Out of the Binary and Into the Woods

A while ago I attended the Mosaic Gender Conference hosted at CMU and it was incredible. The headlining speaking was Kate Borstein whom we had the pleasure of hearing her thoughts on Gender Theory. Kate is an American author, playwright, performance artist, and gender theorist. There were other break out sessions that were maybe 50 min long and within each block of time you chose which session you wanted to partake in. My first session was titled “Let’s talk about body image” and briefly we covered our thoughts and feelings on body image, looked at the media’s say on body image and covered a handful of stats. My second session was titled “Gil Junger present Taming of the Riot Grrrl” this session had potential as it drew from scenes and music from the 90s flick 10 Things I Hate about You but ended just being the speaker reading her essay she wrote as an undergrad. The Feminist as Shew.

We broke for lunch then Kate was up. Below are my notes from her talk. After that there was some networking and a couple more break out session. The next one i went to was titled “Finger painting: an arts based investigation of masturbation” now I thought there would actually be some finger painting involve but alas there was not, still a great session, we did look at different pieces of art and discussed appropriately. The last session for the day I went to was titled “Playing the binary: disrupting gender in women’s sports” which was very informative and also scary when looking at what some institutions (colleges etc.) are still practicing today and allowed to get away with.

Notes from Kate’s talk:

What makes life more worth living?

  1. Identity (who are you?)
  2. Desire (sex)
  3. Power (social justice – access to resources to make your life better)

AKA: who to be, who to fuck, how much power am I allowed to have?

What links them altogether?

  • God or the Great Big Good – resides in you kind heart
  • Why doesn’t this happen? More variables than just our hearts
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Age
  • Class
  • Religion
  • Sexuality
  • Mental health
  • Family – reproductive status
  • Language
  • Habitat – ecology
  • Citizenship
  • Political ideology
  • Humanity

These are spaces – bully magnetic

  • Hierarchy
  • Systemic
  • Oppression
  • Kyriarchy – the master rules – combines all these constructs

Class: presented to us as a binary but it’s a jungle

Race: binary – white or black

… all these examples are available on her blog

Gender binary – space that has only 2 sides and they are opposite and not equal. Only equal in a vacuum

Gay marriage – leaves out a lot of people – assumptions, all these rights and benefits that mainly apply to the kids of marriage. This excludes single parents, married couples gain and don’t want to give up those rights even if the kids get screwed over

Deconstruction – who gives a fuck? Postmodern people and things are a construct

Gender dialect:

  • Man/ Woman
  • Boy/ girl
  • Butch/ femme
  • Drag king/ Drag queen
  • Gentleman/ Lady
  • Cisgender/ transgender – made up terms, recent terms, be careful
  • Tranny

So … with all the possibilities what is my “real” gender?

Is it your “real” gender that you express with?

  • Parental people?
  • Police officer?
  • Our lover?
  • Healthcare provider?
  • Teacher?
  • Friends?

So are you a man or a woman? This is an either/or question = bully

  • Homo or hetero?
  • Straight or gay?
  • Cis or trans?
  • Virgin or slut?
  • Smart or stupid?
  • Right or wrong?
  • Good or evil?
  • No or yes?
  • With us or against us?

Remember: you never have to answer an either/or question!

Dhali Lama: spoke of Profound wisdom and vast compassion

Definitive truth and Arguable truth

We all die = definitive truth

There are only 2 genders = arguable truth – Gender is a social construct

Language: Tranny is a horrible word or Tranny is a hard working positive empowerment

What is the truth of gender?

  • Genitals
  • Roles
  • Sex
  • Chromosomes
  • Memes
  • What grandpa says

Is there a definitive truth of gender?

Gender is relative to both relative and point of view

Sexuality: Is there a definitive truth?

Sexuality is relative to both relative and point of view

We’ve been assuming binaries are dangerous

Are they?

If so, what makes them so powerful?

Shenpa = Hooked = There is a way to unhook ourselves using postmodern theory and compassion

  1. Breath – step back and witness
  2. Determine is you can see the definitive truth that is masked by the binary
  3. Stop – question and refute the binary that Hooked us
  4. Radical refusal or any argument truth of ours, that depends on the existence of that binary
  5. Radical wonder at the arguable truth
  6. Radical welcoming

How do either/or binaries enter a culture or a community? And stay in a culture? Either/or happens when a culture or community tries to make itself a good place to live

  • *Everyone could be as enlightened as Buddha, Jesus, or Mohammad
  • *We could use value – don’t be mean – when mean, forgive ourselves and try to do better next time
  • *We could use ethics – the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you
  • *We could use morals – the 10 commandments

This is where either/or comes from

  • *We could enforce morals through laws, crime, and punishment
  • Conscious anarchy
  • You have agency
  • You can decide for yourself

A politic with no enforced binaries?

  • Factors
  • Toys or tools

Most religions agreed that desire is a slippery slope – motivate without dependency

Politics and power –> one person in charge over all –> then came democracy – seeing it crumble since. Has not been a secular politic of desire –> compassion is revolution – desire the cessation of the suffering of all

As you explore your truth of sex and gender and as you work to respect the truth of others do try to keep this in mind…

  • *Please do whatever it takes to make life worth living, whatever it takes, just don’t be mean
  • *What if that means doing what god says not to do?
  • *Well find yourself another god, there are plenty of them
  • *If all else fails take a get out of Hell free card …
This one is mine!

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