crossdressing or how colonizers erase and devalue gender
October 19, 2012
I’ve been thinking about ‘drag queens’ and ‘crossdressers’ for a little while and how the conception of these two practices can be understood in the larger colonial context that erases, devalues, destroys trans feminine poc genderessences.
I recently saw another person from the place spanish people called the Philippines define Asog as the “Sacred Drag Queen.” Now, coming from them and in this context (i.e., the spiritual role that bakla used to serve in different ‘Filipin@’ ethnic groups), I don’t mind this translation, even as it fascinates me (but fuck any and all white people who saw bakla and dismissed us as being ‘drag queens’).
That it could be construed that “bakla = Tagalog drag queen” is interesting for me for the way it invokes the performativity of the gender role in ways that I’m sure is likely making many a white trans person squirm as they read this (if there are any). Because… the butlerian gender theory of performance is usually hated because of the way that it implies that gender isn’t real. (and I get why).
But there are cultures (mine for example) where the gender is, at least in part, a performative role in the sense that the gender is not only defined by what it is but what it does. It is/was about the role you played in your community. I guess, to put it in a different way, your gender was/is relational and not necessarily just a personal, ‘private’ thing (and, yeah, can we also recognize this notion of personal vs. public as a different invention of white colonialism?).
What I find so interesting about the ways that the white colonizers came to discuss the ‘cross dressing’ of the Indigenous people they encountered, is how it reveals just how deeply they misunderstood what it was they were seeing and just how white supremacist their world views are. Because describing the people they encountered as ‘cross dressers’ implied the existence of a binary that didn’t exist. It was a term that invalidated and trivialized the trans feminine people they were applying it to.
What I’m not getting at, at all, is the way that white cross dressing men like to go “We are still men and not gross and icky like those trans women” because those people are trans misogynistic as fuck and can choke on their trans panic.
Because my real point is not about whether or not trans feminine Indigenous genders are ‘crossdressers’ but how this framework, as applied to us, misses the point and is white supremacist. As well as trans misogynist. It also helps create the inapplicable hierarchy of ‘real’ women and men who wear woman’s clothing by making it only about personal ID and removing the relational role that our identities served in the communities.
Because, self ID matters but so does/did the role we occupied in our communities.
And it is important to remember that while we remained ourselves, what was taken is the role we occupied. This is or must be an integral part of how we conceive of decolonization: remembering that our selves and our IDs aren’t just personal, private affairs with no relationship to our community.
That also creating an artificial division between cross dressers and women is something that was imposed from the outside… since an Asog who puts on certain kinds of clothing usually worn by women to serve a ceremonial or ritualistic role as part of a spiritual practice is no less valid or real from the Asog who embodies that role all the time.
The creation of a ID of “crossdresser” interests me because… for those before the ability to use medical technologies to better embody yourself, it is likely that a combination of clothing/adornment + social recognition was how you came to embody your role.
(And I refuse to speculate whether, if given the option, a bakla of 500 years ago would choose to avail themselves of modern day medical technology because it entirely misses the point.)