Butler, Judith. "Doing Justice to Someone: Sex Reassignment & Allegories of Transsexuality" in GLQ: a Journal of Lesbian & Gay Studies, Vol 7, No 4 pp 621-636. Copyright 2001 Duke U. Press
These are Butler's insights on the John W. Money "John/Joan" case --
And so our metaphysical inquiry du jour is: What is the signifying essence of "trans," and how is it intelligible?
In the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM) there is provided a diagnostic option "NOS" -- "not otherwise specified." This is the interpretive"catch-all bucket" for those symptoms which seem to fulfill the diagnostic criteria, but which evade specification.
Current narrative in "trans" (whatever) suggests that there is a realm between and/or outside the masculinist hegemonic dyad, outside hetero-sexist dimorphism, beyond genital bifurcation, beyond whatever, etc, etc. OK, let's note that we interject "whatever" to signify a fluid state, a sort of dynamically varying variable. The literature is more and more often suggesting that this "whatever" variable is defined in part by what it is not: Not female. Not male. This "whatever" ("trans") resists specification as to what it is, rather insisting as to what it is not.
This trans group's "is not" is engaged in a search for intelligibility. Where does language afford a signifier whose meaning connotes fluid, dynamic, significantly amorphous, undefined, deconstructed, post-modernist, Marxist feminist, New Historical theorist . . . ?
Stephen Whittle notes that in women's (not men's) lacrosse the "pitch" (playing field) is not marked out. Decisions as to the ball being in or out of play are determined through consensus between the playing teams. In linguistics this sort of social behavior demonstrates the "cooperative principle." Meaning is determined through a cooperative discourse between the playing parties. Between speakers. Cooperation, consensus determines what is conveyed and how it is interpreted.
And so what constitutes "meaning" as regards gender attribution? What sort of socio-culturally constructed discourse informs the gender narrative, and how is it made intelligible?
Let's tie our Human Condition, our unique ability to to generate language (poetics), to the linguistic poetics of sexual liaison. Foucault asserts an infinite diversity of sexual liaison, a poetics of sexuality which affords innovation, invention, deconstruction, ambiguity. Let us draw an analogy between rigid prescriptive grammars and the hetero-sexist hegemonic dyad.
By way of contrast, descriptive grammars afford a poetics of invention. In a poetics of new linguistical forms interpretive communities apply cooperative principles to new poetics. The crucial distinction between descriptive and prescriptive grammars is that the latter is hegemonic, dogmatic. The former -- descriptive -- reflects how the language is actually used. We can do this with the human social communications which is our sexuality. We can rigidly insist upon a socio-culturally prescribed hetero-sexist dyad.
Or we can aspire to make intelligible the socio-cultural intercourse (language/communication) which describes how humans actually relate sexually. How we as a species function outside the hetero-normative dyad.
The Human Condition is intrinsically innovative, ontologically poetical. Let us propose that the more prescriptive grammars (hetero-hegemonic) are ceding to a post-modern poetics of descriptive grammar as pertains to sex and gender.
Because they are human, because humans are linguistical, sex and gender is a discursive linguistic (socio-cultural) invention. Arguably then, all linguistic theory, the metaphysics of our epistemological ontologies, is tied up in our socio-cultural discursive function, and sex/gender is ineluctably intrinsic.
Perhaps as a species we have been socio-enculturated into a semantics of sex/gender which is largely founded upon physical semes, indices of sex/gender. The most obvious physical index being genitalia. Hetero-sexist dimorphism affords an ontological purpose in the survival of the species.
Arguably, as a species, there's more going on in sexual relations than reproduction, and species perpetuation. As linguistic beings our sexual relations are arguably as semiotically heuristic as any other human endeavor.
Let's just toss out here that as "trans" we're engaged at the edges of sexual poetics -- toss it out and see where it goes.
-- Down this rabbit hole, and let's see where it leads . . .