☆☆☆ "Appropriate & subvert the patriarchal semiotic hegemony of the hetero-normative dyad!" ☆☆☆

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Susan J Kessler & Wendy McKenna "Toward a Theory of Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach," 1978.

Susan J Kessler & Wendy McKenna "Toward a Theory of Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach,"  1978. from: The Transgender Studies Reader, Stryker & Whittle, NY: Routledge, 2006

What are the socio-cultural "cues" [semes] people process when attributing gender? For us this pretty much comes down to "What strategies do we employ in order to deconstruct and problematize the socio-cultural signifiers of gender attribution. In a "trans" world this strategy of attributing and providing semes of attribution would be called "passing." It's a socio-cultural "game" -- nothing to do whatever with the biology of reproduction (sex), rather it's about signifying sexual status.

Gender Attribution & Masculine Hegemony --

Jack [Julia] Halberstam notes some fundamental gender distinctions in "restroom regulation." Female Masculinity, Durham NC: Duke, 1998. We never realized this, because homosexual sex is not our orientation: "Men's" restrooms are termed "tearooms" and "cottages" -- euphemistic slang for sex in the commode stalls. We've encountered male homosexual intercourse in progress in the men's restroom in WinCo. (And WinCo in [red-neck, working-class] Longview WA just doesn't seem like a venue for homosexual hook-ups.)

We're betting not a lot of lesbian sex takes place in the women's restrooms.

There is "sexual function" that goes on in women's restrooms. No authors seem to discuss this, and the Western culture pretty much culturally mandates that this biological function not be the subject of a great deal of discussion: Women use the restroom to manage their menses. And for this reason, "man in the women's restroom" is perceived as a potentially sexual threat, an invasive violation of sexual boundaries.

North Carolina passed and just recently rescinded (after court review) their law requiring persons to use the restroom that matches the "sex" designated on their birth certificate.


Oregon Birth Certificate Laws
Oregon Center for Health and Vital Statistics will issue a new birth certificate upon receipt of a court order stating "the individual has undergone surgical, hormonal, or other treatment appropriate for that individual for the purpose of gender transition and that sexual reassignment has been completed" ORS 33.460.

The applicant should submit:
a Vital Records Order Form 
a court order indicating the sex and/or name of an individual is to be changed 
payment of the associate fees

The instructions from Vital Records on how to change an Oregon birth certificate with a court order can be found here. Forms and instructions to petition for a court order for change of sex in Multnomah County, Oregon are here.


You may also request to change your name as part of this request. To do so you must present proof of a legal name change.

NOTE: At this time because of system constraints DMV can only capture two sex designations, which are “M” for male and “F” for female. DMV understands that you may not identify as a male or female and wish to have a designation other than “M” or “F”. To respond to our customers’ requests DMV is undertaking the rule writing process, which will include public notice and opportunity for comment on a draft rule.  These changes  will take  time; however, DMV is addressing the need for change.

Oregon recently permitted a person to designate "no gender" on their driver's license as alluded in the NOTE. That said, federal law requires designation of M or F on ID -- passports being an egregious example.

(We get really pissy about "sex" designation on documents for which there is no rhyme, reason, rationale for gender specification -- social media being the example that springs immediately to mind.)

Let's note too:

"the individual has undergone surgical, hormonal, or other treatment appropriate for that individual for the purpose of gender transition and that sexual reassignment has been completed" ORS 33.460.

Let's argue for the sake of gender insurrection that we claim: We're not broken! We were "mis-designated" at birth and are endeavoring to correct a medical and legal error in the record. Accordingly, we petition the state that we be 'sex designated' as 'no gender' -- as in 'not M' and 'not F'

Let us further expect that the state might very well argue that for the purpose of SEX identification for the state, for legal status and records, persons shall be sex identified according to the gametes they produce. Dogmatic, hetero-normative dyad hegemony.

But we digress . . .

Seemingly in part, on account of the male hegemony and the socio-cultural functions of restrooms in the Western hetero-normative dyadic environs, rest-room gender segregation is a hot-button issue. By and large, men do not care if women use their restroom. Oregon has no "gender restroom" laws. Aids and attendants may be of either gender. A person may use either restroom to the extent that the use does not create a disturbance. (Read: harass, annoy, predate, intimidate, shock, threaten, etc.)

Men appearing in the women's room -- "trans women" or whatever -- are viewed as potentially predatory, a sexual threat, invasive. This again, very much a product of male hegemonic status in Western culture.

The "restroom issue" comes up again and again in the literature because it is one rigidly defined and enforced gender dyad institutions in our culture -- along with locker rooms. Restrooms are "hot button" insofar as they are places where persons expose their genitals in one form or another, genitals being a sort of "ultimate" index of gender. (Just ask the obstetrician who delivered you!)

Moving on . . .

Kessler & McKenna (supra) argue/suggest that gender attribution focuses upon attribution of persons as "male" or "not male" -- a sort of phallo-centric paradigm wherein male ID predominates the gender check-list. Ultimately there appears an ineluctable phallo-centrism intrinsic to gender attribution. "ID the male hegemonic membership and let those remaining be designated by default."

Let us suggest here an inherent dyad in the default attributional mechanism: "Not male" infers "female." Attribution that confers "not male" suggests designation as "female" -- "This person has breasts (no breasts signifies male) , wide hips (not men's hips), smaller stature, higher pitched voice (not male voice), no (male) beard . . .  and hence "not male." Arguably, "not male" attribution in a Western socio-cultural dyad suggests "female" . . . unless and until there is some alternative to the rigid Western dyad of gender ID.

McKenna & Kessler note too that ethnomethodological methods may contain biases insofar as researchers incline toward pre-sorting their interview subjects by gender -- rather than double-blind collection of data without reference to the gender of the subject providing the data. Do males and females attribute gender in a different manner? Sorting interview subjects by a gender dyad problematizes the data.

Kate Bornstein, in Gender Outlaws posits that it takes three "female cues" to outweigh one "male cue" in gender attribution. We personally have the cues of long hair (neutral these days), earrings (also neutral), no beard (shaved -- to present neutral), a "purse" (it's a neutral "bag") . . . We've been known to present in women's beach capri style pants, women's casual "T shirt" style tops. We don't present in "skirts/dresses" which are undeniably "female" semes. There are simply too many "male cues" going on for us to over-ride the M semes. Our gender presentation objective is to be integral to who we are, which is somewhere between cis-M and cis-F. We wish the penis would go away, but we're not going to trust a male hegemonically organized medical practitioner to "fix" things for us. We're not into "Franken-gender."

We don't trust a male hegemonic medical and legal establishment to equitably determine our identity status for their medical and legal purposes. 

Our current "attribution" paradigm argues that we're not broken and shouldn't be required to resort to surgery and hormones to "mask / masque" the semes of M in order to gender-present who we are. Bornstein, Halberstam, Butler and others assert there being a "third category" which presents as "non-binary, gender-queer, trans-queer, trans, trans-whatever . . . "

This position, and it's most assuredly politically derived, reifies the assertion that gender is a socio-cultural construct. Personally, in our deepest gender bifurcated moments, we wish we were cis-F, for all sorts of reasons. The most fundamental of these reasons is our being a survivor (putatively) of male on male sexual abuse. We have been conditioned (inculcated) to find male sexuality threatening (very much like our sisters in their restrooms). Male sex-role stereotypes are (to us) alienating, dissonant. Moreover, we find the sex-role stereotypes for females alienating too -- Fashion, culture reduces women to sex-objects for the male hegemony. Both presentations are alien (to us).

We seek a third option, a space between the two bell curves where we can be us, rather than a rigid, socio-culturally mandated gender stereotype. To date we are able to execute this third space/realm in socio-cultural contexts of gender. We're waiting for the state (male hegemonic cultural paradigm) to get up to speed on gender identity.

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