Professor Sara Ahmed is the director of the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths’, University of London, and warmly in favour of trans people. Her blog has wonderful things to say in our favour, and is full of beautifully expressed gems.
She describes herself there as “a lesbian academic of colour”. She experiences exclusion, from people who expect a man or expect a white person. She has the work of correcting pronouns just as we do, in her case when someone refers to her partner as “he”. Certain norms are expected. Explaining I do not fit can be exhausting, and is often seen as an imposition on the normal people. Someone who says “grammatically, ‘he’ includes ‘she'” is irritated by someone insisting she is not included: her insistence is experienced as an imposition on him.
I found this in the comments there: the bisexuals’ rejoinder to the taunt that they are “sitting on the fence” is “Your fence is sitting on me”- your understanding of how people are should not marginalise the people who do not fit it.
Those whose being is in question are those who can question being, she says: which threatens the Normals, but has the power to liberate them. Here she is on Passing: it is our way of avoiding harassment, even as the concept casts us as deceivers. In the hotel, she and her partner find twin beds- do they go back down to try for a double? She is known as a feminist, and the Normals roll their eyes even before she starts to explain.
Her passing, when white people expect someone white, is different from ours: Passing is work; it is the effort not to notice the bother caused by your own arrival. There is pretence involved; this is not about pretending to be something you are not but pretending not to notice you are not what they expect. She still has to make the normals comfortable, by minimising the signs of difference. Which for us can be torture- anyone feels entitled to judge my dress sense, which is always too feminine yet not feminine enough. That post refers to “killjoys” which may partially explain her blog title.
Polite racism works to create “presumed whiteness.” In other words, it is more polite to presume you are white. In order not to disappear you have to make your brownness or blackness into an assertion. Compare and contrast benign sexism.
It is hard to leave happiness for life. Reading Becoming unsympathetic, I see her perspective on (I riff) how groups can be formed by all feeling the same way, how we can be excluded, how our independence may depend on feeling differently, which may be seen as betrayal.
Living a lesbian life: Trans women are willful women; women who have to insist on being women, who have to keep insisting, again and again, often in the face of violent and repeated acts of misgendering…an anti-trans stance is an anti-feminist stance; it is against the feminist project of creating worlds to support those for whom gender fatalism (boys will be boys, girls will be girls) is fatal; a sentencing to death.
I will go there again and again.
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