Moving on steadily. Hope you’re all enjoying these posts, though it feels a bit weird to not have an accompanying rabbit picture. Here’s another one that gets regular thrown at trans people, particularly by radical feminists.
Basically, it’s the notion that, by medically transitioning, we reify gender—which is something that feminism is supposed to be destroying.
This is a particularly stupid line of argument, that it nevertheless has had enough traction to convince enough people it’s worthy of repeating. And repeating. Usually, it’s tied to an argument that trans people have the most retrogressive of personal presentations.
1. to convert into or regard as a concrete thing: to reify a concept.
2. To regard or treat (an abstraction) as if it had concrete or material existence.
Ok, got that? Trans people (and ONLY trans people) treat an abstract concept—gender—as though it were real. This was an idea promoted, for instance, in Lacanian psychoanalyst Catherine Millot’s Horsexe, where she says:
“The male [sic] transsexual, who claims to have a woman’s soul in a man’s body, and who often demands correction of this ‘error’ through surgery, is perhaps the only believer in a monolithic sexual identity free of doubts and questions”
Those poor dupes, they actually believe in gender.
Everybody else presumably, particularly any kind of cis feminist, has a suitably ironic take on gender. Which is why you’d fight so hard to stop people from changing it. Cos it doesn’t exist. Except it kinda does, enough for you to deny mine.
Generally, my response to the reifying trope is, of course, “as opposed to practically everybody else?”
Why is this critique not applied more strongly to gender normative straight people, or Lacanian academics or crunchy radical feminists for that matter, all of whom gain more and risk less from their gender presentations?
Trans people who identify as male or female do reify categories of gender, in so far as we fit one category or another.
However, depending on our appearance, we do not necessarily fit easily in them, and even if we do, we can be instantly removed from said category as soon as we’re outed. Suddenly, we’re de-gendered, “really” a man or woman.
I mean, it’s all so fracking seamless, like suddenly every Patriarchy-loving person around us goes “phew, they’re not gender non-normative, they’re actually the other gender. And that reconfirms the binary.” Seriously, what? People, liberal feminist people, got really really mad at me transitioning when they were ok with gender non-normativity.
And remember the legal problems I pointed to with transitioning—the law treats gender as though it were real, and guess what? We often have a precarious legal standing. Who’s reifying what, exactly?
Cis people reify gender categories even more strongly. Because, beginning in a category, and not only staying in it but actively defending its boundaries against trans people is fucking reifying it.
I mean, you’re treating the abstract concept of gender as real, as something worth defending against intrusion or defection (ie the “butch flight” idea).
Tell me again how if you draw a boundary against transitioning or even genderqueer states you’re not reifying a category yourself? You’re strengthening the category boundaries. There’s nothing very unusual about that, but it’s patently ludicrous that this critique be only and ever applied to trans* people.
Trans people who transition break the notion that gender is a once-and-forever deal, and this problematises gender categories–and through what grounds they might be constructed–far more than any radical feminist throwing-off-the-shackles-of-Patriarchy dissension.
And that doesn’t mean that our genders are somehow less real than cis genders, because even if you hold to some social constructivist position (which is where this idea stems from), a construct still exists. It’s not something that only those poor deluded trans people believe in.
Yes, many of us identify as a gender, and modify our bodies to fit that. So what? If that reifies gender, then cis people reify it more.