Sunday, July 22, 2007


On the heels of the film “Gendercator” I thought, perhaps, that a further look at gender and sexuality binaries was in order. The film made the case that transitioning and /or fully transitioned transgender individuals further reinforced gender and sexuality stereotypes and that they were merely “dupes” of a patriarchal society that had led them to believe that certain ways of presenting were tantamount to selling out. Given the history of feminism in the last 50 years, such a position is understandably defensible and it is relatively easy to understand why this is the case. Women have, arguably, been given window dressing treatment. They still earn 75% of what men earn. They are still excluded, by and large, from becoming CEO’s of most Fortune 500 companies, and this holds true, generally, for the corporate world at large. Women are still objectified, made the foil of Madison Avenue advertising firms and they are still caught squarely in the middle of the crosshairs of a society that both denies and promotes sexuality. Is it any wonder that feminist and lesbian activists still have open wounds into which a patriarchal society continuously rubs dirt?

Nevertheless, this is not necessarily an accurate, nor fruitful, portrayal, in every sense, of reality, nor does it account for the diversity which exists within the transgender, or gender variant, community today. In fact, the inevitable result of allegations and innuendo within such media as “Gendercator” actually serves to reinforce the very gender binaries activists desire to deconstruct.

The gender diverse community at large is neither monolithic nor indebted to any patriarchal paradigm. It would be erroneous to even characterize the trans community as scalar. The actuality is that the trans community, as well as our understanding of gender and sexuality, are better served by the model that anything imaginable is possible…the all possible worlds paradigm. Given this understanding, it is inconceivable to deny a person’s right to present themselves in a manner that reflects how they perceive their inner nature…which is not to say that there may very well be inappropriate venues for certain presentations. For example…lingerie in a family environment would be deemed to be an unacceptable presentation. I would maintain, however, that a case can be made for good taste being the rule rather than the exception.

It has been estimated that there are some 750,000 to 3,000,000 gender variant persons in the United States today. If we were to accept the higher figure, that total would amount to 1% of the population. We honestly have no way of knowing what an accurate number would be, given the fact that so many gender variant individuals are living in an any number of degrees of closetedness. This is, realistically, too large a community to abide wholesale branding. It would be a mistake to assign the trans community with the attribute of patriarchal sellout or dupe because such an epithet is neither warranted nor representative. Even if a case could be made regarding certain individuals and their behavior and/or presentation, it would be error to assign blame to the entire community, if we are to accept the existence of diversity and the parameters suggested by the “all possible worlds” hypothesis.

There have been instances wherein feminist and lesbian groups have determined that biology was a necessary criterion for inclusion to their groups. In these situations, M2F trans persons have found themselves ostracized or excluded. There have also been instances wherein F2M trans persons have also been marginalized or excluded on the grounds that they have sold out their biological heritage. Such behavior does little to promote the “all possible worlds” mindset. On the contrary, the result is equally discriminatory and the mindset is equally intolerant.

The goal, as I see it, is to remove the influence of patriarchalism in our lives, not to deny anyone’s right to freedom of expression. We seek inclusion, not exclusion. Were we, as a society, to choose to be more tolerant, to accord all individuals equal opportunity based on qualifications and merit, and not on her or his personal way of being in the world; were we, as a society, to treat individuality and diversity as natural and acceptable…essentially…were we as a society to mature and overcome the arrested development we seem to insist upon manifesting, we would free ourselves from the kind of bondage patriachalism seems to want to impose. In the case where a trans person’s presentation DOES reinforce gender stereotypes, we would feel less threatened because it would not be a predominant way of being or prevalent course of action. There will always be those who, for whatever reason…be it fetishistic or otherwise…WILL buy into an archaic and anachronisitic world view. The reality is, however, that such atavism is unavoidable and in the attempt to mandate its extinction, we become nothing less than gender and/or sexuality police. I doubt that such intent is really what the producers of “Gendercator” had in mind. At least I hope not.