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jfwright's picture

Hello! My name is Joss. I'm a senior anthropology major at Bryn Mawr with a Gender and Sexuality concentration. (Sorry, this post is definitely going to get cut off!)

My perspectives on gender are strongly influenced by my own gender identity; I came out as genderqueer last year. Having an identity between genders has given me opportunities to have perspectives that are precarious, performative, and potential, but I think that, like others on this forum, I most strongly identify with the perspective of playfulness.

I identify with precarity because my gender is open to the interpretation of others. Although I know how I interpret my own gender, my identity faces a certain precarity in public; as someone who is not always obviously legible in terms of gender norms, the thought of "who will read me today?" isn't uncommon. I identify with performativity, because due to the precarity of my gender identity, I feel like I have to make an extra effort to perform the queerness of my gender. I purposefully choose how to express my gender in a way that, if not legible, is at least not allied with one gender or the other. Like Butler suggests, I model myself after male and female, and try to become something of a hybrid copy. I identify potential, because this position gives me the potential to do quite a bit with my gender expression: today, I'll wear nail polish; tomorrow, a suit jacket. And, I feel that my identity is playful. The gender theorist that I've been most exposed to is Kate Bornstein, and her playful ideas on being a gender outlaw have always struck a chord with me. To express my own gender most fully, I play with gender norms from both sides of the binary, and I'm always entertained by the results.

One thing I'd like to talk a bit about are some of the ideas Wilchins has about gender expression, and to relate them to another class I'm taking. In another class, I'd been reading about futurity and the queer community in No Future by Lee Edelman. In this book, Edelman discusses the idea of "un-queering" the queer in exchange for achieving greater rights. Edelman is apolitical and does not believe in the concept of "rights", and believes that because rights are given by an authority that by its very nature assumes an ability to govern over the lives of queers (and others), that the ideas espoused by them should not be accepted. While I think that this idea pushes too far, I understand where he is coming from; it is hard to accept authority from a group that so clearly asserts its superiority. It was refreshing for me to read about Wilchins' style of activism. I loved the perspective that Wilchins takes regarding her steadfastness to her ideas: I thought that her philosophy of implementing gender theory into daily life was a useful antidote to other kinds of gender theory that would be incomprehensible outside of an academic context, and impossible to act on. However, she did seem to backpedal a bit in an attempt to attempt to gain ground of GenderPAC; I understand why, and I appreciate her commitment to her cause, but I wish that we would not have to backpedal to gain rights. I felt like Wilchins slightly un-queered for her ideas to be palatable; while I would not say that I disagree with her decisions, I am not sure how I feel about them.

I was entertained by the part of the Wilchins reading when Wilchins tells the joke about the anthropologist only seeing two genders on the island with six recognizable genders. Learning (mostly cultural and archaeological) anthropology has allowed me learn about how much variation there is not only in gender, but in concepts of sex around the world. I've learned about gender as purely culturally constructed, and I believe, to push things a bit further, that the way in which sex is interpreted is based on culture, as well; for me, these viewpoints have been borne out by personal experience. One thing I'm very excited about for this course is the biological perspective that we will be exploring; it's something I have not had the opportunity to explore before, and have always wanted to learn more about.