Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gendercator re-visited

To be honest, I'm having trouble juggling all of the various anti-trans controversies these days. The ENDA issue has of course (for good reason) been the focus of much of the trans community's energy. Then there's the whole Bailey/Dreger debacle (which I am currently writing madly about). And now, unfortunately, it seems like SF's upcoming Gendercator screening has been orchestrated so that there is little room for an actual community dialogue (which was supposedly the original point in doing the screening). Anyway, here's the forwarded post:

Please attend transphobic filmmaker event this Friday in SF!

Supporters of ENDA have threatened to exclude transgender people from employment protections. Every other month, a letter runs in the local LGBT newspaper expressing disdain and disgust for transgender people. At last summer’s “Transforming Community” event in the SF LGBT Center, a gay man walked into trans community space and began distributing flyers against “Transsexual Mutilation,” claiming he simply wanted to start “dialogue.”

And this Friday at 6:30 p.m, Center Women Presents at the SF LGBT Center will be hosting the Midwestern filmmaker whose most recent statements equate gender transition with violence, social ease, and political apathy. These positions have been framed as a “difference of opinion” in the SF community. It is incredibly important that you attend this event and speak your truth. You may need to get there early. You may need to buy tickets for friends. You may need to bring copies of her statements. And you may need to brace yourself for a frustrating evening. But please, do not allow a transphobic outsider to the community frame what an actual respectful dialogue about community tensions looks like.

On Friday, Oct 26 at 6:30 p.m., Center Women Presents will show Catherine Crouch’s “The Gendercator,” the film that SF’s Frameline decided to pull last summer after community concerns about Crouch’s public statements against trans people and, for those who saw the film, the depiction of trans people as coercive right-wing anti-gay villains whose very existence was a threat to queers. If you missed the Frameline film fest uproar, Crouch's original publicity said that "lesbians alter themselves into transmen" ... "instead of working to change the world." She then clarified that to say she "never mentioned" trans people--just women who take hormones and have surgery in order to be read as male. Of course, all of this was said, she explained, to "spark dialogue."

Shortly afterward, the LA film fest pulled “The Gendercator” from its scheduled program and showed the film by itself along with a panel; this event, said Crouch, was “unsafe,” because it allowed people an open forum to challenge her and her ideas. Subsequent events have decided not to include Crouch on their panels due to her divisive positions. Friday’s “Center Women” event in San Francisco while initially well-intentioned-- has made great efforts to make sure Crouch feels “safe,” and during the process for this panel, organizers expressed concern for Crouch’s safety and respect. To that end, they have added a full panel of speakers to address everything from censorship to Crouch’s full body of film work – and not just that pesky topic of transgender marginalization within our own communities. Additionally, questions will be "randomly drawn,” increasing the chance for transgender ally “censorship” and discouraging any emotional members of the public from adequately expressing themselves. Crouch’s damaging public statements (which I’ve included below) are considered by many of the panelists and organizers to be irrelevant.

Again, it is incredibly important that you attend this event and speak your truth – this is our Center and our community, and if it takes civil disobedience or printed materials to be heard, it is important for that to happen. It is also important that you go to witness and document the event and not allow history to be distorted, as Crouch’s “revised statements” keep attempting to do. Like all communities, not every trans person agrees with Frameline’s decision to pull the film last summer, and not every lesbian or queer woman is sympathetic to Crouch’s positions. Some have emphasized that pulling the film was “censorship,” while others believe the film and Crouch’s statements are not transphobic. Others say that Crouch has valid positions because they do know one or two people who fit her criticism of an entire population. Such sentiments, however, ignore the real issues: our SF community frequently does respectfully and productively criticize one another without resorting to hateful rhetoric; there is also the undeniable reality that we would not be bending over backwards to give a safe space and an open mic to anybody who made similar anti-gay or anti-lesbian statements. Although Crouch keeps revising who she “meant” to target, the issue is not who or what she meant, but the ethics of judging people’s lives and bodies as cowardly or not queer enough--especially in our own venues.

Below are Crouch’s most recent public statements. From CatherineCrouch.com:

Director’s Note - Things are getting very strange for women these
days. Barbie dolls and lesbian women altering themselves into
transmen. Our distorted cultural norms are making women feel compelled to use medical advances to change themselves, instead of working to change the world. This is one story, showing one possible scary future. I am hopeful that this movie will foster discussion about female body modification and medical ethics.

This remark is not about transpeople. It is about women. My
understanding of transsexuality is that it is a rare condition, a medical condition of gender dysphoria. A person’s exterior body does not match their interior sense of self, causing serious social, sexual, and mental problems. This person is a transsexual, not a woman or a man. My statement was not meant to question the validity of this condition, but to call attention to the increasing number of young women who are taking testosterone or undergoing voluntary mastectomies to enhance their masculinity. These are women who formerly identified, or would be considered by the lesbian community, as butch lesbians. If we situate this in terms of the larger culture’s misogyny, it seems to be a rejection of the female part of the masculine female. Why does a woman do this? Most often, the reasons given are: to avoid harassment, rape and ridicule as a gender variant. It seems to me that what is also going on, but has not been explicitly addressed, is the desire to avoid being perceived by the world at large as female. Or to avoid the label of lesbian. Some may do this because it enables their sexual fantasies.

From a Movie magazine interview:

What I said was that cultural norms are making women feel compelled to use medical advances to change themselves instead of working to change the world. This remark is not about the trans people. It’s about women. My statement never referred to transsexuals, but some took it upon themselves to assume it was all about them. It seems to me that what is also going on but is not explicitly addressed, is a desire to avoid being perceived by the world at large as being female, or to avoid the label lesbian. But I think we need to acknowledge that it has become a trend among some young people who formerly identified as, or would be considered by the lesbian community, as butch lesbians. The rigid binary of a larger culture enables this violence and harassment of the masculine woman or effeminate male. It’s harmful to everyone, that their safety and identity is defined by conformity to this Ken and Barbie model. This is what The Gendercator is all about.

1 comment:

Emilia said...

Is Susan Stryker still participating in it?