Just wanted to chime in and say "hello" for the first time. While I have not met most of you personally, I am familiar with the work that many of you done in the past, and I feel honored to have the chance to discuss trans issues with all of you! BTW, if you're not sure of who I am, you can find out more about me at my website JuliaSerano.com.
Also since Jenny Boylan is on this group, I wanted to take this opportunity to apologize to her for something that I wrote in an article for Bitch Magazine back in 2004. The article was called Skirt Chasers: Why the Media Depicts the Trans Revolution in Skirts and Heels. In it, I brought up your appearance on Oprah as an example of how even serious media discussions about trans-ness often include superfluous shots trans women putting on make-up, heels, etc. (I'm referring here to the clips they used in the show's intro). During the editing process, I was asked if I wanted to make a comment about the book; apparently there had been discussion amongst Bitch readers and staff over whether your book adequately challenged people's ideas of gender enough. At the time, I was buying into the pernicious and prevalent ideology that trans people should challenge the gender binary at all times. And while I enjoyed reading your book and could relate with a lot of your experiences, at their request I added my thoughts about it not sufficiently challenging audience's assumptions about gender. A lot of this was based solely on the fact that you transitioned to woman rather than to genderqueer (as folks like Bornstein, Feinberg & Wilchins (who I idolized at the time) had).
In the year that followed, I came to very much regret that comment for several reasons. First, it's dumb. Any person who changes their physical and/or lived gender certainly challenges mainstream ideas about gender. Second, in doing research for my book, I went back and actually read all of those yucky lesbian-feminist critiques of transsexuality, and came to realize that this notion that trans people should strive to constantly shatter conventional gender categories rather than identifying as women or men (what I've started somewhat jokingly referring to as "compulsory genderqueerness") has its roots back then. It's a blatant double standard: Non-trans feminists and queers are not questioned when they identify simply as women and men, but trans folks are.
Anyway, I apologize for what I wrote back then. Since then, that article has appeared in several places (including as a chapter in my book) without that ridiculous comment. Also, since few of you know me, I should add the following disclaimers so that my views aren't misinterpreted:
1) I very much respect genderqueerness (even though I no longer identify that way) - my only issue is with people who view that as inherently more evolved than identifying within the binary.
2) My post may lead some to think that I believe that Bitch Magazine has messed up trans politics. That is not the case, they are great allies. I've talked to them about the comment after the fact, and they agree with me that in retrospect we should have left that out.
That's it for now - will post more soon...
Wednesday, June 06, 2007