20 August 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Gender Boundaries

When we allow women/queer organizers to leave activist spaces and protect people whose violence provoked their departure, we are saying we value these de facto state agents who disrupt the work more than we value people whose labor builds and sustains movements.
Why Misogynists Make Great Informants

“What is your gender?”

0 to 100 in a second. I stared at her, shocked at the question. I didn’t know how to respond. I never really know how to respond to such questions. I just don’t know the answer.

“What is your gender?”

I recovered enough to blurt out, “It’s on my state ID.” I bit back the “Why does that matter?” retort on the tip of my tongue. I didn’t understand what relevance my gender had to donating blood. If I chose to leave the gender box unchecked, what calamity would it do to her and the American Red Cross?

“Excuse me?” She looked closely at my id and disregarded what I had said. She wanted to hear it from me. That slow pounding headache was steadily making a comeback.

I looked down at my appearance. I was at the law school in what my lovely Dean of Students calls my “student attire” (as opposed to a suit or anything revolutionary): Plaid shirt, blue jeans, special running shoes for my feet. It wasn’t stereotypically feminine like the “F” on my state identification card but then again, what does feminine mean?

Some transgender activists tell us that gender is not socially constructed; gender roles are socially constructed. To say that gender is socially constructed is to deny and dismiss the realities that transgender persons face in their everyday negotiations with society and themselves. Claiming that gender is controlled by society isn’t subversive. It is actually cis-normative.

I agree. There has to be a gender that I feel innately. I search myself.

“Female.”

That didn’t feel right. But “male” would not have felt right either. I was just angry at her, angry about the question, angry that I had to put myself in a box. Does anger have a gender?

She shook her head, which aggravated me further, and then took my wrist to get a reading of my pulse.

“Your heart-rate is way too high. 104 beats a minute. Do you work-out?”

I frowned. “Yes.” I have never had this problem.

She waiting a few minutes and tried again. It was 104 again.

“We can’t take blood from you today. We need your heart-rate below 100. But we do have a coupon for a Subway sandwich just for stopping by.”

“What? I don’t want to eat Subway. I want to give blood.”

“We can’t take blood from you. Your heart rate is too high. You should work out more. Come back next time.”

I opened my mouth to protest. Then I thought better of it. I looked at her, searchingly. She avoided my gaze. I came to an understanding. I walked out.

If someone doesn’t want me to donate blood, it isn’t my loss. But society does lose as a whole when queer and transgender people of color choose to walk out of spaces we have built, spaces that could benefit from our presence and spaces that need us desperately but don’t know how to sustain us.

Alienation never happens in a vacuum.

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