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Towards Day 7 (Tues, 9/23): Falling far from the tree

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping:
* reminder of writing conference schedule this week
* any general questions about the web event due Sunday?
* moved deadline to midnight, so you can post for Kristin by 5p.m.--
also no posting due for me on Monday
*reading for Thursday: Judith Halberstam's “Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies"--21 pp. of hard theory;
plus Anne Dalke and Clare Mullaney (BMC ’12). On Being Transminded: Disabling Achievement, Enabling Exchange. Disability Studies Quarterly. 34, 2 (2014).

II. your posts about our visit to Camphill Village

Bridget: my fears were, suffice it to say, cast aside.

abradycole: The very purpose of this community is to create spaces for intersection, interaction, and wrong I was to think that Camphill served only the people with developmental disabilities. It serves everyone living there as well as the surrounding communities....I think Camphill sets an example of how...we want to live and structure our lives within our communities.

rosea: I almost can't believe that Camphill is real. I've honestly never been in a space so open and welcoming to individuals with developmental unnerving that is that I would need to travel to a small village in PA to witness that accepting of an environment for the first time...

Rebeccamec: I would describe Camphill as an ideal community…. I had heard the results on Kate’s research; that Camphill is a religious community

[correction re: anthroposophy—early 20th movement, founded by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, that had 3 phrases:
synthesizing spirituality and science;

incorporating art/movement art (including eurythmy), architecture;
practical endeavors, including Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophical medicine;
all guided by a belief that there are no limits to human knowledge]

Sunshine: Camphill seems almost too good to be true….I’m actually more interested in the work we’ll be doing when we’re not drawing.

Smalina: I felt immensely reassured by our visit to Camphill…. I realized that all it really comes down to is a human relationship between two people….I am excited to watch myself and my partner grow from the process of working on my drawing. I left Camphill feeling an unmistakeable sense of safety.

Ndifrank: I am in complete of awe of camphill....I am definitely nervous about Fall Break but it is nervous excitement.

Hummingbird: Is it possible to feel simultaneously more settled and more anxious about this upcoming trip to Camphill?...we don't know much time each day will be spent [on what]...

Rb.richx: Anxiety is certainly the word that comes to mind with this prospective trip. There was certainly relief too...Our guide's introductory speech...mentioned the focus on interdependence...

nbarker: I'm so much more excited for our trip to Camphill now that we have visited....I'm not entirely surprised...that so much of the population there is essentially support staff. The saying "it takes a village" comes to mind....I was also surprised to learn just how much of the staff is volunteer, the vast majority. It does make me have some questions as to how much the staff can care for the Villagers....I'm also excited that we will be able to spend time working alongside the residents in their occupations--

khinchey: I felt almost even more out of my element at Camphill....The financial limitations and the emphasis on "creating a community we all want to live in" felt really restrictive to seemed like an unsisitanible utopia for priveleged families and their disabled family members...I hope that when we return we will have more of an orientation in how best to serve and interact with the people we are shadowing. In combination with not knowing what our schedule for fall break is I am very nervous...


III. the demonstration, the inauguration, our evolving syllabus...
"a cloister and a crossroads...."
"gender in all its evolving meanings..."
"diversity as a form of excellence..."

IV. Andrew Solomon. “Transgender.” Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.
you read his intro with Kristin: catch me up first on what you discussed/learned/critiqued?
(vertical/horizontal identities, plus..?)
written as guide for parents; you are not assumed audience--and/but!

count to 6, and discuss this chapter w/ your partner:
what did you learn? what questions did it raise?
what do you embrace? where do you want to push back?

living stealth/“gender identity disorder”/gender dysphoria/gender dissonance/“gender immigrant”/genderqueer/gender fluid/gender chiaroscuro
MTF/FTM demeaning terms, vs. “declared” or “affirmed" M or F/ nontrans = cisgender (“on the same side”)

each pair return to group with something you want us to talk further about

V. turn now to think again/some more about trans identity @ BMC, both the petition
to welcome trans women, while acknowledging/responding to current inclusion of men who have transitioned
some of you reflected on the tension between these two, in
your really great/thoughtful posts from last week about trans identities on campus:

gender is confusing and so is bryn mawr: Bryn Mawr is a space - and a home, even if a temporary one - for people who have been oppressed by…the patriarchy. Trans women thus should be included if that is indeed how we currently define this home and our identity as a communal home….I think our community…is ready to make these changes to make our communal home reflect the inclusiveness of our communal identity….trans men being here affects the community in different ways….thinking of trans men as "skim men" or "men lite"…people are more forgiving of misogyny if it is presented by a trans man within the community. Also…it sort of goes against the idea that the current unifying concept of our communal home is for those who are hurt by the patriarchy.…other groups of people outside of the lines of dyadic binary men and women…non-binary folks…are hurt by the patriarchy and space can be made for them….I don't know that our communal identity is changed or damaged by more active inclusion of non-binary people.…once someone has been accepted into Bryn Mawr…they should be supported, no matter what their gender is or will be in the future. Gender is something really hard to define, especially when it is not stagnant for the 4+ years that people are often part of within this communal home.

bridgetmartha, making space in our “community”: For us to accept transwomen or other dmab folks holds immense power in that we are opening up a space for them. We are validating an identity that is challenged by every other walk of life: government, doctors, healthcare, schools, religious life and hometown politics and even families….But for us to accept transwomen means that we need to…evaluate ourselves….We still have many changes that need to be seen in our health services….we must also look closely at our traditions…a major part of what connects current and former Mawrters. But many aspects of our tradition are centered around the physical, embracing the cisgender female body (… in a very public way) in a manner that does not readily include those who are not dfab….[this] leaves room for a high risk of alienation—room for the space we create for transwomen to suddenly be eliminated when they realize that, on some level, they can’t actively relate to these parts of our traditions.

smalina, The Bryn Mawr Environment: welcoming trans women onto Bryn Mawr's campus seems both an obvious necessity…and one about which we must be very careful….we have to be absolutely prepared to offer allegiance and support systems ….there is already a huge problem…when all of our emails and announcements are addressed to "women" and "she"s, while the college is knowingly a home to many people on all other points along the gender spectrum.

abradycole, Bryn Mawr as a Place for the Celebration of Difference: women's colleges are established to give a marginalized group opportunities in academia that they may otherwise not have access to…I don't see how it's possible that we haven't already publically established a policy that allows transwomen admission to the college…. there seems to be some concern that if Bryn Mawr makes a public announcement that we accept transwomen…there will be some kind of surge of cisgendered men…the people voicing this fear are masking an underlying fear of change....[in] conversations I've been hearing around campus….there's been a lot of focus on "what makes a woman" and "what it means to be a 'real' woman”… we need to shift the paradigm …to… a violation of human rights… We're all outsiders to the patriarchy.

nbarker, Cautiously Optimistic: trans women are women, and thus belong at womens' colleges. The specifics and nitty-gritty are what make this issue an incredibly frought one….the impact of negative publicity…that we are unlikely to have good support systems in place…We need to be very careful … we need to figure out how to handle education

rebeccamc, Our Trajectory:
welcoming trans women into Bryn Mawr would foster more pride in identity… ultimately more strong folk to foster critical conversations and help Bryn Mawr change in ways that precede social currents… Bryn Mawr lacks the language and space to include the identities featured inside of it… [in] the material that goes out about the school to prospective students….I see a focus on special attention to individual students, freedom to create one’s own curriculum, and traditions….I wished that Bryn Mawr would more pointedly demand a kind of student that is driven to engage and think critically about the structures that define us through society….I conceive of women's colleges as a place where the marginalized can be valued, and I think it's about time we update our definition of who is marginalized…I would prefer an education and opportunity for critical discussion about what respect at Bryn Mawr means TODAY…in an applied way….If more students were paid individual attention in class, I think the campus as a whole would have fewer misunderstandings about critical social issues like race, gender, and class… introductory class about race, class, and gender that addresses language, respect, and what behavior should be challenged… Bryn Mawr should be… a Community for Critical Conversations….

rosea, Conflicted:
if trans women were to be widely accepted onto Bryn Mawr's campus, it would be necessary to 1) educate the BMC community about trans life/concerns…2) set up various support systems …3) carefully navigate media relations…some of the things I listed aren't even in effect for certain groups who are already present on campus…shoutout to rb.richx for this great definition: "the current unifying concept of our communal home is for those who are hurt by the patriarchy." 

Characters: a friend…said that she does not know who she is without the context of other people. For example, I am not black until I encounter white people….Identity  is not inherent. It is based off the people and things and ideas around you. So your home shapes your identity…. if trans women were wholly accepted by Bryn Mawr …I hope the college…can …create an environment where cisgender people are made to think about their privilege…and not have every interaction revolve around gender identity.

khinchey, Bryn Mawr as Home:
I came into Bryn Mawr [believing in] … a place where we were all free to challenge each other….When can someone claim "marginalization" in a way that actively hurts others? … our contact zones feel like combat zones…We need to be educated on our history.

Hummingbird, Where did all the intersections go?
my girlfriend[‘s]…comment was "…people won't think the trans topic is as relevant with the race stuff going on….people will feel like they have to pit those two things against each other".…a heirarchy of marginalization…. is incredibly troubling to me. And I've heard it within our class too – when my peers say things like, "How can we think about admiting trans women when we still have not made Bryn Mawr a safe and supportive space for people of color?" I want to push back on this thinking and ask, "What about the intersections?" …chosing to pit identity categories against each other seems utterly counter to building a welcoming and supportive community. …let's continue to be aware of differences in class, educational backgrounds, religion, nationality, ability, age, and other identity categories.

Name? Ndifrank?

cf. p
ostings/webevents in last fall’s version of this class, about Bryn Mawr as home and space of inclusion….!
how has Solomon helped you think further about these issues?


Reading Notes from Solomon, "Transgender"

Western culture likes binaries: life feels less frightening…Threats to gender are threats to the social order
bodies/minds altered to accommodate one another
social model of disability argued here with particular ferocity
increasing prevalence (more frequent or more recognized?)
anomalous—and pathological?
play as a political statement
ordinary/exemplary behavior for gender conforming kids =
symptomatic of mental disorder for the nonconforming
(healthy in a girl = symptom of psychiatric illness in a boy)
if fixable w/ physical transformation, it isn’t a mental health condition
(reclassify as endocrine or neurocognitive condition?)
“gender identity disorder” suggests that one's identity itself is a disorder:
agenda of terminating/discarding identity
[BIZARRE/FLAWED] law of identity--
 first precept of philosophy: everything is the same as itself
“genetically programmed”
3 early behaviors (supposed to) indicate fixed identity:
what underwear, what swimsuit, how urinates
natal males become unconvincing females;
natal females who transition can usually pass
(harder to overwhelm testosterone)
hormone blockers suppress puberty,
prolong essential androgyny of childhood:
prudence or cruelty? puberty as noxious intervention?
technical and teleological questions: dramatic physiological intervention, for a child to express authentic identity:
challenges foundational ideas about authenticity, self-identity
transition is a change of identity for all the people who surround the person who goes through it
“gender immigrant”: born somewhere else, got (un)naturalized
“we are who we are as the result of who we love”
the problem is demanding certainty,
insisting on conformation to a two-sex model
in most real lives, change is gradual and incomplete:
a continuous process, marked w/ ambivalence
facial (not genital) surgery as gateway to living full-time
reparative therapies can constitute abuse
sometimes only catastrophe makes one fully visible
gender expression, not gender identity, can be altered
“simpleminded biological reductionism”: rigid adoption of gender stereotypes
small part of gender variant population: don’t overdiagnose
the immutable error of parenthood: we give our children what WE wanted
gender identity debate once nature-nurture, now intractable-tractable
enhancing rather than treating a disorder
two models of political engagement: catharsis or gratitude
right to be afraid: unimaginable levels of prejudice
“a new era of no variant person left behind”:
commonplace playfulness about gender
a fad: gender fluid without being gender dysphoric
hard to be ambidextrous, idiosyncratic, have a marooned consciousness
constant tension between accommodations of trans child to norms of world, norms of world to trans child
resilient children overcome traditional gender roles
creating a transbody: a physical and medical record
infertility steepest price of transition
create a society in which gender is disestablished as a legal concept:
no sensible way to classify people on based on race or gender
not all males have male bodies
categories, clubs not inviolable
imagine a science-fiction future:
everyone able to choose own gender (or linger @ middle)
unaccustomed choice: burdensome, exhausting, frightening--
and only true luxury, gives decisions value