Friday, April 20, 2012

THE ONTOLOGY OF TRANSGENDER

The attempts of third wave feminism to revivify through redefining feminist tenets has resulted in a broadening of its set of assumptions and ideological positions. As it seeks to embrace variegated strands third wave feminism demonstrates a fundamental contradiction. A universalization of differing cultural realities and contexts both serves the humanist assumption of wholeness and a decontextualization of diverse forms of feminism into a monolithic rubric. In a sense even though the aim is liberatory feminists reduplicate patriarchal structures of naturalization and crystallize intractably, under an undifferentiated canopy , the multiplicitous realities of experience.

And to consolidate, to assimilate does fulfill a humanist ideology but the need for such wholesomeness reflects on our collective consciousness which presupposes communality of human experience. It would be churlish to deny subjectivity but it would be equally petulant to deny that what makes us the race it does is the shared experiences, the stories we narrate and are moved by, the accounts that bring tears to our eyes and the fact that its not impersonal expressions of compassion that prompts this but a space where one's subjectivity becomes part of a larger subjectivity which it both mirrors and defines itself through and against. The larger subjectivity, many would argue is a construct and the individual subjectivity a peregrination through realms of singularity constituted and legitimized socially. But given the experiential realms we inhabit a transcendent conception of an unequivocally immutable, inviolable self remains an abstraction, amorphous and indeterminate.

The word transgender is fascinating. As is the case with any linguistic signifier,it defines and excludes, contains and repudiates and by its very linguistic constructedness atomizes and compartmentalizes. There are two ways of seeing this. Transgender would imply beyond gender, beyond antinomian schisms, beyond dichotomous constructions. This, as has been noted, throws into doubt the compulsory heterosexist notion of gender distinction as pronouncedly male and female. And a polymorphous possibility is instated that subverts this homogeneous postulation by revealing its own artificiality. So far so good. However transgender also is a locus of equivocation because by itself indeterminate it is still defined in relation to its essential difference from male and female. Moreover embedded in this is the idea that the transgender's indefinability  is placed against a panorama of gender dichotomy. A transgender is who he/she is because they aren't specifically he/she. However this defining themselves against this schism reaffirms the fact that the duality is the premise, the foundation from which other permutations and their possibilities of transgression are predicated.

And this is important because a nebulous indeterminacy, divested of cultural signification would always be an abstraction. To get at the heart of cultural constructedness its premises need to be tweaked from within. The irony is that it makes fluid and protean intransigent structures of power but unfortunately can exist only in relation to and in extension of the very structures of power it eschews and interrogates.

The question is that is it possible for us to think of a time when things were different, which becomes uncertain because the further we go back, the further does the beginning of things recedes. Or can we think of a time when things will be different. The past and future underscore the present which partakes of both yet   validates none. It seems acculturation has, by naturalization, created its ubiquity and actualized it. Things, concepts have been the way they've been for so long that teleological redefinitions are impossible. What is possible is to question the world and what constitutes it and wrest indeterminacy from the very heart of cultural determinism. The Lgbt community has to focus on the fact that its iconoclasm will be incessantly underpinned by its unconscious complicity with the very institutions it seeks to oppose. We need to redefine not who we are because we are what we are but the spaces we inhabit and what we choose to do with what we were, are or become. That, to me, that radical re examination of spaces, from within, would institute change and create spaces for coexistence of multiple phenomena where the centrality of one is an chimera and the margins themselves sites of center, of an undefinable, undefined, kinetic center, open to diversified change.

6 comments:

  1. fine article with extremely deep thoughts but the word center at the end is puzzling - where is the center?

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  2. center meaning part of the course of discourses, a nebulous center whose configurations keep shifting and relocating. so center/margin distinction blurs.thank you sir.

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  3. An interesting article, Bharat. May I say something though about my feelings towards feminism? I mean most people nowadays do support generally and broadly fairness towards women, especially those women most vulnerable to exploitation. And there are laws galore over here in the west that protect women economically and promote their advancement in every field. Having said that may I also say that I regard feminism in the west as an ego driven movement. Not only that I find feminism to be a cop, threatening everyone with action if we don't toe the line. Perhaps I have strayed from the topic but I wanted to get that off my chest. I think these feminists only want power and power has always been our original sin (Judeo-Christian). So I naturally find myself suspicious of those who claim to be victims only for the purpose of attacking someone else. I am not speaking, of course, of those wretched souls who are sincerely hounded by thugs on the basis of sex or orientation or any other reason people are hounded, but I do look askance at those who seek power, ostensibly to redress past wrongs. Anyways I have strayed a great deal from your fine topic, Bharat. Your article is excellent.

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    1. Dear Gary,
      Here in India women still don't have basic rights, a lot of them. We need feminism, its positive, affirmative, transformative aspects yet we need to weed out the bad. Yes feminism can be used by women against men to gain unfair advantage. we need a holistic point of view. your observation is a pertinent reality check and feminism should be self interrogatory Which is why Angela carter, remember we spoke about her, remains my fav feminist.

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  4. Koshy is not worried about the body but worries for the CG!

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  5. Why do you write like that? Like the "pomo generator"? It's so difficult to tell what you are trying to say beneath the purple prose and word salad.

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