Busting Sexual Categories

The Michigan’s Womyn’s Festival (though, amusingly, it’s spelled “Women’s” in many mainstream news outlets, despite it being a proper noun) began admitting openly transgendered people in 2006.

For fifteen years before that, there was a policy of excluding those who had not “lived their entire lives as womyn” – though in 2001, they stopped interrogating attendees to prevent a climate of harassment against transgendered people in an attempt to search out transsexuals. The rationales for excluding male-appearing (or later, any transsexual) persons are exhaustively listed at this webpage, and are also handily debunked.

This is a perfect example of how transpeople – moreso than bisexuals – bring the entire sexual categorization scheme into question. They are the proverbial black swans that show that our societal model of sexuality is flawed.

While researching an annotated bibliography, I discovered that over 38% of transgendered people identify as heterosexual – but what does that mean? Are they talking about heterosexual experiences from the point of view of their birth sex, or the gender they identify with? I understand now what was meant [1], but as my first real run-in with this kind of thing, I found it all confusing, disturbing, and unsettling.

But it’s good.

Once we question, once we don’t know what has meaning anymore… well, then, all that’ s left are the meanings and relationships we make for ourselves. Maybe it’s time we focus on those, instead of categories.

[1] For those that don’t know, it’s most commonly the relationship between the target gender and the significant other that’s meant with sexual orientation. So a male-to-female transperson who is attracted to men can be considered heterosexual. As with most things regarding transpeople though, you will almost certainly find exceptions.

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