Fangirl tagged me for this:
The rules are as follows: Post a picture or make/take/create your own that captures what you are most passionate for students to learn about. Give your picture a short title. Title your post “Meme: I can’t believe it’s not a passion quilt!”.* Link back to this blog entry. Include links to 5 (or more) educators.
In the archive of LTTR (which is perfect for a Saturday afternoon web browse and inspirational for all sorts of reasons, those homos know how to make art and shit) I found this piece by Boots, about an extremely awesome Pudding Tits Project, illegibility and language. Here’s an extract:
Right after I got surgery, I felt strange. I felt strange that I spent so much money on something so self-indulgent. And I felt really strange about my place in the world. I called a friend who, like me, is not taking testosterone, gets read as female fairly frequently, and who had chest reconstruction surgery. I tried to articulate the fact that all of a sudden, it felt as if I didn’t exist in the world, save for in the presence of a few people that understood my wonderfully freakish, spectacularly monstrous gender. He both reassured and disappointed me with his reply: “We’re illegible. But everyone is, it’s just that most people are never confronted with the situation of really realizing it.”
I know this experience of feeling as if I don’t exist. I’d articulate a little differently, though — in the sense that since I’ve begun to be read as unproblematically male, everyday life is a little ‘easier’, but I lose the power of making my own freakishness visible.
For example, I don’t think many of this year’s crop of gender studies students know that I’m trans. A couple of them expressed fairly transphobic sentiments earlier in the semester, along the lines of, “If someone wants to be called a woman, fine. I’d use female pronouns to their face. But to me they were born men and they’ll always be men.” I encouraged other students to deconstruct or challenge those sentiments, and was impressed when the other students in the class rose effortlessly to the challenge. But somehow I could not say, “So I guess that to you I would count as a woman?” Partially this is because being an educator (at least in gender studies) is about dismantling the reliability of students’ individual experiences of their worlds, and offering them a toolbox with which to read the abstract, the invisible. But it was also about protecting myself from surveillance, and not allowing the class to become a space in which my gender performances were scrutinised. I wanted to retain a space in which my identity was unimportant, and where I remained effective as a conduit for learning. Also, I couldn’t think of how to describe my gender, how to account for it, to them. Remaining illegible has its uses.
Perhaps my students would learn just as much if I were ‘open’ about being trans as not. But since I don’t know how to ‘come out’ to them, I’ve tried to teach them that none of us has a stable gender (or sexuality or ethnicity or identity), and that we are all being misrecognised, all the time. If I am passionate about anything, this is it.
Anyhow, since I’ve been back from North America, I’ve been experimenting with style. Long ago, I decided that tight jeans and tight-fitting sweaters would probably make it more difficult for me to pass as a guy. No, worse — because let’s not diminish the homophobia implicit in this arithmetic around tightness and bagginess — it seemed easier to pass as a straighter-looking white boy than a queer. The excuse I gave myself was that my bum was too big for tight jeans. I’ve always felt uneasy about it, but at Transsomatechnics my whole structure of passing anxiety crumbled into dust. No-one cared. Or, people did care, but in an encouraging and nourishing way. So why is it different in Melbourne? We are still operating in reactionary response to a medicalised system in which anyone who wants to modify their bodies surgically or hormonally must engage with the ‘true transsexual’ narrative. The stakes of not passing as a true transsexual at the clinic are high — people self-harm, destroy their relationships, kill themselves. Even in the spaces made to resist this poison, we are still so psychically alert to the prevailing pressures of passing as ‘trans enough’ everywhere else that we cannot entirely innoculate ourselves against it. Lately I have been wearing flamboyantly skinny jeans, pink-streaked 80s ties and cornflower blue sweaters. Eyeliner, too. The world needs more boys with eyeliner. For now, this will be my innoculation.
Tag!: Ika, Jonathan, Craig, Wildly Parenthetical and Mattilda.
PS Today I had breakfast with a friend. After our Minor Place bagels turned out not to fill our stomachs, we went wandering through Brunswick on a mission to find baklava. On the way, we discussed what, if it were not for how the last month has been chock full of brain-shatteringly exciting things for me, would certainly be the most exciting project ever. It makes me shiver with barely repressed glee. Good things are going to happen, I just know it.