post-masculine in a post-gender world

Posted: February 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

I feel that a huge amount of transgender discourse is gender essentialist. The genderqueer discourse of Riki Wilchins is far more interesting because it is attempting to explore post-gender (post-gender is my term rather than Riki’s). She has abandoned the labels transexual and transgender as too essentialist. “Viva Genderqueer!” until that too is reterritorialized.
She was male-sexed but rejected the ‘male’ gender and chose the transexual path including having her penis inverted. She is attracted to women and wanted to become lesbian. She found that after her surgery she had become politically incorrect. Many of her lesbian friends now shunned her. The male-sexed are barely tolerated in lesbian culture especially if they are attracted to women. “So you grew breasts, had a lot of electrolysis and surgically had your penis inverted? Guess what? The joke is on you! You are still a ‘male’ and will never be tolerated in women’s spaces.” That realization must have been rough. I still found the realization rough 25 years after her. I have the luxury of not having mobilized the medical discourse in the hopes of becoming ‘female’ sexed. I also have the genderqueer movement to inspire me. Riki’s sense of paradox is on full display when she refers to herself as “Your average straight white guy with a cunt.” However, at other times she refers to her cunt as a penis.
I relate to Riki’s story. I hear it in the stories of many of the male-sexed gender-variants who I meet who have the experience of their gender as non-male and are attracted to women. The label male-lesbian is perhaps the simplist umbrella description. I played with this label for about a day back in September 2008. I noticed however that many lesbians are triggered by this. They feel that being female-sexed at birth is the necessary criteria for lesbianism. You are setting yourself up for conflict with the male-lesbian label. Not only does the term lesbian exclude you, it is also founded on an unproblematic, essentialized gender ‘woman’. You make a claim to contain this ‘female’ essence and also claim to only be attracted to this gender essence.
If you truly try to actualize the post-gender idea then straight, lesbian, gay and transgender sexualities become problematic, as they are fully ensnared in gender essence thinking. I do not see see how you can claim to be genderqueer without at least a political commitment to pan-sexuality. Let’s look back to the early days of lesbian feminism. “The personal is the political.” Political lesbianism said that deserting the hetero relationship could be a political act for women. Instead of claiming to contain some lesbian essence you can decide to be lesbian. Well, I think that we are at a similar juncture. You can decide to be pan-sexual. Give up defining your sexuality by gender. Your turn on is your own business. I am not see we all have to sleep with (guys,girls,trans), but stop using essentialist gender as an explanation for your sexual identity. Desert all uses of ‘gender essence’ thinking in your discourses.

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