I’m not the only person who writes great things! Today I’d like to bring your attention to @mediumkravitz‘s
Basically, Kravitz’s article is a reminder to not conflate other culture’s things with your own culture. Appreciate cultural genders, but don’t try to cram them into Western ideas of nonbinary refinery. As with everything related to and / or in the direction of LGBT / queerness, it’s up to the person to decide if this community applies to them or not. From the article:
Many pre-colonial genders also involve community-focused roles. This conflicts with the individualistic nature of our transgender and nonbinary narratives. Instead of understanding these different experiences in their specific circumstances, people demand that we center the West when talking about transgender identity in the same breath with which they employ non-Western gender variance to rationalize modern transness.
This is another reason why I call my own series on these topics Advanced Genders rather than Queer Genders / Nonbinary Power or whatever. This article got me thinking about how I hope to someday explain this very broad concept to my own audience responsibly.
But for now, at the very, very, very simplest―oversimplified, in fact―a cultural gender is a gender (and sometimes a sexuality) that is interlinked with the culture that it’s from. As opposed to say, something like “genderfluid”, for instance. Anyone can be genderfluid, but (let’s make up an example here so as to not risk real-world cultural genders getting conflated with genderfluid. I’ve seen a lot of articles and such oftentimes explain cultural genders as “it’s like this [Western term], but for [whatever community]”, which after reading this article, I no longer think such phrasing does these concepts justice). From the article:
We must resist the urge to call these experiences merely gayness or transness at first glance, though. They are not interchangeable; they cannot perfectly translate into modern Western taxonomy. Rather, they directly challenge our ideas of sex and gender.
Anyone can be genderfluid, but only Wakandans can be Wakandagender. Wakandagender people have a specific role within Wakanda: the role of saying, “Go home, Jesus, we got this!” Again, this is a made up example, but hopefully it helps you. The cultural genders I’ve (very briefly) studied often aren’t just an identity, they also serve specific roles within their communities. If you wouldn’t conflate Star Wars with Star Trek, don’t conflate cultural genders with Western ideas of advanced genders. And also, read more than just my writings on queerness. I’m writing this to hopefully inspire y’all to read and appreciate someone else’s writing, too. From the article:
Our community houses more than one experience, after all.As much as I try to be inclusive in my own writings, ultimately, I am limited by my own perspective on life. For instance, I’m comfortable using the term “queer”. Other people are not. Therefore, anyone who has been egregiously harmed by or otherwise wishes to avoid that term would not feel affirmed by my content.
So without further ado, the snippets of Kravitz’s article that I especially love, with my initial reactions. Also available in a twitter thread, if you’d prefer to read them in that form.
- About the stripes in the trans pride flag: “white seems to hold a double meaning — what it means to be transgender almost always revolves around the white transgender experience. Whiteness, like that stripe, sits at the center of the community.”
- “No discussion about gender is complete without considering race. Yet, many try to leave it out anyway. The way we talk about being transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming often bulldozes over many groups regardless of race — but mostly nonwhites.”
- 🗒️🖊️. Off the the top of my head, I can count the number of people who regularly talk about cultural genders on one hand, but I acknowledge that this is my own experience. While yes, it’s impossible to learn everything even when you’re a dedicated scholar, at least be aware that other marginalized peoples have different and equally valid experiences in life. Do your best to drive attention to your peers and betters, especially when you know you’ve got a privilege power they don’t. The reason the masses haven’t overthrown our oppressors is because the privileged among us (white people, abled people, non-queer people, neurotypical people, christian-centric, etc) keep insisting that what’ll solve our problems will solve everybody else’s. How can we provide a solution to a problem we don’t have? If you want to defy fate, you need to be ruled by wisdom and action. The wise action to take sometimes is shutting up and letting other people do the talking.
- “People will see hijras and go, ‘they’re not a different gender, they’re transgender women!’ even though hijras are culturally a separate gender from women and typically don’t identify with them.”
- Pro tip, don’t do this, disrespectful motherfuckers!
- “If hijras and other transfeminine-appearing people aren’t transgender women but separate genders, one must bring nuance into their comprehension of gender to accept this reality. To some, that feels like granting leeway to transphobes who say transgender women aren’t women. But hijras quite literally are not women, so that shouldn’t even be a concern.”
- Aka know what you’re talking about before you talk about it. Other cultures aren’t scary, people. Other peoples aren’t scary, people.
- “some two-spirit folks and faʻafafines and hijras do conceptualize themselves as transgender and/or nonbinary and have every right to, but forcibly labeling others based on how one interprets their expression and actions only serves oneself, as does redefining people’s experiences to fit one’s worldview.”
- “Essentially, depending on hijras or two-spirits or kathoeys to justify transgender and nonbinary people in America — or anywhere, really — may not be effective in getting our point across. We should focus on ourselves when talking about ourselves. But further, why must we cite proof from others at all? Are our lived experiences not enough?”
- “modern transgender experience simply doesn’t depend on the gender variance that came before it. People identified as transgender and exhibited stereotypically ‘transgender’ behaviors in the West before they knew who hijras or travestis or kathoeys were.”
- Amen! But also thank god we have non-Western gender variances too. Just don’t conflate the two.
- “People have taken a myriad of diverse experiences and tried translating them instead of understanding them.”
- “People cling to non-Western visions but only want them at surface level, heard but not listened to.”
- “Worse yet, one could argue it mimics the forceful redefining that cisgender society inflicts on us daily as transgender people. Instead of going, ‘these people seem to be like us, so they are us,’ perhaps we can look at things how they are and allow everyone autonomy.”
I also love the interviews the author conducted with Amalia and Amichai: two people who are cultural genders. Definitely give this article a read for them alone! Here is a link to the original author’s ko-fi if you’d like to send him some money. And if you’d like to send me money so that I can do this for a living instead of on the side, here are my donation links! The less time I have to spend working my shitty job, the more time I can spend doing awesome things like this: finding gems and telling y’all about them as excitedly as I can!
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I’m glad you asked!
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