Anonymous asked: is genderqueer an appropriation of trans identity and experience?
A lot of very interesting ideas going back and forth here, and I’ve wondered about it myself with certain very specific people. However, being neither trans nor genderqueer, it’s kind of not my place to work out most of the bigger issues.
for genderqueer to be an appropriation of trans experience, genderqueer people would have to be cis. so, short answer: no.
there is a larger issue here, and trans women talk about it with each other, but many of us are hesitant to speak publicly because we get shit on for standing up for ourselves. for faab people, adopting he/his pronouns can be an act of subversive gender performance - which is not how i feel about being a woman. there are plenty of faab people who adopt clothing, haircuts, and pronouns in limited capacities in their lives and who adopt trans as a description of themselves.
for me, i share being trans with trans dudes. i share being a woman with cis women. but i usually do not feel a sense of shared experience with faab genderqueer people, with a few exceptions. i feel that i have much more in common with cis women.
i am not in a position to say who is trans and who isn’t, and i absolutely don’t want to be in that position. however, i will say that when many genderqueer people describe their experience as transgender, they seem to mean something fundamentally different by the word ‘trans’ and the word ‘gender’. i think its fine and good that there are a variety of trans experiences. this is positive. i respect genderqueer folks’ genders.
however, because we mean fundamentally different things by ‘trans’ and ‘gender’, our political and community goals & needs are often very different and sometimes opposed. i believe that trans activism must center trans women of color or else it is fucked up. if white genderqueer faab people use their positions of relative privilege to direct trans activism away from the interests of trans women of color, of trans folks of color in general, away from trans women, away from systemic violence, ect - then i think these folks are doing something fucked up by appropriating the hard experiences of trans women of color who primarily face the transphobic violence of our society. this attitude and redirection of trans activism, the re-centering onto people who are not trans women is the major conflict that i have with faab genderqueer folks. i think many trans women are frustrated by this and that frustration is sometimes voiced as calling out genderqueer folks for this appropriation.
there’s another thing going on here as well: the near-complete capture of the term “genderqueer” by female-assigned folks (largely white and expensively educated) to mean a specific, extremely limited range of their gender and style expressions.
when “genderqueer” was first being used (as far as i know) in the mid-1990s, it was a very broad umbrella term covering the whole space that we’d now refer to as “nonbinary”, as well as to some extent non-trans genderdeviant folks and trans folks who don’t have conventional gender expressions (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).
"genderqueer" was very consciously created as a political project like "transgender" or "queer", aiming at bringing together a very mixed group of people, not on the basis of ‘shared identity’ but on the basis of an analysis of structural power. in this case, an analysis of the enforcement of binary gender, as something that specifically targets women and other folks who are seen as imperfect men, and that affects in specific ways folks who aren’t easily read into a conventional masculine man/feminine woman box.
and it’s worth saying: a lot of the folks doing that creating were trans women. just like with “transgender” and with “queer”.
but within ten years, the meaning of “genderqueer” had been narrowed down to where it usually is today: a very limited microidentity for female-assigned folks. if i remember right, rocco bulldagger has a nice account of that shift in an issue of Bleached Blonde Bimbos from years ago…
the effect, of course, was to marginalize male-assigned trans and genderdeviant folks, further valorize conventional masculinity within dyke communities, make it easier for folks in dyke communities to maintain a double standard for trans men and trans women (as ‘not *really* men’ and ‘not *really* women’), and to actively depoliticize the term.
( parenthetically: i’d argue that this is at heart just a particularly blatant version of a general problem with a shift in the 00s from an expansive, strategic identity[-with…] politics (rooted in women of color feminist/womanist work and in the GLF/STAR/ACT UP lineage) to a boundary-policing, purist identity[-as…] politics (rooted in cultural nationalist movements, niche-marketing & liberation marketing, and TERF lineages). )
alongside that, though, i think the elimination of “genderqueer” as a usable umbrella term has encouraged more male-assigned nonbinary trans and genderdeviant folks (nonbinary trans dykes, in particular) to identify ourselves more actively with trans women, and to insist that the category of ‘trans women’ be expansive enough to include us.
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.”