Friday, July 3, 2009

Denial of subjectivity

I've been reading up and thinking a lot about my research on 'transgender representations'. It isn't easy as I have to confront my own brand of feminist philosophy, to which I subscribe, that politicises essentialist notions of gender and sexuality.

For a start, and as in feminist theory/philosophy, subjectivity is integral to forming discourses. Like what Carol Hanisch wrote/said, "The personal is political".

Feminist theory, queer theory and now transgender theory/studies, all target knowledge of gender and sex. For instance, we should question how we have come to attributing the masculine to the male and the feminine to the female. There is always the constant negotiation between social constructionist and essentialist approaches.

For transgender and transsexual theory, I feel I am confronted with essentialist discourses, that are so intimate to the trans subjectivity that I am a little hesitant when it comes to fully dismissing my observation of the phenomena/experience as total and pure social construction.

It is utterly confusing. Historically, there have been radical feminist critiques of transsexualism as being a mere minion of patriarchy, wherein there have been transitions towards (the 'acquisition' of) gendered bodies, i.e. the feminine female and the masculine male.

The social constructionist school will point out that it is us meaning-seeking human beings who categorise what is essentially and biologically male and female according to, for example, muscle and hair distribution. That manly voices are low, while womanly voices are higher. Such an enshrinement of meaning is definitely cultural, no?

From the link above, trans academic Jacob Hale lists down the rules for non-trans academics tackling trans academia. In point 3, he warns against denial of subjectivity (i.e. the non-trans denial of trans subjectivity).

I personally find it odd that non-trans people too, can contribute to transgender theory. Why should certain subjectivities wield greater (identity) political and moral authority above others?

Is transgender theory meant to be developed by member academics, and non-member are excluded from the process? Is transgender theory from a non-member less 'truthful'?

Any way, where is the Asian/Singaporean trans voice/discourse?

Unfortunately, even in playing that cultural card, I am 'guilty' of making the suggestion that discourse may be essentially significant and indicative of geo-culture. Siao liao, right?

I feel really lost in this epistemic war.

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