trans women & fantasies of radical abjection: another long post

so this has been on my mind for a long while, and the current controversy over the admins at FYCTC choosing to not encourage/allow female-assigned-at-birth people who ID as trans women to submit photos, as well as recent and upcoming interactions i’m having with the local radical faeries, have prompted me to want to write through it a bit

i’ve been thinking a lot recently about the, the, i suppose i mean this certain fetishizing/glorifying construction of trans female experience (and some other things that get elided into that) which i think is really really common in a lot of queer spaces - and also not entirely absent in actual trans female spaces, either

basically - i mean julia serano’s had a hell of a lot of influence in a lot of trans spaces over the years, and a central argument of hers is that trans men and masculinity get coded in many spaces as cool and radical and powerful and subversive and freeing etc while trans women and femininity get coded as stodgy and conservative and weak and conformist and repressed etc

and this is a shitty sexist construction that happens, for sure! but there’s also this other construction that serano dosen’t really touch on which i think is very common as well, albeit in a somewhat different queer community - serano is a dyke talking mostly about dyke spaces so it makes sense that she’d be a bit less familiar with this other thing that largely happens, IME, in faggier spaces

this thing i’m thinking of is this construction of trans womanhood - which, in this model, usually gets linked with drag queen experience and with general male femininity, which can obvs be pretty fucked - that kind of celebrates ‘trans woman’ identity/experience as exactly the most subversive, cool, radical, ‘fierce’ (and i really wanna have a conversation about the way that word gets used by white and class-privileged queers …) thing out there

i think this stems from some sort of unspoken and maybe unconscious recognition that trans-specific misogyny is a serious fucking thing: MAAB women (and many feminine and/or female MAAB non-binary folks) often get a hell of a lot of terrible shit for their genders/sexes, in a way that trans men and FAAB non-binary people very largely do not; there are real and concrete ways in which the sexist violence against trans women (especially and importantly trans women who are not white and middle class) marks them as particularly threatening to and despised by a cissexist and misogynistic - and racist and classist - social order

and a whole lot of queers and queer spaces and activitsty scenes and (largely white) youthy cultures in general just have this thing for ‘subversion’, right? the coolest kid is the most ‘radical’ and ‘resistant’ and ‘subversive’ kid - under a certain specific and usually unspoken standard of measure

so it kind of makes sense that is fetishization has happened, particularly given that a lot of the folks in the scenes where this goes on have access to academic spaces and discourses which have traditionally objectified trans women and drag queens, particularly urban and non-white ones, as being the tragic and abject heroes of gender resistance

for instance: i think this is part of the reason why so many young cool queer trans men and FAAB non-binary folks are so attached to using the word ‘tranny’ in reference to themselves, despite the fact that a lot of trans women have very reasonably objected to this, correctly pointing out that ‘tranny’ is overwhelmingly a violent slur directed at trans women: it is a slur directed at trans women, and as such it’s become a symbol of difference from cissexist misogynistic power structures - a symbol which maybe feels more pleasantly subversive for non-trans-female folks (especially race and class privileged ones) to wear because they don’t face the same threat of violence and marginalization

they just kind of get to keep the word’s feeling of [cool edgy rad] outsiderhood without actually having the same level of exposure to lasting harm

also see: the wild popularity of hedwig and the angry inch in a bunch of trans male and dykey and faggy spaces

and it’s not like actual trans women don’t have complicated relationships to this: i remember this one time i was talking with a genderqueer femme trans woman friend about the film, saying i was kind of uncomfortable with it and the way a lot of queers uncritically identified with it, and she was actually really upset when we talked about why and she found out that the writer of the film was a cis gay man metaphorizing his own experience, and not a trans woman - she had felt a sense of identification and connection with the character of hedwig, and felt really surprised and hurt that the actual maker of the film was not a trans woman creating for herself

so it’s not like trans female people and MAAB non-binary people never identify with this construction or find it useful or compelling, but also it can really suck to ID with something and then find out the creator’s intent or meaning behind it was potentially very different to and contrary to your own, esp if that creator is privledged over you in some ways important to the piece in question

also i think a lot of rad queer spaces have a thing for being-an-entertainer/performer, too, and the fact that trans womanhood and femme maleness and drag queenship kind of all get amalgamated in this model i’m talking about adds to the fetishization going on

also this thing for being-an-entertainer/performer has all sorts of unacknowledged race and class histories going on

plus all these other constructions that designate (certain types of) femininity as more of a performance / construction than masculinity in general etc

so, yeah: this thing happens where [specific constructions of] trans women (and drag queens and femme males and etc) get positioned as the very best possible symbols of queerness and outsiderness and subversion and fierceness and coolness and even of abjection itself, and then this kind of disembodied sense of radness gets taken on by other folks, very often trans men and fags (both trans and cis)

and i mean fags have done complicated things with femininity for a long time, and there’s a lot of stuff going on there: i think sometimes in fag spaces, identifications with and performances of femininity can come to stand in for radicalism and difference in interesting and sometimes pretty fucked ways

see: john waters and pink flamingos and the fag fandoms around them and all the things going on there

like, i’ve been disappointed a lot with the radical faeries i know around me, because while it’s pretty cool to be in a gay male space where femmeness is accepted and proliferated and celebrated - i’m a faggy effeminate male person and i like my gender pretty well and i like being liked by others! - sometimes this identity-politicsy identification with femininity-as-radicalness and femininity-as-subversion and femininity-as-resistant-outsiderhood lets conversations about the other power dynamics going on get totally put aside (and i’ve met a whole lot of economically conservative/neoliberal and racist and sexist faeries)



all of that

  1. constrution-bamford reblogged this from mewmewfoucault
  2. fat-fancy-fabulous reblogged this from mewmewfoucault and added:
    This is pretty fucking fabulous.
  3. vivid-eris reblogged this from mewmewfoucault and added:
    I don’t have anything to add right now, but this is really, really true stuff
  4. lcriots reblogged this from mewmewfoucault
  5. poofterdagger reblogged this from mewmewfoucault and added:
    some really interesting stuff in here. I haven’t really seen this happen in communities I move in. Yes to appropriation...
  6. hoaxzine reblogged this from mewmewfoucault
  7. mewmewfoucault posted this