speaking of the colonisation of gender
October 1, 2012
The headline for this article is “Can transgenders be third sex?” It is about the recent change in India’s laws creating a third gender.
I want to actually talk about this questions. And how it is framed. And how this article goes on to discuss hijras. I’m not going to talk about or criticize how any of these words are used because I’m not from or in that culture and they best get to decide how these words are used and what they mean for them.
It is interesting, however, how this questions brings to light so many different things that go wrong when non-western, non-anglo places try to locate their discourse of gender within the white, colonial framework.
Because… as I’ve posted elsewhere (one post here about this and another on womanist musings) ‘third sex’ is itself a product of white academia, in addition to the notion of ‘transgender.’ But this question posits that transgender == third sex, while the article goes on to discuss hijra.
Again, I’m not criticizing this article. But I find the juxtapositions very interesting in the ways that they highlight how inadequate the white colonial gender discourse really is for discussing poc genders. How even framing and enacting something like this in the legal framework only serves to re-enforce the primacy of white gender discourse.
(another good example is Nepal and how it has created a legal ‘third gender’ category for all queer and trans people, which is what they’ve been working for and, thus, a great victory but makes me wonder why it is ‘third’. because this ordinal listing of genders creates a hierarchy that is not necessarily Indigenous to the people using it. nor does it make much sense when you are from a culture that does not operate within the white gender binary. it only serves to decentre and marginalize people from the roles and places they traditionally occupied, as being fundamental parts of the community and not some legal adhoc add-on.)
(eta: sorry, I got two news stories confused. This one is about India, removed comment about Pakistan)