Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why Chaz Bono Is a Misogynist Who Does Not Represent Us

Stephen Ira, is the author of Super Mattachine, a blog which its name refers to the Mattachine Society, a pre-Stonewall group of queer activists. Ira is a college student who is also an activist, writer, and poet living in suburban New York City. He is a gay trans man for whom both identities are equally important, a white anti-racist, a feminist, and a poet. His poetry and fiction have been published in the SLC Review, Spot Literary Magazine, and 365 Tomorrows. He’s been a featured reader at the Velvet Guerilla Cabaret and the Sarah Lawrence Poetry Festival, where he points out that he was lucky enough to open for Heather Christle.
In reference to the following article, Ira writes, "The long and short of it is, I bear Chaz no ill will, but I have some serious ideological problems with him as a spokesman for the trans community."
Stephen Ira reading his poetry. Photo via Velvet Guerilla Cabaret
By Stephen Ira | NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- I’ve been feeling conflicted lately about Chaz Bono’s relationship to the media. On the one hand, he’s being unfairly vilified by bigots like Keith Ablow and so many others. He’s being misgendered, called by his assigned name, pathologized, threatened with physical violence, had medical abuse advocated as “treatment” for him, and treated in other unforgivable ways. Presumably he went into this knowing that that would happen and believing he was strong enough to take it. That’s brave. I admire that. And when people say fucked up things about Chaz, I am moved to defend him, because he’s a transgender man and I am a transgender man. We both want full recognition of transgender people as human beings. We are meant to be on the same side. The hell of it is, we aren’t.
Chaz has appointed himself as the representative of a group of people who are not all like him. He has said misogynistic and prescriptivist things about gender. I take particular issue with his comments on trans embodiment and on women.
Here’s a link, for example, to AN INTERVIEW CHAZ DID WITH ABC.
Here’s something he says in that interview:
“If you are a man and you have breasts, any man would want to have them removed,” Bono said. “It is scary for a woman to think about it because it is something that they are really attached to. Being male and having breasts is about the worst thing I could imagine.”
Chaz is erasing the experience of trans men who don’t need top surgery. He needs to realize that “men” is a more inclusive category than he seems to believe. He’s reinforcing the cissexist idea that having breasts that you intend to keep equals being a woman, which we know from the experiences of many non-op, non-binary and intersex people is just not true. Chaz is ignoring the needs and lives of many people who belong to the very group he purports to represent and to fight for.
Here’s another prescriptivist quote:
“I think of it as hormones that, you know, went in the brain but not in the body, and that’s all being transgender is. It’s just that the sex of your body and the gender of the brain don’t match up.”
Reading this, I think first of my non-binary transgender friends and comrades in arms. Chaz is defining transgender in a way that excludes them completely from the category. That is wrong. I know so many trans people who saw rhetoric and metaphors like this early in their lives and immediately assumed that transgender could never refer to them, that they were outside the purview of even transgender issues, completely freakish, completely alone. I am a binary trans man, and I do not want Chaz, another binary trans man, representing me and simultaneously mistreating my non-binary comrades in this way.
And here’s the interview that finally made me decide I was done with Chaz. It’s with the New York Times. Here’s a LINK.
“There’s a gender in your brain and a gender in your body. For 99 percent of people, those things are in alignment. For transgender people, they’re mismatched. That’s all it is. It’s not complicated, it’s not a neurosis. It’s a mix-up. It’s a BIRTH DEFECT, like a cleft palate.”
I do not have a birth defect. If you feel like you have a birth defect, fine. That’s how you feel. Go feel that. Do not put it onto me. Do not define me that way, and do not define other trans people that way unless they claim that label.

* Continue reading at Super Mattachine. *

Copyright © 2011 Stephen Ira. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted & Linked By Permission.


Trab said...

Not unlike so many Republicans, Chaz seems to have appointed himself as the guardian of morality and understanding, whilst not having any ability to actually do so.