Friday, October 14, 2011

Wanted: Gender Outlaw for Crimes Against Attribution

                In honour of coming out week, and in continuation of my story, which I shared at the coming out brown bag, I wanted to talk about the opposing force that necessitates coming out: attribution.

                When you first see a person, you automatically take in their attributes and compare them against your framework for identifying people.  This is natural, stemming from the nature of our conceptual faculty.  From there, you draw conclusions about a person based on how you’ve experienced these categories.  You interact with the new person on the basis of these conclusions.  This is problematic to the extent that these conclusions are false for the new person.  This is the epistemic basis of racism, sexism, etc.

                The problem of being transgender/transsexual is not even that people draw false conclusions; it’s deeper.  It is that people don’t even conceptualize me properly, and when it comes to people, if the premises are false, the conclusions are necessarily false.  I can’t clear my face every day, because it irritates my skin, so I will often go through my day with facial hair, which outs me as male bodied.  Because I’m male bodied, it is assumed that I’m a man, and since I’m attracted to men, I’m a gay male.  This is my gender attribution.  For most people, gender attribution and gender identity match.  Mine doesn’t.

                Because I’m attributed as a “guy”, I therefore have to come out as—well, what?  I’m not a woman either.  And these are the only two categories most people recognize.  My project is even harder than just passing as a woman; I have to revolutionize the very conceptual framework that says there are only two ways to present your gender.  I have to come out as a gender outlaw every time I carry a purse when I haven’t cleared my face.  Every time I wear a skirt and sing tenor; every time I talk about my past as a gay male; every time I talk about the straight boys I’m crushing on,  I fight against every tide of attribution that says I shouldn’t exist.

                And so here I am, out and proud: a gender outlaw.  Catch me if you can.

Xavia Publius

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