Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Trans Studies Reader #4: Serano

Yup, there's nothing from Serano in the book. Serano's Whipping Girl was published in 2007.

But it's effect on my reading is rather thorough-going and pervasive.

Firstly, there's the terms. Cissexism, transmisogyny, misgendering - all very pertinent, all very much unavailable when Trans Studies Reader was published.

Then there's the change of attitude. And boy, is there a change! I can tell that this change of attitude has made me realise I can reclaim my past from the cissexist, misgendered, misogynist narrative as it's been told to me, and have it for my own. My life, as the female I was born, forcibly masculinised, boy- male- and man-ified by the society hell-bent on erasing my experience. Oh, the power of words!

"Trans" is an adjective. "Transsexual" is not something I have to identify with - other people can and do use words in some ways I find totally unacceptable, but before Serano I didn't have other options. I did know my experiences couldn't be described in the language I had, so I had to make do with what I had, but that's no longer the case. I can describe myself as cisgender, trans-bodied woman - it just sounds right and correct. It doesn't have the idiotic insistence on me being male - which I, most empathically, am not. It describes me and my relation to other people rather well, and it's not too difficult even for cisgender cisbodied people to understand, once they can wrap their heads around the idea that yes, we humans do misgender people, and that there's no way of knowing that until the affected people say so - and we should stop the hurtful (and stupid) misgendering from that point on, pronto.

Subversivism is another fine addition: whenever I'm seen as subversive because of I've "changed sex" I'm like, "say what?" I haven't changed my sex. I was born female, into a female body - our dear cissexist society just couldn't grok it and promptly assigned me male, and fought me tooth and nail when I wanted the mistake corrected. There's nothing inherently subversive in getting your records and body straight. There's nothing particularly antisubversive about it, either: it's neutral as far as I can see.

Anyway, back to the Transgender Studies Reader - it feels quaint, even, because of this. The language sounds a bit ancient, faintly insulting: ungendering trans women and men is such a common theme that runs through the book, as is giving precendence to birth-assigned sexes and genders - the implied headspace is pretty thoroughly cissexist, apart from certain exceptions (Jacob Hale and Donna Haraway, for example).

I feel a sea change coming. Into something rich and strange, perhaps?

No comments:

Post a Comment