welcome to the endpoint of Everyone’s Trans, Identity Is All That Matters, Late Capitalist gender politics
here is the thing about systems tho
systems don’t care whether you ‘subscribe’ to them or not
the world sees cis people (read: normal) and trans people (read: freaks)
systems don’t stop applying to you just because you don’t want them to
if they did, don’t you think trans women would just be like ‘well actually i’m not a faggot or a shemale, i’m outside of the gender system’
In capitalist America, you don’t do gender; gender does you.
I’m formatting it like a joke but I’m absolutely serious. That’s the thing about tumblr identity politics. It disseminates the idea of gender as internal and essential and it isn’t. Identity is read onto your body. Notice that you/your body is the object not the subject in that sentence. Even if you never respond, if you pretend it’s not happening, it doesn’t matter. You are still being gendered. No matter what any person alive— at the very least in the western world— ever does, they will never not have a gender because gender under late capitalism is not an essentially internal structure it is an external one. The material effects of identity (which, politically, is all identity is) is not about what you feel you are, it’s about how you are legible to the world and the institutions that regulate your body. Sometimes how you feel yourself to be becomes visible to the world and that becomes part of how you are read, how gender is done to you.
Does that make sense? Gender is a regulatory mechanism. Your clothes or behaviour or even your feelings about your identity aren’t your gender. It’s how your clothes or behavior or feelings about yourself are processed through an outside gaze. If you are lucky, you are adept enough and/or physically capable of using your appearance and behavior to have that gaze recognize you how you want to be recognized, but millions of people aren’t. For those people, gender is terrifyingly out of their control.
I might add that getting to pass as [being good at the*] gender you want to pass as, whether you are cis or trans, does not mean that you win. You are still being regulated. We are all being regulated all of the time. Every single time you interact with any aspect of the world your options are funneled and directed based on how gender is read onto you. That is the moment in which gender is done to you. Gender roles are as stifling as they are because we are constantly being punished for every gender infraction and are socialized to be terrified of further failure, and that too regulates our behaviour.**
And that’s the real reason why cis people hate trans people so much. Because we egregiously fail at gender, and when you look at us you are reminded of the ways in which you fail gender too. We remind you of how far there is to fall and every gender performative act you perform is you striving not to fall.***
*for example, you may be a cis woman who passes as a cis woman, but if you are fat, then you are bad at being a woman and are punished accordingly.
**often the rules of gender contradict themselves— for example prude/whore. This is also why you don’t win.
***I am doing a bad job at explaining Julia Kristeva’s Powers of Horror. Find a cliff notes versoin of it if you can because the original is quite dense.
this is such a great post?!?
I feel like I have been saying this shit for years in regards to why I still find being included in “women’s” stuff important to me “despite” not identifying as a woman (because nobody who treats me any which ways GAFS how I ID) and it mostly earned me scathing call outs and take downs from cis lesbians asking me to stay in my lane. Go figure.
I feel like this has been quietly getting said for years. It is, at once, the conversation everybody & NOBODY wants to have.
Reading stuff like this scares me, because it contradicts the way I think and talk about gender, and it feels outside of my understanding. I know there are big holes in the way I relate identity politics to material politics (as evidenced by the fact that I think of them as separate bodies of ideas) but I’m not able to find those holes on my own. It’s simultaneously gratifying and deeply embarrassing and uncomfortable to be so obviously contradicted by something that hangs together so much better than the thinking I might be able to do on my own.
I still don’t know how to read it without thinking that, in actuality, I am not trans, so I must be cis. Honestly that’s not nearly as big a problem as fearing that I still don’t understand and can’t wrap my head around the most basic parts of material analysis. I feel too entrenched in identity politics, but I’m afraid of delving into criticism of me and my many privileges/advantages.