Feminist Perspectives on Trans Issues (2022)

1. Terminology

Transgender is often used to refer to people who “donot conform to prevailing expectations about gender” bypresenting and living genders that were not assigned to them at birthor by presenting and living genders in ways that may not be readilyintelligible in terms of more traditional conceptions of gender. Usedas an umbrella term, it generally aims to group several different kindsof people such as transsexuals, drag queens and kings, some butchlesbians, and (heterosexual) male cross dressers. Earlier the termtransgenderist had been used by Virginia Prince, a pioneer inthe cross dresser movement in the US, to stand for a person who livesin the gender “opposite” the one assigned to them at birthbut who is not a transsexual (Stryker 2008, 123). It seems that LeslieFeinberg was one of the first to use this as a political, umbrella term(ibid).

The term currently flags the political stance, especiallyin the Anglo United States, of resisting medical pathologization oftrans people. This places it in prima facie opposition to theolder notion of transsexual (at least in the more traditionalsense of that word). The term transgender is also sometimesused as an equivalent to transgenderist, to refer to folk wholive full-time in the role other than the one assigned to them at birthbut who do not see themselves as transsexual.

Transsexual is often used to refer to individuals who usehormonal and/or surgical technologies to alter their bodies to conformto their gendered sense of self in ways that may be construed as atodds with the sex assigned at birth or in ways that may not be readilyintelligible in terms of traditional conceptions of sexed bodies. Itmay also be used to indicate people who self-identify and live as thesex “opposite” to the one assigned to them at birth. Thecondition of being a transsexual has been captured by the termstranssexualism and transsexuality, the latter ofwhich will be used in this entry.

Traditionally, the term transsexual has been connected topsychiatric notions such as gender dysphoria and has also been associatedwith the metaphor “trapped in the wrong body.” The term wasfirst used in English by David Caldwell (spelled with one s). It was thenpopularized by Harry Benjamin (spelled with two). Transsexualhas now also been redeployed in ways amenable to and possiblysubsumable under the more recent term transgender (depending,in part, upon one's political stance). It may also beused as a political term indicating a break from the termtransgender and as possibly contesting the underlyingpolitical ideology of “the transgender movement.”

FTM and MTF are abbreviations offemale-to-male and male-to-female. They wereoriginally connected to transsexual (medical) discourse indicatingindividuals who transition to the “opposite” sex. They arenow used in ways that have broken from this medical discourse and maybe used more generally to indicate folk who move away from beingassigned male (or female) at birth to the “other”direction. They may also be used as primitive (undefined) terms. Thismeans that they are not treated as abbreviations indicating transitionfrom one sex to another. Instead, they are used to simply categorizeindividuals in a way analogous to the categories man andwoman.

Queer is a political and theoretical term and a reclamationof the word used as an insult. Politically it was associated withgroups such as Queer Nation and is used as umbrella term to apply toindividuals often associated with the categories lesbian, gay,bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). It generally indicates opposition toidentity-based categories and signals a strong antipathy for“heteronormativity” (roughly: the taken-for-granted socialand sexual arrangements in a heterosexual-centered world-view).Queer Theory roughly applies to theoretical work, typicallyinformed by Foucault and Derrida, that aims to study and“deconstruct” heteronormative ideology. It emerged in the1990s through thinkers such as Judith Butler and Eve KosofskySedgwick. The term genderqueer draws on the political forceof queer. It is used as a term of self-identification byindividuals who do not subscribe to the traditional binary divisionbetween male/female, man/woman, and masculine/feminine. An individualwho self-identifies may claim both sexes or genders, neither, or acomplex blend of them.

Since around 2010, the term trans* has been used in placeof transgender and trans in order to provide formore possibilities. One of the reasons for this is that many of thepeople who self-identify as trans (or as transgender) identify as menor women and therefore in one way place themselves within traditionalbinary categories. As a consequence, those who do not place themselveswithin the binary (e.g., genderqueer people) are effectively left out,despite the original intention behind transgender as an inclusiveumbrella term. Since its introduction, unfortunately the term is alsonow frequently used as a prefix that occurs before woman or man (as intrans* man and trans* woman) in well-intentioned efforts atinclusivity. A problem, however, is that such a use may replicate thevery problem that led to the introduction of trans* in the first placeby generating the expectation that trans* people are either trans* menor trans* women and thereby eliding trans* identities that resistplacement within a gender binary. Moreover, many trans people may notself-identify as trans* and so there is a problem of wrongfullyimputing identities (and political agendas) that run contrary toself-identifications.

In this entry, trans will be used as a place-holder for thepossibly productive political tensions discussed above (transsexualvs. transgender, trans* vs. transgender). Since many forms oftransphobia involve categorizing individuals contrary to their ownsense of self, caution is required in applying terms to individualswho may not self-identify with them. In light of this, the useof trans should not be understood to impute an identity or ashared political vision. Rather, it is a functional term restricted tothis entry alone, and is not intended to invoke a shared categoryamong diverse individuals The expressions trans womenand trans men will be used to refer to MTFs and FTMs whoself-identify as women and men respectively (where transfunctions as a context-restricted placeholder for the aforementionedpolitical tensions.

2. The Transsexual Phenomenon

Until 2013, Gender Identity Disorder had been a diagnosticcategory in both the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV-TR(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and the WorldHealth Organization's ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseasesand Related Health Problems). The newer DSM-V replaces the diagnosticcategory Gender Identity Disorder with Gender Dysphoria in an effortto lessen stigmatization. Nonetheless, trans experiences continue tobe captured by diagnostic categories in manuals which provide criteriafor mental disorders.

While homosexuality was removed from the DSM as a diagnosticcategory in 1973, transsexuality was added in the 1980 DSM-III.However, the view of transsexuality and other trans-related phenomenaas psychiatric and/or medical conditions has a much longer history. Tobe sure, not all accounts of trans phenomena were pathologizing(indeed, some aimed at political liberation). However, it is clear thatearly scholarly discussion of trans phenomena unfolded within the fieldof sexology—the “scientific” study of humansexuality. Some of the most notable thinkers include Karl HeinrichUlrichs, Richard von Krafft-Ebing ([1886] 1965), Havelock Ellis ([1905]1942), and Magnus Hirshfeld ([1910] 1991).

In the early first part of the twentieth century, Europeanscientists began to experiment with “sex-change”(Meyerowitz 2002, 16–21). By 1953, media sensation Christine Jorgensenhad become the first “celebrity” MTF transsexual in theUnited States and scientific controversy heated over whethertranssexuality was a psychological or physical condition (Meyerowitz2002). While the former position (then dominant in the U.S.) held thattrans phenomena were purely psychological in nature and ought to betreated psychotherapeutically to “cure the mental illness”,the latter (European model) held a “bisexuality theory”which maintained that there was a physical blend of male and female inall human beings and that special cases yielded a“mixed-sex” condition which in some cases justifiedsurgical intervention (Meyerowitz 2002, 98–129)

Work by John Money, Joan Hampson, and John Hampson on intersexuality(the state of having both female and male biological characteristics)led to the introduction of the technical term gender(1955). They purported to evade the debate between psychologyand biology, arguing that while the capacity to learn a gender roleand orientation (like a language) was biologically grounded, thespecific native role and orientation learned (like language) wascontingent upon social environment which became “lockeddown” at a very early age (1957). Subsequently, the expressiongender identity was coined by Robert Stoller and RalphGreenson in 1964, which helped terminologically separate the notion ofsocial role from psychological sense-of-self. It was ultimately takenup by the likes of Money and Harry Benjamin (Meyerowitz 2002,117–9), and while debate over etiology continued, views allowingfor both biology and social environment in determining gender identitygained somewhat greater prominence (Meyerowitz 2002, 119). Notably, inthese views, gender identity is a biological demand to the extent thatthe capacity for gender identity (as the capacity for language) isviewed as innate. Such a view would seem to suggest that gender, likelanguage, is integral to the human self.

In 1966, Benjamin published the landmark The TranssexualPhenomenon and that same year saw the opening of the Johns HopkinsUniversity program for sex-reassignment surgery, ushering in a periodof large university-based gender-identity clinics which lasted untilthe end of the seventies. By the closing of Johns Hopkins in 1979, theHarry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (sincerenamed The World Health Professional Association for TransgenderHealth or WPATH) had been formed and had approved standardized criteriafor the treatment of transsexuals. A year later,transsexualism was added to the DSM.

Notably, until the early nineties, the vehicle by which transsexualswrote about their own experiences was largely autobiography. Someexamples of these include Canary Conn's The Story of aTranssexual (1977), Mario Mario's Emergence: ATranssexual Autobiography (1977), and Jan Morris'Conundrum: An Extraordinary Narrative of Transsexualism(1986)

3. The Transsexual Empire

Many of the earliest non-trans feminist perspectives on transsexualswere marked by hostility. One of the first examples of non-transfeminist reactions to trans women was the expulsion of Beth Elliottfrom the Daughters of Bilitis and the subsequent controversy over herparticipation in 1973 in the West Coast Lesbian Conference in LosAngeles (Stryker 2008). At the conference, Robin Morgan chargedElliot, “as an opportunist, an infiltrator, and adestroyer—with the mentality of a rapist” (Morgan 1978,181). This theme of “violation” can also be found in MaryDaly'sGyn/Ecology (1978, 71). It is more thoroughly elaborated inJanice Raymond's The Transsexual Empire: The Making of theShe-Male (1979) where she writes :

All transsexuals rape women's bodies by reducing the real femaleform to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves. However,the transsexually constructed lesbian-feminist violates women'ssexuality and spirit, as well. Rape, although it is usually done byforce, can also be accomplished by deception. (104)

The thesis that MTF transsexuals are rapists because theyappropriate women's bodies to themselves or through deception isdifficult to assess since no arguments seem to have been given in itsdefense. However it will be worth trying to push such extremerepresentations to the side in order to isolate the core assumptionswhich ground Raymond's position as well as to appreciate herfeminist critique of transsexuality as a medical phenomenon.

Raymond's position is underwritten by a substrate view about sexaccording to which sex exists as a given prior to the machinations ofculture; social sex roles are then assigned on the basis of sex.(Raymond does not usually use the term gender,preferring, instead, the expression sex role). Membershipin the category woman is determined by chromosomes and theindividual's history of experience being assigned to a sex role(1979, 4, 18, 114). In light of this, Raymond maintains that MTFtranssexuals are really men and FTM transsexuals are really women. Thelast condition (history of experience) is important in noting that MTFtranssexuals have avoided the history of damage done to women who havesuffered a lifetime under sex-role oppression. It is worthrecognizing, however, that while MTFs may have avoided this oppressionbefore transitioning, many MTFs experience sexual harassment anddiscrimination in the workplace, the threat of all variations of rape,survival sex work, and domestic violence after transitioning.Moreover, some MTFs live as women from a very young age.

A second underlying assumption of Raymond’s position is thatoppression experienced by transsexuals (and trans people moregenerally) is nothing but an aspect of the sexist oppression enforcedthrough sex role (1979, xviii, 16). In other words, MTFs are really menwho are victims of the violence done through the rigidly enforcedsex-role system and FTMs are really women who, as such, are the centraltargets of this system. Gender dysphoria experienced by transsexuals,in such a view, is to be understood as unhappiness with the existingsex-role system. This means that Raymond does not recognize a distinctmodality of oppression that specifically targets trans people in a waythat is non-reducible to the sexist oppression inherent in sex roles.Raymond poses the rhetorical question “Does a Black person whowants to be white suffer from the ‘disease’ of being a‘transracial?’” and then observes that “there is nodemand for transracial medical intervention precisely because mostBlacks recognize that it is their society, not their skin, that needschanging” [Raymond 1994, xvi]. What is lacking in such an accountis the possibility that transsexuals might be oppressed astranssexuals.

On the basis of these two theses, Raymond is led to see themedicalization of gender variance and the gender identity clinics asnothing but vehicles to further secure sexist sex roles. Thus, forher, a sexist society is “the first cause” oftranssexuality (1979, 16). The role of the medical treatment oftranssexuality is to turn men into “women” and women into“men” when they cannot be normed into their natallyassigned sex roles. For Raymond, the phrase transsexualempire applies to the patriarchal medical establishment whichperpetuates sex-role oppression through surgical intervention. (Sheuses the word empire to refer to “a political unit havinga territory of great extent, or a number of territories under a singlesovereign authority” (xv). She sees the medical“empire” as including numerous specialties such asurology, gynecology, endocrinology, and so forth. She also sees thecollaboration of psychology and psychiatry in hiding what she callsthe sovereignty of the medical “empire” by making itappear that there is some need for transsexual medical intervention,as well as the involvement of lawyers and legislators. However, it isthe medical establishment, for Raymond, which possesses thissovereignty. So it is the medical establishment which is the unifyingauthority of the “transsexual empire” (ibid.)).

Now Raymond is right that the medicalization of transsexualityinvolved the perpetuation of sexist (and heterosexist) norms. Yet theactual struggle of some scientists and surgeons to make surgeriesavailable to transsexuals is ignored in Raymond's account (Riddell2006). Such advocates for transsexual surgery were in the minority(certainly in the U.S) and themselves experienced hostility andmarginalization. This means that what Raymond calls the transsexualempire was not monolithic. And given the marginalization ofthese advocates for transsexual surgery, it seems that the medicalestablishment was not especially friendly to transsexuality (Riddell2006). Generally transsexuality was and remains largely unaccepted insociety. Contrary to Raymond's view, it is largely notendorsed by “the patriarchy.”

Raymond's contrast between integration andintegrity brings out a core aspect of her picture ofliberation. Integration, for Raymond, involves puttingtogether parts to form a complex whole (1979, 163). She sees androgynyas a kind of blend between masculine and feminine and she argues thattranssexual surgery also brings about such blends (constructing theindividual into a kind of hermaphroditic being) (1979, 165). Bycontrast, integrity involves a prior wholeness from which nopart can be taken away (193). For Raymond, true liberation cannot besecured by any mere blending of sex roles. Rather, it must be securedthrough a transcendence of sex role altogether (164). Thissuggests a notion of the self that is prior to sex role or at least anotion of a self that can be freed from the cultural interpretations ofsex. Raymond's solution to “the problem” oftranssexuality which she sees as promoting the surgical violation ofbodily integrity, is to “morally mandate it out ofexistence” (178) by working against sex role oppression througheducation and consciousness raising (178–185).

Raymond's representation of transsexuals themselves warrantsparticular comment. Beyond the two key assumptions mentioned above,Raymond adopts a stance for which transsexual subjectivities areerased. This means that she constructs monolithic, stereotypicalrepresentations of trans individuals (based on her own ideology) inways that foreclose the possibility of registering the actual variableexperiences of trans people (on this point see Riddell 2006, 152–3,Stone 1991, 298, Heyes 2003, 1095). She points to ways in which (some)MTFs take up traditional sex roles (and are thereby complicit) on theone hand (77–79), and yet goes on to criticize lesbian-separatistidentified MTFs who have eschewed such roles as oppressively masculine(102–6). In this way, she traps MTF transsexuals with a double-bind:Either MTFs take up traditional sex roles and are thereby sexist orelse they eschew these traditional sex roles and are thereby sexist(See Califia 1997, 102, 104–5; Serano 2007, 49). Such a theoryisn't equipped to accommodate the actual variable experiences ofMTFs trying to negotiate gender in a sexist and transphobic world. In this way,Raymond's theory erases the actual experiences of MTFs throughmonolithic, ideologically-driven representations of them. Moreoverbecause Raymond sees transsexuality as essentially a male phenomenon,her discussion of FTMs is minimal. She argues that FTMs are mere tokenswho are used to prop up claims that transsexuality is a universalphenomenon and thereby hide its true patriarchal character. In thisway, FTM transsexuality is largely dropped out of the picture (xxiii,27–28, 140; for further critique see Califia 1997, 100–1, Serano 2007,48). This allows her to avoid discussing FTM transsexuals in any depthat all. And this means that the complex, variable, everyday experiencesof FTMs do not get represented in the first place. Consider, forexample, Raymond's claim “All transsexuals rapewomen's bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact,appropriating this body for themselves.” While the statementpurports to be universal, it is also a claim specifically about MTFtranssexuals. In Raymond's account, there is no room for FTMs.They are erased.

While this tendency to forgo consideration of the real lifeexperiences of trans people in favor of monolithic, stereotypicalrepresentations of them (or through outright erasure) seems to havebeen common in academic writing at the time, it is also worth notingthe deep theoretical and political commitments at work. Raymond'saccount is situated within a lesbian-separatist paradigm which seeswomen's oppression as secured through compulsory heterosexualrelationships (Radicalesbians [1970] 1988). In this heterosexualcontext, women are forced to adopt an identity that is male-dominant(man-identified). Liberation from the colonization of identity can onlybe obtained through lesbian relationships and a community ofwomen-identified women. Central to this paradigm of oppression/liberation, then, is the view that a woman's identity can bethoroughly colonized as well as the view that this can possibly beeliminated through loving lesbian relationships (Frye 1983). It is one,then, which does not see the self as inherently bound up with gender orsex role.

Given this account, it is no surprise that Raymond criticizesMoney's view that gender identity, while determined byenvironmental factors, is “locked down” at an early age(1979, 62–8). And given the separation between sex and role, it becomesapparent why transsexual claims about gender identity become hard tofathom. On the one hand, identity might involve the internalization ofand identification with the sexist gender roles from which, accordingto Raymond, we need to find transcendence. This would obviously cry outfor feminist intervention. On the other hand, since Raymond accepts aview according to which sex is a given, biological substrate upon whichcultural role is assigned, identity may simply be taken to reflectrecognition of one's own invariant biological sex (male orfemale). Such an identity would survive any transcendence from culturalsex role. In this case, however, any purported misalignment betweenbody and identity would seem deeply misguided (since identity merelyreflects one's invariant biological sex).

4. The Empire Strikes Back

In 1977 a controversy erupted in lesbian-separatist circles overSandy Stone, an openly transsexual woman and an engineer who had beenworking at Olivia Records (an all-woman recording company). Both sheand Olivia were explicitly targeted by Raymond in The TranssexualEmpire. After leaving Olivia, Stone earned her doctorate underDonna Haraway at Santa Cruz, and in 1991 published a reply to Raymondand what would become the founding essay in transgenderstudies, “The Empire Strikes Back: A (post)transsexualmanifesto” (Stryker 2008, 105, 124–5).

4.1 The Manifesto

Stone takes up a third position in opposition to both the medicalizedview of transsexuality characterized by Benjamin'sThe Transsexual Phenomenon and the feminist critique offered inRaymond's The Transsexual Empire. The fundamental move ofthe essay is to see transsexuals as a kind of “oppressedminority.” While Stone does not position transsexuals as a thirdgender, she does propose that transsexuals “currently occupy aposition which is nowhere, which is outside the binary oppositions ofgendered discourse” (1991, 295). Because Stone wishes to avoidappeal to a pre-existing class of individuals who are then oppressed,she represents transsexuality as a genre of discourse. Theidea is that traditional medical discourse about transsexualityconstitutes a distinctive, regulated way of talking andtheorizing which Stone calls a genre. (Contrast, for example,traditional medical discourse on transsexuality with Raymond'sfeminist discourse on transsexuality). Stone is suspicious of appealingto a group of individuals prior to the workings of aparticular discourse (that is, one which is conceived of as independentof a particular discourse) since, goes the postmodern worry, such anappeal to this group of individuals would nonetheless be at the sametime providing an account of them within a discourse—adiscourse which could be shaped by ideological commitments. Instead oftrying to make such a move, then, Stone identifies a group ofindividuals as represented through traditional medical discourse abouttranssexuality.

Drawing on the autobiographies of some transsexual women, Stonefinds herself in agreement with Raymond in worrying about what she seesas the uptake of sexist stereotypes by (some) MTFs (1991, 289).However, she also notes (some) MTF insistence upon amale/female binary and the absence of any middle or more complex genderground (286). Beyond this, she criticizes the subjectivity-erasing,blanket claims in Raymond's work (e.g., “All transsexualsrape women's bodies”) along with the implicit denial oftranssexual subjectivity discussed above (298).

What is lacking, according to Stone, is space for the discourse oftranssexuals as transsexuals. She points to ways in which themedicalization of transsexuality has required both the uptake of sexistbehavior as well as the acquiescence to a strict genderbinary. In this way, she argues, transsexuals have been complicit intelling a story within a genre that does not necessarily reflect theirown subjective experiences (1991, 295). At the same time, argues Stone,transsexuals have also developed their own subcultures as well asdistinctive practices within those subcultures that entirely runagainst the official account of transsexuality (such as helping eachother know what to say and how to act in order to get medicallydesignated as a transsexual) (291–2). The solution, Stone argues, isfor transsexuals to begin telling their own stories (295). Thisrequires minimally, that post-operative transsexuals come out astranssexual and forego passing as (non-transsexual) men and women(298–9). The traditional medical requirement that one construct aplausible non-trans history to hide one's past, for Stone,undermines the possibility of authentic relationships. Because theinjunction to forego passing as the (non-transsexual) sex one hastransitioned into runs entirely against the prevalent discourse oftranssexuality as such, Stone represents the political move aspost-transsexual (299). She sees that while many transsexualsare complicit in this discourse, they nonetheless go beyond itby attempting, for example, to assist each other in“working” the medical regulations (as explained above).Thus their experiences and actions outstrip the“official” medical accounts of transsexuality. Yet this“outstripping” is rendered invisible in any complicitattempt to fit into a medical account which requires that one'sstatus as transsexual be ultimately denied in everyday life (throughthis construction of a false history). For Stone, eschewing thisdiscourse is important because it hides the complex, variableexperiences of different trans people who are often positioned incontestatory ways vis a vis this discourse. The move is not designed tofind some one authentic and uniform account of transsexuals beyond themedical discourse. It is, rather, to clear the way for discourses fromwhich it is at least possible to speak and to speak politicallyas a transsexual.

4.2 Cyborg and Mestiza

Stone's manifesto relies on an account ofoppression/resistance that breaks sharply from the utopian vision foundin Raymond's work. Instead, it draws largely on the ideas ofHaraway's “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1983, 1991) andGloria Anzaldúa's theory of the mestiza (1987). It will beworth discussing these views briefly to draw out the nature ofStone's theoretical departure from Raymond.

(Video) Gloria Steinem on feminism and transgender rights

Haraway's postmodern image of the cyborg (explained below) isintended to raise worries, derived largely from writings of women ofcolor, about single, monolithic (identity-based) accounts ofoppression/liberation. Haraway worries about political accounts whichpostulate an original state of innocence and subsequent fall from graceand which then envision a utopian future which promises a return toinnocence.

According to Haraway, the difficulty with such theories is that theyare partial in their account of the world (while assuming universality)and so end up ignoring (and even promoting) certain forms of oppression(1991, 156). For example, a feminist vision which posits a sharedexperience of oppression among women and recommends lesbian-separatismas its solution, as formulated, leaves out the experience of racialoppression among women of color (Combahee River Collective 1981). Whyshould women of color be expected to forego solidarity with progressivemen of color?

The cyborg, then, is a collection of disparate, incongruent parts:Each individual contains multiple elements of oppressor and oppressed.As a metaphor, it is intended to refuse postulations of originalinnocence and utopian future (1991, 151). Instead, resistance forHaraway is possible due only to the possibility of the cyborg'sturning against the intentions of its maker in a dystopian environment(151). This idea is notably taken up by Susan Stryker (1994), who usesthe metaphor of Frankenstein's monster, in her reply to MaryDaly's (1978) representation of transsexuals as monstrousboundary violators.

This notion of mixture is also central in the work ofAnzaldúa, who speaks against an emphasis on purity and in favorof the notion of mixed race (una raza mestiza) (1987, 99). Sherecognizes herself as a border dweller, torn between the demands ofconflicting cultures (for example, anglo and Mexican) (1987, 100). Theexperience of being caught in the confluence of multiple cultures leadsto a kind of multiplicity or fragmentation of self. For example, onemight be represented in a racist manner in dominant white forms offeminism and in a sexist manner in dominant forms of racial resistance.This tension between conflicting cultural perspectives yields thepossibility of “double” or “Mestiza”consciousness which involves the capacity to see oneself in accordancewith the dominant ways in which one is oppressively represented andconstrained in different, and often conflicting ways (101–2).

It is precisely the capacity to be conscious of this plurality ofthe self, in Anzaldúa's view, that allows for resistance,since there is an awareness which outstrips the multiple forms ofoppression by viewing them together, as well as in conflict (1987,102). Such a consciousness also allows for the possibility of“linguistic terrorism”—the creative blending ofdisparate languages and cultures in ways that work against themonolithic character of each (1987, 75–86). For example, Chicano TexasSpanish and Tex-Mex involve such a linguistic blending.Anzaldúa writes, “Until I am free to write bilingually andto switch codes without having always to translate … my tonguewill be illegitimate” (81). And: “We are your linguisticnightmare, your linguistic aberration, your linguisticmestizaje …” (80).

While neither Haraway nor Anzaldúa explicitly discussRaymond, it is clear that the position articulated in theThe Transsexual Empire is vulnerable to their concerns.Raymond's vision provides both an origin account as well as thepromise of salvation: The original imposition of sex roles and thefinal achievement of integrity through freedom from them(1979, 164). And Raymond's dismissal of integration (themish-mash of incongruent parts) is precisely celebrated by Haraway andAnzaldúa, who have no patience for the alleged“innocence” and “purity” of integrity.Significantly, Anzaldúa identifies a state between man and womanas a site for creative resistance:

There is something compelling about being both male and female,about having an entry into both worlds. Contrary to some psychiatrictenets, half and halfs are not suffering from a confusion of sexualidentity, or even from a confusion of gender. What we are sufferingfrom is an absolute despot duality that says we are able to be only oneor the other (1987, 41).

Although Stone does not explicitly use the expression “doubleconsciousness”, it is evidently at work in her suggestion thattranssexuals have learned to adopt the discourse of medicalizationwhile doing so within a subaltern transsexual culture which fails toaccurately correspond to the official account. Certainly her suggestionthat transsexuals speak beyond the gender binary is anticipated inAnzaldúa's work, as is her call to mix-and-matchgenres.

The differences between a vision of the self as a site for potentialgender colonization /decolonization (as presupposed by Raymond) and avision which emphasizes “mestiza consciousness” aresignificant. María Lugones (1990), for example, argues that theformer type of vision, as articulated by philosophers such as Frye(1983), simply cannot succeed as a theory of resistance. Thedifficulty, in part, is that the former seems to postulate a selfunderlying the cultural work of oppression or at least the possibilityof a self that has been or could be freed entirely from culture (or atleast gender). Yet, if such a possibility is not realistic, as it seemsnot to be, it is hard to see how any form of resistance to oppressioncan get a foot-hold. How can the colonized mind be open totransformation and resistance given that it is already colonized? It isprecisely this possibility of “double consciousness”,argues Lugones (1990), which makes resistance possible at all.

4.3 The Transgender Paradigm

Stone's article laid the foundations for the emergence oftransgender studies, which can be characterized as thecoming-to-academic-voice of (some) trans people against a history ofscholarly objectification. The early nineties also witnessed theemergence of current transgender politics, articulated in the popularworks of Leslie Feinberg (1992, 1993, 1996, 1998) and Kate Bornstein(1994). Three major features of what might be called the transgenderparadigm paralleled the ideas of Stone: 1) the recognition ofgender-based oppression, usually targeting trans people, as distinctfrom and non-reducible to sexist oppression; 2) the positioning oftrans people as problematically situated with respect to the binarycategories man and woman; and 3) the endorsementof a politics of visibility.

This is not to suggest that such politics are uniform. For example,while Feinberg tends to emphasize the historical persistence oftransgender people as a kind of people or oppressed group, Bornsteintends to emphasize the constructed (and oppressive) nature of gendercategories as a whole, the desirability of viewing gender as fashion,and the importance of moving toward a more consensual gender system.Notably, Bornstein draws on the ethnomethodological work of Garfinkel(1967) and Kessler and McKenna (1977). The work of Kessler and McKennais especially remarkable for its early broad use of‘gender’ to apply even to biological sex in order toindicate the implication of sex within cultural interpretation andpractice. Ethnomethodology is a sociological analysis of howindividuals construct their common-sense knowledge of the world insocial contexts. Bornstein draws principally on Garfinkel'snotion of the natural attitude about sex. This attitude, forGarfinkel, constitutes the everyday “common-sense” aboutsex. It is held by those he dubbed “normals” for whom thecategories male and female are exclusive, exhaustive, invariant, andapplied on the basis of genitalia. Notably, part of the naturalattitude involves dismissing counter-examples (e.g., intersexualindividuals who show that the neat categorization of humans into twodiscrete categories is bogus) as abnormal and aberrant.

At any rate, these and other popular works characterized and perhapsprovided the foundation for the emerging Anglo-American transgenderpolitics of the 1990s which while insisting upon the distinctionbetween gender identity and presentation (on the one hand) and sexualorientation (on the other) also fought for representation within LGBpolitics. This led to the development of a somewhat more inclusive LGBTpolitics, grounded in the idea that gender-variant individuals hadalways, in the first place, been central to gay and lesbian liberationand that gay and lesbian individuals themselves may be subject todiscrimination on the basis of gender presentation.

The emergence of transgender politics included the prolongedconflict between trans activists and non trans feminists over theexclusion of trans women from the Michigan Womyn's MusicFestival. In 1994, the trans activist group, Transexual Menace,organized ‘Camp Trans’ directly opposite the festival. (Theterm transexual, spelled with one s, was intended tosignal a break from the traditional medical conception oftranssexuality). The point was to challenge what was seen as thefestival organizers' transphobic attempt to exclude trans womenthrough its ‘womyn-born womyn’ policy. The politicalconflict persists to this day.

In 1994, The Transsexual Empire was re-issued with a newintroduction by Raymond that explicitly takes up the new transgenderpolitics. Her critique largely involves the claim that any gendertransgression by transgender people still involves the uptake of sexistgender roles and therefore fails at genuine gender transcendence (1994,xxix). In Raymond's view, most self-identified transgender peopleare predominantly men who are in some way performing a stereotypicaland sexist femininity (ibid.). However, she also discussesFeinberg's Stone Butch Blues, a novel which played animportant, informative role in the emergence of transgender politics.In this novel, we follow the lead protagonist, Jess, who moves from thecategory of butch (in butch-femme lesbian subculture) to thecategory transsexual, and who then recognizes that transitionfrom female to male is likewise unfulfilling. Jess ends up occupying amiddle ground, identifying simply as a ‘he-she.’Raymond's major concern with this trajectory is that,Jess ultimately refuses self-identification as a woman (1994,xxxii).

Raymond's theoretical framework regarding gender transcendenceand a strict biological binary prior to cultural imposition guides thisdiscussion. Given her distinction between integration and integrity,any mixing and matching of gender would fail to achieve the goal ofcomplete gender transcendence, and therefore fail as a politics ofliberation. Moreover, given that she does not allow room for a thirdspace between man and woman, given that she does not recognize transoppression as somewhat independent of sexist oppression, and given thatwomen-identified-women are central to her views about resistance, it ishardly surprising that she should be dismayed by Jess' decision.Aside from problems mentioned with this theory earlier, it is worthadding that, as Cressida Heyes notes, Raymond's theory, whichrejects transgender resistance a priori, seems to be unfalsifiable(2003, 1108).

5. (Trans) Gender Trouble

The impact of Judith Butler's GenderTrouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) wasimmediate and profound. Instead of being oppositional, theground-breaking work of Butler bears a much more complex relation totransgender individuals and to trans studies.

5.1 Gender Trouble

Butler's work was partly motivated by the desire to answerconcerns that queer enactments of gender (as in a butch-femmerelationship or in gay male drag) merely replicate traditionalpatriarchal norms. For Butler, such a view presupposes a heterosexualbias obscuring the way in which gender is re-worked in queer contexts.What she has in mind is that in queer subculture gender practices donot always have the same meaning that they do in mainstream culturalcontexts. For example, feminine presentation in some queer contexts mayinvolve a degree of irony not found in mainstream instances of thatfeminine presentation. To treat queer gender practices as simplyrepeating or miming non-queer practices without any significant changein meaning is to understand all gender practices in a way that assignsdominant heterosexual meanings to it.

Queer gender performance, far from replicating patriarchal norms,can subvert such norms by exposing their non-natural, imitativecharacter (1990, 174–80). Sometimes queer gender performance caninvolve irony and/or parody through exaggeration. (Good examples ofthis can be found in early films by John Waters, such as FemaleTrouble). Queer gender can make fun of heterosexual genderpractices by exaggerating them and parodying them in such ways thatmake them seem theatrical and contrived. And gay male drag, for Butler,can show that feminine presentation is not the sole property of femaleindividuals. Once it is recognized that such behavior is onlycontingently assigned to groups of individuals, the very idea that gaydrag merely involves imitation of heterosexual women as the originalassigns a priority to the latter over the former. This prioritization,for Butler, reflects a heterosexual bias. And, so for Butler, feministidentification of all gendered behavior as inherentlysexist (as, for example, found in Raymond's work) is nothingshort of a heterosexist tendency to attach a primacy to heterosexualgender performance.

Butler's account of gender aims to call into question thepre-existence of a group of individuals (i.e., women, females) prior tothe enforcement of gender role. Instead, in Butler's view,biological sex is culturally instituted and in this sense “genderall along.” Prima facie this view seems counter-intuitive. Oneway to motivate it is to recognize that contrary to the naturalattitude about sex (discussed above), human beings cannot always beneatly divided into male and female. Indeed, once we recognize variousfeatures which go into sex determination (chromosomal sex, gonadal sex,genital sex, etc.) we see that sex is not a single, unitary,easily-determined feature. Insofar as the natural attitude prevails,however, individuals act as if the natural attitude were true.Sex is now understood in terms of a particular attitude which shapeseveryday social practices. And to the extent that such an attitudehelps ground medical practices designed to surgically assign intersexinfants to one sex or the other, it appears that sexual dimorphism ismedically instituted. Insofar as bodies are made to conform to aparticular cultural ideology about sex—an ideology which governssocial practice—it makes some sense to say that biological sex itselfis, to this degree, “culturally instituted.”

In Butler's view, whenever we discuss the body, we are alsoalways representing it in culturally specific ways. To speak of thebiologically sexed body as somehow prior to particular discoursesabout it is to, in so doing, nonetheless ironically speak aboutit within some particular discourse and hence to represent insome way. According to Butler, sex is culturally instituted byrepresenting the body as the natural container of some inner,gendered self. Sex is understood as the bodily indication thatconcealed within it is the essence of either a woman or a man. ForButler, this view is false. However, just as the natural attitude maybe treated as if it were true even though it is not, so, too, bodiescan be falsely treated as containers of gendered selves. To the extentthat this view is pervasive and regulative of human conduct, onecan—in this sense—say that sex is sociallyconstructed.

For Butler, behavioral manifestations of gender are often taken toexpress a prior gender identity that is contained within a naturallysexed body. Thus, feminine behavior is seen as expressive of an innerfeminine core (contained within the body sexed female). On thecontrary, in her view, such performances simply serve to generate thefiction of a pre-existing gender identity as well as the fiction of thesexed body qua natural container of this identity (1990, 178–9). Thisis to say: Behavioral manifestations are prior to gender identity andsexed body (rather than the other way around). The illusion of a stablysexed body, core gender identity, and (hetero) sexual orientation isperpetuated through repeated, stylized bodily performances that areperformative in the sense that they are productive of thefiction of a stable identity, orientation, and sexed body as prior tothe gendered behavior (173).

This allows Butler to answer the charge that queer genderperformances merely replicate sexist gender role behavior. In her view,all gender behavior is imitative in nature. Heterosexualgender identity involves an instability that it attempts to cover over:While it purports to be grounded in a naturally gendered core, itamounts to nothing more than repeated attempts to imitate pastinstances of gendered behavior (1990, 185). Thus, there is also asubversive potential of queer drag and camp gender performance, in herview, insofar as it can parody and thereby expose thisconcealed imitative quality (1990, 174–6). As a consequence, Butlerwelcomes the proliferation of queer gender behaviors that re-signify,parody, and expose the mechanisms by which the fiction of normativeheterosexist gender is created (1990, 184–190).

5.2 Bodies that Matter

While Butler's theory was initially viewed by some as a kindof gender voluntarism, it is clear that this is very far from heractual view, further refined in Bodies that Matter (1993).Butler clarifies that instead of a kind of voluntary theatricalitydonned and doffed by a pre-existing agent, gender performance isconstitutive of the agent itself. For Butler, even though the self isthe mere effect of repeated gender performances, it is nonethelessreal: There are selves, they are socially constructed. What is strictlyfictional, for Butler, is the view that they are unified cores whichexist prior to gendered behavior. Butler does not want to denythe existence of our psychic lives.

For Butler, gender performance is citational in that ittacitly cites or draws on gender norms (1993, 12–3;230–33). But it is precisely this citing of the norm asauthoritative which confers authority upon the norm (1993,13). Indeed, the agent herself as the one who either willfullycomplies or fails to comply with the authoritative norm is likewiseproduced through this process of citation (1993, 13, 225, 232). Thus,Butler sees the agent qua unified source of gendered behavior asperformatively constituted through repeated acts of genderedbehavior. This is to say: The ‘agent’ is, far from thecause of gendered performance, its effect (1990, 184–5; 1991,24; 1993, 232).

Such a view yields a kind of paradox: If the agent is the mere effectof the repeated acts, then how are the acts themselves produced? Theconcerns may be mitigated to some extent by recognizing that Butler isinterested in the very formation of self-identity as understood withina psychoanalytic tradition. She follows Freud in seeing the ego asformed largely through a process of complex identifications.Identification, in this context, is to be understood as the stablepsychic “taking on” of perceived properties of a lost loveobject (1990, 73–84; 1991 26–7). In this way, the lostobject becomes a part of the ego through a process of imitation: Theobject is internalized (and psychically “preserved”).

In Butler's view, the taboo against (heterosexual) incest presupposesa prior taboo against homosexuality (which effectively constitutesheterosexual desire as such) (1990, 82). Yet the taboo requires thatthe loved object as well as the homosexual desire itself be givenup. In a process of melancholy the lost object is not grieved becausethe desire cannot even be acknowledge in the first place. So the lostobject is internalized through this process of identification by whichthe individual now psychically takes on the attributes of the lostobject, thereby acquiring a heterosexual gender identity (1990,78–81; 1991, 26–7). In this way, imitation lies at theroot of the very formation of gender identity.

For Butler the term psyche applies to more than simply theself or ego as constituted through gender imitation. In addition to theconscious self, she is also interested in the psychic workings of theunconscious as postulated in psychoanalysis. In Butler's view,the psyche outstrips the performatively constituted agent insofar asthe repeated acts fail to entirely imitate the preceding ones and,indeed, insofar as they must be repeated at all (1991, 24). Butlerallows for “psychic excess” which applies to that which isboth presupposed by and yet excluded by heterosexual gender identities.For example, the love of the lost object discussed above cannot beallowed into the heterosexual gender identity. Nonetheless it is partof the psyche—is “psychic excess”—insofar as it isessentially presupposed by and yet disowned in the formation ofheterosexual gender identity. Such excess manifests itself, for Butler,in performative failures and in behaviors which expose the imitativecharacter of gender (24–5).

This involves a notable departure from the “doubleconsciousness” model of resistance (and identity) discussedabove. Rather than flagging the simultaneous blending of conflictingcultural claims to form a subject position that is constituted by itsborderland status, Butler deploys the notion of “psychicexcess” and points to the re-significations of performance (aswithin a historical chain) in ways that subvert a stablesubject position altogether. This means that Butler situates subversionin disruptions which fail to imitate in the same way, which expose andundermine the illusion of a stable self. Despite this difference,however, both the notion of “double consciousness” andButler's theory of gender performativity similarly depart fromRaymond's view which postulates a self at least ideally freedfrom oppressive machinations.

In light of her appeal to citationality, Butler further clarifies thatthe subversive potential of gender performance is significantlyconstrained since, in order for gender performance to be subversive,it still must cite existing gender norms as norms (1993, 122–4,226–7). This means that gender subversion is limited by thehistory of past iterations of gender performance. Butler also allowsthat there are ways in which gender performance can both replicate andsubvert sexist, racist, and heterosexist norms at once. For example,she aims to defend an ambivalent picture of the culture portrayed inJennie Livington's 1991 film Paris is Burning which documentsthe drag ball competitions of various ‘houses’ in New YorkCity, held by mostly black and latino/a queer men, transsexuals, andqueens (1993, 121–140).

Butler's discussion of the film is especially notable for itsexplicit treatment of transsexuality. She is largely responding to bellhooks who criticizes the film for the invisibility of the subjectposition of the director (a white, Yale-educated, lesbian woman) inshaping an objectifying spectacle of non-white gender and sexuality(1992, 150–1) and the very behavior and attitudes of the individualsdocumented in the film (147–50). Following in the tradition of Raymond,hooks raises worries about the masculinity involved in the dragperformances (citing the competitive edge involved in the balls as wellas the celebration of sexual objectification) (148–9). Moreover, shepoints out that white femininity seems elevated in these balls as thecanonical form of femininity (150). Butler, by contrast, aims tohighlight both subversion and the ways in which such subversion isconstrained and even erased through dominant heterosexist forms ofgender.

(Video) Bilingual Reading of Feminist Perspectives on Trans Issues 女权主义视角下的跨性别议题 7.2

The bulk of Butler's defense of this ambivalence derives fromher discussion of the life and death of Venus Xtravaganza, a lightskinned Latina, and self-identified pre-operative transsexual woman.Xtravaganza dreams of a happy, suburban, heterosexual life but works asa prostitute and is ultimately killed. On the one hand, Butler sees themurder as the effect of the dominant order to annihilate that whichsubverts its (in this case, Xtravaganza's“in-between” body and gender incongruence) (1993, 131). Onthe other hand, Butler sees the murder of Xtravaganza as flowing fromher “tragic misreading of the social map of power” whereher hopes to live a happy life in the suburbs are shattered when she istreated in the way in which women of color are treated (1993, 131).While Butler sees Xtravaganza's life is genuinely subversive ofdominant regulations of gender, she also raises worries about thenature of Xtravaganza's desire for gender realness as amiddle-class, heterosexual woman (133) . In Butler's view, thisdesire is primarily an attempt to transcend race and class throughgender transformation (130).

5.3 Trans Critiques of Butler

Butler's theory has the advantage of answering Raymond'sassumption that all gendered behavior is inherently replicative ofsexist norms, by providing a theoretical basis for the subversivepotential of some queer gender performance and by jettisoning a viewwhich sees biological male/female sex as independent of culture. Inthis way, her work is highly congenial to transgender theory andpolitics. Yet Butler's theory also has some significantdifficulties which have led some trans scholars to voice strongobjections to her work.

Notably, Butler's theory leaves the charges of genderreplication entirely applicable to those trans people who seethemselves and who behave as “real” men and women, as heraccount of Xtravaganza indicates. The tension involves her account ofgender identity as socially constructed as well as her account ofsubversion (on the one hand), and the importance of gender identity andgender realness to some trans people (on the other). To be sure, thereis no obvious theoretical tension here, since Butler can explain theimportance of gender identity and gender realness. The problem, rather,is that this vision may not be politically useful for trans folk whoseek to emphasize the importance of gender identity and realness forsome trans people.

The tension seems to derive, in part, from the fact thatButler's aims to defend some forms of queer gender behavior inopposition to heterosexual gender behavior. In this model,transgressive gender performance is closely wedded to non-heterosexualsexuality (Prosser 1998, 31–32). In arguing that Xtravaganza is killedbecause of her gender subversion, Butler must understand this asbreaking from demands of heterosexuality (Prosser 1998, 46). What ismissing from such an account is recognition of trans oppression as amodality in some ways distinct from the heterosexism.

Perhaps more problematically, Butler's suggestion thatXtravanganza is killed as a woman of color elides the specifics ofviolence against trans women: Xtravangaza was not killed as a Latinawoman, but as a Latina transsexual, working as prostitute (Prosser1998, 47, Namaste 2000, 13). Moreover, Butler's suggestion thatsex-change, for Xtravaganza, is an imagined vehicle to transcend hereconomic and racial conditions fails to take sufficiently serious hertranssexual identity (Namaste 2000, 13–4). Indeed, both JayProsser (1998, 50–55) and Viviane Namaste (2000, 14) argue thatButler's treatment of Xtravaganza involves allegorizingher life and death as a way to generate theoretical mileage for her ownviews while failing to make room for her as a person who lived and diedas a transsexual. In addition to such concerns, deeper theoreticalworries about Butler's position are raised by both Prosser (1998)and Namaste (2000).

Prosser (1998) takes issue with Butler's view at thetheoretical level of identity and body. For Butler, the acquisition ofa gender identity (along with the corresponding heterosexual desire)involves the selection of certain bodily pleasures as acceptable andthe rejection of others as unacceptable (1990, 89–90). This selectionof appropriate pleasure is determined in such a way that pleasures donot literally derive from a particular body part “where”they are located (90–1). Rather the sexual pleasure derives from theeroticization of that body part (i.e., by its role as anobject in erotic fantasy). In heterosexual“incorporation” the eroticization of body parts is falselyliteralized where the body part is then construed as the“container” and “source” of sexual bodilypleasure (87–90). In this way, the subjective experience of one'ssexed body is nothing but a literalized fantasy.

In response to this account, Prosser claims that Butler misreadsFreud according to whom, he argues, the body ego really does arisefrom the body (1998, 40–2). Prosser appeals to Didier Anzieu'snotion of the “skin ego”—the “innerexperience” of the body arising from bodily sensations—whichserves as a significant interface between psyche and body (65–67). Thisallows Prosser to argue that transsexuals appeal to the notion of the‘wrong body’ because it simply feels that way(68–9). His account of body ego departs from Butler in emphasizingbodily sensation and proprioceptive awareness, rather than thevisualization of bodily surface (78–9). Prosser deploys notions ofbodily agnosia (the neurological inability to track parts ofone's body) (78) and phantom limb experiences (84–5) tohelp explain the way in which a transsexual's body image may notaccord with their actual body.

Prosser's view has the advantage of offering a more plausibleaccount of the body ego. Yet it is also worth remarking that littleattention is paid to the way in which social conceptions of the bodymight impact the ego. By grounding transsexuality so thoroughly in thebody, Prosser's view does not appear well-equipped to accommodatetranssexual self-identifications as woman or manwhere such identifications involve more than the body, but also socialrole. In this way, Prosser seems to offer a conception of self (or atleast bodily self) which is implausibly independent of culturaldemands.

While Prosser's work primarily focuses on Butler'spsychoanalytic account of ego formation, Viviane Namaste's (2000)focuses on Butler's account of queer drag as subversive. InNamaste's view, Butler fails to heed to the larger social contextin which gay male drag is situated and through which gender isregulated. Namaste points to the social facts that gay male dragperformance is often restricted to entertainment on the stage where itis viewed as “mere performance.” By contrast, gay malesexual identity is not restricted to the stage and is not viewed as“mere performance” (10–13). Given that Butler allows for anambivalence in subversion, however, it isn't clear that her viewcannot accommodate these social facts in the way that she theorizesdrag performance in Paris is Burning. Yet Namaste aims for adeeper theoretical critique, charging Butler with departing from apost-structuralist framework which situates such phenomena preciselywithin a broader social analysis she sees lacking in Butler'saccount (16–23).

By using drag as a way to represent and theorize all genderrelations, argues Namaste, Butler fails to examine the multiple concreteways in which gender is regulated in everyday life (20–1). Itisn't clear that this by itself undermines Butler's claimthat some gender behavior can be genuinely subversive (and indeed,Butler does not point only to drag, but also butch/femme presentationsof gender). However, it may nonetheless raise worries aboutButler's attempt to offer a uniform theory of gender asimitation. Given that degree of abstraction from concrete socialcircumstance, it may be that Butler omits crucial elements of genderthat are specific to various concrete social practices.

5.4 Undoing Gender

Butler's more recent work has to some extent attempted tomitigate some of the preceding concerns (2004). She indicates that shehas been informed by what she calls “The New GenderPolitics” (i.e., the activism initiated by intersexual,transgender, and transsexual people) (Butler 2004, 4). Where the notionof “doing” gender is central to her earlier work, thenotion of “undoing” now becomes central. She is concernedspecifically with the notion of the “human” and the factthat some people are recognized as less human or, in some ways, notrecognized as human at all (2004, 2). Insofar as this is a function ofwhat counts as intelligible gender, one can be “undone” bygender (rendered unintelligible or recognized as less human) (2–3).Insofar as gender is relational, and for Butler now often involvesacting for another, one can be “undone” by those to whom weare vulnerable (22–5). Thus, we may be undone through the loss of aclose friend, just as we may be undone through acts of phobicviolence.

Butler now seeks to find a balance between the demand for autonomy(required by a democratizing ideal to which she explicitly subscribes)and the fact that such autonomy does not flow from an atomistic self,but rather its grounding in the particular ideologies and institutionswhich necessarily connect us with others and deny certain individualsthe status of human (37–9, 223–7). Her demand, then, is todistinguish norms which foreclose the possibility of livable lives forthose rendered marginal, and those which open up possibilities“to live and breathe and move”(2004, 8, 31,219). In thisway, she aims to offer a more nuanced approach to the importance ofidentity in democratic politics, explicitly taking up a “tensionthat arises between queer theory and both intersex and transsexualactivism” which “centers on the question of sex assignmentand the desirability of identity categories” (7). Effectively,then, Butler recognizes that insofar as queer theory aims to underminethe “illusion” of stable identities while arguing againstthe viability of a politics based upon identity categories, it is inopposition to intersex and transsexual activism both of which arecentered upon identities (i.e., intersex identity and transsexualidentity). Conceding some ground, Butler recognizes that a livablelife “does require various degrees of stability” (8). Herearlier work found subversion only in the disruption ofstable identity. She recognizes here, however, that without somestability, life is not livable.

She also reconsiders her earlier appeal to drag. For Butler, what isimportant about drag is only that it reveals the possibility that whatis taken as a given is really cultural and that it can be contested andassigned new meanings (213–9). However, while her earlier view hadinsisted more strongly upon the importance of subverting the normthrough its exposure as imitative, what now seem more important arethe different kinds of norms at stake, and whether theyconduce to possibilities of livable lives for those who aremarginalized.

Notably, Butler considers the political tension between those transactivists who would oppose the Gender Identity Disorder aspathologizing and paternalistic, and those who insist upon itsimportance in securing access to medical technologies, recommending thestrategic use of the diagnosis. While the latter view underestimatesthat degree to which such a move further empowers the existingstructural arrangement and inflicts damage upon those who undergo theregulations (82–3), the former fail to see how, in practice, movementaway from some medical regulation is not going to be possible withoutalso completely undermining access to the technology (90–1). InButler's view, the institutional mechanisms which permit accessthrough medical regulation and psychological evaluation, allow for akind of culturally circumscribed access to autonomy, but only at thecost of “undoing” oneself (91). Butler sees this bind of“undoing oneself” in order to “do oneself” ascharacteristic of the general way in which autonomy is both culturallydenied and bestowed (100–1).

While Butler's modified view in some ways eases the tensionbetween her theory of gender and the demands of trans politics, it isworth noting that the theory does not deliver many details interms of trans oppression and possibilities for resistance. Herdiscussion of Gender Identity Disorder is a case in point. It leaves uswith a powerful illustration of her theoretical claims about autonomy;yet it does not offer much in terms of concrete politicalstrategies.

6. Technology and the Production of Gender

Bernice Hausman's Changing Sex: Transsexualism, Technology,and the Idea of Gender (1995) aims to provide a feminist analysisof transsexuality within a Foucauldian paradigm. While her theoreticalframework differs markedly from Raymond's, she also sharesRaymond's concern about transsexuality as well as her deepdistrust of medical intervention on the body.

For Hausman, the primary hallmark of transsexuality is the sheerdemand for transsexual surgeries through which transsexual subjects areconstituted as such (1995, 110). As a consequence,she sees transsexual subjectivity as entirely dependent upon medicaltechnology. In Hausman's view, transsexuals and doctors workinterdependently to produce “the standard account” oftranssexuality which serves as a “cover” for the demand forsurgery and to justify access to the medical technologies (110, 138–9).Behind the “cover” there is only the problematic demand to,through technology, engineer oneself as a subject. Because of this,Hausman claims that transsexual agency can be “readthrough” the medical discourse (110).

A corollary of her view is that the very notion of gender (as apsychological entity and cultural role distinguished from sex) is aconsequence of medical technology, and in part, the emergence oftranssexuality. Rather than arising as a consequence of sexist genderroles, Hausman argues, transsexuality is one of vehicles through whichgender itself is produced as an effect of discourses designed tojustify access to certain medical technology (140). In defending thisposition, Hausman points to the historical emergence of the expressionsgender and gender identity in the work of individualssuch as John Money and Robert Stoller (discussed earlier). She seessuch historical developments not as moments of intellectual discoverybut as discursive development. It is the precisely the development ofthis new gender discourse which ushers in gender and gender identity.And such discourse is made possible, for Hausman, through the advancein technology which allows surgical treatment of intersex andtranssexual individuals. In effect, gender and gender identitydiscourse emerges as a way to motivate and justify the deployment ofcertain medical technologies.

In light of this, Hausman critiques Butler for assuming anahistorical use of gender/sex in her attempt to read sex as“gender all along.” On the contrary, argues Hausman, genderwas a historical development (179). Prior to gender, argues Hausman,the reproductive subject (i.e., woman or man understood within aheterosexual framework) was understood in terms of the body assignifier of sex. With the development of gender, the reproductivesubject (now understood in terms of heterosexual gender role) is takento signify gender identity (as the very ground for biological sex)(187–88). Hausman resists Butler's (1990) call to proliferategenders, then, and insists instead on a return to the notion of sex(180).

A significant component of Hausman's account is that transsexualagency is inherently complicit in the medical model (140). For Hausman,transsexuals are defined by their desire for surgical conversion andhave their subjectivity constituted by and through medical accounts oftranssexuality. Beyond the medical model, no transsexual subjectivityis possible at all, according to Hausman. Whereas Stone (1991) soughtto disrupt the traditional transsexual narrative by making room for theexperiences of transsexuals (captured in “double vision”)and by generating new hybrid (“genre-blending”) narratives,Hausman denies that there is anything further to be said (174).Notably, Hausman appears to misrepresent Stone as claiming that thereis a single reality or truth to be told, concealed by the medicalnarrative (146). However, she also appears to reject any possibility of“double consciousness” and of trans resistance to themedical model (195–6). This rejection, however, is empirically false asis evidenced by Stone's observations about the subversiveactivities in transsexual subculture (discussed above). Indeed, giventhat Stone herself, a transsexual, seems capable of articulating anaccount of self that exceeds and contests the medical model, it isunclear why and how Hausman can deny that resistant transsexualsubjectivity is possible.

For Hausman, transsexual autobiographies serve the function ofjustifying access to surgery through the deployment of medicalaccounts. The purpose of such narratives is to compel the reader tocomply with the author's experience and to interpret her own lifein the same way (156). Indeed, Hausman argues, these very narrativesbelie several contradictions and are actually self-defeating. Forexample, Hausman notes a self-defeating tension between transsexualclaims to have always been “the other sex” all along andthe related demand for “sex-change” surgery (148). If onewas always that sex all along, then why sex-change surgery?

In response to this charge, Prosser (1998) argues thatautobiographical narrative is essential to understanding transsexualsubjectivity (103). In his view, autobiographicalnarrative—required by the clinician, and then perhaps re-visitedthrough a formal autobiography—allows transsexuals to conferintelligibility upon their lives. Such accounts, Prosser points out,are always retrospective. And they involve a split between thenarrated self and the narrating self. Such tensions between claims tohaving always belonged to a sex (on the one hand) and of going througha process of surgical sex-change (on the other) are simplyconstitutive of the types of tensions that arise in autobiographicalnarrative (1998, 114–120).

Whether or not Prosser is correct, however, Hausman'sidentification of self-undermining tensions is weak. A claim to havealways belonged to a sex and a claim to have become a sex throughsurgery are only in tension if ‘sex’ is used univocally inthe two claims. But it isn't clear that this is so. If claims tohave always belong to a sex are used to flag a gender identity andperhaps the sense that one ought to have born to the other sex (on theone hand), while claims to have changed one's sex are used toflag bodily transformation (on the other hand), then there scarcelyseems to be a self-defeating tension.

Hausman also briefly considers transgender politics as a possiblesource of resistance to the medical conception of transsexuality. Sherecognizes that the possibility of trans people working in a way thatis at odds with the medical regulation of gender is at odds with herattempt to reduce transsexual subjectivity to complicity. In reply,however, Hausman sides with Raymond in affirming that the sheer mix-and-match ofgender presentation does nothing to transcend gender, relying on anunacceptable view of gender as in some ways voluntary (197–8). She alsonotes that Bornstein (whom she sees as representative of all currenttransgender politics) continues to make room for transsexual identitiesand transsexual surgery, which she sees as fundamentally problematic(198). Even if Hausman is right that some transgender activists adoptthis position about transsexuals, however, she hasn't fullyaddressed the main point that there exist forms of trans subjectivitywhich outstrip the medical model. And while she is certainly right thatnot all gender blending is subversive, it isn't clear why noneis.

One of the notable outcomes of Hausman's work (as well asRaymond's new introduction to The Transsexual Empire),was a heightened recognition among trans scholars of the fragility oftransgender studies. Concerned by the continuing transphobia inherentin some non trans feminist writers, C. Jacob Hale drafted“Suggested Rules for Non-Transsexuals Writing aboutTranssexuality, Transsexualism, or Trans” (1997) to assistnon-trans individuals in writing about trans people in ways thatavoided, rather than perpetuated, transphobic strategies andrepresentations.

7. Butch/FTM Border Wars and Border Zone Dwellers

To a large extent, (non-trans) feminist discussion of trans issuesseems to have circulated around the perceived problematic status oftrans people (and, in particular, transsexuals). Moreover, there hasgenerally been an over-emphasis on MTFs in particular. So it is worthdrawing attention to significant (trans) feminist views which haveemerged from disputes in subaltern communities among various non-gendernormative individuals, particularly those assigned female at birth.

Tensions among FTM-identified and butch lesbian-identified people hadbeen leading to politically charged disputes about the significance ofmasculinity. For some lesbians, FTMs represented a betrayal ofwomanhood and a desertion of lesbian community. For some FTMs, butchmasculinity was a lesser and perhaps “artificial”manifestation of masculinity in contrast to the masculinity exemplifiedby FTMs. Such competing ways of understanding masculinity led to whathave sometimes been called “Butch/FTM border wars”(Halberstam and Hale, 1998).

Such conflict found articulation in a dispute over the gender identityand sexual orientation of a young masculine-presentingfemale-assigned-at birth individual, Brandon (Teena), who was slain inHumbolt, Nebraska in 1993, when discovered to be “really awoman.” (Hale [1998a] argues that there is not good evidence thatBrandon used the name Brandon Teena. It has, however, become acommon way of referring to this individual. I place the nameTeena in parentheses to flag the problematic nature of thislinguistic construction). An article in the Village Voice, byDonna Minkowitz entitled “Love Hurts. Brandon Teena Was a WomanWho Lived and Loved as a Man. She was Killed for Carrying ItOff”, led to the formation of Transexual Menace, a trans activistgroup, which protested the perceived invalidation of Brandon'sidentity as transgender person (Prosser 1997, 316).

Similar tensions arose in the academic literature. JudithHalberstam's ground-breaking essay “F2M: The Making ofFemale Masculinity” (1994) was the target of considerablecriticism from within FTM communities (Halberstam 1998a). JayProsser's “No Place Like Home: The Transgendered Narrativeof Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues” (1995)aimed to offer an academic reply to Halberstam's perceivedinvalidation of FTM self-identities.

(Video) Germaine Greer: Transgender women are 'not women' - BBC Newsnight

7.1 Female Masculinity

In “F2M” Halberstam seeks to undercut the representation ofFTM transition as a more radical form of gender crossing than others(such as lesbian butch gender presentation) (1994, 212; 1998a, 289).She points to the failure of the standard scheme (straight/ lesbian/transsexual) in accounting for the multiple and highly specific formsof identity and desire in “postmodern lesbian identities.”She argues against the notion of crossing from one category to anotherin light of the proliferation of such identities situated at alleged“crossings” (1994, 212). By this she means that suchidentities can be taken in their own right as claiming ways of being inthe world that contest the very dominant categories that would situatethem as “crossings.”

Halberstam claims that surgical intervention in the case of“sex-change” serves to “fictionalize” gender(i.e., render or expose as artificial) (1994, 216). Likewise, sheargues, alternative gender presentations involving attire or fantasycan “fictionalize” gender, where in all cases the“fiction” requires a reader (221). These“fictions” may play a significant role in the identitiesand desire of individuals. The upshot is that there is nothingdistinctive about FTM transsexuality in “fictionalizing”gender. Rather a masculine performing butch lesbian, for example,likewise fictionalizes it. “Sex-change” and“cross-dressing” are largely on a par with regard to theircentral importance to identity and desire.

In light of this move, Halberstam notoriously remarks, “We areall transsexuals. There are no transsexuals” (1994, 212) in orderto underline the plurality of ways in which gender (as identity anddesire central) can be “fictionalized.” This attempt toundercut the specificity of FTM transsexuality drew fire from some FTMcircles and Halberstam later weakened her claim (1998a, 306). Herpoint, however, (as she later explained), was to mark out space for thenotion of a transgender butch as a position which resisted acontinuum in which lesbian butch masculinity is represented as lessthan the fully achieved masculinity of FTM transsexuals (1998a,289).

7.2 No Place Like Home

In his reply to Halberstam, Prosser contrasts what he sees as theoppositional positions of queer and trans. He takes issue with atendency in queer theory to represent gender/sex as performance and, inHalberstam's work, fictions. (As has been noted, for some transpeople, the view that gender is unreal or artificial seems to undotheir very attempts to see themselves as “real men” or“real women”). Yet, while there may be some grounds forsome political complaint with this theoretical account, Prosser fallsprey to a view which holds butch lesbian masculine presentation asmerely artificial or gender play, in contrast with the“reality” and “depth” present in the case ofFTMs. In this way, he does not sufficiently differentiate between livedlives that may (or may not) be described as “queer” (e.g.butch masculinities) and an academic queer/postmodern theoreticalstarting point (1995, 487). The latter may very well involve viewingall gender as performance and identity as fictional. However,“queer” lives (involving butch masculinities) need not beviewed this way. To distinguish butch as artificial and transsexual asreal is to refuse to acknowledge the relationship of many butchindividuals to gender and identity.

Prosser's strategy for marking a trans theoretical vantage pointis to draw a contrast between the centrality of performance (in queertheory) and narrative (for transsexual people). He correctly notes atendency in postmodern queer theory to raise questions about thepolitical role of narratives (1995, 484). Such narratives may be seento involve the illusion of a false unity and they may also involveexclusionary politics. Yet narratives, according to Prosser, arecentral to the accounts of transsexuals and such narratives involve thenotion of home and belonging (1995, 488). This appeal to narrativeseems in tension with a picture which underscores the fragmentation ofcoherent narratives into diverse performances and which identifiessubversion with the disruption of narrative-based identities. Coherentnarratives, even if ultimately fictional, play importantintelligibility-conferring roles in the lives of transsexuals,according to Prosser. And this cannot be well-accommodated in accountswhich aim to undermine such coherence.

In Prosser's view, transsexual narratives are driven by a senseof feeling not at home in one's body, through a journey ofsurgical change, ultimately culminating in a coming home to oneself(and one's body) (1995, 490). In this way, the body and bodilydiscomfort constitute the “depth” or “reality”that stands in contrast to the view that body is sexed throughperformative gender behavior which constitutes it as the container ofgender identity. In light of this, Prosser concludes that queertheory's use of transsexuals to undermine gender as mereperformance fails to do justice to the importance of narrative andbelonging in trans identities.

Drawing on Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues, Prosser arguesthat transgender (construed as a departure from traditionaltranssexuality) likewise involves a narrative structure. In this case,however, the narrative involves making a home of the in-between spacebetween man and woman (1995, 500). Since, however, it involves morethan mere performance (i.e., dysphoria concerning one's body) aswell as the centrality of narrative, it ought to be distinguished fromgeneric understandings of queer. He later alters his view slightly,placing transgender in a liminal space between queer and transsexual,admitting far more ambivalence around the notion of home and belonging(1998, 177).

While Prosser may be right to emphasize the importance of narratives inthe identities of transsexual and transgender people, however, it ishardly clear that he can maintain the fairly sharp lines he hopes todraw between transsexual, transgender, and queer. The narrativestructure of identity (as well as notions of home and belonging) may beimportant for many people (including queer-identified ones). And, whilefor Prosser what is distinctive about transsexual/transgendernarratives is that they involve a feeling of bodily unbelonging, itisn't clear why such dysphoria may not be present among nontrans-identified people. Moreover, his view seems to take for grantedthe view that for trans people there is always a “home” towhich one might return (or, at least, imagine). Yet this is to assumethat trans people have the means by which to find this belonging (intheir bodies, etc.). Given economic realities, however, this is farfrom clear. Indeed, given the meagerness of linguistic resources toeven explain trans experiences, it isn't obvious how, in somecases, so much as an imaginary home might be formulated.

7.3 Finding Voice in the Borderlands

The work of C. Jacob Hale is a kind of philosophical intervention inthese borderland disputes. He offers one of the earliest theorizationsof trans issues from within the analytic tradition. And in some ways,his perspective welds together trans, queer, and feminist sensibilitiesfrom a distinctive queer, feminist, ftm vantage point. (Hale uses theterm ftm rather than FTM as a way to refuse the term as anabbreviation of female-to-male. Instead, for Hale, it is acommunity-specific term. This discussion of Hale will respect histerminological decisions). His work centers around the analysis ofgender categories.

Hale (1996) examines Monique Wittig's (1992) contentious claimthat lesbians are not women. (Wittig's point was to turn on itshead the heterosexist view that lesbians fail to count as women byarguing that lesbians step outside the oppressive category of womanwhich requires heterosexual relations with men). Hale is one of thefirst to defend the view (now adopted by many feminist philosophers)that the category woman is what Wittgenstein called afamily-resemblance concept. The concept woman, in Hale'sview, has thirteen, differently weighted characteristics none of whichare necessary or sufficient for category membership (1996, 107–12).This position enables Hale to then argue, pace Wittig, that somelesbians are women, others are not, and for some there is no fact ofthe matter (1996, 115).

In Hale's view, the category woman is inherently normative (1996,104). Individuals who fall within it can be assessed on the degree towhich they conform to the thirteen characteristics. For Hale, thecategory is governed by both positive and negative exemplars. Negativeexemplars serve to proscribe certain forms of behavior and threaten thepossibility of falling out of the category altogether (1996, 105). Yetwhile the threat of falling outside of the category must be in place toregulate conduct, owing to the cultural requirements of preserving theprevailing common sense about gender, very few individuals mustactually fall outside of the category altogether (105–6).

Similarly, Hale argues, there is no single feature which candistinguish between butch and ftm individuals (except, perhaps, thesheer self-identification with the very labels butch orftm). Not all ftms self-identify as men and not allbutches self-identify as women, some butches identify more stronglywith masculinity than do some ftms, and some butches avail themselvesof body-altering medical technologies, while some ftms do not (1998a,321–2). Hale also critiques “desire for a penis” as thedividing line between butches and ftms (199a, 326–30): Such an attempterases complex butch desires as well as the idiosyncratic relationshipof ftms to their bodies while accounting for butch/ftm distinctions ina phallocentric way. Additionally, it draws on a model of“sex-change surgery” which is borrowed from male-to-femalecontexts (in which “the surgery” is identified with genitalsurgery) and thereby further promotes male-to-female dominance in transcontexts (329–30). By this Hale means that “the surgery” istypically used to refer to genital reconstruction surgery. However thecentralization of one surgery is especially problematic in ftmcontexts. Double mastectomy and hysterectomy are other importantsurgeries. Indeed, “top surgery” (as it is sometimescalled) often figures more prominently in ftm contexts.

Instead, Hale suggests that both categories would be better analyzedas family-resemblance concepts (1998a, 323). If so, claims Hale, itwould be better to speak of a border zone where the categoriespartially overlap with each other than to search for a firm boundarybetween the two (323). The model allows Hale to, perhaps in the spiritof Anzaldúa, speak of “border zonedwellers”—individuals who live at the edges of multiple,overlapping identity categories. He argues that given the evidence,Brandon (Teena) appears to have been such a border zone dweller(317–9). Attempts to claim the dead (or the living) who live in suchborder zones, argues Hale, make it even harder for such individuals tolive there (319). It makes it more difficult to live there bythreatening to eliminate border zone space altogether by trying toforce individuals who occupy it into other frameworks. Similarly,border zone dwellers may face pressure to claim identity categoriesthat do not work well and which threaten to erase the specifics oftheir lived experiences (336). Such subject positions (constituted bya lack of any central identity category) are important, albeitdifficult place to speak from (partially because there doesn'tseem to be any available language). Yet such specificity must bemaintained, argues Hale, partially through calling into question thefunction of definitions and categories, partially through artisticendeavor that attempts to creatively give voice to experiences notwell captured in the available language (336–7). Hale strongly urgesthat butch/ftm border zones be “demilitarized” (i.e., thatdifferent “camps” such as ftm community and lesbiancommunity stop trying to claim border zone dwellers as their own)in order to make room for marginalized border zone dwellers themselves(340).

Hale expands on his notion of the border zone dweller in order tooutline what it might be to articulate an ftm feminist voice (1998b).He draws principally on María Lugones' notion of‘world’-travelling (Lugones 1987). In her view, thosemarginalized by the mainstream may occupy different‘worlds’ in which they may be constructed as differentpersons. (A shift in self, for Lugones, constitutes a shift in‘world’). For Hale, then, border zone dwellers, those whooccupy ‘dislocated locations,’ may fit within differentcategories (‘man’, ‘ftm’, ‘butch’,‘genderqueer’ etc.) that attach to different cultural‘worlds’ (1998b, 116–7). However, since these border zonedwellers are marginal with respect to the categories, their fit in allcases will be only limited and tenuous. In this way, Hale modifiesLugones' conception of ‘world’-travel (which does notpostulate such a tenuous fit into categories) (117). By contrast,Lugones' conception insists upon the multiplicity of languagesand systems of meaning, which is de-emphasized in Hale'smodel.

Hale argues that because many ftms have had experiences living as girlsor women, have a history of moving in feminist ‘worlds’,and may be far more aware of the significance of masculine enactments,there is a strong basis for wanting to avoid certain forms ofmasculinity while embracing those which abide by feminist values(1998b, 118). This requires, according to Hale, maintaining human bondswith non-trans feminist women and travelling to their“worlds” while continuing to recognize oneself as a borderdweller. This is difficult, however, given assumptions by non-transfeminists who do not have the experience of certain forms of genderoppression (such as transphobia) (118).

It also requires caution with respect to the types of identificationsone makes. For Hale, identification as a member of a categoryinvolves both identifications with members of that group aswell as identifications as not-members of some other category(119). There may be pressure, through uptake of the category ftm, forexample, to identify primarily with non-trans men and to dis-identifywith butch lesbians. Such pressure, for Hale must be avoided (119).Identification with may operate independently ofidentification as a member of category (on the basis of, forexample, historical ties). The making of such identifications must beguided by the exercise of moral and political agency. In light of this,Hale argues, gendered self-identities must be made secondary to moraland political identifications (120).

8. Feminist Solidarity After Queer Theory

After Butler, there have been notable non-trans feminist contributionsto the study of trans issues, focusing largely on the issue of feministsolidarity and trans identities. In marked contrast to the works ofRaymond and Hausman, these contributions constitute sincere efforts atpromoting trans and non-trans feminist coalition.

8.1 Secular Jews and Transsexual Women

Naomi Scheman (1997) examines the ways in which certain dominant formsof normativity necessitate “abjected others” who arerequired but rendered impossible and unintelligible to normativelyprivileged selves. Scheman rejects the options of either claiming aplace at the center of normalized forms of life (from which one hasinitially been excluded), or refusing to engage the dominant forms ofidentity at all (by accepting one's “marginal”status). Instead, Scheman aims to contest the normative center bycentralizing those who have been marginalized (126–7). With this inmind, she begins with the assumption that marginalized lives “arelived, and hence livable” (132).

Scheman draws on her own lack of clarity about Jewish identity, as asecular Jew, in order to help trouble the unproblematic status of herown gender. She sees a Jewish people conceptually required byChristianormativity, and yet rendered unintelligible by itsrepresentation of all religions as entirely conversion-based (1997,128). Under such conditions, it becomes hard to explain what it is toidentify as a secular Jew. Likewise, she sees transsexuality asinvolving a required incoherence. Since heteronormativity requires a“natural” binary of women and men, transsexuals areparadoxically defined by an insistence of having always been the othersex all along and thereby required to deny their own histories (asStone argues) (138–9). In this respect, Scheman notes,Christianormativity and heteronormativity are contrasting: The formerrepresents all religions as driven by choice and conversion, the latterrepresents all gender as naturally determined at birth (142).

Both “Jewishness” and “womanhood” for Scheman,can be understood as family-resemblance concepts (1997, 144). Howeverthose who have been assigned to the category Jew on the basisof ancestry or to a gender on the basis of birth form the basis of suchconcepts without which the concepts would not exist at all (144). Sheintroduces the expression “perinatally pinked” to describethose individuals who have experienced oppression as female from birthand recommends it as a way to understand the need for“womyn-born-womyn” space which she sees as intended forhealing the damage inflicted through natal assignment as a female in amisogynist society (141–2).

Yet just as individuals may convert to Judaism and become a Jew,Scheman suggests, MTFs may be understood to “convert” towomanhood. In both cases, such individuals are no less real than thosewho have been assigned the categories at birth (144). While she notesseveral disanalogies (e.g., in the case of transsexuality one does notsimply choose, as one might convert to a religion), she alsosuggests that by viewing sex/gender as more analogous to Jewishness inthis respect, some of its oppressiveness might be undermined (145). Thenotion of joining a collectivity is important, for Scheman, because itstresses the importance of shared bonds, values, and commitments. Inthe end, this is what is most important, she argues: “The issue,then, is not who is or is not really whatever but who can be counted onwhen they come for any one of us: The solid ground is not identity butloyalty and solidarity” (153).

8.2 Gender as Relational

Cressida Heyes continues this non-trans feminist project of findinggrounds for solidarity between (non trans) feminists and trans folk.Following Hale, she argues that woman is a family-resemblanceconcept, regulated in different ways for different political purposes(2000, 84–5). And following Scheman, she notes that in some casesdifferences between trans and non-trans women (such as being“perinatally pinked”) may need to be emphasized forpolitical purposes (93). She offers a critique of the non-transfeminist positions of Raymond and Hausman, while also critiquing whatshe sees as troubling tendencies in some transgender politics (such asthe work of Leslie Feinberg) to adopt a liberal conception of the selfas atomistic (2003). In this way, she seeks to find some middle, commonground.

Heyes argues that both Raymond and Hausman are caught in the grip of apicture which precludes any examination of their own gender privilegewhile foreclosing the possibility of perceiving trans resistance (2003,1095). This foreclosure is accomplished through assimilating alltranssexual subjectivity into to a hetero-patriarchal medical discourseabout transsexuality (2003, 1095). Using Feinberg's bookTrans Liberation as an example, Heyes also raises worriesabout a transgender politics which says that individual genderexpression ought not be subject to criticism, restriction, oroppression. She observes that gender is not merely an aesthetic styleor expression of an isolated self. It is relational and often embeddedin problematic systems of oppression. This means that forms ofmasculinity involve interacting with women, for example, in particularways. Certain forms of masculinity involve misogyny. What it means tobe a “real man” may involve relating to women inhostile, destructive ways. Such gender behavior ought to becritiqued. What is missing from accounts which merely tout genderfreedom of expression, Heyes argues, is a rich “ethics oftransformation” which distinguishes between progressivetransformations from those who are oppressed and marginalized andhegemonic (i.e., dominant; oppressive) forms of gender that onlyfurther oppression and marginalization (2003, 1111–3).

8.3 Race/Sex Analogies

Heyes also examines the use of sex/race analogy in questions abouttranssexuality and a hypothetical “transracialism.” RecallRaymond's rhetorical question “Does a Black person whowants to be white suffer from the ‘disease’ of being a‘transracial?’” Such a question is intended to showthat, since “transracialism” is politically and morallysuspect, so too, is transsexuality. Christine Overall, by contrast,argues the inverse of what Raymond claims, namely that those who acceptthe morality of transsexuality ought to accept the morality of“transracialism” as well (2004).

Heyes observes that Raymond's claim that “there is nodemand for transracial medical intervention precisely because mostBlacks recognize that it is their society, not their skin, that needschanging” [1994, xvi] is actually empirically false (2003, 1102).Cosmetic procedures do exist which aim to modify ethnically orracially marked features (e.g. hair-straightening treatments,nose-jobs, eye-lid surgery). Heyes points to Raymond's use of asex/race analogy to dismiss transsexuals as “capricious orappropriative” (2006, 269). The analogy is used, Heyes claims, asa basis for assessing the motivations and politics of individuals whochange identity in a way that problematically assumes that suchmotivations may be based on a “transparent political evaluationof its benefits and drawbacks” (ibid.).

While Overall offers a far more nuanced analysis, claims Heyes, shestill treats race and sex in a way that is abstracted from thehistorical conditions and assumes that such history is irrelevant toethical assessment (2006, 269–70). In particular, Heyes argues that indrawing analogies between race and sex there is a danger in not payingsufficient attention to the contrasting histories of race and sex. Forexample, since sex has been viewed as a core ontological fact in abinary scheme, the conditions are in place for the possibility ofsex-change as well as medicalized transsexual discourse whichreinscribes this basic, ontological binary (2003, 1102; 2006, 2006,277). By contrast, while race has also been viewed as a naturalcategory, there is another racial discourse which understands it as asuperficial feature under which human beings are all the same. This,along with the lack of the same strict binary, does not provide thesame conditions which would make “transracialism” a similarpossibility (2003, 1103).

Heyes points to the historical role played by heredity in determiningrace (but not sex). This mitigates against the possibility of“transracialism” in a way that is not present in the caseof sex, she argues (2006, 271). Relatedly, changing race has a historyof being associated with “passing” which would leave any“transracialist” subject to accusations of“passing” in a way that is not present in the case ofsexual crossing (272). Heyes notes, then, that those promoting cosmeticprocedures which change ethnic or racial features take care to avoidissues around racial betrayal by emphasizing individual self-expressionand aesthetics (273–4). By contrast, argues Heyes, since sex is notviewed as hereditary, the possible of sex-change has been more viable.Indeed, contemporary sex must be understood as partially constituted bythe history of technological developments in sex modification (as“passing” has partially constituted race) that hasprecisely allowed for such sex-change within the discourse ofpathology and internal gender identity (277).

8.4 Aspirational Identities

In considering the metaphysics of sex/gender transition(i.e. transition from man to woman or woman to man), Christine Overall(2009), critiques two accounts of it. Both accounts agree that, in away, there is no change of sex/gender at all. One remains thesex/gender one always was. She calls both of these “masqueradehypotheses” (12). In the first version, adopted usually by (some)nontrans people, the trans person who transitions from one sex/genderto another is merely donning a mask or engaging in a pretense thateffectively hides what they always really were (the “trueperson”). In such a view, the trans person is represented aseither deceptive or deluded. In the second version, adopted usually by(some) trans people, the trans person who transitions is merelybecoming what they always already were, through pulling off a kind ofbodily mask which fails to express what they are “on theinside” (the “true person”). In both accounts,sex/gender is invariant. Rather than changing sex/gender, one eithermoves into the state of masquerade or out of it. Overall argues thatboth the delusion and deception are implausibly applied to the diverselives of all trans people and, indeed, belied by the lives of manytrans people (13-14). She rejects the second masquerade account on thegrounds that it relies on a suspect metaphysics (14-18).

In Overall's view, by contrast, we ought to understand sex/gendertransition as analogous to “other life-changing andlife-enhancing aspirations for personal transformation andself-realization” (19). Some of the examples she gives includebecoming an immigrant; joining a twelve-step program to give upalcohol, joining a religion, becoming a mother. “Some goals andaspirations,” Overall writes, “are deeply felt and ofcentral value to particular individuals, and it is those goals andaspirations that provide the dominant drives of the individual”(19). In place of both masquerade views, she proposes that we viewsex/gender transition as an actual change in sex/gender. What remainsconstant is not some reified gendered self. Instead, the person“persists insofar as her way of being, after transition, isdesired and actively sought by her previous self, so that the way ofbeing after the transition grows out of the previous self, isgenerated by the previous self, and can be understood in terms ofcharacteristics of the previous self” (20).

(Video) Feminist speaks out against trans movement

One unfortunate consequence of this view is that a trans man (forexample) cannot truthfully claim to be a man prior totransitioning. To be sure, there is a sense in which being a man is acore part of his identity both prior to transition and afterwards,since becoming a man is a life-changing aspiration subsequentlyrealized. Her account is therefore importantly different from thefirst masquerade account in that it takes seriously trans identities,viewing them as striving for a kind of authenticity. But his claim tobe a man (or male) prior to transitioning is still false. To see thismore clearly consider that insofar as Overall (2009) effectivelydefines sex in terms of genitalia (11), it follows that a trans manwho has not undergone phalloplasty has not yet changed his sex (and isstill therefore female, and possibly still a woman). The problem isthat, in part owing to its cost, many trans men elect not to have thistype of surgery. Nonetheless, they may still regard themselves as men(and even male). This leaves open the possibility for the charge ofself-delusion or self-deception to re-emerge despite Overall's attemptto avoid this.

Overall (2012) uses her conception of gender/sextransition as aspirational, to undermine the view that trans andcisgender people are very different from each other. Her goal in doingthis is not to elide the forms of violence and discrimination to whichtrans people are subject as trans, but to call into question the viewthat being cisgender is normal, while being trans is deviant(252-3).

She distinguishes between acquired and aspirational identities. Thefirst are assigned or earned in such a way that no further work isrequired to maintain them (255). For example, being a biologicalmother is an acquired identity. Aspirational identity, by contrast,requires constant work to maintain (256). For example, being a mother(as in a caregiver for one or more children) requires constantmaintenance. Overall argues that gender identity (by which she meansthe social categories boy/man and girl/woman) is aspirational innature. “One can aspire to exemplify a gender through theaforementioned bodily styling, self-presentation, and genderedactivities, all of which must be ongoing for gender identitymaintenance” (256-57). She also argues that sex itself may bebecoming an aspirational identity (at least for some) insofar as bothcis and trans people alike seek out surgery and other medicalprocedures (e.g. hormone therapy) to alter or augment the sexualcharacteristics of their bodies (258).

Overall then argues that trans and cis people have the followingfeatures in common (with regard to aspirational identity). Both areimmersed in a system of compulsory gender maintenance, both aresubject to constraints on how their gender identities are maintainedwhile also afforded various opportunities to express their identities,both are subject to various dangers connected to gender maintenance(e.g., trans people can be subject to transphobic violence for“misrepresenting” their genital status, while cis women maybe subject to violence on the basis of their gender presentation),finally (and contrary to a common assumption) both may experienceforms of continuity and discontinuity in their gender aspirations. Forexample, a trans person may harbor gender aspirations of being agirl/woman for most of their life, while a cis woman may, as aconsequence of feminism, alter her womanly aspirations. In this way,Overall continues this non-trans feminist project of finding groundsfor solidarity between non-trans feminists and trans people.

9. The Phenomenology of Trans Embodiment

Gayle Salamon's work (2010) concerns the phenomenology of genderedembodiment and, in particular, trans experiences of dissonance between“felt body” and the external appearance of the body. Sherevisits the dispute between Judith Butler (who claims that thegendered self is socially-constructed) and trans theorists, such asJay Prosser (1998) who, rather than taking transsexuality as evidenceof the constructedness of gender, points to it as evidence ofsomething that transcends such construction (1998, 7 and 65). Asidefrom arguing that Prosser misreads both Freud and Didier Anzieu (2010,39-40), Salamon defends the implausibility of viewing proprioceptiveawareness of the body as somehow culturally-transcendent. She arguesthat the body postulated in such a view is ultimately unrecognizableas human (88). In her view, “the same social forces thatconstitute a body as culturally legible or illegible also shape thevery feelings of embodiment that would seem to be most personal, mostindividual, and most immune to regulatory injunction” (77).

Drawing on the work of Schilder (1950), Salamon sees one’s bodyimage as not innate, but as built up over time through experientialcontact with the world (including interactions with other people). Inlight of this, Salamon argues that the lack of fit between felt senseof body and external appearance of the body experienced by some transpeople is, in fact, pervasive - relevant to trans and non-trans folkalike: “The production of normative gender itself,” shewrites, “relies on a disjunction between the 'felt sense' of thebody and the body's corporeal contours and . . . this disjunction neednot be viewed as a pathological structure” (2010, 2).

Yet it is not clear how such an environmental account can explainthe genesis of trans experiences of “wrong”embodiment. Consider that not all trans women possess a consciousself-identity of being a woman (or a girl) from a very early age, andnot all trans men possess a conscious self-identity of being a man (orboy) from early on. Imagine, then a trans woman who is raised to seeherself as male and to follow “the proper” gendernorms. This person should, in the environmental account, develop abody image that would be described as roughly 'male.' For inaccordance with external gender norms and internalized genderidentity, this person will have generally had the types of interactiveworldly-experiences that would be expected to yield such animage. Thus, if there's such an image that's incongruent with assignedgender, it mustn't have been developed in that environmental way.

In addition to possessing an internal perception of one's body,however, one is also affectively invested in one's body. That is, onetakes an interest in it and has strong emotions about it. Salamonwrites, “Without that investment, our relationship to our bodiesis one of depersonalized estrangement: my sense of the”mine-ness“ of my own body-and, crucially, even my senseof its coherence-depends on this narcissistic investment” (2010,42). This provides a way to move beyond the limitations of(socially-regulated) environmental experience insofar as suchaffective attitudes are not subject to the same type ofworldly-constraint.

The challenge, however, is to explain this investment in such a waythat does not reduce to sexuality or forms of eroticism. Expressionssuch as Schilder's libinal investment have strong sexualconnotations. And the worry is that an appeal to such notions willreduce trans experiences of bodily dsyphoria to sexualfeelings. This is of particular concern in light of the longstanding tendency (as Salamon notes, 2010, 45) to construetranssexuality in terms of sexual desire, to reduce cross-genderidentification to a kind of sexual fetish, and to elide trans genderbody dysphoria as a discrete phenomenon. Unfortunately in herdiscussion of this issue, Salamon appeals to Butler's notion of themorphological imaginary which itself actually does appear to privilegethe sexual. What remains to be explained - a serious lacuna - is thenon-sexual affective investment in the gendered body that presumablymust ground the disjunction between felt sense of gendered body andthe visual body in cases of trans bodily dysphoria.

In her own account of sexual desire, however, Salamon is notablycareful to avoid reducing transsexuality to eroticism. She is merelyinterested instead, in accommodating trans experiences of sexuality ina way that is not invalidating (2010, 45). Salamon draws onMerleau-Ponty's notions of the sexual schema and transposition. Inexperiencing sexual desire, one is oriented toward an object ofdesire. In transposition, one's body (that “houses”) thesexual desire comes to be replaced by (or itself actually becomes) thedesire itself. Salamon illustrates the point as follows. When I'mthirsty and reach for a glass of water, “my arm, unbent andreaching out, is no longer the location of my sensation but ratherbecomes the gesture through which I am toward the other. The arm isthe conduit of desire, but not the seat of its sensation”(54).

In Salamon's account, what's important is not the actual body partitself, but its role in sexual desire, and this process oftransposition: “The join between desire and the body is thelocation of sexuality, and that join may be a penis, or some otherphallus, or some other body part, or a region of the body that is notindividuated into a part, or a bodily auxiliary that is notorganically attached to the body” (2010, 51). In this way,Salamon's appeal to Merleau-Ponty is similar to Butler's notion of themorphological imaginary with respect to the role of the erotic inincorporating the part through a form of sexuality (or, actually, thewhole way of being toward another). Notably, however, Salamon'saccount allows her to show how one's “internal sense ofgender” can become capable of being witnessed by others in theworld. For rather than talking merely about an internal feeling, weare talking about ways of being in the world, in interaction withothers.

10. Toward a Trans/Feminism

Many trans women, because they are women, are well acquaintedwith mechanisms of sexism and sexual violence. Moreover, sometimessexism and transphobia can be blended together inseparably. Forexample, some trans women may sometimes find that they arestereotypically represented as prostitutes simply because they areseen as transgender women. With such considerations in mind,a trans feminist stance might involve taking the oppression of transwomen as its starting point. Several writers have outlineddistinctive “trans feminist” positions.

10.1 A Transfeminist Manifesto

Emi Koyama defines transfeminism as “primarily a movement by andfor trans women who view their liberation to be intrinsically linkedto the liberation of all women and beyond” (2003, 244). ForKoyama, transfeminism “stands up for trans and non-trans womenalike, and asks non-trans women to stand up for trans-women inreturn”, thereby embracing feminist coalition politics (ibid.).Some of the issues of transfeminist concern, for Koyama, include bodyimage, violence against women, and health and reproductive choice.

Koyama deepens the discussion of the tensions, identified by Heyes,between freedom of gender expression (on the one hand) and concernsabout the political implications of gender understood as relational(on the other). While Koyama calls trans women to avoid the uptake ofsexist forms of gender as well as refusing any traditional appeal toan essentializing gender identity, she also recognizes that transwomen can find themselves in situations in which uptake of traditionalforms of gender are necessary to secure access to medicaltechnologies, legitimation as “real women”, and avoidanceof transphobic violence through passing (as non-trans) (2003). Sheraises worries about the purist demand that a trans womaneradicate all gender stereotypes in a society in which suchstereotypes pervade. She insists instead on the priority of largerscale coalitional politics, leaving individual women to make their ownpersonal decisions about how to negotiate gender, free of judgmentsabout who does and does not count as a feminist (2003).

Koyama also takes up the issues of trans exclusion in the“womyn-born womyn” policy of the Michigan Womyn's MusicFestival. Koyama criticizes the efforts of some post-operative transwomen to accept a “compromise” policy which would haveadmitted only post-operative trans women. Such a policy, arguesKoyama, would unfairly advantage those trans women with greatereconomic resources, and is consequently both classist and racist(2006, 700). Koyama also argues that even if it is true that non-transwomen require their own space, this does not preclude the admission oftrans women into the festival, since while women of color have specialexclusionary space on the land, this does not require that white womencannot enter the festival at all (701). Moreover, Koyama points out,such special space for women of color does not exclude those women ofcolor who can pass as white (and thereby receive certain privileges)(701). Indeed, Koyama argues, the exclusion of trans women isinherently racist insofar as it is uses differences in experience torule out trans women, a policy which can only make sense if it ispresupposed that feminist solidarity requires a monolithically sharedexperience (704).

10.2 Trans Woman Manifesto

Another version of trans feminist politics has been elaborated byJulia Serano who distinguishes between traditional sexism (which shesees as the belief that males and masculinity are superior to femalesand femininity) and oppositional sexism (which she sees as the beliefthat male and female, along with masculinity and femininity,constitute exclusive categories) (2007, 12–3). Serano coins theexpression trans-misogyny to capture forms of discriminationwhich pertain specifically to trans women which principally targettheir perceived femininity (13). For example, Serano points to ways inwhich some trans women are represented in the media as either sexuallypredatory deceivers or pathetic, laughable, fakes (36). In Serano'sview, such representations derive largely from a sexist focus on thefeminine presentation of trans women and the tendency to viewfemininity as artificial (43–44). Serano also provocativelyargues that the devaluation of feminine males is a distinctive form oftraditional sexism which she calls “effemimania” (129,287).

Serano posits the existence of a “subconscious sex” tocapture the traditional notion of gender identity without requiring aninitial conscious awareness of “wrong body” which shesuggests is biologically grounded and largely limited to body ratherthan social role (78–82). (In this way, her notion echoesProsser's appeal to “body ego.”) Serano deploys theterm cissexualism to indicate the advantaging of those forwhom biological sex and subconscious sex are in alignment. The termcisgenderism, by contrast, indicates the assumption that malesought to be masculine and females ought to be feminine (wheremasculinity and femininity are constituted by the set of attributestypically associated with males and females respectively) (90). Seranotakes the position that while some forms of femininity may be sociallyinstituted, many feminine attributes may also be biologically grounded.She writes:

One would have to have a rather grim view of the female populationto believe that a majority could so easily be “brainwashed”or “coerced” into enthusiastically adopting an entirelycontrived of wholly artificial set of gender expressions. In fact, itseems incomprehensible that so many women could so actively gravitatetoward femininity unless there was something about it that resonatedwith them on a profound level. (2007, 339)

There is a worry, however, about Serano's under-estimation of thedegree and depth of female subordination as well as her theoreticalfailure to distinguish between “personal resonance” andenforced social acquiescence. In Serano's view, many (non-trans)feminists have engaged in negative assessments of femininity (viewingit as strictly an imposed artifice) and thereby implicated themselvesin a form of sexism. Indeed, Serano claims that any feminist critiqueof trans femininity is inherently anti-feminist:

In other words, when we critique any gender as being‘good’ or ‘bad,’ we are by definition, beingsexist. After all, isn't what drives many of us into feminism andqueer activism in the first place our frustration that other peopleoften place rather arbitrary meanings and values onto our sexed bodies,gender expression, and sexualities? (2007, 360)

While Serano may be right to raise worries about the ways in which thebehavior of trans women has been unfairly judged, a position whichallows for no analysis of politically problematic gender behavior atall seems to seriously impair feminism's critical force. The coreissue is that Serano does not see gender as fundamentally relational.This allows her to view gender as something that everybody ought to befree to express in any way they want to (free of judgment as‘good’ or ‘bad’). However, once gender isviewed as relational, it seems entirely appropriate to raise feministworries about certain forms of masculinity that involve treating womenbadly and certain forms of femininity that involve accepting poortreatment. Once gender is recognized as relational (i.e., as involvingthe treatment of other gendered people in particular ways), it can besubject to ethical evaluation (e.g.,“that gendered behaviorinvolves hurting people”). For the very sake of trans women andtheir safety, such a trans feminist intervention is surelyappropriate.

In fairness to Serano, she does not fail to note sexist relationsbetween men and women. Indeed, she offers a rich account of thesexualization of trans women (2007, 253–262). In her view,however, such negative relational features which accrue to femininityflow from the inappropriate interpretation and evaluation offemininity, rather than femininity itself. That said, the difficultyis how one is to distinguish femininity as abstracted from suchrelational social meanings. Even if such a project were possible, itseems clear enough that feminists are concerned precisely by theharmful forms of masculinity and femininity that are deeply implicatedin systems of social meaning. And it seems unfair to accuse feministswho raise worries about such forms of sexism as themselves sexist, byconstruing them as negatively assessing some culturally abstractedform of femininity.

10.3 Evil Deceivers and Make-Believers

Talia Mae Bettcher (2012a; 2013; 2014) argues against both thetraditional wrong-body account of transsexuality (in which genderidentity is taken as innate, allegedly determining one's“real” sex) and the newer, beyond-the-binary vision thatemerged with the new transgender politics of thenineteen-nineties. Both accounts invalidate trans identities, sheargues - the first, by invalidating the self-identities of transpeople who do not regard their genitals as wrong, the second, byrepresenting all trans people as problematically positioned withregard to the binary (2013, 53). Moreover, both accounts fail on theirown terms. While beyond-the-binary politics tend to marginalize transpeople who position themselves within the binary, and therefore failsas a complete account of trans oppression and resistance (2014, 387),the wrong-body account fails to secure trans identity claims to belongto their preferred gender categories (for example, she argues,according to the dominant meaning of woman, an MTF who has had genitalreconstruction surgery is at best a difficult case (possibly a manowing to chromosomes, possibly a woman owing to genitalia) (2014,386). Bettcher's aim (2012a, 2014), then, is to provide an account oftrans politics that does not marginalize trans people who situatethemselves within the binary and that successfully grounds theirself-identity claims.

Instead of attempting to justify trans self-identity claims, Bettcher(2012a) argues, such claims ought to be accepted as presumptivelyvalid as a starting-point of trans theory and politics (245-6). Sheadopts the general view that (many) trans people tend to oppose themeanings of mainstream gender terms and practices. In many transsubcultures, she argues, the meaning of terms such as womanand man are altered so that both trans men and trans womenturn out to paradigm instances of men and women respectively(241). For example possession of XY chromosomes does not count againsttrans woman's claim to womanhood insofar as a trans woman is a kind ofwoman who tends to have XY chromosomes. As a consequence of this, anMTF may count as a man in mainstream culture while she may count as awoman in a resistant trans subculture (242). More deeply, Bettcherargues (2009, 110-12), the shift in meaning involves not only anexpansion of the category, but also a change in use, reflected in thegrammar of first and third person assertions. It is no longer merely aquestion whether the category is truthfully predicated of the objectin question. Instead, there is a first person, present tense avowal ofgender. For example, the claim “I am a trans woman” may bean avowal of a deep sense of “who one is” (that is, of one'sdeepest values and commitments) where defeasible avowals of gender arepresumptively taken as authoritative (2009, 110-12). The politicalconflict, at any rate, is framed in terms of competing culturalformations where the dominant one possesses institutional power andthe capacity to enforce a way of life and way of seeing the world,regardless of the personal costs to the trans people involved andregardless of subcultural socially practices which help give theirlives meaning (2009, 115; 2012, 243; 2013, 53-54; 2014, 388-90). (Onenotable absence, in this view, is any account of how it is that transpeople are motivated to transition and to occupy such trans culturalspaces in the first place. That is, there is no account of underlyinggender dysphoria).

Bettcher characterizes the nature of trans oppression largely in termsof a form of transphobia she in earlier work calls the Basic Denial ofAuthenticity (BDA) (2006b, 181) and in later work, reality enforcement(2013, 58-9; 2014, 392). In this type of transphobia, the identityinvalidation of trans men and trans women is situated in discoursesabout appearance, reality, exposure, discovery, and deception. Forexample, a trans woman may be viewed as “really a man disguisedas a woman.” Importantly, for Bettcher, the invalidation isconnected to forms of genital verification. Explicit genitalverification involves literally exposing or touching the trans personinappropriately to determined “what they are really.”Implicit genital verification involves euphemistic questions andclaims (“Have you had the surgery?” “Are you male orfemale?”). Reality enforcement takes two forms given by thepossibilities of the trans person being visibly trans or passing asnon-trans. In the latter case, trans individuals may be viewed asdeceptive (when “exposed”), while in the former case theymay be viewed as playing at harmless make-believe. Either way, sheargues, trans self-identities are invalidated (2007, 50-51).

Bettcher argues that an account of transphobia which appeals onlyto the imposition of a strict man/woman binary cannot account forreality enforcement and leads to a restricted and problematic visionof trans politics. Such identity invalidations often do not involveperplexity on the part of the transphobe about how to situate thetrans person categorically. On the contrary, trans people are viewedas “really men” or “really women” (2006b,184-7). Moreover, she critiques transgender politics ofvisibility. For given that reality enforcement always produces adouble-bind, Bettcher argues, such a politics may not always bepromising. Indeed, if it is impossible for trans people to tell thetruth because whatever they do (“pass” as non-trans or“come out” as trans) yields the view that they arefraudulent deceivers or pretenders, then it seems that it is notpossible to tell the truth in the first place(2006b, 188-90, 195). Ifso, the demand to “tell the truth about oneself” wouldseem misplaced.

Bettcher argues that by recognizing reality enforcement and resistantresponses to it, the perceived conflict (discussed earlier in thisentry) between theories which reduce gender to a social constructionand the political necessity of taking seriously trans identities whichclaim gender realness can be better mitigated. Insofar as realityenforcement has sway, trans people are inevitably constructed asfrauds or fakes (2006b, 194). But the general claim that all gender issocially constructed simply does not address the specific ways inwhich trans people are constructed as fraudulent. Bettcher argues thatonce we recognize reality enforcement trans people who contest suchinvalidation by claiming gender realness may also be viewed asresistant to transphobic oppression, thereby undermining the tendency(present in Butler) to dismiss such individuals as merely genderreactionary or conservative (2014, 397-99). Indeed, the Wrong-BodyAccount itself may be viewed as response to reality enforcementthrough a kind of inversion where the body is now viewed as thedeceptive appearance which hides the true, concealed gender identity(2014, 399-404).

A central thesis in Bettcher's account is that reality enforcement isexplained by the fact that gender presentation (taken as“appearance”) literally signifies physical sex and inparticular, genital status (taken as “deep reality”). If itis true that trans people who “misalign” gender presentationwith sexed body are deceivers or pretenders, then those who“correctly” align presentation with body tell the truth. Inlight of this, Bettcher argues, there is a representational relationbetween gender presentation and sexed body (2007, 52-3). Bettcherdraws attention to the irony that attire is intended to conceal one's“privates” while it also serves to symbolically reveal thatwhich is private (2007, 53). Insofar as it is invasive to demandprivate bodily information of a complete stranger, she argues, asystem, enforced by violence which requires the disclosure of genitalstatus is inherently abusive. In light of this, she argues, realityenforcement is inherently bound up with sexual abuse (2006a,205-6).

Bettcher introduces the notion of intimatepersonhood (2012b) to further illuminate reality enforcement and itsgrounding in gender presentation as genital representation. In thisview, people are given to us through forms of sensory (and discursive)access that admit of interpersonal closeness (intimacy) and distance(324). This access, she argues, and therefore intimate personhooditself, requires the existence of normative interpersonal boundarieson sensory access to bodies, while the actual structure of boundariesis culturally contingent (325). In our culture, nakedness as a socialpossibility and a form of self-presentation, she argues, is just associally-constructed as (public) gender presentation (322). It isdetermined by the subjection of bodies to sex-differential boundariesof privacy and decency boundaries which protect both the object andsubject of sensory access and which provide the underlying rationalefor public concealment (322-3). Female nipples, for example aresubject to boundaries on sensory access while male nipples arenot. Moreover, while a man seeing a woman's genitals may constitute aviolation of her privacy, a woman seeing a man's may involve hiscommitting an indecency offense against her (327). Thus, in her view,just as there are two forms of public gender presentation, so thereare two sex-differentiated forms of nakedness (326) and her centralthesis that gender presentation communicates genital status becomesthe more refined view that clothed gender presentation representsnaked gender presentation through euphemistic means (329-330).

Bettcher argues that this gender-genital representational relationis part of a larger non-verbal system of communication that is used inmanipulative heterosexual sexuality. For example, feminine attire hasbeen used to excuse rape in “she asked for it”defenses. In Bettcher's view, gender presentation as genitalrepresentation is of a piece with this type of sexual“communication”: One reason for the communication ofgenital status is to secure manipulative heterosexual sexuality (2007,56). Notably, this yields specific difficulties for trans women whicharise at the intersections of sexism and transphobia. For example, atrans woman who is passing as non-trans may be subject to sexualizedscrutiny (increasing her chances of being “read”) (2006a,207). Moreover, the very behavior which opens her to the double-bindedmanipulations of (hetero) sexuality may appear necessarily in order toavoid being exposed as a “deceiver” (2006a, 207).

Bettcher points to ways in which racist ideology, rape, and racistaccusations of rape intersect with each other. Consider the raping ofblack women by white men and the lynching of black men (justifiedthrough false accusation of having raped white women) as historicaltactics of racial subordination. Bettcher argues since realityenforcement is involved in broader relations of sexual violence andsince such violence has been interwoven with racial injustice, realityenforcement is likewise grounded in racial oppression (2007,57). Indeed, Bettcher suggests that attempts to address transphobiawhich fail to take seriously the realities of racial oppression (byworking uncritically with the criminal justice system, for example)are bound to fail (2007, 58–60). Bettcher concludes that heraccount can serve as a theoretical basis for anti-racist trans andnon-trans feminist solidarity (2007, 57–8). It can alsoelucidate transphobic feminist representations of trans women asdeceivers and rapists as fundamentally drawing on a (hetero) sexist,sexually abusive, and rape-facilitating system in which genderpresentation communicates genital status. Given the interconnectionbetween reality enforcement and sexist and racist forms of oppression,it behooves non-trans feminists to question the political value ofdeploying such representations.

(Video) Feminist Blogger Believes Trans-Women Aren't Real Women | This Morning

11. Conclusion

While early (non-trans) feminist perspectives on trans issues weremarked by hostility, trans studies and politics have emerged incomplex reaction and interaction with feminist and queer theory andpolitics as something to be recognized. As time has passed, it seems thepossibility of productive interplay between feminist and trans theoryand politics as well as solidarity between trans and non-transfeminist is being realized. This suggests a promising future for transfeminist philosophical investigations. In light of the history oftrans/feminist interaction, it seems that the self and its relation tooppression and resistance will continue to be a fruitful topic of inquiry.


What is the feminist perspective on gender? ›

According to the feminist theory, "gender may be a factor in how human beings represent reality." Men and women will construct different types of structures about the self, and, consequently, their thought processes may diverge in content and form.

What are the three feminist approaches? ›

Traditionally feminism is often divided into three main traditions, sometimes known as the "Big Three" schools of feminist thought: liberal/mainstream feminism, radical feminism and socialist or Marxist feminism.

What is trans philosophy? ›

Trans philosophy is much like queer theory, feminist theory/philosophy, and critical race theory/philosophy. There are certain presuppositions, that is to say, starting points. For example, it would be odd if the question whether homosexuality was immoral were a “hot topic” in queer theory.

What is a trans woman in simple terms? ›

A trans woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth. Trans women have a female gender identity, may experience gender dysphoria, and may transition; this process commonly includes hormone replacement therapy and sometimes sex reassignment surgery, which can bring relief and resolve feelings of gender dysphoria.

How does feminist theory explain gender inequality? ›

Radical feminist theory argues that the patriarchy gives men feelings of entitlement, privilege and control, in opposition to the marginalisation of women. For this reason, radical feminists hate the patriarchy, but not men themselves.

What are the feminist perspectives? ›

Feminist perspective highlights the social issues that are often overlooked or misidentified by already present social theories. It analyses women's experiences of gender subordination and identifies the underlying causes of gender oppression.


1. Theories of Gender: Crash Course Sociology #33
2. Transgender people in Britain explain why transphobia is on the rise in the U.K. | Perspective
(Washington Post)
3. The Radical Truths of Transgender Studies | Levi Hord | TEDxWesternU
(TEDx Talks)
4. Is It Time To Ditch Gender-Neutral Toilets? Concerns About Women's Safety Sparks Debate | GMB
(Good Morning Britain)
5. Phillip Ayoub–Queer Feminist Perspectives on Political Homophobia & Anti-Feminism
(Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs)
6. Let’s All Get Past This Confusion About Trans People
(Professor Dave Explains)

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