Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Judith Butler: A Person After My Own Heart

When I saw that we got to read Judith Butler's "Imitation and Gender Insubordination" I was beyond excited. I read this piece in my Queer Studies 301 class last year and it had a lasting affect on me. The copy that I printed out for class this week is highlighted to hell and the notes in the margins say things like, "my point exactly!" and "this text is the basis of my identity!"

At this point in time I think I have made it pretty clear through our class discussions that I have a passion for queer theory and gender politics. Anything having to do with gender non-conformity, binaries and dichotomies just revs my engine.

I guess now would be appropriate to come out to you, fair reader: I'm genderqueer.

The genderqueer identity can mean one of three things. It can mean that you see yourself as neither a man nor woman, as both a man and a woman, or just outside of the gender binary. I happen to see myself as all three. For a long time I did not feel comfortable referring to myself as a woman, but I did not identify as a man. I frequently saw myself as masculine, though from my outward appearance you may not be able to tell. I was also very comfortable being female. I knew I was something, but I didn't think there was a word for it. It was a similar feeling to what Betty Friedan describes in "The Feminine Mystique" as the "problem that has no name," the feeling that women felt before the women's right movement, knowing that there was something else out there than what was presented to them, but not knowing what it was.

Then the identity of genderqueer came into my life and it felt so right. I still use the feminine pronoun (English does not have a widely-accepted gender-neutral pronoun or one that is linguistically appealing) and still relate to the stories of women (trust me- there are so many Bob Dylan songs that I wish were written about me). Many genderqueer people choose to dress like an androgyne and many genderqueer choose to change their names to gender-neutral ones. I've chosen to keep my name because I do not feel that I need to change it in order to be genderqueer (which a lot of people do).

I only came to accept myself as genderqueer fairly recently, and I am slowly learning that being a genderqueer heterosexual makes me invisible. Since most people do not learn about gender politics unless that are LGBTIQQA, heterosexuals are less likely to see themselves as gender non-conforming because, hey, they don't know anything else. When I come out as genderqueer, it is usually assumed that I am a lesbian or pansexual. If I come out as heterosexual, it is assumed that I am a woman.

"First," Butler notes, "it is necessary to consider that sexuality always exceeds any given performance, presentation, or narrative which is why it is not possible to derive or read off a sexuality from any given gender presentation."

Thanks for having my back, Judy. Things we've established:
  • I am genderqueer
  • I am female
  • I am heterosexual
I also typically present femininely, I suppose. At least this is what it seems like to other people. I, however, see myself as androgynous. It's okay, I know no one else sees me this way. But Butler explains my identity better than I could: "There are no direct expressive or causal lines between sex, gender, gender presentation." That is to say that sex, gender identity and presentation are non-exclusive. How fun is this?!

This is a video my friend is in (the "First generation Salvadoran genderqueer macho-femme") about identity politics. It's pretty funny:

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