21 August 2009

Authoritarian Genital Fixation

My new passport arrived today, three weeks after I mailed in the application. I'm one of the last people in the world to say anything good about a government agency. But here it is: The State Department processed my application and got my passport in my hands more quickly than their documents and website promised. I asked for the standard service (expedited service costs about twice as much, and I didn't think I'd need it), which, the State Department says, will result in delivery of a passport within four to six weeks of their receiving the application.

My only gripe is that I wish the photo were better. Well, not really better: It's actually not an unflattering likeness of me. Millie thought it was pretty good, and she can be a tough critic about such things. But I'm not smiling in it: The photographer claimed that the SD really wants a "mug shot" for the photo.

I actually had to work at frowning, or making a moue, or whatever they want to see in a photo. I guess the folks at State know what they're doing: After all, if I were to disembark at Port Said (Why I would do that, I don't know.) or some place like that and present a smiling likeness of myself--while smiling, as I am wont to do--they might think I'm one of those "loose" American/Western women.

What's interesting is that State returned my supporting documentation: my old passport, the court order for my name change, and a certified copy of Marci's letter, in which she states that yes, she did indeed give me female genitals. (At least that's how most people think of the surgery. If you've read some of my previous posts, you know how I see it: that she brought out what was in me, just as Michelangelo chipped away at the stone until he got to the David that was within it.) That is their definition of my femaleness.

That is also how most people would define my, or anyone else's, gender. I won't be too hard on them, though: I defined gender, to the extent that I did, in the same way. I had, really, only comic-book notions of what transsexuals or hermaphrodites were, and I knew nothing of intersexed people.

Now, you may be wondering, given the things I've just said said, I've had the surgery. Well, I do feel more complete, more whole now that I've had it. And healthier. It's interesting--to me, anyway--that "whole," "hale," "healthy" and "holy" all have the same root--hwalen--in Anglo-Saxon. And the words "sante" (health) and "saint(e)" (holy; also the title of anyone who's beatified; e.g., Saint Michel or Sainte Marie) come from the same root--sancteum--in the Latin dialect that would become Old French.

But I digress. I chose to undergo the surgery because I felt that it would allow my body to be, in some way, a better reflection of the female person I am. It did not "make" me female; in the corporeal sense, I will never be completely so because I still have XY chromosomes. But now, at least, I can better function as a female, in accordance with my spirit.

You might argue that I have internalised some of the same genital fixation that I have been denouncing. I would say not because I know a number of transgendered people who, for whatever reasons, have not undergone and will not undergo the surgery, and treat them as the gender that they are, or identify as. And I have never seen, and have no wish to see, their genitals.

Still, I can't help but to wonder how they'll cope with those scanners in airports that can see people without their clothes. Or with getting strip-searched, should things come to that. One thing I can understand is the frustration, anger and depression one can feel over his or her inability to function in the sexual as well as other arena in life according to the dictates and desires of one's spirit.

And how do they deal with the authoritarian fixation on genitals that rules so much of our lives?



2 comments:

EdMcGon said...

Justine, there is a valid reason for the authoritarian genital fixation, and you of all people should appreciate it: Men and women are different. Neither better nor worse, just different.

Aside from different wants and needs, there are also distinguishing qualities for each gender. The authoritarian genital fixation is part of their overall scheme necessary to identify each of us. If anything, the authoritarian genital fixation is a bit more harmless than society's view of the sexes, which also assigns expected behaviors to each gender.

P.S. I read your column over at Lew Rockwell's website. I couldn't agree with you more about life without the television. Just don't ask me to give up my computer and internet connection. ;)

Justine Nicholas Valinotti said...

Ed, you make a good point about society's view of the sexes. (Don't I know about that!) It's not that I object to being identified, at least in part, by my gender. I just feel that I was female long before Dr. Bowers did her work on my genitals. Of course, I don't expect officials of the State Department or any other governmental agency to see it that way. Still, I think it's a little odd that a government agency should be so concerned about my, or anyone else's, genitals.





Thanks for the compliment on my LR article. Of course, I won't give up my computer or internet connection: You and a bunch of other people would never have seen that article, or this blog, otherwise!