This gender thing.
I've been thinking more and more about it while tinkering with my weblog and fixing problems in a few of the old posts...
I noticed a short, quite glib post I wrote about a year ago in reaction to Channel 4's documentary film, Middle Sex.
I'd made a note to myself to expand on it, and it seemed appropriate now. Only a year too late. That's quite quick for me!
I was troubled then by its assertion that in Thailand, Buddhist calm and tolerance had created an oasis for trans people where acceptance was the norm rather than the exception.
And I felt I had to take exception to that because even in Thailand - as I said back then:
"...there is still an acceptance that predominantly, the sex industry is where these people belong. And while that is the case in the world, while transgendered people are objectified rather than treated as individuals, then the end result will still be horrific instances of intolerance and lack of understanding like the horrific murder of Gwen Araujo, kicked, beten and strangled to death in the by an angry mob at the age of 17, that opened the show."
The Asian "Ladyboy" phenomenon really throws the nature of the issue into sharp relief.
Because the concepts of male and female are so fundamentally oppositional, the other issues that face those people tend to become oppositional along the same lines - East / West, Haves / HaveNots , Exploitation / Collusion.
From there, the language easily becomes that of wartime. And come on, sometimes, it does all feel like a battle, no? And maybe that's what it is. Gender the way people like us define it isn't so much a system of balances as a warzone, maybe?
Imagine that the front lines of the conflict are drawn up in South East Asis; early skirmishes being exchanged in Pattaya bars and pole dancing clubs. Cheap champagne bottles deployed and detonated in uneasy white flag scenarios. Prisoners won and exchanged; brides bought; genders reassigned; power shifted...
And perhaps we're seeing the first signs of the war over here in the west too? The now traditional transgendered contestant in Big Brother, besieged, in the foxhole of the diary room, or sleeper agents being groomed to hide in the other camp in other reality shows. Webloggers drawing up their strategies for the coming conflict in the open briefing rooms of the Internet. Shots fired across the bows of discussion forums and tactics rehearsed in Metaversal simulations like Second Life?
Or perhaps the gender war isn't being fought along a geographical or mediated frontier but a conceptual one? Do we participate in a covert, insurgent conflict, fought upon the foothills, jungles and cave systems of our psyches, using our body image as the sealed orders?
Or, even simpler, who are the combatants?
In this age of multiple Internet identities, stealth and IP cloaking, can you be sure that the sniper with the laser scope targetting you from the ruins of the office block isn't yourself? The 6'0" Western male in a battle to the death with the 5'5" Ladyboy of her imaginings.
Someday this war's gonna end.
And today, I've called a truce with myself. I'm playing football in the snow in no man's land right now. It's cold but we're all together and we're having fun. Join me!
Have fun at Sparkle, those who are going. Kx
Originally written 23 June 2006 on draGnet 4.0, coinciding with the start of the Sparkle transgender festival that year. Sparkle 2008 has just taken place, of course.
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