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transgendered theory, feminism and drag kings [entries|friends|calendar]

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intro to my thesis paper [26 Feb 2004|03:33am]
so i'm workin on drafting it all. I just wrote the introduction, it's still a bit rough, but I want to make sure my voice is strong. But maybe this is too racey, we shall see.

caution, explicit description of on-stage blow-job and anal sexCollapse )
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Literature Review: Revised [29 Jan 2004|04:49pm]
this version rocks. my advisor even said so!Collapse )
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Literary Review Essay [10 Dec 2003|10:53am]
final paper for this quarter.Collapse )
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GenderQueer [09 Dec 2003|05:22pm]
Voices from beyond the sexual binary
Edited by Joan Nestle, Claire Howell, and Riki Wilchins

This anthologyCollapse )
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a revision of my annotation [09 Dec 2003|03:17pm]
Garber, Marjorie, Vested Interests: Cross Dressing & Cultural Anxiety (New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Inc, 1992)

Read more...Collapse )
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Female Masculinity, Judith Halberstam. [09 Dec 2003|03:14pm]
In her book Female Masculinity, Judith Halberstam focuses on masculinity performed through women, and articulates its importance to broader definitions and constructions of masculinity. Halberstam places contemporary deviant gendered individuals in a historical context with the invert, the androgyne, the tribade and the female husband, but stressed the importance of perverse presentism. She highlights the boarder skirmishes between butch lesbian masculinity and transsexual masculinity, and points to medicine as the discourse through which transsexuality is defined, contrasted with previous forms of deviance expressed through clothing. Halberstam identifies a major catch-22 of lesbian masculinity where being stereotyped as masculine makes lesbians visible but erases femme lesbian visibility. She explores the role in which race and ethnicity has on the performance and meanings of masculinity, and suggests a hyper-visibility of masculine women of color due to racial stereotyping. And lastly, Halberstam explores the role of the drag king in exploring and performing different forms of female masculinity.
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draft of my speech for Friday at UC Berkeley [03 Dec 2003|02:42am]
As a queer activist genderstudies major at a Jesuit University, i can hardly believe i'm about to graduate this year; that I made it through without losing my mind. Drag was the location upon which much of my frustration and conflict with the school played itself out.

The Jesuits themselves are super liberal, social justice focused and supportive. It's the homophobic alumni, parents and donors you gotta watch out for. Santa Clara University is an extremely closeted place to attempt being queer. Imagine palm trees, missionary style dorms and lots of Abercrombie sweaters. When I came out Freshman year, I was one of only five "out" students on a campus of five thousand undergraduate students. I decided my Sophomore year we needed an event that would bring our small but energetic queer community some visibility...a drag show. I had never seen, performed nor produced a drag show before, but that didn't stop me. I begged my theater major friends to perform, put together a make-shift boy band and away we went. I would hear confused freshman whisper "they can't have a drag show, this is a Jesuit University!" and would smile to myself, fuck yeah we can!

Well, after we packed the on-campus bar, filled the front pages of the school newspaper and exposed many to the delights and wonder of drag, the infamous alumni, parents and donors were less than thrilled, and voiced their concerns loudly. SuddenlyCollapse )
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language too is socially constructed. [07 Nov 2003|03:18pm]
language is so interesting in the way it shapes our consciousness, and how it constructs our reality. I'm reading Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam, and she goes to great length arguing for a "presentists" model of discussion. For example, we can't talk about masculine women in the 1800s and Lesbians because that's not the terms they used to self identify. But what about women today who wouldn't call themselves lesbians (like, maybe they're not "out" as thus) but clearly are based on the "definition." So we insist on describing people with the terms that are historically specific. Makes sense, right? But, how do we know the social contexts of these terms? Halberstam uses the terms "invert" and "female husband" but, what those terms mean to us today is going to be different from what the meant to those people identifying as thus. You can never truly be historically accurate because no matter what, you are understanding terms and concepts and identities from your own historical context.

And then you get into Judith Butler who says that no matter how "out" you are about sexuality, you can never TRUELY be out because sexuality is inherently closeted. What acts define lesbian sexuality? It's going to be different for everyone. How much meaning do words actually even have?

Let's take the title "Female Masculinity" for instance. Halberstam is establishing masculinity separate from men. She also quotes Butler, asserting that everything is performance and constructed, and that therefore sex is part of gender because the meanings we put upon biology construct our notion of sex (the idea that even essentialism is socially constructed). But, to title "Female Masculinity" contradicts both of Halberstam's claims. If you are asserting that masculinity is NOT inherently connected to men, then isn't placing "female" in front of "masculinity" simply contradicting this? It's like, if i were to say "female doctor" i would be supporting the sexist idea that doctors are men. Then, in terms of sex/gender debate, using female followed by masculinity, she's combining sex with gender in a way that contradicts the very notion that both are socially constructed.

This becomes oh so circular because, how do we talk about a social phenomena within our historical context, while simultaneously breaking it down? Is it possible to support AND subvert simultaneously?
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[07 Nov 2003|10:55am]
Imitation and Gender Insubordination
Judith Butler

In her essay Imitation and Gender Insubordination, Butler sets up some basic contradictions and concepts of queer theory. She articulates that although the lesbian identity is used to rally and fight political battles, the category itself is in fact unclear and oppressive. One can never completely "come out" because sexuality is to some degree always closeted. Butler claims that gender and sexuality are imitations for which there is no original. The performance constructs the category, and the false claim that homosexuality is an imitation and heterosexuality the original, enforces what Butler calls "compulsive heterosexuality." Heterosexuality depends upon homosexuality for its construction, defining self by defining the other.
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boy, oh boi. [29 Oct 2003|11:02pm]
the term boy carries such intense symbolism and weight. Firstly, it's a symbol of power dynamics.

Gay activists often point to the same sex relationships of ancient Greece in attempts to validate contemporary homosexuality. But to put ancient Greeks in the same identity category of today's gays and lesbians is flawed. Like Foucalt talks about, the concept of homosexual is a recent one, a category constructed in the 1870s. True, the Greeks did engage in what we consider "homosexual acts" but they organized sexuality in a different manner than we do. For them, it was all about power. A Man, someone older who owned property, could have sex with anyone of lower power. Whether this be a woman or a "boy," there wasn't a distinction based on gender, but on relative social status.

We see the term boy used as a power positionality. The term also assumes this connotation when discussing the history of African Americans. The term "boy" has often been used to refer to African American males regardless of age.

The term also encompasses gender deviation. In Shakespearean theater, those male actors who played women on-stage were referred to as "boys." So here, the term embodies both power dynamics (the lower power of women or those who play them) as well as the crossing of gender performance.

Therefore, all the discussions and re-spellings of the term in the queer community hold additional meanings and weight. What exactly is meant by the term "boi." Initially i saw it referring to gay men, particularly more effeminate gay men. This different spelling indicates a power relation (perhaps sexually to other men), a crossing of gender norms (being more effeminate) and a general power relation in society, of being NOT the norm, not hetero and therefore oppressed.

More recently i've seen the term used in the context of "boi dyke." This reflects an interesting trend of the dyke communities recent celebration and, to some extent glorification of homosexual male culture. Contrary to the idea that masculinity and maleness equals oppression, the current genderqueer culture seems to embrace the "boi" identity. Here too, the term represents the crossing of gender boundaries, here from female to male, dyke to fag.

And do we make of the term "trannyboi." Many transguys take offense to this term. Similar to the term "boy" as applied to African American men, it takes on the connotation that one will never grow up. Peter Pan. And what of the fact that Peter Pan is always played on-stage by a woman? Peter Pan is a trannyboi.
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Vested Interests Cross-Dressing & Cultural Anxiety by Marjorie Garber [22 Oct 2003|01:42am]
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[15 Oct 2003|02:01pm]
essentialism is socially constructed. The importance of the physical body in gender binaries is constructed. Why can't a woman have a penis and a man have breasts? Because we have socially constructed gendered meanings to these parts. Everything is viewed in the context of our society; our language, our customs, our perspective, and therefore, everything is socially constructed.
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the phallus. [02 Oct 2003|06:13pm]
"It's all penises or no penises: gender assignment is both phallocentric and genital." (Bornstein, 22)

The symbol of the phallus is interesting when considered in the context of drag kings. The symbol of the penis has traditionally been a "turnoff" in the lesbian community, everything that lesbianism isn't. And yet drag kings, whose sex appeal resides primarily in the lesbian community, sport em with a sense of pride and sexiness. How can we account for this seeming contradiction?

Perhaps it has less to do with the genitals and everything to do with power. The phallus is a symbol of masculine power and thus the oppression of women. however, when drag kings claim this symbol, the meaning becomes entirely different. On the drag king, because they do not have "male privilege," it becomes just a penis, a bulge, and not a phallus, because phallus implies privilege and power. And when it IS a phallus (like in the acts of Fudgie Frottage) it's a critique of the power we give to this body part, it's a deconstruction and campified making fun-of of the construction of our phallocentric society.
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Gender Outlaws by Kate Bornstein [02 Oct 2003|04:31pm]
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preliminary thoughts [02 Oct 2003|03:11pm]
here's a short essay i wrote a while ago on transgendered theory and feminism:

Just because someone is born physically female and identifies with masculinity, it doesn't make them among the ranks of oppressors. The assumption that masculine women and transguys are conforming to power hierarchies affirms the fucked up assumption that female born individuals are inherently feminine and that by identifying as something other than femininity, masculine women & FTMs are making more of a decision with their gender identity. Therefore, it is falsely assumed that transgressive identities must have ulterior motives and conform to privilege.

Not only is this assumption incorrect, the existent of transgressive identities creates quite the opposite effect. Masculine females and transguys create a needed incongruency in the cultural assumption that male=masculinity=power. When those born and socialized female identify as male, it destabilizes the biologically tied gender binary. FTMs have the opportunity to "infiltrate" and as men, call other men on their sexist assumptions. It also creates an entire subculture of individuals who have personally experienced both sides (and everything in between). Therefore, they are experts on gender and sexism, and have a wealth of insight and experience to teach.

Identifying as man or as woman does not directly translate to proliferating the oppressive binary. How is an FTM is any less revolutionary than a femme identified woman? They both identify with one end of the spectrum or the other but that doesn't make them part of the binary system. Any female socialized individual who can feel empowered by his or her gender identity, whatever it may be, is revolutionary in our patriarchal society. And just because masculinity has been constructed to equal power, does not mean that those who identify as masculine necessarily identify or even want that power.

feminism argue "we should expand the definition of female instead of abandoning it." But maybe instead of expanding the category, we should destroy it altogether. Instead of saying "masculine women are women too" we need to open up categories into a spectrum of identities where power is not tied to "biology" or gender identities. And until we stop dividing people into men and women, pink and blue, dolls and trucks, and start offering a spectrum of identities, sexism will triumph.
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