For/To what will you or must you re/act?

An answer to this question is suggested by the film “Diagnosing Difference” by Annalise Ophelian.  In the film, thirteen individuals who associate with the transgender identity share their testimonies regarding their personal gender narratives and how the concept of transgender is interpreted in a social, political and medical sense in the United States.  The film begins with the participants discussing the definition of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  The definition of GSD is a launching point for the film because transgendered persons re/act to their own conviction and establish a gender for themselves.  As the participants in the film describe, this is not a conscious “decision” so much as a personal reflection that allows them to realize how they inherently express gender.  However another “reaction” occurs by the medical community when it comes to treating these individuals and in particular performing medical tasks that will change the gendered aspects of their bodies.  This situation highlights an important aspect of agency; an individual must both act on his/her own convictions, and society too must react to these individuals.  In the case of transgendered individuals seeking medical treatment to change their bodies, the medical community has established a system which does not necessarily conform to the needs of transgendered people.  Most importantly, many transgendered people do not feel they have a disorder and certainly not one involving gender identity.  In fact, they have both explored their gender identity and feel passionately about it to a much greater extent than most traditionally gendered people.  Holy Old Man Bull makes one of the most poignant statements in the film:  “Nature really loves diversity, it’s human beings that have a terrible time with it.”  Like our medical system, many Americans have trouble understanding the unique situation of transgendered individuals and therefore struggle to react to them appropriately.  Indeed the very fact that some transgendered individuals feel the need to change their bodies to express their gender in the sense of a two-gendered system is a very strong reaction of these individuals to their society.  Just as transgendered individuals must react to the society in which they live, other individuals must react to them.  We can only make the most productive and socially just reactions after we have educated ourselves on the unique position of transgendered individuals.

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