Needy Queers

I went out last night to the RVT, resplendent in silk, and conscious that I was going out alone. I decided to take the bus rather than a taxi, as I had done before, and allow myself to feel the weight of every gaze and potential judgement. I was uncomfortable and on edge for the evening.

In the normative world our identity is fed and acknowledged in a million ways. The world is set up to constantly affirm our identity, positively and negatively. On the whole, it is a positive experience to the subconscious as it keeps us in the position of all-is-well allows us to concentrate on our day. Billboards display posters of men and women performing normative identities, everyone walks the streets in clothing appropriate to our gender expectations, signs are in a language we understand, doorways fit the shape of our bodies, and foot-length steps lead up to them. The whole world constantly affirms the normative and allows them to get on with the tasks of their day. This, of course, is the behaviour of power that enables the unthinking consumerist mass. But regardless of its rights and wrongs we know it’s there and what it is doing. Now bring into this neat machine the performative tranny. The trans* experience in public is replete of any subliminal securities (good or bad), it is a constant awareness of each gesture to the point where the only activity that can take place is the act of being trans*. This also applies to those with physical, mental or linguistic impairments, but for now I’ll just stick with the performative element of trans*. So this constant awareness of your position has to be mitigated in order for you to enjoy your evening out. This happens by being with people who say things like, “I love what you’re wearing.” “You look fabulous!” and so on. The affirmation from friends, fashionistas and sympathetic people help the confidence of the performative tranny and enable the evening to take place, the tranny can form a performative identity to take part in the world. Their identity must be supplemented through the replacement of normative signals with artifice, a heightened use of the compliment.

I realised that when I was out on my own, I felt vulnerable because I had no one to tell me I looked ok. My tasks for the night involve, checking my skirt isn’t riding up or slipping down, ensuring my bulge doesn’t show, checking lipstick, eyeliner, foundation, is my wig still on straight, blouse still tucked in. The list of tasks go on and on because there is no sympathetic audience to keep my performance on track.

And this is why I refer particularly to the performative tranny. This particular identifier is the performance of trans*. We now understand that the identity of gender takes two forms: the biological definition of our particular blend of chemistry, and the performed role imposed by society. This understanding has lead to important discussions about the use of “social gender role transition” in gender reassignment. There is something absurd about playing at being another gender before physically becoming it. It reaffirms each side of a binary and fails to acknowledge the true nature of trans* as a destabiliser of power. The goal is always to pacify the dysphoria rather than question the normative domination over non-conforming identities. Some trans* identities look to complete an illusion of transference, and to receive the subliminal securities intended for the other gender. To do this takes a lot of work and is perhaps an illusion of achievement. Even the most convincing of trans* performativity is an illusion that must be continually kept afloat to work.

I want an audience because there is no point to my performance if it isn’t acknowledged. I want people to see and enjoy my performance, to compliment the efforts put into its execution. Without these kind words I look out of a precarious vessel that sees only obstacles to avoid.

We need to experience validation for our performance so that we can define ourselves beyond the victim. Performing gender is an opportunity to connect a queer moment with a potentially appreciative audience. The normative world is not able to enjoy this moment.