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Trans Women And Their Ungovernable Bodies

quinta-feira 16 de julho de 2020, por Ananya Bhardwaj,

A few days ago there was outrage over Harry Potter author, J. K. Rowling’s tweet, in which she claimed, in very simple words, that trans women are not women.

We have grown up seeing such insensitivity towards bodies which do not fit into an aforementioned category, bodies which cannot be scientifically studied as one sex. The history of issues surrounding body images cannot be addressed without addressing the absolute absence of space for trans bodies.

Being born a woman and identifying as one, I never had to face the dogma which is associated with trans people. But ironically, I come from a town where trans people are called to give blessings to a new born child and are shooed away as unpleasant and impure beings at social gatherings. They are looked at, stared, seen as belonging to a world ‘we’ do not have or want access to.

I believe that conflict in the body is not dissociated with generational, national or international conflicts. I got familiarised with the idea of love, the idea of body, and how this body is connected to the formation of nation states, especially the idea of Pakistan in opposition to India and vice versa, through a poem I had read while working on a paper on Partition. I remember so vividly, it was about a small boy who felt like a girl, whose body felt like a violation during the Partition of 1947. It was about how that body felt like dancing on toes but was scared of being raped and thrown on the other side of the border if he stepped out of his border.

Trans bodies become a sight for inflicting violence because they are seen as ungovernable. They do not fit into the binary of heteronormative genders, they cannot be tamed or named. Anything that becomes incomprehensible in the phallogocentric language of science or religion is seen as a threat. Trans bodies threaten the idea of the existence of two genders. They threaten the idea of procreation as the only legitimate reason to indulge in sexual intercourse. They threaten the police and the machinery of governance by being out of the realm of governability.

Trans bodies become a sight for inflicting violence because they are seen as ungovernable. They do not fit into the binary of heteronormative genders, they cannot be tamed or named. Anything that becomes incomprehensible in the phallogocentric language of science or religion is seen as a threat. Trans bodies threaten the idea of the existence of two genders. They threaten the idea of procreation as the only legitimate reason to indulge in sexual intercourse. They threaten the police and the machinery of governance by being out of the realm of governability.

And therefore, they are ostracised. These bodies are violated in order to engrain in the persons that they are violations of nature; failed experiments who do not have a personhood. Therefore, it has repeatedly been seen, during any war, protest or revolution, the worst hit in such demonstrations are the most ostracised—generally women, but trans women, if they happen to be at the site.

The history behind policing of the bodies of trans people dates long back. When I started working as the Editor of the Hindu College Magazine, Indraprastha, I thought of interviewing the queer rights activist and feminist, Vikram Aditya Sahay, for it. One of my questions revolved around their take on the overarching ideas behind the various Transgender Persons Bills that have been put to vote in the Houses of the Parliament.

At one hand, women are constantly taught to be petite, to fit into a box, to occupy the minimal space, and at the other, trans people are not even given a box. What they become is what men and women cannot be allowed to. It is this anxiety, the lack of personhood, what Vikram refers to in their response. Therefore, the way to challenge these gender roles cannot be by barricading them, not like the police, not like men.

“The trans people have critiqued this Bill on grounds that it has taken away their right to self-determination, it does not recognise begging as a legitimate profession, the trap down on sex work continues etc.“, they began.

“I won’t go into the social aspect because it is not for me to say these things. I will make an academic point because that’s the position from which I can say. Like I said, there is a great flux, and in some sense, it is because the ruling regime recognises it, in gender and sexuality and what they used to be. Women today are constantly denying the ways in which their subjectivity was being built leading the male-female binary to be in a major flux. Men are saying that they are not comfortable with certain roles even though they say only privileged things like, “I can’t wear pink.” or “How can I cry?”. So, the ruling regime today is in a mode of crisis because the basic foundation on which the society is built is in crisis. In comes the third gender.“

They further added, “This is because now all flux with regard to your subjectivity as men or women can now be directed towards this third category. So, if you do not feel comfortable in being male or female as the social norm dictated it, what is happening is that this contradiction is pushed into that third category and resolved there. The third gender now, emerges as the category in which the conflict and the crisis that we are facing right now in regards to gender can be put in another space. And so, you could now be back to being men or women. Precisely because all this flux has to be managed, the transgender person occupies the anxiety around how to control our misidentification with our gender. This anxiety leads to bureaucracy and so, the Transgender Persons Bills create a crisis due to bureaucracy which everyone has to face and not only the transgender.“

At one hand, women are constantly taught to be petite, to fit into a box, to occupy the minimal space, and at the other, trans women or trans people are not even given a box. What they become is what men and women cannot be allowed to. It is this anxiety, the lack of personhood, what Vikram refers to in their response. Therefore, the way to challenge these gender roles cannot be by barricading them, not like the police, not like men. We consciously have to put in effort to let gender flow, to let it permeate so that it can become extinct.

Justice News