Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Why do you have to be so DIRTY, AJ?

When I began addressing my gender identity in my poetry, there were two things I was scared of talking about. One was just my gender identity itself. But the other thing that frightened me was writing about sex. Addressing sex. Talking about sex. Because, you see, when it comes to sex and sexuality, trans people - and trans women especially - have to face a hell of a lot of policing. This post, by Monica Maldonado, gives a really deep insight into that. I urge you to read it. What really got me was this bit:

'Trans women are given two options: we are either the mute eunuch, “approximating the appearance of a woman” (as Benjamin said), or we are the supposed pervert or rapist who must be denied access to either medical treatment or social accommodation. Given such little leeway, and the deep stigma ascribed to each of these two options, trans women so often end up very reluctantly going along with the “less frightening” of the two. We become the compulsory eunuch in spite of however uncomfortable it might make us. Both options are non-choices for which the table is stripped by cis people of any other possibilities of what a trans woman could be — or is allowed to be.' - Monica Maldonado, 'How gatekeepers made me hate my body',

That is why I was so afraid to write about sexuality in my work, and that is why I will continue to do so. My sexuality is a part of me, and I don't see why I should have to supress a part of me just to fit in with what a cis doctor feels I should conform to. The single artist I most admire, Tori Amos, has never made any secret of addressing her sexuality in her performance - why should I shy away from doing likewise?

According to gatekeepers, and to a certain brand of prescriptive, transmisogynist 'radical' feminist, there are two strikes against me: one, the fact I'm trans at all; two, the fact that I'm not only a trans woman who dares to have sex, but I also dare to have, shock horror, kinky sex! It's no surprise to anyone who's attended one of my gigs or read my work, but I'm kind of a masochist. I like to be treated rough, slapped around, dominated, etc etc, blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. Only consensually, only with other girls, and only in safe space (and if you try beating me up without my consent, I will definitely do everything I can to put you in the hospital), but for some, even safe, consensual, mutual sadomasochism is going too far. It betrays the sisterhood. It replicates patriarchal power relations. It's violent (well, duh!). It's icky and dirty and pervy and why can't you be a good Catholic girl (actually, I do occassionally suspect that it's being a good Catholic girl that makes me such a masochist, but I digress)?

Sure, the radical feminists are hardly queueing up to get me back in with the Pope (though I am toying with doing a post sometime comparing second wave feminism to what St Paul did to Christianity, and of course there's always this cartoon), but you see what I mean.

There is massive pressure on you, as a trans person, to conform to a script that makes cis people feel unthreatened. So I knew, when I started writing about being trans, that the smart thing to do, the sensible, unthreatening thing to do, would be to leave sex, especially kinky sex, out of it. But, again, why?

The only reason for not talking about sex in my writing and performance was that to do so would frighten the horses. And that was the same reason I'd given myself for not writing about my gender for so long. And I wasn't going to waste any more time censoring myself.

So I stopped censoring myself, and I started writing about my sexuality as well as my gender, and I will continue doing so. Because no woman, of any sort, should feel afraid to talk about what she desires. And if you think that trans women should keep quiet? There's a name for people like you, and it starts with 'B' and ends with 'igot'.

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