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Identity Strip Poker

leamirella's picture

I'm going to start off my saying that the term 'identity strip poker' was coined by my theatre professor. Although it was in a slightly different context, I think that it comes in handy explaining the things that I will highlight in this post.

This week, I thought it was really interesting that we started off (after having read Haraway) somewhat agreeing that humans shouldn't categorize themselves and then later on, switching back to wanting to have binaries and labels. While the idea of having a labeless world seems ideal in certain instances, the threat of not having them means that we can no longer define ourselves. So is it really possible to play a game of identity strip poker where we strip away all of the little parts that make up our identity such as our gender and race?

Personally, I don't think so. While I can see the merits of Haraway's utopian, labeless world, I do not think that it is possible. Without labels, we no longer have an identity. I think about myself (sorry to be so egocentric). Who am I? I am a girl, I am Filipino, I grew up in Hong Kong, I have naturally black hair, I have brown eyes... The list goes on. It's difficult to define yourself without these things. Can I play a game of identity strip poker? I don't think I can. Can I take away the label of being 'Filipino'? No, it's in my blood, it's part of who I am. Can I strip away my 'girlness'? I have difficulty doing so. Perhaps it's because I'm primed to think that way. I also thought about the ways in which I can identify myself - my passport, my ID, my driver's license. Each and every single one of them has categories. For example:


Identity Strip PokerIdentity Strip Poker (I've covered important details so you can't steal my identity. Sorry.)

It might be hard to see but both my driver's license and my passport have separate categories: name, place of birth, sex etc. In order to secure these documents, these have to be filled out. Despite this rigid system, I do have to admit that some of the categories can be flexible which leads me to think about how people who are on different parts of the spectrum fit into the categories.

While I do not envision a world without categories, it is difficult to answer the question: What about the people that do not fit squarely into, for example, the male/female 'sex' categories? What about people that are born intersexed? I feel that while I don't think that we can do away completely with categories, we must at least try to find other categories that acknowledge the fact that there is a spectrum. At present, I can't think of categories that will allow this but I do think that rather than having a male/female binary, we should include more categories. Not only will this accomodate the people who do not fit into the already existing categories but it will also help these people define their identities more easily.

Coming back to the idea of the identity strip poker, I do not think that there is a way of getting rid of categories. But I do think that we can add more in order to include everyone else. In addition, these categories do not have to be fixed. Though people can not strip completely and become a 'cyborg', I think that it is possible to take certain elements (such as gender) and manipulate them.



merlin's picture

Gender as illness

This article calls to light the ambiguity and unnecessary nature of incorporating transexual 'disorder' into the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). I think it raises some excellent points that expand upon Roughgarden's brief descriptions involving Transsexuality in the DSM. 

I did find that in the DSM-V (a more recent version than the one discussed here), 'men' is replaced with 'people' in the description of Transvestic Fetishism. 

The article brings home the point that the DSM's Gender Identity disorder and Transvestic Fetishism stigmatizes individuals. 


Historically, the a major function the DSM manual is to provide diagnostic criteria in order to make a diagnosis of mental illness for the purposes of medical insurance.  It validate someone's condition. But not all medical insurance companies today offer health care for people wanting to have GRS surgery and hormonal medications. But maybe the healthcare support for these individuals will improve in the future, providing a potential function for the DSM to validate their need for medical intervention and financial support. 


RoughGarden suggests that the categories concerning gender identity disorder should be eliminated completely from the DSM. I definitely see where she is coming from. However, I do also see that there can be significant psychological issues, particularly in children, who have an atypical self-identity in the realm of gender. However, I think that the bulk of these issues come about from the fact that society (and many times parents) are not accepting of the condition. So, I think that an atypical gender identity should be classified a mental "disorder," but I do think that mental illnesses such as depression can definitely arise in people (particularly children) who are the victims of others who see it as "unacceptable" and as a "disorder."



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