitulation to the system that institutes the two.
Sex essentialism is defending the ontological necessity of the divisions constituted by gender. That’s it, that’s what it is. Is there any reason not to view sex as self-same to gender except to create such essentialisms?
I would like to start the interview with questioning the paradigm, the notion of the "inappropriate/d other" that you conceived in the mid eighties. Is this paradigm still effective, still workable today, and, if not, in which way can we grasp the politcs of the Other, and who is the Other today?
Trinh T. Minh-Ha:
We can read the term "inappropriate/d other" in both ways, as someone whom you cannot appropriate, and as someone who is inappropriate. Not quite other, not quite the same. Of course, there are many other terms which I've handled similarly in my writings, such as "the moon" or the colors "red" and "gray" for example. Depending on the context, one term may prove to be more relevant than the other. In response to your question, I would say certainly, for how can a notion like "the inappropriate/d other" be subjected to the times for its effectiveness, when its very function is to resist appropriation? All depends on how the notion is lived and carried on. Since inappropriate(d)ness does not refer to a fixed location, but is constantly changing with the specific circumstances of each person, event or struggle, it works differently according to the moment and the forces at work.
To relate this situation in which one is always slightly off, and yet not entirely outside, I've also used the term "elsewhere," to which I've often added "within here"-an elsewhere within here. That is, while one is entirely involved with the now-and-here, one is also elsewhere, exceeding one's limits even as one works intimately with them. This is a dimension that one develops simultaneously, not something that happens linearly and successively in two time-phases, with one coming before the other.
So one can say that within the Inappropriate/d Other are the many different possibilities of Other or of otherness I 've elaborated in my work. One can never be exhaustive as to whom or what the other is. If one tries to speak for everybody, what one has to say runs the risk of becoming a mere decoration. To give an example, when Desmond Tutu was visiting the States in the mid-eighties, before he gave his speech to a packed audience at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, an entertainer who was trying her best to do something appropriate to Tutu's politics and to fill in the gaps while the audience was waiting, asked the audience to sing along with her the refrain of the song 'We Are The World.' Each time the refrain came back, it was comfortably adapted to address, for example, African Americans the first time, Native Americans the next time, and Asian Americans the time after, and so on, until we covered all the 'minorities' groups. Imagine such a chorus. This is decoration. This is how difference becomes harmlessly decorative and how the media conveniently understands political correctness, using it in the name of multiculturalism to degrade multiculturalism.
For me, the question is not to be exhaustive in what one does-this is a mere illusion, because one can never be exhaustive enough-but to provide tools workable across struggles. So that when I use the notion of "the inappropriate/d other" in the very specific contexts of the West's Other, and of Man's or man's Other, I am exploring the question of gender and ethnicity with an eye and an ear that, while not naming all, also takes into consideration, for example, the struggle of sexuality. The tools offered can be taken up and used in their own terms, by gays and lesbians, and by those whom society's standards of 'normalcy' have marginalised. One cannot cover all areas, one can only speak in certain specific areas, but one can listen with ears of other marginalised groups. This is for me infinitely more challenging and important than speaking for everyone or mentioning everyone at the same time. Hence I do not always know who this Other is or to whom the term can be fully applied, but the tool provided should be such that it can reach a wider range of peoples whose struggles link them with other struggles of liberation.