The Transgender Category in the Gender Binary

The previous post entitled: “Is Feminism Excluded For Biological Women” provides a considerable discussion on whether transgenders could be legitimate personalities of feminist movements. Answering the question is not an easy task, because there are different kinds of feminisms that are aligned into different feminist school of thought. The feminisms of equality see the gender binary as a dichotomy between male and female, while the feminisms of difference interpret the gender power hierarchy is not shared between two sexes, but assumed by masculine standards. For the adherents of the school of feminisms of difference the dichotomy is not necessarily between the males and the females, but between the masculine and the rest. The rest in this case is considered to be a symbolical woman and not the biological. A symbolic woman implies that the category is a political position of the “rest” or the “other”. The “other” sex, which is not masculine is therefore not just one sex, but many different sex/gender. At least, that is how I interpret Luce Irigaray’s work entitled: The Sex Which is Not One. The other sex are those who are marginalized by the dominant masculine social order. It is a social and political position that are oppressed by the one gender which is the masculine gender.

Luce Irigaray’s view on the language of gender domination in our society is not characterized by what we have, but it was mainly with what we do. Therefore, it is suffice to say, that for Irigaray, the very gender distinction of our society is not primarily based on the biological sense of maleness and femaleness. It moves beyond the biological determinism. She sees masculinity as a symbolic order. We live in a masculine world. This masculine world speaks the language of masculinity. It is a masculine game where the rules of the game is based on masculinity. The masculine dictate what the rule of the games and how the game should be played. It is therefore a monopoly of masculine power. The masculinity in this case means male, middle-class and white and not the male, poor and coloured. The male, poor and coloured are also in the category of the other sex being oppressed by that one dominant masculine normativity. It is not only women are being oppressed in our gender hierarchy, but also male of colours, male imigrants, women of colour and other gender variant groups who express their genders in fundamentally different ways such us transgenders and transsexuals.

To simply aligned the M to F transgenders to the male category of gender binary can be problematic, because that would automatically imply that transgenders are males who are privileged and who are also oppressing women. Like women, transgenders are also oppressed by the masculine normativity that requires heteronormativity. It can also be problematic to quickly aligned the F to M transgender to the biological category of women, because transgenders and transsexuals experience a different kind of oppression like the heterosexual women do. At least the heterosexual women (mostly white and middle-class) enjoy some privilege of adequate representation. Aligning M to F and F to M transgenders to their respective biological sex can erase their existence and representation in the society. Visibility is a prerequisite for representation and representation is essential in order to address and resist oppression. The concept of “sexual difference” of Irigaray then gives a possibility and opportunity to transgenders become visible not as men and women, but as their own: transgenders.