What would joint practices of transology look like?

As I wrote in my first blog, the pink pussy march iconography was conceived in a limited, pink, cis-normative imagination. What imagination, then, does conceive beyond the rosey hued reduced vaginal?

London College of Fashion is exhibiting a ‘Museum of Transology’ at their campus by Oxford Circus. Having been freely admitted, there are more than 120 objects and handwritten labels, unedited narratives catalogued. The collection is hoping to find a permanent home after it closes, at LCF on April 22nd, to write out theirstory and back in transcestry. Here’s some pics I took:

a place for labels ~~~~~ AT NO POINT CAN THESE LABELS LIMIT, LABEL OR GOVERN US, let them here be only a framework for education purposes. 

TRANS* – An umbrella term used to indicate a wide variety of people whose gender identities are not aligned with their biological sex

TRANSOLOGY – The practice of collecting trans objects and narratives. 

TRANSCESTRY – Evidence of trans lives lived before us. 

THEIRSTORY – The study of past events beyond the cisgender binary. 

GENDER IDENTITY – Personal, internal and cultural, and not necessarily physically visible to others. 

QTIPOC – Queer, Trans and Intersex Person / People of Colour. 

INTERSEX – Born with sexual anatomy that does not fit typical medical definitions of female or male. 

NON-BINARY – To be on the gender spectrum and not bound by constructs of male or female. 

GENDERQUEER – To ‘queer’ gender, often by taking a visual and political stance against gender conformity. 

CISGENDERED – Not trans. People whose gender identity happens to align with their biological sex. 

In my second blog, I problematised Haraway’s notion of the cyborg with trans* prison rights and situating. Though I think the notion of the cyborg does little more than conceptual imagining, I wrote that ‘both trans* and cyborg politics ‘could embrace partial, contradictory, permanently unclosed constructions of personal and collective selves’, a ‘polyvocality’, bodied with dualities of voices and perspectives (Haraway, 1982)’. This embracing of the cyborg to trans* politics perhaps indicates how the trans* imagination umbrellas both such a wide scale of partial biographies. The term trans* consisting of heaps of partial biographical biologies, many of which invisible in quotidian normative society. In some cases, post sexual reassignment surgery(ies), or for self-identified non-binary people, the social and the biological are usurped by the biographic, the particular, their own particular biographic.

Bharadwaj problematises biosociality conceptually and contextually in India, where though biotechnologies are flourishing, both the ‘bio’ and the ‘social’ are in places crippled, thus biosociality is, for Bharadwaj, tangential. Rather old anthropological concerns of kinship, family, parenthood are reappropriated: for example kin, local, regional, national, religious social pressure to conceive leads couple to consult IVF, their biological reproductive practice failing // bio-failing social pressure. Biosociality, for him, can’t have a fixed stable conceptual mooring,’so long as we live in a world where the poor, the unfit, the gendered, the stigmatised – to name a few problematic categories – are not so much ‘killed’, but rather ‘allowed to die’ (Das and Poole, 2004 in Aditya Bharadwaj, 111). He conceives instead biocrossings. In the trans* context, one could use probematic categories to read the biological with a biographical understanding, the term ‘the gendered’ or ‘transgendered’ or ‘non-conformist’ crossing and biologising the body.

Yet after the 2 hours I spent in LCF in the Museum of Transology it would be yet again limited to have not felt, heard, seen trans sociality; a sociality of traversed transbiology. Biology being biousurped, biography usurping biology. Toward the end of my time in the exhibit a docu-snippet of the trans march in Brighton showed, with short interviews of people at the event, it gave me goose bumps and made my eyes well to experience so much joy and pride, even 2nd hand on a screen. Concepts like biosociality will have to work very hard to explain both the idea of bio and the nature of sociality. But maybe trans* as a concept opens up the possibility for the bio and social to be explained biographically and partially, plus opening up such a concept actually has legitimate material effect and affect, assembling around some of the most isolated and negated transgressors in society.

In assembling around and pushing forward trans* conceptually, I reference #StoriesOfAQueerBrownMuddyKid by the Bristolian Travis Alabanza, and their repeated ‘I’m not yours’.

Researching topics that are conventionally thought of as having a sort of unprivileged societal position is problematic when the social scientist performs as a sort of ambivalent observer, without stakes, while really leveraging off others who live in a precarious battle against normative biological and social boundaries, attempting to posses their narrative without self-reflexivity. I think working towards and for transology (the practice of collecting trans objects and narratives) can provide collective possibility for gender identity liberation, while widening trans* awakening work, only while that work helps the author, and maybe those that read, to have time (oh what beauty) to build ones own biocrossing potential, within wide, expansive, fluid imaginations.

Alok Vaid-Menon from Dark Matter Poetry (http://www.darkmatterpoetry.com/) said on Instagram today: what is becoming increasingly apparent to me is that trans women & femScreen Shot 2017-02-25 at 14.39.48.pngmes of color are only invited in the room to share about our “journeys” and not about our ideas and politics. part of transmysogyny is the reduction of trans life to *experience* and not *intelligence*…what this does is make transfemininity something assumed to be shameful (“tell me more about how you came to accept yourself!” read: why would anyone want to be like you). what this does is make this thing ‘gender’ and especially this thing ‘gender non-conformity’ only the domain of trans femme — a logic which hurts us because we become minoritized even though others also have genders and femininities. 

Below is a visual representation of Young Thug practicing a trans-crossing of normative masculinity, the two pictures are album artworks 5 months apart, all the rapper’s songs are similar in style, showing two seeminly contrasting versions of masculinity performed, case point: Slime Season 3 (March-2016) on Left No, My Name is Jeffery (August-2016) on Right. 

Intersectionality: multiple oppressions multiply each other, and that means that QTIPOC are disproportionately affected by violence, discrimination and transphobia. According to the ‘Inclusivity: Supporting BAME Trans People’ report published by GIRES and compiled by Sabah Choudrey, ‘An intersectional approach recognises multiple identities exist in multiple identities exist in multiple combinations _ It means being proactive in learning more about people with intersecting identities from the people who face oppression associated with this identities. It means understanding, respecting and celebrating the diversity of our communities’.

Zooming out from these intersectional biographic crossings::: US conservative legislators continue to push a “two-gender, cis-only” stance on public policy, making it clear this week that transgender students will not be attempted to be protected by the Trump administration, see tweet below.

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Sources used:

Bharadwaj A (2008) Biosociality and biocrossings: Encounters with assisted conception and embryonic stem cells in India. In: S Gibbon and C Novas (eds) Biosocialities, Genetics and the Social Sciences. Abingdon: Routledge. 

#StoriesOfAQueerBrownMuddyKid by Travis Alabanza performed 3 months ago on tour.

Sabah Choudrey, Inclusivity: Supporting BAME Trans People, GIRES, 2016.

http://www.dailytexanonline.com/2016/08/31/young-thug-attacks-gender-stereotypes-with-album-cover

http://www.vox.com/identities/2017/2/22/14683572/trump-transgender-schools-guidance

Instagram in full 25/2/17, @alokvmenon, approx GMT 9am. (http://www.darkmatterpoetry.com/)

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