My doctors made it clear that there were two kinds of illness: those they could identify, and those that didn’t exist. My symptoms were simply shadow puppets cast by a mind that couldn’t control itself. I was confused. They were certain.

They were wrong.

Performance of a Lifetime 

I highly recommend this remarkable essay by Kate Horowitz on invisible, chronic illnesses and gender issues in medicine. 

Burn, Gender Binary, Burn: Against Me! Turn North Carolina Show Into Protest

A while ago, when rock’n’roll behemoths like Bruce Springsteen canceled their respective North Carolina shows in a sign of protest against that state’s anti-anti-discrimination bill HB2, Against Me! and particularly frontwoman Laura Jane Grace announced that they would play their show in Durham, but would turn it into a form of protest. And they weren’t kidding: Laura Jane Grace, who is a trans woman, burned her birth certificate on stage, smiling, saying goodbye to gender. 

In an earlier interview she also pointed out that, in contrast to Springsteen’s mega stadium shows, her cancelling the gig wouldn’t hurt the city or state financially, and only affect the fans (and, let’s be real, the members of Against Me. The band is fairly successful, but losing touring income must still hurt them.)

As stereogum reports, she also made clear that HB2 is about more than just bathroom access:

“You know, there’s been a lot of focus on just the bathroom part of HB2, but one of the other huge parts is that it takes away a transgender person’s right to sue for discrimination on the state level and that is huge. I mean, if someone else has the right to sue for discrimination and I don’t, how that is constitutional?”

“I don’t believe in men. I’ve never met a man in my life.”


Today, Guernica Magazine published a great, insightful and inciting interview with South Asian trans performance duo DarkMatter. For instance, this is how they expand upon the above statement that Alok never met a man:

Janani Balasubramanian: I think what Alok was saying with the idea of how we’ve never met a man in our lives, is that manhood is not just an ideal of gender; it also becomes a set of ideals around race, class, respectability, purchasing power, whatever. I’ve never met a single person in their lives who’s rich, has no feelings, goes to the gym every hour, drinks protein shakes all day. This person doesn’t exist.

Alok Vaid-Menon: They’re a fairy tale. What’s difficult is that gender has become only the domain of trans people and women. But we all have gender, and we all have a stake in ending gender.

In a conversation led by Guernica’s Kevin St. James, they discuss gender, performance, colonialism, capitalism, disappointing your parents and the importance of cracking jokes. It really is a must-read, whether you agree with their stances or not.

Judith Butler addresses TERFs and the use of theory against transgender people

This is a really good (and actually understandable) interview with Judith Butler in which she clarifies her positions on trans people undergoing transformation and surgery (”brave” and “there is nothing more important than for transgender people to ) the use of social construction theory against trans people (”a false, misleading, and oppressive use of the theory”) and TERFS (she rejects them, even calling their actions against trans lives a “kind of feminist tyranny.”) The interview ends with this perspective on her own work:

Gender Trouble was written about 24 years ago, and at that time I did not think well enough about trans issues. Some trans people thought that in claiming that gender is performative that I was saying that it is all a fiction, and that a person’s felt sense of gender was therefore “unreal.” That was never my intention. I sought to expand our sense of what gender realities could be. But I think I needed to pay more attention to what people feel, how the primary experience of the body is registered, and the quite urgent and legitimate demand to have those aspects of sex recognized and supported. I did not mean to argue that gender is fluid and changeable (mine certainly is not). I only meant to say that we should all have greater freedoms to define and pursue our lives without pathologization, de-realization, harassment, threats of violence, violence, and criminalization. I join in the struggle to realize such a world.

I can recommend reading the interview in full. (via @hagalope)

Judith Butler addresses TERFs and the use of theory against transgender people

Feminism is not about who opens the jar.

It is not about who pays for the date. It is not about who moves the couch. It is not about who kills the bugs. It is not about who cooks the dinner. It’s not even about who stays home with the kids, as long as the decision was made together, after thinking carefully about your situation and coming to an agreement that makes sense for your particular marriage and family.

It is about making sure that nobody ever has to do anything by “default” because of their gender. The stronger person should move the couch. The person who enjoys cooking more, has more time for it, and/or is better at it should do the cooking. Sometimes the stronger person is male, sometimes not. Sometimes the person who is best suited for cooking is female, sometimes not. You should do what works.

But it is also about letting people know that it is okay to change. If you’re a woman who wants to become stronger, that’s great. If you’re a man who wants to learn how to cook, that’s also great. You might start out with a relationship where the guy opens all the jars and the girl cooks all the meals, but you might find that you want to try something else. So try it.

And since a novel has this correspondence to real life, its values are to some extent those of real life. But it is obvious that the values of women differ very often from the values which have been made by the other sex; naturally, this is so. Yet it is the masculine values that prevail. Speaking crudely, football and sport are ‘important’; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes ‘trivial’. And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction. This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room. A scene in a battle-field is more important than a scene in a shop – everywhere and much more subtly the difference of value persists.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own.  (via ablogwithaview)

First, there is no naturalized gendered body. All of our bodies are modified with regard to gender, whether we seek out surgery or take hormones or not. All of us engage in or have engaged in processes of gender body modification (diets, shaving, exercise regimes, clothing choices, vitamins, birth control. etc) that alter our bodies,
just as we’ve all been subjected to gender related processes that altered our bodies (being fed differently because of our gender, being given or denied proper medical care because of our gender, using dangerous products that are on the market only because of their relationship to gender norms, etc). The isolating of only some of these processes for critique, while ignoring others, is a classic exercise in domination. To see trans body alteration as participating and furthering binary gender, to put trans people’s gender practices under a microscope while maintaining blindness to more familiar and traditional, but no less active and important gender practices of non-trans people, is exactly what the transphobic medical establishment has always done.

Great quote from Dean Spade’s essay “Dress to Kill, Fight to Win” from a few years ago. When checking to source, I stumbled on this good discussion of the article by   Mimi Thi Nguyen at Racialicious.