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Stryker: Class Notes

Extremely late, for which I apologize. Stryker's visit to class was a catalyst for my coming out to myself and others as genderqueer, and after doing a great deal of reading on trans issues, and having her speak in two of my classes for a total of four and a half hours over the course of two days, and after thinking about myself a tremendous amount, I was left not wanting to think or say anything on the subject for a little while. And the longer things get put off, the harder it gets to get around to actually doing them. But I've benefited from looking over these notes several weeks later (esp what she had to say about the violence of gendering, but the inevitability of that violence).

Without further ado:

On writing in a personal voice:

-an autoethnographic voice: it’s not important just because it happened to me; writing personally about the terrain one is traveling through, what made you what you are


Nature: a story we tell about the material world; “I don’t believe in nature”, by which she means that she doesn’t believe in the inescapability of material life as a justification for the status quo (nature as a justificatory story)

-monster: what we get if someone says I’m unnatural


-spoke about the history of trans activism; in the early 90’s Stryker and others broke into the academic discourse


Transgender Rage:

-second-wave feminism about transgenderism was pathologizing, demonizing

-Stryker sees her Frankenstein piece as writing back against the trans-as-monster position, the monster talks back

-it’s a transformative thing: take what you’re given, turn it around, and send it back; take your position in the world (even if it’s a negative one) as a resource; use the energy of your enemies against them, direct it back toward them, rather than letting negative energy “destroy me”

-the rage is rage directed at me, it’s not my rage; “be water, man”; she said that she hates conflict, has to resolve it


-the unlivability of absence of gender, of the mark

-we’re gendered in every interaction, we gender and are gendered; there is no it position but “I think that can change”

-society always puts a container around the individual; trans means falling out of the container, and thus failure to recognize personhood because gender is such a major container; one has no social personhood if one’s gender is not intelligible

-gender is utilized through the body, but it’s a construction because bodies are diverse and gender concepts are diverse

-engendering violence constitutes subjectivity

-Stryker doesn’t expect a utopia of non-marking, but hopes that how one is marked shouldn’t matter in how one is a citizen; ideally; egalitarianism in difference

-there’s a major shift going on, more room in the genderqueer space is appearing; she would be less abject if she wrote the Frankenstein piece now


I asked in what sense she had used the word VIOLENCE earlier:

-words as acts of violence, speech acts have injurious consequences
-it feels violent to her when someone deliberately misgenders her: linguistic violence: you’re not who you say you are

-it’s a question of who’s reality is realer

-rituals of cutting the body enact engendering violence here and now, but it’s hidden away, much as birth and death are hidden away, kept private

-but utopia would not omit the violence of marking; instead, the boundaries would be horizontal rather than vertical

-we’re all cut people, cut apart from the world; “I’d rather be cut than be Borg”

-but there’s violence in the cut, an inescapable violence

-and once cut off from the world, we have to trans, we have to connect to the world again


Prof. Dalk asked what genre Stryker would write in now:

-in 1993, she wrote in the Gothic genre; a move that was about punching through, breaking into the discourse, a place in the language game, a place to speak from, to retraumatize those who want to see trans individuals as monsters

-“geographic circulation is part of how I think”; continually discentered, the more different encounters she experiences the more she recognizes her own particularities, which provides a humbling education.

-the bodily practice of travel to generate knowledge

-interest in dance, choreography

-it’s not about thinking, but about awareness; phenomenological philosophy


“If you can’t be at peace where you are, move.”

“If it hurts, don’t do it. Your body is telling you something.”


-the sublime* and the monstrous both take you outside yourself, undoes your self; like being a monster

*Burke on the sublime: sublime is terror at a distance, but not too far; it’s like fire [I thought of the scene in The Persian Boy where Alexander the Great describes how he watched the palace at Persepolis burning, how it was glorious from a safe distance away; he said that he understood why the Persians worshipped fire …]

-you need to zoom in and zoom out; Stryker might have an initial strong reaction, and then back up to an analytical distance


“I allow myself to be witnessed”

-she already has a sense of being exposed, stripped before people; publicly eviscerated

-if you’re not ok with your self, don’t do it (if it hurts, don’t do it)

-you will be misunderstood

-some people understand, it’s important to have that community, to be able to preach to the choir sometimes, a more gentle engagement

-but sometimes you enter the lion’s den; she described talking on a call-in right wing fundamentalist radio talk show: “I talk to people I would never have otherwise”

-one woman talked about how she had to have a hysterectomy and can’t have children, that it effect her sense of womanhood, and Stryker said “I feel you”

-a man said that he thinks gender is a social construct, and that is sneeds to be constructed properly (driving home from a Promise Keepers meeting; a Christian men’s group)


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