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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Susan Stryker -- My Words To Victor Frankenstein Above The Village of Chamonix

Susan Stryker -- "My Words To Victor Frankenstein Above The Village of Chamonix" in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian & Gay Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp 227-254, (Philadelphia: Gordon & Breach Science Publishers, 1994).


2) The currrent meaning of the term "transgender" is a matter of some debate. The word was originally coined as a noun in the 1970's by people who resisted categorization as either transvestites or transsexuals, and who used the term to describe their own identity. Unlike transsexuals, but like transvestites, transgenders do not seek surgical alteration of their bodies but do habitually wear clothing the represents a gender other than the one to which they were assigned at birth. Unlike transvestites but like transsexuals, however, transgenders do not alter the vestimentary coding of their gender only episodically or primarily for sexual gratification; rather they consistently and publicly express an ongoing commitment to their claimed gender identities through the same visual representational strategies used by others to signify that gender. The logic underlying this terminology reflects the widespread tendency to construe "gender" as the socio-cultural manifestation of material "sex." Thus, while transsexuals express their identities through a physical change of embodiment, transgenders do so through a non-corporeal change in public gender expression [presentation] that is nevertheless more complex than a simple change of clothes.

This essay uses "transgender" in a more recent sense, however, than its original one. That is, I use it here as an umbrella term that refers to all identities or practices that cross over, cut across, move between, or otherwise, queer socially constructed sex/gender boundaries. The term includes, but is not limited to, transsexuality, heterosexual transvestism, gay, drag, butch lesbianism, and such non-European identities as the Native American berdache or the Indian Hijra. Like "queer," "transgender" may also be used as a verb or as an adjective. In this essay, transsexuality is considered to be a culturally and historically specific transgender practice/identity through which a transgendered subject enters into a relationship with medical, psychotherapeutic, and juridical institutions in order to gain access to certain hormonal and surgical technologies for enacting and embodying itself.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Recasting the Referent

"Recasting the referent as the signified" -- Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex"

We've been reading from an historical perspective as regards whatever it is we're discussing in this sex/gender orientation issue. We use the phrase "whatever it is" because the referent keeps recasting. 

What is the signified to which we refer? 

Foucault notes that "homosexual" as a concept emerged somewhere late 19th or early 20th Century as an outcome of statistical distribution compiled by Kinsey and others. On the bell curve distribution of sexuality "homosexual" falls a couple standard deviations from the norm -- a couple standard deviations from the "hetero-normative dyad." Accordingly, because of homosexual orientation falling outside the normative standard, it was labeled (referent) as "deviant."

Let's note for the sake of illustration here that Albert Einstein falls a couple standard deviations from the norm and is by definition "deviant." Einstein is deviant, but arguably not pathological. 

Accordingly, it is a simple move to recast "deviant" as "pathological," and it was not until 1974 that the DSM moved "homosexual" off the list of "pathological sexuality."  Homosexuality may be statistically deviant, but homosexuality is not pathological. (Although some teleological schema appertaining to sexual conduct would disagree.) There are admittedly homosexual persons whose sexual behaviors are pathological, but it's not on account of their sex choices for partners. 

This sexual orientation that constitutes "trans" is statistically "deviant" -- outside the hetero-normative dyad. DSM 5 just recast the referent for this group. No longer "Sex/Gender ID Disorder" this ontological status has been recast as "Gender Dysphoria."  Moreover, it's only "dysphoria" when this sex/gender identity "causes significant distress in daily functioning." 

Revision of the DSM 5 argues a rationale that those seeking medical treatment for sex/gender issues need to have a diagnostic code that affords providers a referent that qualifies for medical care. In essence "dysphoria" retains the status of a pathology. 

And so, the [hetero-fascist masculinist] medical establishment has come up with a litany of referents connoting pathological "disorders" for those of us who are not ontologically situate in the hetero-normative dyad: 

Transvestite, transvestic fetishism, cross-dresser, gender ID disorder, gender dysphoria, transsexual, transgender, trans, butch, dyke, non-binary, queer, invert, sexual deviant (pathos), drag queen, drag king, etc . . .  

What is this signified that these pathologically denotative referents signify? Our field (arguably lacking a non-pathological, significantly neutral, non pejorative referent) comprises those of us who identify outside the hetero-normative dyad.
Our field asserts that sex is a biological function and that gender comprises a socio-cultural construct. Culturally, gender adheres to a dyadic schema of "male" and "female" -- derived from a biological basis for reproductive function.The current "trans" status is that individuals with "dysphoria" may require "transition" from presentation as one gender to presentation as the other gender. 

And of course the [hetero-fascist masculinist] medical hegemony provides "treatment" for these pathologies -- with a fiscally incentivized boost from Big Pharma. "We have drugs and surgery for these pathologies."

We are provided with two choices: male or female. These two options are determined by the hetero-normative dyad that recognizes two sexes, male/female. But gender presentation is a socio-culturally determined paradigm of semes which convey socio-linguistically (socio-culturally) one's sexual status. The literature in "trans" (transmogrified referent forthcoming . . . ) cites a litany of gender presentation which fundamentally serves as a social code for conveying one's sexual/gender status. This gender coding is arguably a linguistic dialect that is "read" by the linguistic "in group" and too often "mis-read" by socio-cultural out-group individuals. 

Because the signified/signifier relationship is arbitrary (F. DeSaussure, Course In General Linguistics, 1916 ) The signifiers of gender are often mis-read. E.g. Is a trans cis-M who presents "gender fluid," "gender ambiguous," "non-binary," "trans-female" or any other number of signifying terms for gender identity, is this person a "trans male" or a "trans-female" ??? Let us add to this interpretive quandary that this person may be sexually attracted to those of the same sex, the opposite sex, or both. How is this "gender code" read? How is it mis-read? Is it "intelligible" ???

Currently we have a medical hegemony which somewhat reluctantly and without a great deal of informed socio-cultural insight will "transition" individuals -- surgery and hormones -- into "the other sex." This transitional procedure has been called SRS (sex reassignment surgery), and is now referred to as "gender confirmation," "gender resolution" etc.

The histories of these medical interventions read like a chapter from Frankenstein. 

In surgical transition male to "female" the testes are removed (orchiectomy), the penis is literally skinned, turned inside out and inserted through the pelvis into the abdomen. (Penile inversion technique) There this structure is secured (sutured) into place and the "vagina" it creates must be systematically dilated with a "form" (dildo) to keep the tissues from adhering, closing up, and otherwise compromising sexual penetration. Vaginoplasties -- surgical construction of a vagina, labia, etc. often results in loss of nerve sensation. Adhesions are common, as are infection and loss of sensation in the surrounding tissues. Removal of the testes necessitates a lifetime of HRT (hormone replacement therapy).  Lack of androgens (testosterone) puts the individual at risk for osteo and cardio issues. 

Female to male surgeries are every bit as complex and raise an array of medical issues.The "Pedicle Flap" procedure entails grafting skin from the radial forearm or interior thigh, forming a "double tube" and securing this structure to the pubis/and thigh in order to provide blood supply. Invariably this structure/procedure is described as "resembling a suitcase handle." Like M to F surgeries, this procedure is fraught with post-operative complication. Moreover, the "penile structure" does not function anything like a penis, cannot pass urine, cannot become erect. 

But we digress -- Google provides an exhaustive reference to both these procedures. 

Let us assert here that medical science cannot turn a female into a male, nor a male into a female. At best these procedures are superficial and cosmetic. And then we have the whole existential/ontological issue of the person not being socio-culturally reared in the target gender.

Let us further assert that it is not one's biological sex which engenders dysphoria. Rather it is the socio-cultural paradigm of the hetero-normative gender dyad which instills dysphoria. Gender dysphoria might be considered (should be considered) a cultural/linguistic issue rather than an ontological pathology. 

Gender as a socio-cultural issue has significant influence upon one's epistemology. The socio-culturally constructed gender dyad is fixed, rigid and dogmatic. This dogma is the foundation for TERF (Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist) rejection/exclusion of "trans-women" from "women only" functions. The TERF argument is that men who become "trans-women" are not women, but rather they are men in masquerade and interlopers with an epistemology of "male privilege."

The ontological question then is how do we signify those [of us] who do not comfortably conform to the dogma of the socio-cultural gender dyad? What is the signified that all these referents signify?

------------- in revision ---------------------------

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Looking at Not Looking

Jamison Green -- Look! No, Don't!

If the generally agreed upon objective of "transition" is to "pass" as
unremarkably gendered . . .  then let me suggest that perhaps
"transition" wipes out whatever personal history one might have acquired
as pre-transitional. Let us suggest that transition "means" coming out
of one closet and moving into a second sort of gender closet. 

I am 69 yrs old, and out of the closet maybe a couple years. "Out of the
closet" is a sort of transitional thing. Some days I am more out of the
closet than others: Typically "I'm trans!" is the second statement I
make about myself -- after "I'm Geo, but we incorporated as Allison
Wunderland, LLC." 

And so we can deconstruct the cliche statements: "I'm a male trapped in
a sort of female presentation." I can pull things together and "pass" as
female (in the dark, on the deserted beach -- not in 7-11 getting a soda
and burrito.) And so lately I'm identifying as "queer" -- not
stereotypically "male" and not "female" either.  Physically I am
hetero-sexual. Ontologically  I am "stealth lesbian" and radical

Metaphysically it's complicated. Nearly seven decades of being me and
I'm not ready to set those metaphysics aside in order to "pass" as a
geriatric Caucasian woman.  "I am a different sort of Butch." Three
Harley's, leathers, a penis, long hair in a bun, earrings, lingerie . .
. I like to deconstruct the semes of gender: "not male" and "not

Transition into "one or the other" requires that I let go of nearly 7
decades of "both" and that ironically I would be entering a second
"closet" where I forfeit half of my identity.  Judith Butler asserts,
"Identification is always [already] an ambivalent process." I think too
that identification is a fluid, dynamic process. Maybe a dialectic in
search of synthesis? The synthesis I keep arriving at is "trans" or
"queer" -- Not one, not the other, but rather an ontological niche in
the midst of recast referents. 

Ultimately, I think -- I suppose -- that my concern is one of identity
and personal history.  In my case "69 yrs as male. 69 yrs. as
trans/queer." I'm not ready to put that narrative into another closet. 


Friday, May 12, 2017

"Of Catamites & Kings" -- Dr. Gayle S. Rubin, Ph.D. 1992


 "Of Catamites & Kings" -- Dr. Gayle S. Rubin, Ph.D. 1992

Fan mail. I suppose if you read the monograph, and my blog here, 
this email makes it more or less come together. LMAO 
From: allison.wunderland.llc@fast-mail.org
To: grubin@umich.edu
Subject: FAN MAIL ! ! ! -- Of Catamites & Kings 
Date: Fri, 12 May 2017 16:51:28 -0700

Allison Wunderland, LLC -- allisontranscend.blogspot.com 

Prof. Rubin, 

We just finished "Of Catamites & Kings" in Stryker / Whittle,
Transgender Studies Reader. 

We've been deconstructing the gender codes from a linguistic POV, (J.
Butler) -- my chromosomes denote XY but my head says "none of the above"
. . .  Quote du jour, to Jenny a nurse I first took as male, "I'm a
different kind of butch too!" This also to a butch at the Harley Shop.

Reading "Of Catamites & Kings" struck me with the epiphany that we are
both "recasting the referent" -- What is this ontological understanding
of identity that we express socio-culturally? I think that when we
recast the referent we are in essence forming a new interpretive
community with its own dialect.  The meta-objective in this community
might be to discourse and mediate just exactly the parameters of this
dialect. Rather than calling it names, we should perhaps "recast the
referent as the signified." 

I'm a different kind of butch too . . .  a gender ontology unto myself,
but hoping to discourse amongst the interpretive community we share with
all of us. 

Semper Pax, 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Identity Ambivalence

"Identification is always [already] an ambivalent process." -- Judith Butler, "Bodies That Matter, p.126.

Let us first note that in "ambi-valent"  ambi connotes "both or around" and valence refers to "a property or a power." Accordingly, ambivalent process infers a cathexis of identity which is at least bifurcated (dyad) and arguably fractured into dissonant properties. 

 Let us additionally concede that there is an ineluctable sexual (dyad) essentialism in the physical characteristics of cis-F and cis-M. If there is anything metaphysically teleological about the sexual dyad it is the essentialism of reproduction. Ambivalent identity suggests that we are constantly in a flux between (amongst) what it is ontologically that we are, and what it is that we are not.

Whereas other species perform the courting ritual of the "mating dance" in various behavioral forms and contexts, humans as a linguistic species perform the labrynthine narrative of sexual relations in a semiotic heuristics of cultural intelligibility.

Butler, and others, would suggest that the "intelligibility" of the sexual narrative -- the semiotics of  gender -- is fundamentally an arbitrary cultural construct (F. deSaussure, Course In General Linguistics), and that trans-identified narratives seek to appropriate and subvert the denotative fixity of the hetero-normative (masculinist hegemonic) dyad.


Inevitably, all along the queer narrative, there emerges the issue of homo-sexuality. In terms of sexuality, queer orientation raises innumerable issues:

Fundamentally, queer orientation by definition refers to non hetero-normative sexuality and connotes any variation in sexual relations other than cis-F and cis-M in a putative dyad. Butler and others note that the "intelligibility" of the referents lie in their specification of what they are NOT. E.g. The hetero-normative dyad is NOT "homosexual," and resulting non-normative performances are less defined, less specific, more ambivalent.

 "Recasting the referent as the signified" -- This quote from Butler needs exegesis: The referent is the signifier. This is the name/word we use to denote a signified. The signified is the object/subject/essence described or denoted by the referent.

Butler's "recasting the referent as the signified" is something akin to linguistical theoretical jargon for the reification of those abstract terms we use (referents) into tenable substance (signified). Recasting the referent gives substance to the signifying terms we use to denote "queer," "trans," "drag," etc. Let us recast these abstract terms into an intelligible lexicon of signified heuristics.

Butler argues that we need to redefine our terms. We need to recast what it is our terminology refers to.

These days we're recasting the referent "queer" -- How do we refer to the significance (signified) of the term "queer" -- or other terms such as "transvestite, drag, queen, transvestic fetishism, transsexual, trans-gender, trans" etc. ??? 

Possibly one most pressing issue is that of gender identity and intelligibility.-- how are these relations constructed and to what extent are these constructions "intelligible?"

Foucault asserts an infinite diversity in sexual identity together with an infinite variability in "performance" -- the problematics of the heuristics being one of intelligibility. If as Butler asserts, "Identity is always an ambivalent process." then gender performance becomes a process of the "recasting the referent as the signified."

The structure that renders narrative intelligible is founded upon the dyad of normative sexual identity classification. When the one in the dyad does not contrast its identity with reference to the signification of the "other" then the heuristics of the narrative inch toward the unintelligible. The semiotics of the normative dyad deconstruct. The reference to "queer" identity becomes a signified that is in itself unstable, ambiguous, ambivalent. What queer "is" becomes a socio-cultural referent used to denote what the hetero-normative dyad is NOT. And so we need to recast the referent so that it might describe what it is that we are.

-- searching for lost revisions of this entry, how ironic --------