Dr. Dawg

TPL heebie-jeebies and the Fa'a Samoa

| Disqus Comments

TPL trans.jpg

Let me be clear: when it comes to Meghan Murphy and her followers at the Toronto Public Library versus the protesters outside, I stand with the protesters.

Now, let me be less clear. At this point, I’m beginning to wish a plague—well, a seasonal cold—upon both houses. Neither house seems like home to me. The furniture is large and clunky, and I keep tripping over it.

I propose a new house. One that has more than two overcrowded main rooms, labelled “Gents” and “Ladies,” which, like the marble banks of song, have a guard at every door. (The bathroom,however, will be non-gendered, like my own.) One where difficult questions can be raised in conversation without being “called out,” but in actual hope that these questions can someday be answered.

The framing of the current scream-fest is all wrong, and that is what’s been raising the temperature. Two sides are entrenched in what I see as indefensible positions: very broadly speaking, one reduces everything to biology, the other essentializes gender. But a little humanity, please. Trans people are beaten, killed and generally marginalized in our society, and when they say that something hurts, decent folks ought to listen, not bang on about “freedom of speech” (which often proves to be variable in its application, but that’s a whole other discussion).

I find that I can’t improve on my own thinking—more questioning, really—since this blogpost from 2015 (banned by Rabble.ca as “transphobic,” if you please), and the ensuing discussion is one of the best on the subject in my experience. If readers want to check it out, please pay particular attention to Jaime’s constructive comments. And, to delve a little deeper, read this article in The Advocate, which outlines the framing problem.

The occupants of both houses are actually living in prisons. Gender may well be a social construct, but that doesn’t make it unreal to the people who live it. Social constructs are real enough, but they don’t just drop out of the sky. The complex interplay between social scripts and individual socialization/contestation can produce a variety of gender subject-positions, including a whole range of “gender-nonconforming” ones. But the current binary lens employed by much of society, and weaponized by the TERFs, sees everyone as a man or a woman, based solely upon body, not mind.

That brute reductionism forces people into boxes in which some uneasily fit. But instead of rejecting the boxes, too many just insist on the other box, although that can come with its own attendant discomforts, discrimination aside.

Can the discussion be reframed? Samoa (and Polynesia more generally) proves that another way is possible. Fa’afafine are not marginalized in Samoan society, but generally respected, if not universally. (Take note that the author of the first-hand account at the link is woman-identified, but does not refer to themself as fafine.) Much of what differentiates fa’afafine comes down to social roles, highly gendered in Samoa.

Samoans don’t have anxious, angry arguments about washrooms and sports events, or hateful panels on fa’afafine denouncing them as mentally ill and a threat to women. Nor are there, in response, militant fa’afafine denouncing all and sundry as “transphobic.” Common sense and social acceptance prevail. Nobody gives a damn what bathroom they use, and as for sports—well, check this out. As I said—common sense.

The current “debate” here at home is so woefully torqued, so vicious, so cluttered with red herrings like Jessica Yaniv and Danielle Muscato, so founded on questionable assumptions, so vulnerable to right-wing ideological exploitation, that I find myself stepping back from the fray in spite of myself.

Yes, I was with those Toronto protesters in spirit, because I dislike exclusion on principle. But why can’t we all be more like the laid-back Samoans?

[Note: I have been absent for a long time, for a number of reasons, but my sincere thanks to the hardy band of visitors and co-bloggers who have kept this space from collapsing into a singularity. I hope to resume posting on at least an irregular basis. -DD]

Return to the home page

blog comments powered by Disqus

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on October 30, 2019 1:44 PM.

Wexit: The Moose In The Room was the previous entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 6.3.9