Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Thougths About Our Terminology Discussion

There were so many thoughts going through my mind during our terminology discussion that I thought I write a separate blog post instead of a comment. So here are my ideas:

  • About transgender including non-hetero sexual orientation
    I think this does make a lot of sense since we are talking about discrimination, and in my opinion the discrimination is usually about not conforming to gender roles and the people perceiving non-conforming people, don't really care about what exactly is not conforming. Often they don't know the differences anyway:
    Especially trans women are often seen as "gay" and actually are targeted because of homophobia, not transphobia. They are also targeted because of sexism and the connection of that is sometimes called trans-misogyny.
    Also people (especially men) are often called gay, not because they show a certain sexual orientation, but because they behave in a gender-nonconforming way (for men, especially if they behave feminine). So here also the discrimination is not because of who they have sex with, but because of gender presentation/behavior. I think it is similar for women who present "butch", but because of sexism it might not be as strong.
  • About the term cisgender
    I was quite amazed how hard it was to find a conclusion about the definition of the term. Maybe that is because we are in the process of defining the term, switching from transgender vs. normal to transgender vs. cisgender, just as the switch was maybe in the 70ies from homosexual vs. normal to homosexual vs. heterosexual.
    I found it interesting that it was mentioned that cisgender (or more specifically cis man) was considered to be used as a pejorative (=bad word) in feminist circles about men who are not reflecting their male privilege. I think I have been in discussions that could have been perceived that way, but I think it was meant differently, probably more as a broad statement about cisgender men, who are often the ones who create problems for those who are not cisgender men (privilege).
    Something that is sometimes done to clarify that a bit is that the definition of "cisgender" is extended to people who have never thought about their gender identity. So the definition would be "people whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth or who have never reconsidered their gender identity".
    Also it would be an interesting line of thought to continue about the fact that the talk about problematic cisgender men in feminist circles (which is the main reason why there are women/lesbian/trans spaces created in feminist circles, for everybody except cisgender men) is so strong that "cisgender men" can be perceived to be a pejorative. Are there other ways to talk about it? Is there a way to include gender role aware cisgender men in feminist spaces or is everyday sexism so strong that it wouldn't really work? What kind of words are useful to distinguish between feminist men and non-feminist men? What about allyship? etc. Lots of things to think about.
  • About the F in LGBTQ*
    I really like this idea to include feminism in queer movements. Usually the circles I work in are called queer-feminist anyway and to find a word that embraces both would really be cool. Obviously than the group is not a minority anymore, but marginalized nonetheless.
    But this brings me to the interesting question about broad movements versus specific movements that was raised in the discussion. And I think both make sense. For one there is the political strategy of strategic essentialism, to reduce the political fight to one issue like gay marriage or change of gender marker on identity documents because it is easier to fight for something like this and easier to explain, and on the other side there is the concept of intersectionality, the idea that all forms of oppression are linked anyway and that if people are affected by several forms of oppression (for example lesbian women of color) this creates a whole other set of struggles than those forms of oppression separately.
    In her book Excluded, Julia Serano tries to find a common concept for many different types of oppression, more looking at the dynamics, like marking, double standards, double binds, universal assumptions, stereotypes etc. than the specific forms of oppression, but as was already mentioned in our discussions, these concepts might be to complicated to be useful in political work.
Ok, that's enough for now, have to get to work. Have fun at the seminar!

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