When I look at members of the transsexual community who are actively seeking out physical alteration of their bodies... on the one hand, of course, I have this anti-essentialist reaction against it - that it’s about transforming bodies towards something that is, in the end, I think, conservative. But on the other hand, I do have this envy of their body transformations, which I feel are beyond my capacity. And part of that is because of the mythology in the media about the beautiful, successful transsexual. Because that’s who you see in the media. You don’t see the people who got totally fucked up, and look totally fucked up - which I would say are the majority.
-- The Laurence Rassel Show "On Transgendered Authorship"
Terre Thaemlitz thinks that "the majority" of transsexuals "look totally fucked up." And published an mp3 saying so. Why should we care what this Julie Bindel-wannabe thinks about trans people? Because Thaemlitz is one of two serious composers that I know of who are out as trans.
Yes, he says, "I'm a transgendered identified male (both my transgenderism and maleness are documented in different public spheres)" (http://www.chaindlk.com/interviews/index.php?interview=TerreThaemlitz) No, that doesn't mean that he's ftm. He's a very subversive guy who dresses up like a woman sometimes in order to fight patriarchy. Or something. I'm not being terribly respectful of his identity in that description, but I'm afraid I'm infuriated by his failure to respect mine.
And terribly, terribly disappointed. I wrote about this guy in MA thesis and thought he was awesome, especially since he was not only out as trans, but tackling trans issues head-on through his work. He would show up to very technology-based music institutions in Germany and give lectures that were full of gender theory. He, like me, wants cis people to have to think about gender sometimes and how it's constructed. Heck, the purpose of this project I've quoted from is purportedly, to "[deal] with issues of authorship and copy-left from feminist and transgendered perspectives." (Ibid) But for him, despite using a plural form on "perspectives," I guess there's only one legitimate gender position and that's his. People who transitioning are "reactionarily conservative," passive victims of the "medical industry" He says, "The transsexual community that focuses on transitioning the body . . . in the end, it's capitulatory." ("On Transgendered Authorship")
He says, authoritatively, as a cissexual,
For me, transgenderism arises out of the problem of not fitting in. and it comes out of those crisis - not only a gender crisis, but a larger crisis of social relations. It's not so much a crisis of the body, which Gender Identity Disorder and the medical industry want to present it as being about.
It's really great for him that he's never experienced dysphoria. But he goes from "I've never experienced dysphoria," to "therefore it must not exist." Well, a lot of men have never experienced any kind of trans identity. So if bloke A has never experienced wanting to cross dress, does that mean that it also doesn't exist as a valid perspective?
A big part of Thamelitz's problem is that he sees trans a a radikewl thing to do. A way to challenge patriarchy. Alas for him, my goal is not to "[indtroduce] a new breed of masculinity into the male workplace, into the male social structure." (ibid) Heck, I don't think my masculinity is especially new or in any way subversive. Indeed, I object even to the idea of "the male workplace." Alas, the gender balance of some workplaces is not ideal, but I can't imagine terming any place the male workplace. What kind of feminism and transgenderism in this, pushed forward by a male-identified man? I'm starting to think he doesn't actually understand what these words mean.
The piece I really loved from him before dealt with problems faced by intersexed people, who were often forced into surgery as babies, which was treated as an emergency when it was not at all life-threatening, just a social crisis. But now I fear he doesn't see IS people as people, just as symbols of non-gender essentialism. Living examples to prove his theory. The ultimate gender queers. And I wonder why he feels like he has to exploit trans identities and IS identities to prove his point.
This is profoundly disappointing and an example of how divisions can be sewn among trans people. If there are multiple perspectives, one of them must be wrong, because I can be the only right one. And in his case, it's not enough that he be the only true transperson, he has to fall into a load of transphobic, sexist, and transmysoginist language. Does he really think he isn't just repeating a tired old trope when he says that transwomen are ugly? Trust me, this idea has been well circulated previously. It's tiresome, untrue and sexist as hell. Judging women by their appearance is not feminist. Maybe the reason the German government backed out of broadcasting this is not because feminism is not "sexy" (http://www.chaindlk.com/interviews/index.php?interview=TerreThaemlitz) but because he's failing at it.
Terre Thaemlitz, I used to think you were cool.