Monday, June 20, 2016

Susan Faludi on the constructs of identity

Surely there was a more complex drama beneath the crinoline and cinched waists, a narrative involving a particular set of needs, desires, aspirations, fears. If so, it was impossible to divine from those accounts [of transgender narratives]. The one plotline of I-have-always-been-a-woman seemed to be trumping all the other motivations that might reflect the crosscurrents of the human psyche, motivations that weren't exclusively about gender. Where were the memoirs that engaged in some degree of self-introspection? I looked in vain for an account where the author asked, "Could I also be seeking womanhood to reclaim my innocence, be exonerated from the sins of my male past?" Or "Could I be craving the moral stature that comes from being oppressed?" Or "Do I want to be a woman to feel special? Celebrated? Loved? Could that whole nest of an individual's history, all the idiosyncratic struggles, disappointments, and yearnings of a life, really be stuffed so tidily into the bottle labeled Identity? -- Susan Faludi from In The Darkroom
I'm reading Susan Faludi's new book on her father's late-in-life transition. I hope it isn't summarily dismissed as "transphobic" simply because it asks those very questions. For what it's worth, I do find those other narratives, sometimes written by de-transitioners, usually hidden in the deep recesses of the blogosphere and under assumed names.

"Could I be craving the moral stature that comes from being oppressed?" 
I think this is pretty important and under-explored in progressive-thinking circles, not just feminist-queer ones. When you have an ideology that places everyone along axes of power, and now, where even being an "ally" simply isn't good enough, spurious claims of "victimhood" (Tumblr's never-ending parade vanity genders, someone claiming to be "disabled" by seasonal allergies, etc.) are bound to happen. Of course I'm not saying all claims of oppression are created in response to a system that rewards suffering, but as someone who's spent a fair amount of time in those circles, it's easy to see how, say, someone like Rachel Dolezal happened.