Monday, 4 June 2007

The Transgender Republic (is also a colonial state)

On a different (though not unrelated) note, I've spent the weekend at a Transgender Conference, right here in Wellington(!!) Which has been incredible. I cried quite a lot from relief, to be among people who casually asked for my pronouns and weren't fussed when i didn't haven't any, who joked about toilets and genitals, who understood the brutality of doctors and official documents. and were interested in me. who were all so fucking beautiful.

Being enclosed in such an array of people and genders, gave me momentary relief from the struggle to define myself, against, around, through other people. It was a rest from trying to find the words to describe something that has been kept deliberately out of my tongue's reach. When I didn't answer questions about pronouns, people really looked at me, listened to me and made up their own minds how to relate to me.

I did skip out at the bit where the conference divided into MtF, FtM and Significant Others, but at least i wasn't the only one who found these words inadequate.

Others who might have found these words inadequate (apart from genderqueer types like myself), is the huge section of the transgender population in NZ who would identify as either Takataapui (Maori) or Fa'afafine (Samoan). They weren't there to complain about being left off the caucases, however, because they'd also been left off the invitation. They've also been left off the list of identities defined in the introductory leaflet of Agender ("the New Zealand support and lobby group for transgendered people" and the group running the conference). This didn't seem to bother anybody there, and no one was taken by the idea one guy suggested, of meeting sometimes on the turf of Transgender sex workers (many of whom are takataapui or fa'afafine) to make our groups more inclusive... sounds like a bloody good idea to me.

I also cried continuously for about an hour, during Mani Bruce Mitchell's presentation on taking the film Black and White to Texas, and about life as an intersex person. I'm going to write more about this soon, because Mani is one of my all-time heroes. but s/he talked about allsorts that really hit home for me. About trying to live in a space between genders and beyond language and how important images are if we want to survive there; about keeping people at a distance to protect them and ourselves (and how genderdeviants tend to be experts at this); about travelling back to emotional literacy from this great distance.

And perhaps the most intense lesson for me was about the price our bodies pay when they are loaded with shame. Mani said that Queer communities in the USA have the worst health statistics of any demographic (??) There are all sorts of reasons for this, but a major factor is the embarassment and often disgust that keeps doctors from paying proper attention to our bodies, and keeps us from seeking help.

This feels really fucking important. It feels like a basic premise that we have to get right before any of our queer activism will flourish.


Maia said...

Yay! I'm so glad you found some some space (and that you're fighting the way the space sucks).

Love you

Anonymous said...

Big hug pip!

I stayed for the doco's, and the Q & A afterwards; haven't blogged on it yet (still catching up on last week...) but I will, just need more processing time. Mani is *amazing*, I totally agree. S/he said some interesting things about Kubler-Ross's theories, and how talking through shame helps to de/construct identity, to replace shame with positive acceptance of identity. Lots of post-moderny ideas in there, I was struggling a bit to keep up!

More love to you, anarkaytie

nick said...

hi pip. Get off the internet and water the plants! I just found your blog and it's great. I'm really looking forward to reading more of your writing now. Don't forget that being middle-class and educated comes with responsibility too - watch those apostrophes. ;)
see you soon,
love from nick

Asher said...

Hey Pip!

Nice writing so far, I'm finding it real interesting. Just added a link to here on my blog :)

Hope all is good with you,

tyt said...

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