This is the third in a series of diary entries written by trans folks for Slingshot about their experiences.
Transsexuals’ use of hormones and surgery is particularly misunderstood within the anarchist community and without. Changing one’s gender to man, woman, androgyne, etc. is perhaps somewhat understandable as some hip anarcho-queer phenomenon, but physically, permanently changing one’s body seems like a capitulation to patriarchal views of the body, little more than the ‘beauty myth’. Perhaps transsexuals really are just a product of 20th century plastic surgery and endocrinology, confused souls who are taking their resistance to traditional gender roles a bit too far. Shouldn’t we strive towards erasing gender roles from our minds, instead of modifying our bodies? In fact, by changing bodies, are transsexuals actually perpetuating traditional relations of gender to body type? Can’t you just accept your body and be yourself, naturally?
The desire to change gender and/or sex is probably a combination of genetic and cultural factors. In a utopian anarchist world, some of these factors, like strict gender roles, would not exist. Even these days, surgery and hormones are not the answer to silly ideas of binary gender. But people are pressured by the requirements of gender in existing society, to conform for safety, using existing tools. Society holds on to gender ideals strongly; people are very threatened by breach of these ideals. Even people who would like an ambiguous or self-defined body, may be forced to modify body for safety to fit current realities. To ask people not to do this, in the name of revolution, is asking people to face potential violence, gang rape and death. Activists who feel conflicted about a person’s use of surgery, hormones, and other body modifications should direct their critical energy at the society that forced confinement within specific gender roles and body types, rather than at the person trying to break free and respond to their true self. We should understand ourselves beyond our survival aids.
People have always changed their gender and bodies in response to both personal feeling and cultural beauty standards. Instead of seeing people as the norm or the other, a revolutionary vision should consider a whole spectrum of body types, of ways of being human. In a revolutionary society people would have complete control over their own bodies and have full responsibility for modifying, creating, and destroying them as they see fit. We have to subvert western allopathic medicine and the system that dictates gender and sex roles. Isn’t surgery just one more body modification, one more art?