video blog #6: stirring up trans controversy

Posted: July 28, 2009 in Troll Wars

CORRECTION: I erroneously called blog one of the biological transfeminist blogs. This not the case it is actually a good genderqueer friendly blog. Check it out!

This is a serious critique of the biological wing of transfeminism from a standpoint I call constructionist transfeminism. The biological wing says that that transgender is a birth defect. This thinking is totally incompatible with a pro-genderqueer positions. The biological wing is deeply invested in the gender binary and often views attacks on the gender binary as personal attacks. This is why I suggest a theoretical split between the biological and constructionist wings of transfeminism. As genderqueers we need to be able to theorize and challenge gender without the self censorship required by our investment in transgender politics.
feminine essence narrative: wikipedia

social construction constructionist transfeminism feminism queer trans transgender identity politics julia serano transexual transsexual genderqueer brainsex essentialism

  1. Daya Curley says:

    I really loved this. I’ve been in transition (whatever the hell THAT means for 2.5 years. I certainly am more on one of of the binary that you…but I really detest the lines in the sand I’ve encountered with trans folks who disparage everyone not like them.

    I’m going to watch your other videos. You speak a lot about what “isn’t”…and I’m curious about what your opinion is about what “is”.

    I’m really glad I found your blog. It feels like fresh air in a stale world.


  2. Adrian says:

    Hi! I met you briefly at Up Your Alley (I was the short one in that nurse type costume). Just wanted to say that I love your site 🙂 As an FTM genderqueer who occasionally does female drag, it’s great to see this out there, even better to see it all presented in a thought-provoking and intelligent manner.

  3. Jasper Gregory says:

    Thank you! I am so happy to get a discussion about this. I felt like my piece was very, very explosive, and no one makes a peep. It’s like, ‘did anyone get it?’
    But anyway, It is easy to write a good critique, and I feel that I am doing a service. Describing what gender is, is much harder. if you look at the blog archives from January 2009, You will find a lot of my attempts to grasp gender. My first 5 videos with titles like What is Masculinity? are attempts to understand as well.
    I have about 60 street interviews with the question, “what is femininity?”
    I am releasing those slowly.
    Basic answer: Masculine and Feminine roles are socially situated within within small social groups (‘the dyke scene’, ‘the trans scene’, elementary school class, family ,your family’s church, your work environment). These roles are the only way that a person can ‘manifest’, socially.

  4. Jasper Gregory says:

    Adrian, thank you too. I really appreciate the positive feedback. I am sticking my neck out by knocking over these sacred cows. In the biological wing of the trans community questioning the ‘feminine essence narrative’ gets labeled hate speech.
    So anyway, welcome, I am doing a lot of exciting work in various media, I hope you stick around and see it develop.


  5. g531 says:

    I am learning a great deal from your blog and the points you are raising. I also checked out takingupspace’s blog re: some of the issues it was raising. That the blogger brought up McIntosh’s list, something I have come across several times, leaves much to be considered, re: cultural bias of said list. Also, the transphobia of which you speak is also important, especially considering the existence of a ‘far right’ among individuals who neither identify with a dominant gender or sexual orientation/practice.

  6. Jasper Gregory says:

    Hey g531,
    I’m really psyched that your so active here. I really really, want to build a commenting community.
    I figured out that I gave takesupspace a bum wrap, had them confused with another blog.
    Coud you elaborate on your last sentence, about transphobia, I don’t get it.

  7. g531 says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog and I am learning a great deal from it. I am glad you appreciate it :). In your video, you were talking about extremism (around 1:40), I thought you had literally said ‘far right.’ I was talking about the importance of what you were saying about one having to subscribe to changing one’s appearance to cater to gender norms–biologically. That implies 1) desire; 2) economic access as well as an inclination to ‘assimilate’ according to what may be accessible/acceptable to those of dominant gender ascriptions. You talk about disrupting norms in your gender abolitionist entry (i’ll post a response to your response after this one).
    What’s interested me, politically, for years, has been this whole notion of in-group/out-group definitions. How ‘others’ other-ize each other and expect, then to have a strong cohesive unit of support when rewriting one’s narrative without fully taking in the development of said individual’s is dehumanizing and debilitating, I believe.

  8. queen emily says:

    Ok, you’ve specifically named Questioning Transphobia as one of the so-called biologically dogmatists, and as one of the bloggers there I want to respond to this.

    It may have escaped your notice, but I’m a hardcore social constructionist, as is Lisa. Helen less so, but still social constructionist. I fit the brain sex idea into a Butlerian reading of sexed matter as always-already gendered, just like anything else touching on the “biological.”

    So you’ve drawn up massively misleading boundaries between “essentialists” (understood to be bad) and “social constructionists” (good feminists and queers, but not transsexuals). This notion of transsexuals as naive and politically undereducated has been propagated by countless people (eg Bernice Hausman’s “transsexuals are the dupes of gender”) and it’s just not true.

    Worse, you’ve slid neatly from sexologist theories of inversion to transsexual identifications and then activism. I’ve got no problem with genderqueer identifications, but you repeatedly identified transsexuals and transsexual activism with the discursive boundaries set by the psychiatrists who oppress us. I’m female identified and *I* don’t want to have to see a fucking shrink, or make up a “true transsexual” narrative to get my hands on hormones or surgery either, you know.

    Cissexual “researchers” like Bailey and Blanchard *are* tremendously interested in biological causes or lack thereof, but then they also see a suicidal, alcoholic cissexual who doesn’t transition as a preferable to a healthy trans person (you might want to read their work and the repeated allegations of misconduct around their dubiously ethical work and not just the wiki).

    Personally, I’m leery about the brain sex thing, because if it gets proved then first step is clearly going to be someone else like Blanchard getting funding to start research on a “cure.”

    So seriously. Who the fuck cares that much about biological causes? No-one I know who isn’t HBS. A discussion about why transsexuals transition, and why transness occur is philosophically interesting, but ultimately solipsistic given the violence and discrimination that transsexuals as a group face.

    You’re grasping at half-truths here, which is frankly a grave disservice to the already marginal community of transsexuals you claim to have some affinity with.

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