Dr. Evelyn Blackwood was interviewed on the topic of “Global Genders” on Public Radio International’s weekly program “To the Best of Our Knowledge,” which aired on Aug. 30, 2013. You can listen to the program here (scroll down to #4).
Ryan Plis and Evelyn Blackwood received the Center for Research on Diversity and Inclusion 2012 award for the best paper In the category of Faculty research. The paper is titled:
TRANS TECHNOLOGIES AND IDENTITIES IN THE UNITED STATES
It will be published in Technologies of Sexuality and Sexual Health,
Lenore Manderson, editor, Routledge, 2012.
Alice Dreger has a wonderful blog about Australia’s new gender system of M, F, and X. I am still trying to figure out when the U.S. decided that sex was gender, thus forcing everyone to declare on any enrollment, financial or census form that their “gender” is M or F. I mark F but not because I think that “female” is my gender because, as I remind my students, male and female are terms for the physical body–with apologies to Anne Fausto-Sterling for not immediately declaring that, of course, bodies don’t just come in two kinds. “Woman” or “man” are terms for the cultural categories we call gender.
I mark F and wish that the form would at least give me “woman” or “man” because then I might feel that they’re actually acknowledging gender rather than trying to slip it back into biology. I could check “woman” and then pause to think how closely I fit that category since I am not a heterosexual woman as the term might imply. Now I don’t need a form that says “lesbian,” at least not a government form, although I am proud to tell the Census Bureau that I am in a same-sex partnership–and since I also check F, that must mean I’m a lesbian.
Other options might be nice. Androgyne, or, as they say in Indonesia, andro, for those who feel they are neither too masculine nor too feminine. Transgender would seem like an obvious addition, or transman and transwoman, although some transpeople might just want to check the gender they are. Or forms could have multiple boxes to tick–check women, man or trans and then check butch, femme, andro or queer. I could be a W/A for andro woman. Such multiplicity would definitely get us beyond two simple categories.
But any box or label would be limiting. As one of my friends in Indonesia told me, when she is with those who prefer to be labelled either tomboi and femme, her identity depends on who she is dating. Mostly she sees herself as andro but if her partner is a tomboi, then she will identify as femme.
But back to Australia, I think everyone should check X in solidarity with whoever the state thought would like to use X. Intersex? Trans? Dreger suggests that since intersex people usually identify with one or the other gender assigned to them, they could check X/F or X/M, a nice hybrid category. Interestingly, Dreger says that “gender” refers to one’s sense of self, while I usually define it as the social attributes culturally assigned to particular bodies. Her definition, if she means to detach it from any reference to masculinity or femininity, might be a useful way to move gender beyond bodies, leaving us only with selves. I’ll take an S please.
Urvashi Vaid’s comments on the passing of Paula Ettelbrick remind us that “LGBT” is not a monolithic group that shares all the same desires and interests. There are many differences and disparities hidden behind those letters and also hidden in the now somewhat passe phrase “lesbian-and-gay.” We need to continue to struggle to address the sexism and racism that inhere even within our movment to ensure that social and economic justice, equality and freedom apply to all.
I don’t know what LGBT means anymore, but I do know that when it’s used in academic research–and we all use it–no one is really talking about the thing as a whole, but about parts of it. There are very few statements that can be made about “LGBT” that apply to all. And as bisexuals have known for a long time, the “B” is usually silent. We CAN work together but let’s not lose our histories, our complexities, and our differences to a soundbite that is useful for the media, but has little other value.