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(X-posted) original email to C Crouch (and reply) - radical pedagogue, dude.

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May 17th, 2007

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12:22 pm - (X-posted) original email to C Crouch (and reply)

I’m writing from San Francisco, where I currently live and work, but also
from the perspective of someone who is about to move to Bloomington,
Indiana, the setting (near and about) of your film The Gendercator.  I am
also, I should add, a queer activist and performer who has participated in
the production of a variety of queer films, and have my own queer
burlesque troupe (now four years old).
I am dismayed by the description of your film, and by the blame it seeks
to lay on the shoulders of trans people, who are (mis)identified as
wayward lesbians coerced by misguided social norms and a “binary” gender
system that is, unequivocally, bad for everyone.  It is in the “Director’s
Note” that the most disturbing rhetoric appears.  Here you explicitly
label FTM people as “altered women” and “lesbians” who have “distorted”
self-images and who “carve” their bodies to fit antiquated gender norms. 
You claim—in a binary of your own creation—that there are two choices,
either self-mutilation or “changing the world,” and it is clear on which
side you stand.  And who wouldn’t?  Trans experience is reduced here to
delusional, masochistic misogyny, and the very people who might have been
your allies in making the world a better place for all people of all sexes
and genders (even straight people) are denied the power to speak anything
other than the language of illness and shame.
It is the way you pathologize trans men (and, presumably, all trans
people, although as is typical in dyke/lesbian circles, transwomen are
left out of this “brave new world” entirely) that most disturbs and
disheartens me.  It would seem, in fact, that the terrifying future you
imagine has a kind of fascist mentality of its own:  genderqueer, or else.
  Being in the “middle of the genders,” as you put it, is a fascinating
and liberating place to be, no doubt, for many people.  But to presume
that anyone who does not happily float between “the binaries” is sadly
retrograde, brainwashed, conservative, selfish (not working to “change the
world,” just themselves), and living in an outdated past tense, is to set
up a new and equally as frightening Law.  The worst part is that your
blaming of the “binary” itself—the identities they seem to embody, male
and female—is directed at those people for whom living happily within the
binary gender system has never been an option.  Or perhaps the worst part,
as I see it, is that the ability to live as “a man” or as “a woman” is
represented as a medical nightmare, one equated at every turn with
straightness (as if it were inherently bad to be straight), rather than as
a basic and an individual right.  The very fact that the film portrays
“advances in sexual reassignment surgery” as a way to maintain
“traditional family values” or to promote an authoritarian gender regime
tells me that you haven’t thought through the relation between sex and
gender, nor have you carried your own political thinking past the
“sisterhood is powerful” slogans you attribute to the film’s protagonist. 
No one would deny that sisterhood is a powerful thing, but it is anything
but progressive to portray trans identity as a vicious threat against
women, femininity, or feminism.
While you say that you see this film as “hopefully fostering discussion,
and while some might see this film as just that— a
conversation-starter—or, perhaps reluctantly sigh, “ well, if nothing else
it will be good for debate,” I know for a fact that there are many, many
people out there (trans-identified and otherwise) who feel it is, in fact,
not okay that their bodies and their decisions are considered fodder for
“good controversy” when it is clearly not okay to make such assaults on
other groups of people.  Racism is a terrible reality in this country, and
this week’s firing of Don Imus, though certain to change nothing, is at
least a tiny reminder that one should not be allowed to go around
promulgating hateful stereotypes about a marginalized group of people; but
when it comes to trans bodies and trans experience, it is somehow okay to
do so in order to “have a debate”?  Why is it the case that the trans
experience gets to stand in for—and even be equated with—all body
modification, all Barbie-worship, all negative effects of a sexist
culture, when in fact there are many reasons (having nothing whatsoever to
do with self-hatred—far from it) why trans people make the difficult
choices they make about their bodies and lives.  It is egregious that you
consider FTMs to be “lesbians” in the first place (many trans men are gay,
and many more who are queer, or bi, or straight, or any number of things);
it is more egregious that you visit the many sufferings produced by sexist
culture on the bodies of people most likely to be suffering the penalties
of that culture.  Just ask any transwoman or transman about sexism. 
Unfortunately, many of the voices you might have included have been
silenced by attackers whose policing of the so-called gender binary makes
your “one possible scary future” all too real.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2007 11:31 pm (UTC)
you definitely hit on points that I was thinking of reading the first post you made.. that bit about how women "are made to feel compelled" or whatever to change their bodies is really F**ed up for like 10 different reasons, among them the fact that it assumes that people make decisions because of some amorphous "culture" and not their own convictions/feelings. But you know that already.

do you have her response?
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)

here it is

> Thank you so much for your wonderful, thoughtful letter.
> I hope you get a chance to see THE GENDERCATOR when we are finished.
> catherine
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2007 11:39 pm (UTC)
I also just got this response from the Frameline Film Festival people: so awesome:

May 17, 2007

We were first made aware of Catherine Crouch¹s director¹s statement
associated with her film THE GENDERCATOR earlier today in emails received at
the Frameline office from concerned members of the community. THE
GENDERCATOR was submitted to Frameline and programmed as one of six short
films in a program titled ³OUTer Limits².

Frameline takes these issues and concerns very seriously. With long and
proud history of partnering with and supporting our Transgender community,
Frameline is deeply troubled by the content of the filmmaker¹s ³Director¹s
Note² listed on her web site. Frameline staff members were not aware of
these comments when the film was submitted for Festival consideration and
subsequently programmed.

Frameline¹s senior staff are now in the process of determining the best
course of action. Frameline is currently speaking with members of the
Transgender community, the filmmaker and other community members to resolve
this situation. Frameline thanks our community members for bringing this
issue to our attention. We look forward to working together in seeking a

Michael Lumpkin
Artistic Director

145 9th Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94103
P 415.703.8650 x302
F 415.861.1404

San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival
Films That Deliver
June 14-24, 2007

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