Liberation from gender

There are numerous problems with [the idea that gender is a spectrum], problems that render it internally incoherent and politically unattractive. Another radical feminist article on Trans.

Political philosopher Rebecca Reilly-Cooper does not like the word “cis”. It create[s] a false binary between those who conform to the gender norms associated with their sex, and those who do not. In reality, everybody is non-binary. We all actively participate in some gender norms, passively acquiesce with others, and positively rail against others still. Indeed, everyone does, and some, as radical feminists, make a particular political point about it. It would be irritating to be called “cis” if you loaded onto the term all you hated most about conformity to patriarchal gendered culture, but it does not mean that. It means “not trans”.

The radical feminists are fighting gender in their way, pointing out privilege and oppression, showing gender concepts don’t really fit people, and we fight it in ours, with breast-binding, T injections and gender-neutral pronouns. As she says on her blog, Another generation of bright, committed, impassioned women is being worn down. Being killed by the power of sisterhood. While that privilege and oppression exist, it makes no sense for those of us subverting it to squabble like this. Some of us subvert through patient philosophical exploration and explanation, and some through playing games. We all do it through being: insisting on the pronoun “they” rather than “she” is an overt way of escaping femininity and gendered expectation. Kudos to all who escape it, subtly or unsubtly.

She does not like that game-playing, gender as a label to adopt so that you now have a way to describe just how large and multitudinous and interesting you are. That word “interesting”, with such heavy irony. [T]hey are far too interesting and revolutionary and transgressive for something as ordinary and conventional as cis. I am frivolous. It is my way of surviving. I niggle and provoke, with a little giggle as a defensive measure. I don’t deny her interestingness, why should she disparage mine? I am not a philosopher. I am not like Humour in Babi Yar, but he is my example:

Tsars, kings, emperors,
Rulers of the world,
Commanded parades
But humor – humor they could not…
He is used to stern glances,
But it does not hurt him.
And humor looks upon himself
At times with humor.

He is everlasting.
He is smart.
And nimble.

He will walk through everything and everybody.

And so, glory to humor!
He is a courageous fellow.

I am so peeved to read of the concept of [name]gender, as I came up with it spontaneously in November, and wanted to be original. My gender is “Clare”. There is no other accurate label. How better could I dance, as if the bars of the cage did not exist?

The logical conclusion of all this is: if gender is a spectrum, not a binary, then everyone is trans. Or alternatively, there are no trans people. Either way, this a profoundly unsatisfactory conclusion, and one that serves both to obscure the reality of female oppression, as well as to erase and invalidate the experiences of transsexual people. Please don’t insist that I be logical! Thank God I am inconsistent, because consistent people are either inerrant (this is unlikely) or their consistency forces them beyond what the observed facts justify. We are paradoxical, in an unknowable world, seeing through a glass darkly. I don’t know why I wanted to transition, but I wanted it so I did. She calls me a jailer, and I feel so unfree!

I love her Doctor Who reference, because I am a fan, and I want to make connection here- human personality [is]… more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, humany-wumany stuff. A slight concession to dancing humourists…

She summarises the trans position: An oft-repeated mantra … is that ‘gender is not a binary; it’s a spectrum’. What follows from this view is not that we need to tear down the pink and the blue boxes; rather, we simply need to recognise that there are many more boxes than just these two. No, we are in a state of change, but the liberation struggle takes time. We need to chip away at the pink and blue boxes. If they might collapse like a wet paper bag it would have happened by now.

This is part of growing and maturing as a human being. All our lives we are in tension between conformity and individuality.

If we were all to deny that we have an innate, essential gender identity, then the label ‘agender’ would become redundant, as lacking in gender would be a universal trait. Indeed. I don’t know what the world will be like without gendered expectation, but given that not everyone is radical feminist- there are people who are not actively opposing gender- why should you turn your ire on me?

Gender as a hierarchy perpetuates the subordination of female people to male people, and constrains the development of both sexes. Yes. That is the problem. Please let me work on my own solution to it.

The idea that gender is a spectrum is a new gender prison- article.
Rebecca Reilly-Cooper’s blog.

Artemisia Gentileschi / (1593-1653) - Maria Magdalena as Melanconia


They’ve wanted to buy humour
but he just wouldn’t be bought!
They’ve wanted to kill humour
but humour gave them the finger.
Fighting him’s a tough job.
They’ve never stopped executing him.
His chopped off head
was stuck on a soldier’s pike.
But as soon as the clown’s pipes
struck up their tune
he screeched out ‘I’m here!’
and broke into a jaunty dance.

From Humour, by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, set for bass soloist and male voice choir in Shostakovich’s thirteenth symphony. Where the rulers are the enemy, the only weapon of the ruled against them is mockery. Where the rulers are the enemy, it is a fight to the death.

The Barcelona Series by Joan Miro shows monstrous creatures with sharp teeth: Franco and the Fascists. Yet: what is this? There is such uncertainty in these distorted eyes. Cupidity, of course, lust, violence and destructiveness- but also fear. You need to guard yourself from these monsters, but the proper attitude to them includes pity. There is sympathy in the pictures, an attempt to understand what it is like to be these creatures. The act of drawing includes sympathy: Alasdair Gray says that you cannot paint or draw an expression which you cannot wear on your own face.

Possibly I am reading too much into the Barcelona Series (I have not quite accepted Derrida). Yet it is something I want to see in the pictures, because it is my own attitude: What is it like to be this person? always has to be a useful question. Where is our common ground?

Solzhenitsyn says,

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.

So I treat mockery with great care. It creates barriers. It makes conciliation less likely.