Note: I wrote this a few months ago, and this is all speculation done in a bus and at work. After getting some feedback from my friends, I have decided to focus more on the term “gender” and how moniker of “trans” does in fact subvert it. However, the more I am reading and researching, it is making me wonder if I am questioning gender or Dasein or Being? If this is the case, then is there real gender performance? Or is the physical manifestation of being (or Dasein) actually (mis)interpreted as gender? And what about truth as uncovering? I plan to expand more on the topic of Dasein, but as well to the limits of the gender performativity- which is different than the mere idea of gender as performance- and its reality for genderqueer and transgendered individuals.
Note: (4/17/2008) This is outdated and old. It's just up here for laughs of how bad my writing was.
What does the trans in transgender or transsexual mean? It is often that case that the definition of the entire word is taken for granted, and the prefix is left as a mere supplement to the word. It is, as Derrida once wrote, that the supplement is not merely “an inessential extra added to something complete in itself” as Jean Jacques Rousseau defined; but, rather that the supplement comes to complete the “hole”, the “originary lack” of the an idea or sign. The idea is lacking, it calls for the supplement to complete it, not to give it more presence, but to underscore its absence (Of Grammatology). The trans, in transgender or transsexual is a supplement to word itself, is due to the treatment in which the entire word itself is defined, the latter part of the word is given meaning through our society, and the prefix - the supplement - is left assumed as a meaningless sign to complete the word. Yet, it is the supplement that must be attached to make our concept clear, to allow it to be decipherable to those who otherwise would not be able to. So it is then that our supplement, trans, is able to bring the full presence of our terminology of gender and sex without adding presence to the word.
Trans, cannot and does not allow itself to be a singular meaning, it presents itself to manifest a multitude of meanings to account for the peoples that fall under its umbrella, being as adequate or inadequate as it is. Yet it must discriminate its meaning as to determine what it is not, so that it does not bear an infinite of definitions to which it has no account for. It is with that framework in mind that I choose - for me at the very least - how to define the undefined supplement. Trans, is to transcend, transgress, transform, translate, and transition gender and sex. It is a transport, but never means to transport; it can never provide transportation in gender or sex, for it is impossible to do so.
It is with respect to Western thought that trans cuts through its construction of gender and sex, or perhaps deconstructs to form its own conception. It attacks the keystone of the construction of gender and sex, where it is both most resilient and vulnerable, at the idea of binary and dichotomy. Trans, both transgresses and transcends, it deliberately breaks the framework and law in which the structures of gender and sex are built upon; it denies the feminine/masculine and male/female dichotomy, goes beyond the limited scope of the structure and creates for itself not a new construction. It is then that it is able to transform gender and sexuality into something new, that one is able to create gender and sex into a reality that is their own. Or perhaps, a perceived reality would be a better description. Nevertheless, it transforms the dichotomy, it twists the structure so that there exists no polar opposites, no conflict or opposing ideas, it makes sex and gender into formless matter that is not present in our reality. There is no distance between all sex or genders in this creation, but there is difference that allows us to better define and make distinct our own being. It recognizes, even forces the recognition of, individual perceptions of self-identity of gender and sex; we are all at once the same, and uniquely different.
From this recognition of gender and sex we are able to translate a projection to others, though it be a fuzzy facsimile of an already imperfect perception. Our active and public translation of gender, more so than a translation of sex, is a performance, a simulated act in the play of “real life”. It is through the transgressing and transcending in which the semiotics of gender performance becomes impossible to translate within the framework of the gender binary. This active transforming of private gender and sex into a public act means that one is constantly giving signs, messages , to others in which they translate for themselves. And perhaps the supplement, the trans in gender and sex, wants to transcend and transgress this too; perhaps, it actively subverts the other's perception of gender in the process of translating such semiotics, whether with force or in a subtle approach.
Our own perception of gender and sex are already imperfect because there is no reality in which we could describe them. There exists no object or an idea of an object that allows for differences to appear in the same, yet have no distance. For it is not differences that creates binaries or opposites, but rather the idea of distancing. We must recognize that sex, being linked to the body and its semiotics based on the physical phenomenon of the genitalia, is more concrete than that of gender – or rather, one's own perception of gender – which is based upon the mind. Thus, gender missing the link in the physical and existing only as an unperceivable object, prevents us from ever manifesting our gender to its purest sense, we are constantly searching what is our own gender. It is due to this consequence that we respond to gender by transition, that the trans marks a constant transition to discover the manifestation of one's own gender. One's gender never changes, it only constantly transitions, constantly searches.
This constant transition, the ever changing process, allows for gender to form and reform itself to the manifestations that it assumes. Gender thus can be thought as a transport, a form it can assume in the physical world, the outward performance of gender. But this transport can never be transported, it is not possible; for gender, in all the differences and manifestations it inherits never changes. Gender is fluid, it can assume many forms in a multitude of transports, conforming to the external mold in the manner that we depict our performance. The substance of gender remains the same even if the outward depiction is different as it transitions. One's own gender does not change, only the transports that in which it is carried within does. Gender is always in flux, in motion, in transition, as the mind tries to comprehend and translate gender; this always already given of one's own self is constantly being deciphered by the mind and manifested in different transports. It may be external stimuli or an epiphany that leads to a so called “change” of gender, but this element of gender was always already there, always already waiting, there to be found. One comes to the realization of his, her, their gender(s), it is not a change, it is merely an uncovering, an opening.
Gender can not be manipulated by the tools of reality, because it does not exist in our realm of what we deem as real. Unlike that of sex, which is linked to the body, gender is static. It is the always already given of one's self, it is the unchangeable that is changeable only in the cosmetic sense, thus it only a temporary transition before it moves on again. Gender holds on to the self stronger than sex does, for it is gender that comes before sex, before the body. Perhaps it is why sex is changed rather than gender in many transsexuals, because it is, was there, this notion of gender, waiting to be manifested in the privileged physical world.
Perhaps trans is more than a supplement, for it does more than fill in the “hole” that is lacking. It makes anew the meanings of gender and sex, it brings a new understanding. It transends, transgresses, transforms not merely the binary structure of the words, but the meaning, the core of the pair. It defines and redefines them. Yet, while it opens up gender and sex to encompass the Other, it is limited to the limited to the framework, the laws that govern our own language. The language that does not account for the individual other, and thus must group them into the Other. It is with hope that trans, gender, sex, and the combinations of the three will one day be again defined and redefined to be reopened to the one's that this text does not see, and bring to the present.