Thursday, October 11, 2007

Gender onslaught

Okay, this is from a soap company and the women in it are mostly stereotypically white and well off -- but it nails a great deal about how gender conformity is enforced.

We're all supposed to get "fixed" for somebody's profit. And we'll only put ourselves through this mutilation if we're taught to hate the selves we feel ourselves to be.

And that leads right into the subject that is roiling gay community waters at the moment: the willingness of "our leaders" (Congressman Barney Frank) and "our friends" (Speaker Nancy Pelosi) to drop protections for transsexuals from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, the bill which would outlaw employment discrimination against us. They say they can't pass it with transsexuals in. Much of the community knows that if they cut out the transsexuals, the bill (which Bush would veto anyway) would lose most of its value. Why? Because effectively it would only apply to gay people who play by conventional gender rules.

The Bay Guardian summarizes what's wrong with the watered down ENDA:

... as the American Civil Liberties Union points out in a legal analysis of the changes, the gay and lesbian people most likely to face discrimination in the workplace are those who don't hew to traditional male and female roles. Effeminate men and butch women are far more at risk than, say, a gay man who can easily pass as straight. "The more masculine a gay man is or the more feminine a lesbian is, the less the likelihood of discrimination," the ACLU notes.

As the Lambda Legal Defense Fund writes, "This new bill also leaves out a key element to protect any employee, including lesbians, gay men and bisexuals who may not conform to their employer's idea of how a man or woman should look and act. This is a huge loophole through which employers sued for sexual orientation discrimination can claim that their conduct was actually based on gender expression, a type of discrimination that the new bill does not prohibit."

That is, a stripped down ENDA would only serve gay people who could pass as conventionally heterosexual. These are the gays who least need protection. Without language outlawing discrimination based on gender presentation, what's to keep an employer from deciding that dyke salesperson scares the customers and should be canned?

Sure, lots of discrimination is motivated by various forms of "ick" reaction to our sexuality -- but even more happens when our very being seems to pose a challenge to the norms of male and female gender identity. Queens, dykes and trannies suggest that not only sexual attraction, but also gender itself, are not immutable, fixed. Gender can change; people can express their gender identities in individual ways. Lots of our gender norms are just convenient ways of reinforcing male dominance. Gender deviance terrifies those who cling to patriarchal norms. And imposed gender conformity starts with learning to hate our unmutilated selves.

It has been very heartening to see how many LGBT leaders and institutions have protested the gutting of ENDA. Good for us. We're learning.

Hat tip to The Agitator for the soap company video.

1 comment:

sfmike said...

And brickbats for John Aravosis at Americablog and Barney Frank for being pompous fags (if you'll pardon the expression) who think they know what's best for us all.

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