Transsexuality and the New Gender Politics: Undoing or Redoing Gender?
In Undoing Gender, Judith Butler argues not for undoing gender in the sense of doing away with gender, but for rethinking the impact of gendered normativity in all of our lives. I suggest that for most feminists, coming to terms with transsexuality creates a complicated tension with transgender, queer, and even feminist desires to undo cultural meanings of femininity and masculinity. Transsexual challenges to a culturally mandated alignment of gender with a biologically defined sex notwithstanding, the desire and practice of sex reassignment implicates many transsexuals in at least some of the conventional constructions of gender. Perhaps the task for the new gender politics, to borrow Butler's term, is not to force a choice between queer and more conventional performances of gender, nor to fall back on popular claims of biologically based configurations, understood as either dichotomous or multiple. Rather, the task is to embrace the complexity and diversity that exists, while maintaining a critique of gender inequality and of the power relations inherent in a (hetero)normative gender order.
Keywords: Transsexuality, Feminism, Gender
Prof. Patricia Elliot
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University