Visibility

Apr. 3rd, 2014 12:37 pm
liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
[personal profile] liv
This is a theme I keep coming back to, I think, and it's not unrelated to the ongoing discussion about representation. I don't really have a conclusion or anything, so this is mostly a buncha links.

[personal profile] sonia, and then everybody else, linked to this brilliant post by [personal profile] thefourthvine: You're always coming out. And this has sparked some discussion about the differences between always-coming-out because you're in a primary relationship with a same-sex partner, and always-coming-out because you're bi or otherwise non-straight, but your visible relationship is perceived as het. So having to keep telling everybody you meet that you're in fact not straight, even if it's going to make things awkward or even dangerous for you, versus having the choice to let homophobes and well-meaning heteronormative people assume you're straight, but at the cost of feeling invisible. I don't think either one is worse than the other in all circumstances at all times, but they are both issues. I was also reminded of this prose poem by [tumblr.com profile] gyzym: six variations on the theme of coming out to people you’re already fucking.

This connects to a very good critical essay at Autostraddle by Lindsay King-Miller on Willow's character arc in Buffy. I really like the contrast of the Doylist perspective on Willow, that Whedon unfairly erased bisexual identities by scripting Willow as "straight" during the early seasons when she was dating Oz and crushing on Xander, and "lesbian" during the later seasons when she was dating Tara and Kennedy. Versus the Watsonian perspective, that Willow in fact identified as straight during her teens and as a lesbian in her 20s. King-Miller favours this latter view, because she points out very cogently that people whose orientation identity is fluid or changes over time also need representation.

I should say that I personally have never faced biphobia as such, even though I've seen both quantitative surveys and personal anecdotes that in some ways being bi can be worse than being monosexually gay or lesbian. I have sometimes avoided homophobia whether intentionally or just because I happened to get away with it by passing as straight. (That's due to a mixture of gender presentation and visible relationships with men.) Whereas, I have sometimes felt invisible-ized when people incorrectly assume I'm straight. So for me personally invisibility and erasure are bigger problems than prejudice, but I don't want to draw any over-general conclusions from that. I feel somewhat at risk of turning into the kind of person I swore I never would become when I first started to understand myself as bi, the person who keeps dropping "by the way, I'm bi" into every possible conversation. My relationships with women are important to me, but most of the time not relevant to the subject at hand, whereas claiming "bi" as an identity is not very important to me. But if I don't actively claim that, I assumed to be straight and that does in fact bother me.

It was also Trans Day of Visibility a couple of days back. I've been mostly observing the discussions around that, since it's not my issue. I think there is probably some analogy, albeit partial, between TDoV and things like about National Coming Out Day and Bi Visibility Day, which do apply to me and which I feel ambivalent about. Like, visibility and coming out are good things, absolutely, they're really valuable politically as well as personally in terms of letting people know they're not alone in their non-normative identities. I don't entirely like putting pressure on people to be visible, though; maybe they just want to get on with their lives and not be the representative of their identity group. Maybe indeed there are actual serious reasons why they're not out, very much including personal safety.

[twitter.com profile] eassumption posted Instead of Trans Day of Visibility, let's observe Cis Day of Visibility, where cis people acknowledge they are cis and not everyone is.. I mean, ok, if it's genuinely helpful to trans* people I'm happy to state, I was assigned female based on my genitalia when I was born, I have an F on my birth certificate, I was given a female-typical first name which I continue to use, I was brought up as a girl. When I went through puberty I got breasts and broad hips, and that took some adjusting but I'm basically ok in my body, and as an adult I am still perceived as female and I use female pronouns. I have absolutely no doubt at all this has made my life vastly easier; I'm not particularly feminine and I don't identify strongly as female or a woman, but absolutely, I'm cis. This doesn't make me normal or morally wholesome or authentic, it's just a happy accident I take no credit for. I found the quoted statement provocative and uncomfortable, which might be just because I'm unconsciously cissexist / transphobic, but I think my reasons are political as well, I am not convinced that there is actually any real need for cis visibility. Everybody's assumed to be cis anyway, do we really need more of that? I also worry that if there were a cis visibility day, people who are trans* but not out would either have to lie or out themselves, because if everybody in their social circles is showing off their progressive credentials by telling everyone they're cis, well.

Contrast genderqueer / trans activist CN Lester's claim that most people experience gender anxiety. That doesn't seem completely implausible to me, though it's also likely that Lester meets more people for whom gender is problematic than would be found in a typical sample of the population. The view that everybody's muddling along in an oppressive and falsely binary gender system is one that appeals to me, but I am also conscious that this "we all have our struggles" kinda deal may itself be erasing towards people who are actually trans*, genderqueer and non-binary.

There's an article I wanted to include in this roundup but can't now find where the writer complains that some people who are basically cis but mess around with gender performance or don't entirely fit into gender stereotypes are appropriating trans identities. I know that's sparked a lot of discussion, but I can only find rebuttals and not the original at the moment.
ETA [personal profile] nou found this Tumblr discussion on the topic of is genderqueer an appropriation of trans identity and experience? which is definitely part of the same floating discussion, though I still haven't tracked down the opinion piece that I think this is addressing.


Does it improve visibility if lots of people (who deal with fairly minimal transphobic prejudice in day-to-day life) describe themselves as a little bit trans / GQ, or does it harm visibility? I don't have a lot of time for the so-called Radical Feminist stream of thought that there's no such thing as a cis woman because absolutely nobody feels comfortable in the roles and presentations that society forces on female-assigned people. But sometimes you're seeing similar things from people who are at least trying to be supportive of trans* folk, and I'm really on the fence about which is the right thing for me to do. Should I say, as I did in the example statement above, oh, me, I'm totally cis? Or should I say, look, me, the person you think of as normal and mainstream, I have my gender issues too? I've been called out for saying that although my pronouns are female I don't really mind which ones people want to use, because my not caring all that much is in fact a manifestation of cis privilege.

There's also the issue of how much I want to identify as female politically for the sake of women as well as trans* people of any gender. If I say, yup, definitely female here even though I'm not especially feminine, and I have a traditionally-masculine career and a traditionally-masculine style of discourse, that challenges the idea that all women fit into narrow stereotypes. Presumably that's good for trans women as well as cis women. Whereas if I say, I'm not really very gendered, does that lend visible support to people living outside the gender binary, help to spread the meme that you don't actually have to be the gender it says on your birth certificate, and you don't even have to pick M or F? It's actually similar to how much I want to make a point of taking pride in being bi, even though in that case there's no dilemma, I definitely am bi. Like, is it good to raise visibility of bi people by declaring that I'm part of the club, or am I detracting from the people who really struggle with biphobia by claiming that identity when I'm fairly assimilated and have a largely cosy life?

OK, that ended up longer than I intended. Anyway, thoughts welcome, as usual! Especially if someone can find me the rant about appropriative claiming of genderqueer identities.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 12:41 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
It wasn't until I few years ago that I understood that for some people, gender identity was a Big Thing. (This was mostly sparked by a conversation with a trans* friend - we compared notes, but while they came to the conclusion that their identity is not the one on their birth certificate, I came to the conclusion that 'I don't identify as [gender], I'm an individual.' Which, I suppose, makes me genderqueer or genderfluid or genderagnostic or... something. (I haven't engaged with the terminology enough to pick one that fits me. I just thought I was a person who rejected strict gender roles.

"Cis visibility day"

Date: 2014-04-03 12:44 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
To me that statement read to me more as a call to cis allies to take more responsibility for increasing trans visibility, which as a mostly-non-disclosing trans person I'm all in favour of (and very much appreciate the amount that you do by the way).

I'm quite wary of engaging in any trans activism because I worry that doing so will, if not directly out me, at least start people wondering.

Re: "Cis visibility day"

Date: 2014-04-03 12:49 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
I read "cis-visibility" as disowning the "I'm not cis, I'm normal!" tendency among the more cissexist; this seems to be a very good idea.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 10:17 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
complicated feelings -- cf going round a room and asking pronouns, and ending up with only the trans folk actually engaging with it, y'know?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 10:39 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
I have trouble with the pronoun rounds because they assume I find it possible to decide on a set of pronouns...

Re: "Cis visibility day"

Date: 2014-04-03 10:17 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
+1

Re: "Cis visibility day"

Date: 2014-04-05 01:09 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
(Same anon)

I think that when we're at the point that lots of cis people are making that sort of effort, then doing so as a trans person without saying explicitly either way will be much less likely to result in accidental outing. Possibly if it all took the form of "I'm cis, but some people aren't, and trans issues are important because..." it would be a problem, but if that's just one of many forms then I think it's fine, and can be a way of using privilege for good.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 01:10 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
If you do find it, I'd be interested to read the one about appropriative claiming of genderqueer identities.
I have an ongoing worry that, because I can't clearly articulate what feels different and more right about calling myself genderqueer (than calling myself a butch woman, which I did for years, with occasional references to myself as a boy), I must be appropriating the label from the real genderqueer people who can justify themselves properly.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 10:35 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Thanks for the warning. I read the one you link to here, and it leaves me thinking I'm obviously old-fashioned and using a definition of genderqueer that (my social circle understands and) is obsolete among the youth of Tumblr. I do identify outside the presumed gender binary; I don't regard "genderqueer" as signifying a specific place outside it.

I'm careful to describe myself as "under the broader trans* umbrella" rather than as trans.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 11:51 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Whereas by way of counterpoint (and not to say you are wrong!) I am very definitely trans, and that's part-and-parcel of being genderqueer. Hurrah for multiplicities of experience :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-04 05:24 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Yes :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-04 07:11 am (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
I knew there was a trans* generation gap; I didn't know that one could identify as genderqueer and find onesself on the older side of a generation gap. Evidently there's more than one generation gap here...

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-04 10:23 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Apparently so!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 10:18 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
You are welcome under my umbrella.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 10:28 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Thank you :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 02:05 pm (UTC)
nou: The word "kake" in a white monospaced font on a black background (Default)
From: [personal profile] nou
I don't know if it's the one you're thinking of, but “is genderqueer an appropriation of trans identity and experience?” seems relevant.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 10:25 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
urgh that entire line of argument makes me feel generally miserable and sick every single time I come across it.

I get so fucking furious with the idea that "female-assigned" (I don't even fucking get "CAFAB") is the most important thing about me; with the erasure of CAMAB genderqueer folk (fuck you they exist); the idea that existing as neither male nor female is in some sense a privileged position (no the vast majority of people do not believe my gender EXISTS)

I just

shit

thank you for the historical perspective on this, i appreciate your words here. it frustrates me that the group which has cornered ‘genderqueer’ is also seeking to corner ‘trans’ through a similar political strategy.

i think the distinction you make between political alliance politics and personal identity politics is important and instructive. this is what i’m also trying to say: on a personal level, i do not share identity with most faab genderqueer people. on a political level, i often find myself in conflict with them as they claim authority over trans experiences that they so clearly lack any experience or knowledge about. and again, i am speaking primarily of the “very limited microidentity for female-assigned folks.”


shit, you know? but feeling shat on by people talking about me this way is ~privilege~, or "if it's not about you don't make it about you", or whatever, but no actually, these people clearly consider me part of this group that... isn't really trans and doesn't really experience oppression for it and I just

can't.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 10:26 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
the very fucking concept that I get male privilege because I'm genderqueer (never mind the assertion that that's why I'm doing it) actually just makes me want to set things on fire and then curl up in a dark corner crying and never talk to anyone again

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 10:47 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
*nods lots*
I've heard this even from people whose gender identity is, on paper, pretty similar to mine, and I just think they must live in a different universe.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-04 05:02 am (UTC)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
I'll bring the matches?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-14 03:41 pm (UTC)
elialshadowpine: (Default)
From: [personal profile] elialshadowpine
Conversely (and I'm coming in late, because I have had this tab open awhile), my partner who is AMAB and genderqueer has had to avoid a number of genderqueer communities because of overarching ideas that "AMAB genderqueers are just trying to escape male privilege." Yes, really. They asked me to scout out some communities for them because they didn't have the time with work and some of the stuff I saw was just sickening. It's sad when the most supportive communities of AMAB genderqueer folk are on fucking Fetlife, what with Fet's reputation and all.

Morgan/stormerider is generally very much of the opinion, themselves, that because they are read as male, they have an obligation/responsibility to use that "for good" as they put it. Frex, they regularly will bonk their male co-workers upside the head when they say fucked up shit, or men on their Facebook, etc. Yknow, pretty much the opposite of "escaping male privilege".

The idea that privilege is the primary reason for people's gender identifiers is just fucked up beyond all reason, imo.

Re: Sorry

Date: 2014-04-03 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] flippac
When in doubt, assume the very semantic space of any and all trans*-related terminology is viciously contested and that multiple parties aren't playing fair: even when someone is speaking in good faith, it's very difficult to not push buttons installed by others.

While there are some identifiable clusters that some might see as having "cornered genderqueer" on occasion, that doesn't mean that other people know a thing about who is or isn't in that group - and there's no good way to identify them without doing a lot of collateral damage /just in being seen to take aim/.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-08 09:20 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
[perhaps more later, perhaps not, but: I don't want you to shut up. Yes, I was massively upset by the linked thing; but in turn that prompted me to participate in #IAmNonBinary on Twitter for all I agree with CN Lester; and that in turn lead to me doing some more thinking about anti-colonialism & excavating the workings of my own brain. So. There's a thing. xx]
Edited Date: 2014-04-08 09:21 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-09 10:47 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
And indeed, obviously I can't speak for all trans people and can't say whether on balance your contributions are helpful - but for me, in spite of the fact that part of this conversation hurt, this was useful.

There's a lot of really knotty messy stuff tied up; I am possibly going to put together a DW post and then ask that white cis people not comment on it, & that white trans folk be super-aware of their racial privilege if they do want to join the discussion, but would be happy to talk about it places that aren't public comments on that post (because curating safer spaces etc etc etc and the precise nature of the contents-as-intended). Equally would be willing to infodump at you via synchronous media any time you like. <3

(and, heh, yes, I am generally quite amused by the not-exactly good-cop-bad-cop routine Flippa and I seem to fall into without discussion; I am especially amused the times that we do role reversal...)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-09 04:25 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Hah, I know it is dodgy to tell other Jewish folk that they have white privilege; I know that in a great many respects I am "lucky" in that I only look super-Ashkenazi when you put me in a room with the rest of that side of the family. But also: yes, loose phrasing; yes, I want to err on the side of caution; yes, I know cis isn't exactly right for you either; and carelessness-with-sleepiness, so apologies for the damage done in my turn. (And also something about how I am p sure the set of posts I want to interact with is written by someone who'd consider you white, though that may be unfair of me to them.)

eta hmm, except actually I think I was carefully deliberate to not lump you under the banner of "white cis" because I know it's wrong/uncomfortable in all sorts of ways; the offer to talk synchronously somewhere was intended as a "because that will be easier for me than marshalling my thoughts in a coherent way as makes a post suitable for public consumption when I can't immediately respond to people pointing out I'm saying fucked up shit", but I appreciate that... was probably completely nonapparent outside my head.
Edited Date: 2014-04-09 04:28 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-09 06:57 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] flippac
FWIW, I consider myself to owe you a response here which for Reasons I don't have the spoons to do a good job of right now. I don't want you to pick the "stay quiet" option either though, if that's any help right now.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 02:21 pm (UTC)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
Given the sheer amount of effort that goes into gender policing of self and others, I would be shocked if most people had never experienced gender anxiety. Think of the macho cis dude who, after expressing a not-masculine-coded emotion, has to go do something macho to reaffirm his masculinity. That sounds like gender anxiety to me, and also self-gender-policing. (It also sounds like toxic masculinity, but that one's beside the point.) And one of the points Libby Anne made in a recent Love, Joy, Feminism post is: If males and females are so naturally distinctive, why the need to so heavily program them, and then shame them if they don’t conform? Why not just let them alone about gender expectations and let nature take its course?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-04 09:14 am (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
I have for sure experienced anxiety that I am not a very good girl / woman - but at least I got some approval for having sensible male interests which made up for it. And of course I have performed approved gender behaviour such as marrying a man and producing children.

I wrote about how much gender policing was hurting my son a couple of years ago: http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/479031.html

It still is: he recently explicitly told me that there are things which he only likes "secretly" i.e. where his peers cannot pressure him for being too girly. (But not actually secret, given he had this conversation with me in a loud voice in the supermarket.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-03 10:15 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
I like "experiences oppression directed at women" for some of this - because sod it we get to claim multiple identities and they're not contradictory just coz someone else thinks so.

But, er, I am feverish so this is possibly at best tangentially related ;)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-04 05:04 am (UTC)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
Sounds pertinent to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-04 03:33 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: John Byrne art of Destiny and Mystique, caption "Destined" (destiny mystique)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
I am also conscious that this "we all have our struggles" kinda deal may itself be erasing towards people who are actually trans*, genderqueer and non-binary.


Yes, but someone can be disabled, for example, and still acknowledge that some people are more and/or differently disabled than they are. As long as it's done in a spirit of solidarity and fighting rigid gender roles (rather then co-opting actual struggle) I think this is a good thing. Witness, for example, the panic that people have at the term "TAB" or "CAB", temporarily/currently able-bodied, even though it's extremely likely that everyone will experience some form of disability in their lifetime. Acknowledging that gendered restrictions/expectations are to some degree harmful to everyone is important!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-15 12:42 am (UTC)
aphenine: Teresa and Claire (Default)
From: [personal profile] aphenine
It's weird, I've been having the problem at work where I am that I'm always having to come out as being trans and it's beginning to get annoying, frustrating and quite depressing, and here there's an excellent post on this matter. And, yes, before you'd even got on to trans stuff but were staying on the bi stuff, I was sitting there thinking "wow, that sounds so familiar".

The questions you raise in your second to last paragraph for me are again a restatement of the age old argument against lumping the thing that makes people question their internal sex and the thing that makes people question their internal gender together. It shouldn't really matter to me whether you identify with feminine traits or not as part of being female or whether you try to raise awareness of non-binary behaviour and, honestly, it doesn't.

The problem always comes when their lumped in together. It leads to Highlanderism ("There can be only one") and then usually I've found that people who are gender-variant and want to make people aware of the non-binary are the biggest threat transsexuals face, since a destruction or devaluation of the singular gender/sex thing just makes us seem nuts. It's a bit crap actually that the awareness of the mainstream usually can't make that distinction and it's noticeable that there's intolerance in mainstream views depending on which view got to which person first.

When that all comes together, I do feel that non-binary people adopt and destroy transsexual perspectives. But then, everything gets clear when they get separated out, and there's a throwaway quote in that tumblr thing you posted, which also says it. "butch trans women, fem trans men, etc - a zone we still don’t have good language for, except maybe by taking serano’s distinction between cissexual and cisgender more seriously". For, verily, Julie Serrano's Whipping Girl is the bible for me on "how to get along with other queer people without making their issues your issues (and vice versa)", but then, I'm sure I've said that before. I just think it's a shame that her model doesn't get more mileage.

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