Triggering comment in class today
September 16, 2008
So, in the queer readings class I’d been thinking I was taking, a (cissexual, white, male) student said (I’m paraphrasing but this is the logic he used, and the offensive phrasing/grammar/pronouns are his): …if you take an autopsy of a man who’s had a sex change operation to become a woman, he’d still be biologically male, despite the absence of a penis and testicles they could tell…what would you call this person? Would you call him a man because he’s biologically male, or would you call her a woman because of her outward appearance?
(cont) Yeah, you don’t really know what this woman [who presented as a man until his wife’s mom had him prosecuted and killed (context) for that/sleeping with a woman] should be called, and there’s no way you can refer to her without picking a gender, she should be called a woman because that’s the best, least presumptuous option. [end]
(added on top of this, I’d already made the point that it was busted that the author was saying ‘oh, I don’t know what she’d prefer, so I guess I’ll just birth gender her’ and how that is based in an immense cissexualist bias…)
No one interrupted him, no one called him out, in fact the prof tried to pick the one legit part out of that by referencing Joan Jett Black who’s a drag queen who demanded to be referred to as male, made no attempt to pass, wore tight pants so you could tell he was a man…[end][not that he had a penis, that he was a man] But in no way contradicted the student. I had already outed myself and the student said this with his back to me.
So, I hadn’t been wedded to taking that class, so I’ll deal, but I can’t fucking take that class, and I asked for support from a different person (a 2nd yr grad student) who didn’t get the accountabiity thing… What should I do? Part of me wants to write the prof and be like “this is the subtext of that comment, and this is why I can’t fully participate in an environment where it’s ok to say those things, you need to call that out and own your shit. PS That other comment wasn’t cool either.” Part of me wants to email him and be like, I’m going to address the class for five minutes at the beginning of class next week–part of me wants to state that as a request and the other part wants to be like, this is a heads up, I’m doing this regardless. Part of me wants to do it as an unwarned direct action… all of me wants to do these with visible cis backup. Part of me wants to email Ann Russo about what to do, part of me wants other people to do it for me (with or without my presence).
Also part of me wants to name it as hate speech couched in polite, academic phrasing (reducing trans women to corpses to take their voices and humanity out of the equation to prove they’re “really male”) and part of me just wants to be like, it’s offensive and it says my voice isn’t relevant, and your silence says that respecting my identity and bothering to listen to me is optional at best.