Books

With my PhD in English Literature at Edinburgh University about to begin, I will be reading lots of stuff this year. Do not expect weekly reviews, I do not read quickly. But I will share with you anything interesting I do read, whether it’s a novel that’s in vogue, or something from my course that I think is worth knowing that broadened my horizon. I’ll be reading a lot of things about transgender discourse, but hopefully, a lot of things which aren’t, as well.

Excluded by Julia Serano

Julia-Serano-Excluded-2013

Excluded by Julia Serano

When she poetry-slams, the conviction and the eloquence Julia Serano possesses as a writer is there for all to see. Her style of fierce, funny, thoughtful insights is also present in Excluded (2013), arguably Serano's transgender manifesto, with a particular focus on issues of trans exclusion and communities. I'd recommend it to anyone wishing to get past the barrier of stereotypes erected against trans women in particular, with Serano on form exposing the double standards trans women have to deal with.

Excluded is divided into two parts, chronicling as Serano puts it, 'instances of sexism-based exclusion within feminism and queer activism,' with the second half exploring her possible solutions.

The instances she describes all highlight the kind of accusations trans women can receive at different times, particularly in some feminist circles. In one conference, a cisgender feminist makes repeated comments against trans people, about how they take up too much space in political forums. It's clear the barb is aimed at trans women in particular, with the added inference of trans women violating female spaces. Serano walks out, though it's important to note a cisgender feminist goes after her to express her equal discomfort. Elsewhere, Serano describes an experience at Camp Trans, where some trans women and allies gather outside the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival to hold their own concert (trans women were banned from entering the real Festival). It's there that two cisgender feminists approach Serano, railing against trans women for carrying the potential threat of penises, as if bringing in concealed weapons. It's interesting here to see the weighted signification of the penis in feminism, as something much more than anatomical. Serano, though, points out the hypocrisy, of how 'there are probably more dildos and strap-ons at Michigan than you would ever want to shake a stick at' (30).

In the second half, Serano looks at the way trans women are set up to fail in 'no-win' situations, for example with the issue of visibility vs invisibility. Serano notes how trans women are held up to impossible standards, in what she calls 'double-binds,' where if trans women aren't explicitly behaving in a feminine manner, they're attacked for being like men, but if their behaviour conforms to feminine type, they're branded caricatures. No cisgender person would have to deal with these gender-based double binds; Serano concludes that trans people should stop worrying about the visibility/invisibility issue, and focus on the unfairness of these double standards, and how they're projected upon trans women.

One important area that receives Serano's focus is the potential narrowness of the transgender movement, and its production of 'single-issue activism, where racism and classism have been viewed by some feminists and gay rights activists as falling outside the scope of their organizations' mission statements' (218). The consequence, Serano notes, is the exclusion of particular trans people, with a privileging of 'pre-dominantly white- and middle-class-centric movements, where the concerns of the most marginalized members of those groups . . . fail to be adequately addressed.'

Overall, this might be Serano's most important message in Excluded, of how the white, largely middle-class trans movement has to develop a keener awareness of its own intersections, and the influence this bears. Given the narrowness of Sarah McBride's own focus, as a representative of the trans movement in the recent Obama White House, Serano's is an important counter-balance, and one that any trans activist should read before claiming to speak on behalf of a single trans community.

She Called Me Woman: Nigeria's Queer Women Speak
Janet Mock: Redefining Realness
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Guest
Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Captcha Image

My Latest Posts

August 21, 2019

Hearty by Emma Frankland

Hearty by Emma Frankland Raw and dripping with punk aesthetic, this one-woman-show's one-woman emerges in ripped tights and a T-shirt that paraphrases loudly the words of anti-trans theorist Germaine Greer: Lop Your Dick Off. My first impression of Emma Frankland is edgily uncertain and in awe, her Lady-Gaga-looks combined with Heath Ledger's mesme...
August 21, 2019

Pronoun, Pass, & Amnesty International

Transgender drama: Pronoun To be clear at the outset, this was the production of a youth theatre group, not a highly resourced team of experienced, professional career actors – although some of the performances left a powerful impression, and the show as a whole achieved some remarkable moments. Pronoun , written by Evan Placey, follows the transit...
August 13, 2019

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem It starts with a heartbeat, the dancer-directors Lizzie and Ayden in slow-motion entry, setting the scene of a nightclub featuring two young transgender bodies who are in fact multiple. Sound Cistem is theatrical dance set to a series of pulsing, dance-floor rhythms and the voices of several trans interviewees projec...
August 04, 2019

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles The blurring of human and machine reiterates here in a comedically surreal, startling performance by the performance poet Harry Josephine Giles. Drawing on visual and aural effects, Giles presents the disturbingly evocative middle-class arc of the life of an electronic, military drone. With Giles as both narrator and ...
August 03, 2019

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza Playing currently at the Traverse Theatre is Travis Alabanza's poignant and comic one-person show, a thought-provoking meditation created out of a jarring personal experience. Back in 2016, Alabanza, a non-binary person of colour, was abused in a London street, with a burger thrown at them by a stranger. The show's series...
August 03, 2019

While transphobes get more hateful, I become more freckly

While transphobes got more hateful, I became more freckly Written weeks after the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International There's nothing good to say, even the films I enjoyed watching this past week, Midsommar and Apollo 11 , I've lost the Sunday will to write. Perhaps Brexit Britain will become like the village cult in Midsommar , bu...
June 09, 2019

Dark Phoenix, John Wick 3, Godzilla: my reflections

Three fantasy movies within three days: X Men: Dark Phoenix; John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum; Godzilla: King of the Monsters The Lacanian feminist Kaja Silverman says about cinema, we go because we need the affirmation, to see the things we hope to see and fail to see in the real world. In Lacanian-speak, Silverman says we go because 'the desire ...
June 02, 2019

Personal Reflections on Transgender: Intersectional/International

Personal reflections on the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International (28-29 May) ​​Note: these reflections do not represent anyone else who contributed to Transgender: Intersectional/International I got involved with Transgender: Intersectional/International in order to create an LGBT/queer space that accommodated discussions on racism,...
April 28, 2019

Gina's Moving Castle

Saturday afternoon 27.04.19 Enough with marking papers. Enough about conferences. Outside is a blue sky. There's a book shop nearby, my temple, its owners are trying to remove stickers of transphobic messages pasted on their door. Yesterday I met a guy who'd been set upon by a group of 17-year-olds. He still had the scars, and the trauma. They saw ...