Thursday, December 11, 2008


The NYT did an article about the Oaxacan tradition of recognizing male-bodied people who grow up to live and fulfill a female role. What's interesting to me is that a few people on our boards objected to the one time that one of the muxe was referred to as "he," which started an interesting conversation about cultural imperialism, effectively.

  • That is, can we tell a mother of a muxe that she is wrong for using the "he" pronoun for her child?

  • Do we know that a muxe would find that problematic?

  • Do we even know that someone muxe would identify as what we think of as trans?

I don't think we can know any of that, but I do know that I've had enough people tell me I can't call Betty my husband to object to anyone saying they know for sure what pronouns to use. An interview with a muxe that appeared in a gay magazine of Argentina (English translation) helps explain: he uses he for himself but does explain he doesn't speak for all muxe, too.

Interestingly, perhaps, someone at the LGBT Blogger event asked me & Autumn about all the "correct" language issues within the trans, & we both kind of rolled our eyes. She points them to GLAAD's usage guidelines, & I said he'd never make every trans person happy but to ask the person, if possible, or to ask others who might know. (I also mentioned that being upfront about feeling ignorant was entirely acceptable, & might defuse a lot of tempers.)

We didn't quite come to a conclusion, but one of our frequent posters ended on this note:
"Trying to overlay one's cultural understanding, whether consciously or not, over those of another is risky at best."

Which is an excellent rule of thumb.

1 comment:

Richard M. Juang said...

I think this is a tremendously valuable post. As a movement, we have an obligation to take cultural self-determination seriously, as well as be alert to the colonial and (ironically, perhaps) paternalistic implications of demanding that persons in other nations conform to our expections.