Reading Sandy Stone
I have been reading Sandy Stone’s The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto. This manifesto launched the transgender politics of the nineties by breaking with the Classical Transsexual worldview. When it was published in 1991 it signaled an era of fresh thinking about transgender. Remember that Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble was also published in 1991. With Butler’s deconstruction of Sex and Gender we had new tools to understand ourselves. Stone could ask herself what it meant to be Transsexual if the Gender Binary were a construct.
In the following quote Stone talks about the Classical Transsexual idea of being born in the “wrong” body
neither the investigators nor the transsexuals have taken the step of problematizing “wrong body” as an adequate descriptive category. In fact “wrong body” has come, virtually by default, to define the syndrome.
and it still does in much of mainstream trans discourse.
Under the binary phallocratic founding myth by which Western bodies and subjects are authorized, only one body per gendered subject is “right”. All other bodies are wrong.
This idea of “wrong body” pathologizes gender variance as a birth defect which is “fixed” by body modification. Questioning “variance as pathology” has even become “politically incorrect” in some circles because it is the foundational block of so many people’s identities. However, it is based on a poor understanding of biology. Recent brain science has confirmed that biology mixes behavioral sex and somatic sex all of the time. There is nothing “wrong” with my somatically male body being combined with a female behavioral sex. The pathology is a society which enforces extreme taboos against femininity among somatic males.
The strength of this policing forces me to change my body, or even go stealth in order to have my woman-ness recognized. My woman-ness is just as real and just as biological as the woman-ness of both trans-women and cisgendered women.
Do I need to modify my body in order to be a “real” woman? Can body modification make you a “real” woman, or is body modification a social act which attempts to end the dissonance between behavioral sex ?
Serano’s idea of subconscious sex even tries to biologize the “wrong” body model. In her model if you have female “Subconscious Sex” and a somatically male body you feel body dysphoria and are compelled to transition. Body dysphoria becomes the biological marker of the “real” transsexual. If I do not transition that means that I have the male subconscious sex gene. That makes transitioners and non-transitioners biologically different. She attempts to make transsexual and no-ho transgender into a biological division. As I have reported in my Feminism and Brain Sex video series, Serano’s subconscious sex has no basis in empirical biology. What we are calling brain sex is actually innate behavioral sex. We are not born with gender identities, we are born with sexed behavioral patterns. A transitioner has the same brain biology as a no hormone transgender.