Subject: OK, I'll admit it.
Date: Tue 14 Oct 1997 - 19:47:07 BST
OK, I'll admit it. I'm an overthinking tranny.
I suppose it happened early. Narccistic mom who thought everything was about
her, not about me, big secret that I knew I had to hide, a body that wasn't
the one I would have chosen. Add those all up, throw in the daimon I was
born with, and yes, I became an overthinker.
My brain was my saviour. It was a place to hide, just me and a book or a
story, a control system that let me clamp down on my emotions, even a suit of
armor that could rationalize away the pain I had from denying myself, being
shamed and humilated when I didn't.
That means that I have always seen theory as a tool, one that I could use in
many ways. At first I used to use it for justification and defense, but I
realized that didn't address the emotional damage that crippled me as a
transperson. It became clear that if my theory was no good at providing a
tool to open myself up, to affect healing, to embrace all that messy human
emotion inside, theory would only be a prision forever.
I suppose I realized this by looking in the mirror of other transpeople and
seeing how the intelectual bonds that protected them also limited them. I
got uncomfortable seeing too many twisted rationalizations for the twisted
emotions that we are left with when our hearts cross the twisted boundary of
masculine and feminine in this polarized world.
For me, that's when queer theory became central as a tool to deconstruct the
emotional assumptions about duality that I held, and try to replace them with
other emotional constructs that support growth & success. I wanted to move
from surviving to thriving, and I realized the same tools of theory could
help me with that if I moved past "shared oppressions" and simply learned to
take responsibility for my possibilities, to stop carrying the bars of
oppression in myself
I don't, anymore at least, find theory useful in the abstract. Theory is
only useful for me when it enlightens and empowers me, lets me celebrate the
messy nature of life. I neither want to be someone who lives in my head, nor
to be someone who turns their brain off and yells "Just Do It!" To me, it is
the alloy of thought, feeling, spirit and body that create a strong human,
and they all must open up as we grow into our own power.
To me, theory is the blade that cuts new ideas about how to intergrate the
parts of our lives. The power of logical and incisive thought is one of the
key gifts that humans are given, and in my mind we must use it to cut new
language, new symbols, new constructs that allow us to build shared ideas,
hearts, and spirit. It becomes important to use theory as just one of the
tools we have to change the world.
I know that some people will be bored with all this. One has already
announced it is not worth enagaging this discussion noting that few other
people have engaged it.
I have been on the Queer Studies list for a couple of years now. It's a big
list -- 800-1000 people have signed up to it. Queer Studies has a fully
searchable web archive avaliable for it, from July 1994 to present, as there
is for this list, if anyone wants to investigate it --
A couple of times a year, we have the same discussion, coming down to the
question, "What does queer mean? Is there a queer theory, and how does it
affect our lives? " I often engage those discussions, as I do discussions
There are a number of people, mostly not scholars, who use their own
colloquial definition of queer, which is that it equals gay and lesbian.
However, there are also a lot of scholars who talk about queer as
transgressive identities and lives, ones that break the rules about what
women should be, about what men should be. These are the people who are
doing the work of figuring out what constructs we have built over basic
biological differences, and how those constructs both serve and limit us, who
desire to go beyond dualism and reproductive essentialism.
Yet, even there, our discussions become difficult because the language and
training of the culture are so stuctured in binary ways that it becomes very
hard to even think in the nuances and shades that make up human behavior and
communication, much less speak about them. The challenge of taking down the
father's house with the father's tools is a hard one -- we need new tools.
The goal must be construction of heathy, happy lives beyond the simple
answers of reproductive essentialsm, the deconstruction of the structures, in
language, behavior and expectation is required for us to see the lay of the
land. This is a very hard part of the process, as constructs we have learned
to rely on, to accept as "natural" suddenly show themselves as illusions,
shifting the foundations of our identity as they crumble.
I know one trans scholar whose is furious at how trans people seem to squawk
in unison like a hoarde of bloody parrots, telling the same story that they
have internalized and learned to repeat in order to get sympathy and the
changes they believe that they want. They don't do the hard work of taking
away the layers of socialization to discover the song that their creator
taught them to sing, but rather sing the a song that they think fits them.
This notion of deconstruction, of clearing away the expectations, dreams and
identity props that society gave us to find who we are at the core, and then
using that knowledge of self to build a truly happy, powerful and fulfilling
life is the hard work of being trans, at least from where I sit.
I am committed to reconstruction, to constructing good lives that balance the
wild and tame, the social and the individual, as you suggest trans-studies is
about. But I also see the need to explore our own queerness, how we break
the rules of desire, transgress the norms of culture, as a key part of that
process of building a good life.
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