Where is the room to write thesis, when I’m so busy thinking about everything else? I’m replying on my ability to draw things together fast, because this week the deadline is Wednesday. 3000 words, assembled from notes. Whatever. At 4am, unable to sleep and now entirely nocturnal, I listen to The Pointer Sisters’ “Send Him Back”, Pilooski edit, courtesy of s0metim3s, and it mirrors a thrust into thought I’m enacting, arms windmilling in 60’s dance moves, or was that boxing…? And the new email list I’m moderating (which has a name I think, and maybe we’ll even get some institutional support at some point) is finally in flow. But all I can do is read people’s article recommendations and chew over stuff in my head.
Tonight I attended a HREOC sex and gender diversity project public meeting. I’m glad I went, although my horoscope for today said I’d be annoyed by a business outcome, and to “strategise, don’t nark off.” So right. Based on the initial submissions they received, HREOC has already decided that their project will focus on the question of identity documents: recommending federal legislation to make gender marker changes on birth certificates and passports consistent/coherent. So, defer thinking about affordable healthcare, Medicare subsidies, and forget removing gender from identity documents altogether. (S. suggested this latter solution at the meeting and a lot of people laughed, as if it was absurd.) So, the big question the HREOC people wanted to ask: “What line in the sand do we draw?” Because we have to draw a line somewhere, for people to change their document permanently from M to F or F to M. Surgery and hormones? Psychiatric or psychological assessment? Two years or one? Which legislation is better, Spain’s or the UK’s? Oh, so limited. So frustrating.
But the actual comments, the meeting itself, ran so far outside the bounds of this question that I started to feel better, optimistic. Trans legislative questions always run aground on these immense philosophical rocks that simultaneously connect very material every day existence with the whole epistemology of gender as a central category organising bodies violently, and why we find it so difficult to think without it. So, yes, why is it that someone’s gender is M at such and such an institution but F at another? Why is it that one can change one’s birth certificate, but when one gets pulled over by a motorcycle cop on a deserted country road, the cop can check one’s entire police record with previous names and genders and call one ‘Sir’, and throw in a few transphobic slurs as well? Why is it that in the Family Court, a transwoman suing for partial custody of her children could be denied it on the basis that she was upsetting her children by wearing women’s clothing around them? How do we think about these children’s desires to have a ‘normal family,’ and the violence that enacts against this woman, who has a life-threatening disease, and who just wants to be a ‘normal woman’? How do we think the crazily proliferating deployments of ‘normal’ in this context? How do you even think, when the story is so heart-breaking?
What really surprises me is the intensity of a lot of transfolks’ desires to gain recognition, preferably on an important looking piece of paper with a government seal. So much so that this validation forms a kind of fetish. If we have the piece of paper, everything will be okay. But what the meeting really demonstrated is that no, a piece of paper cannot make everything okay.
My favourite moment was when A. started talking about the costs of outing oneself as trans, and how much safer it is to be stealth. But staying stealth has to break whenever you witness violence erupt against another transperson. You have to stand up and tell people that’s not on, he said. “Do we stand up for each other? Can we have solidarity with each other, even if it means outing ourselves? This is the only line in the sand I want to draw.” What a beautiful intervention.