July 2nd, 2006

Camp Trans Anyone?

Hey guys, I just joined and I wanted to pose a question.

Is anyone from the east coat driving up to Camp Trans or MWMF?
I live in the Philadelphia area and am thinking of going up.
I can't afford it on my own, but have a working car.
Anyone want to tag along? Even half the ride?

Just in case you're wondering, I am James. Eighteen. Genderqueer.
I like camping. I'm single and own a big tent.
Come on! You know you want to!

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On the left.

(x-posted to a few spots)

Gendering Decisions

The recent posts on the centrality of gender brings to the fore a choice facing queer and post gendered communitys: What kind and how much gender should we have?

The most common answer seems to fall into a dichotomy. And yes I am aware that this is a gross oversimplification, that in fact you can be in one or all of these camps or even none. However, these are the dominant ones that I am aware of.

Some say "DOWN WITH GENDER". Its a system of hegemonic oppression, it hurts, it kills. And the only way to end oppression is to end the social operatus of gender. Junk it they say and instead let us have a utopian world in which we are not judged in anyway by our perceived genitalia. I call this ideology gender nihilism because it seeks the destruction of the system, without a desire or need to consider what would fill the place of the system that it is destroying. It is hardly surprising that some of the most common responses from this camp as to what alternatives they present in place of gender is nothing.

Others say,"Hey, gender isn't all bad. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater." The problem isn't that there's to much, the problem is there is to little. This ideology forsees a utopia of genders, we just need to relax and chill dude. Its a form of relativism that is eager to see all genders treated with equal respect and affirmation.

I fall within neither camp, even though parts of me find both ideologies extremely appealing. I passionately agree that the current system of gender binaries is morally sick and profoundly oppressive, however I do not subscribe to such nihilism. Gender is the social signifcances we attach to bodies, its also the medium of communication between social creatures, it defines and regulates how and why we behave in relation to one another.

Nothing within those definitions necessitates a gender that is grounded in a person's genitalia. This wedding of gender to genitalia just happens to be something our culture chose to do. According to that forumulation then, gender isn't in principle oppressive but some manifestations are. Gender like power, is fundamentally amoral, it is integral part of our existence that can no more be fought or railed than our need to breathe or our inability to fly. Its what you do with it that makes it good or bad.

x-posted to gender_theory

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Aggressive feminism and straight queers

The other night I saw a political performance poet called Attila the Stockbroker doing a performance about, among other things, 'real women' who aren't complicit in their own objectification by the media - that is, who don't shave (as Crass put it, 'shaved women - collaborators!'), present as sexual objects etc.

Thing was, though, this was one of the most stereotypically 'masculine' performances I've ever seen - shouting aggressively into the mike, rhetoric about how 'I don't care what you think and even though I'm a man I can criticise women for this behaviour' etc.

Recent discussion on this list raised the same issues for me - that is, how does a 'man' (however defined) 'do' strong opposition to sexual and gender inequality, and also practice what they preach by not behaving like a stereotypical man in terms of aggression, domination, challenge etc?
On the one hand, rage is an important part of resistance to oppression. But on the other, traditionally, the expression of anger is an accepted male behaviour in a situation in which dominance is decided by strategies of verbal aggression. Is it any less oppressive for a 'man' to decide what a 'real woman' is, regardless of whether that's different from the sterotype? But we must accept that people who aren't speaking from personal experience have a valid viewpoint, inasmuch as any position is biased by the subject's experience.

In terms of sexuality, I'd say the question that follows is whether a man who doesn't present in this way and is therefore read as 'gay', whatever the gender of people he chooses to have sex with, can feel mutual solidarity with and receive support from those who do identify as gay?

Is it possible to be 'straight and queer' as, for example, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's work seems to suggest?

In a society in which, for the most part, sexuality is essentialised such that non-sexual behaviour is considered as demonstrative of sexuality, you don't need to be same-sex-attracted to experience homophobia and have that experience shape your identity. At the same time, though, despite utopian views on a rainbow of genders and sexualities, we as humans need categorisations in order to live our lives, and indeed without solidarity based on categorisaton there can be no organised resistance to oppression.

So I guess the question I'm asking is, how do we address these related (I hope) issues in an era in which binaries of sexuality and gender are simultaneously being destabilised and reified?

x-posted to gender_theory