Gender Talk

The performance that I watched was an untitled poem about being transgendered by an anonymous author. Kate Campbell, a member of Penn N-Cis, performed it. In the poem the author claimed that their performance of a trans-identity was a choice; however, the feeling that they were assigned to a gender that does not fit them (the feeling of being transgendered) is not a choice. Secondly, they claimed that in many ways being transgendered is a double edged sword; if one represses that identity they don’t feel whole and if they choose to perform it they are sometimes shamed or feel ashamed because of their difference. The author did describe moments during which they felt a great sense of self worth and pride in their identity. These moments were usually when they were with other queer people (gender queer or with queer sexual orientations).

I found it very interesting that the author submitted the poem anonymously and without a title. At first I was surprised that they were not going to perform it themself because the event was designed to be encouraging and free of judgment. The audience over all was very receptive and respectful throughout the event. In reflecting on this, I think the author’s choice to remain completely anonymous is reflective of how much shame, confusion, and frustration can be associated with being transgendered. It also goes to show how intimate those kinds of feelings are. I commend all of the performers who were willing to stand and read their own work; however, I can appreciate the fact that people may not want to put their most vulnerable selves on display. This also made me think more about how certain social institutions expect or force people to come out to others, even though the emotions attached to their identities are often quite intimate. This really goes to show how much privilege is associated with being straight, cis-gendered, and other “normative” identities. People who conform to such norms are privileged in that they are never asked to and never feel the pressure to announce their identity and the details that go along with it. I am glad that this forum was available to think through the politics of coming out with regard to transgender issues, especially in light of this week’s readings.

After seeing the performance and thinking about the amount of choice one has or does not have in expressing their identity as well as the pros and cons of outing oneself I am left with a question. Is coming out to others really a choice or is it something people are forced to do?

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