REVIEW COORDINATOR: Andrea Walsh
Operatively True: Identity and authenticity
There is much to be said about the troubling nature of a transgender persons perceived authenticity being hinged on the presumption of whether or not they pass, but it is perhaps most important to focus on the material reality of what is considered “passing” relative to one’s class position. Bettcher touches on the so-called “privilege of passing” as it applied to MTF (male to female) transgender individuals when she describes the ability to pass as being something contingent on comportment, and appearance as well as class which are usually not acknowledged. Bettcher is speaking from her own experience as a transwoman, and she explains that although she has a typically male type comportment she is able to pass because of her access to resources that aid in passing such as wigs, hormones, women’s clothing, nail care, etc. She explains that homeless persons who are transwomen are not afforded the ability to pass and are perceived as either liars or masqueraders straight away and the consequences for not being able to pass is violence. In short, as class decreases vio
Again, the very concept of “passing” as the most concrete demonstration of perceived authenticity brings into question the concepts highlighted by gender theorists such as De Beauvoir and Butler. Namely, what do we define as “properly” woman? We find that, when applied specifically to MTF transgender individuals, what is deemed authentic is a reductionist, unrealistic conception of womanhood: acceptably long hair, a “feminine” body frame, “feminine” makeup, and so on. For many transgender women, this achievement of “authentic womanhood” can be the difference between safety and harm; there is very little diversity with regard to the interpretations of femininity afforded to them in the way it is afforded to cisgender women. But, as we have established, the grounds with which society conceives authentic womanhood is shaky at best and achieving such authenticity is arguably off the table for nearly all women.
ConclusionUnder conditions with which it seems authenticity and truth with regard to gender is universally unattainable, what, then, is deception? It would seem that all of us, collectively, by virtue of performing gender, a concept that is spontaneous and fluid, that changes based on history and environment, are deceptors, masqueraders, simply appearing to behold any sort of coherence with relation to our own identities. Perhaps our collective panic and accusation of transgender individuals being an identity group who can deceive and masquerade is a reflection of a collective anxiety, a manifestation of the fact that gender non-conformers and transgender individuals force cisgender individuals to engage in introspection regarding the material reality of gender. This is all to say that, to the cisgender individual, the supposed deception and masquerade of transgender individuals may lead to questioning the fundamental fabric of gender. If womb does not make woman, what does? If sex does not determine gender identity, what does? If society has constructed gender in an intentionally rigid and unattainable manor, where does that leave the individuals told to be “normal”, to be the “authentic” ring holders of gender?In this way we understand that deception and masquerade is not the defining characteristic of transgender individuals who must consider their wellbeing and safety, rather is it the defining characteristic of humanity. We move through the world deceiving others at every turn, by pretending to understand ourselves, by pretending to possess the ability to make decisions by our own fruition, by pretending we can access something true within ourselves when we are simply products of a dogmatic society. There is not somehow more egregiousness to the perceived deception with regard to gender when gender is not a solid, immutable category to begin with; when the self is not a solid, immutable category to begin with.Works CitedBettcher, Tahlia