God bless MLK. God damn MLK Day.

Today I’m off work for the MLK Holiday, and I’m thankful for that. I can use the rest. I’m also dismayed by the day.

Rev. King was killed in Memphis while he was there supporting the sanitation workers who were striking. I walked out my front door today to see the rows of emptied trash bins, evidence that while I was sleeping in, the sanitation workers in my town were up long before dawn, working. People are at work right now, making nowhere near a living wage at WalMart, Burger King, gas stations, coffee shops, hotels, janitorial services and nearly every retail or service industry job, while a handful of us rest. Or worse, shop.

The president is being sworn in today with his hands on Dr. King’s Bible. Dr. Cornel West expresses everything that is wrong with that, and does it far better than I can.

So we celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by letting a privileged few off work while those who labor and still make poverty wages are ignored. We celebrate King’s agitation for peace by having the leader of the world’s largest killing force, a man who murders by order and by robot, falsely associate himself with King’s vision and King’s faith by placing his hands on the Rev. King’s Bible.

We do nothing to stop war. We do nothing to end poverty. We ignore the basic humanity of people near and far. Yet we can feel good about ourselves, because there’s a day on the calendar to honor a man who did all the work that we refuse to.

God bless Martin Luther King, Jr. May his legacy never die and his words never fall silent. God damn the empty holiday that bears his name.

Gender’s not just between the ears, and sex isn’t just between the legs

Originally intended to dispute the biology-is-destiny formulation, the distinction between sex and gender serves the argument that whatever biological intractability sex appears to have, gender is culturally constructed: hence, gender is neither the causal result of sex nor as seemingly fixed as sex. The unity of the subject is thus already potentially contested by the distinction that permits of gender as a multiple interpretation of sex.

If gender is the cultural meanings that the sexed body assumes, then a gender cannot be said to follow from a sex in anyone way. Taken to its logical limit, the sex/gender distinction suggests a radical discontinuity between sexed bodies and culturally constructed genders. Assuming for the moment the stability of binary sex, it does not follow that the construction of “men” will accrue exclusively to the bodies of males or that “women” will interpret only female bodies. Further, even if the sexes appear to be unproblematically binary in their morphology and constitution (which will become a question), there is no reason to assume that genders ought also to remain as two. The presumption of a binary gender system implicitly retains the belief in a mimetic relation of gender to sex whereby gender mirrors sex or is otherwise restricted by it. When the constructed status of gender is theorized as radically independent of sex, gender itself owes a free-floating artifice, with the consequence that man and masculine might just as easily signify a female body as a male one, and woman and feminine a male body as easily as a female one.

This radical splitting of the gendered subject poses yet another set of problems. Can we refer to a “given” sex or a “given” gender without first inquiring into how sex and/or gender is given, through what means? And what is “sex” anyway? Is it natural, anatomical, chromosomal, or hormonal, and how is a feminist critic to assess the scientific discourses which purport to establish such “facts” for us? Does sex have a history? Does each sex have a different history, or histories? Is there a history of how the duality of sex was established, a genealogy that might expose the binary options as a variable construction? Are the ostensibly natural facts of sex discursively produced by various scientific discourses in the service of other political and social interests? If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps this construct called “sex” is as culturally constructed as gender; indeed, perhaps it was always already gender, with the consequence that the distinction between sex and gender turns out to be no distincton at all.

It would make no sense, then, to define gender as the cultural interpretation of sex, if sex itself is a gendered category. Gender ought not to be conceived merely as the cultural inscription of meaning on a pregiven sex (a juridical conception); gender must also designate the very apparatus of production whereby the sexes themselves are established. As a result, gender is not to culture as sex is to nature; gender is also the discursive/cultural means by which “sexed nature” or “a natural sex” is produced and established as “prediscursive,” prior to culture, a politically neutral surface on which culture acts. This construction of “sex” as the radically unconstructed will concern us again in the discussion of Levi-Strauss and structuralism in chapter 2. At this juncture it is already clear that one way the internal stability and binary frame for sex is effectively secured is by casting the duality of sex in a prediscursive domain. This production of sex as the prediscursive ought to be understood as the effect of the apparatus of cultural construction designated by gender.

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, pp 9-11

Making Music

One of the things I’m most proud of about 2012 is my return to making noise/music. It’s something I missed, and finding my way back in has been fantastic. My finished products are available at luxeed’s bandcamp page, while I have some finished songs and some works in progress and other experimentations on my soundcloud page.

It’s been fascinating, getting into the different sounds, seeing what directions I go. Below, you’ll find my last song of 2012, “Unknowing,” and my first song of 2013, tentatively titled “Spacebient01.” I hope you enjoy.

from “Rethinking Transgender 101”

Rethinking “Transgender 101”

A common phrase used in transgender 101 posts is “gender identity,” getting at the idea that gender is an internal thing. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s not just socially constructed (which says nothing about gender “not being real”, which is how “socially constructed” is often taken to mean). Gender is semiotic, a hermeneutic process, like a vast tree of languages. It’s personal, relational, and cultural. It’s as much about how we relate to our surrounding world and society as it is about our inner sense of self or our relation to our bodies. “Man/male” and “woman/female” are some of the most common languages, with plenty of variations like “femme” or “butch” [which isn’t restricted to men or women either!], or “dialects” or “accents” if you will. Our [Western] culture only socially sanctions “man/male” and “woman/female” language, but some of us “speak” our gender differently; for example, I am agender, genderless. While I “understand” gender, I don’t “speak” it natively, if you understand this metaphor (I’ll do a post on this later; it actually took a while to figure this out, namely when I went on testosterone).

Emphasis mine.