Slavery through essentialism

Editor's note: Tati do Ceu sent the following two intriguing commentaries in May 2003, in response to various attempted legal and biological models of transsexualism espoused by Bailey and others. Though this a bare-bones outline, I think a compelling argument could be constructed to support her conclusions.

On slavery

I would like to launch my own theory into the mix. My theory is that public law along with medical classification in regards to sex identity function as a form of slavery.

I have made several observations (which im starting to realize have been made many times before me in feminist discourse. Strangely, few GLBT activists have attempted to extrapolate these very basic observations into the general debates of identity politics):

There is no universal legal model for deciding what constitutes man or woman, other than the presumption of maleness or femaleness.

There is no universal legal model for deciding what constitutes maleness and femaleness, other than vaguely articulated legal precedent.

Legal precedent bases sex identity on genitals at birth, for which there are specific (measureable) medical standards of classification that the general public is not privy to.

These medical standards of genital classification are determined and controlled by medical professionals who ultimately decide what each person's legal sex identity will be.

As science reveals ever more complicated truths about the genesis of reproductive physical cues, medical professionals are pressed to provide a definitive model of maleness and femaleness that justifies their control of and influence over the laws that govern these categories. (laws that govern these categories: marriage laws, man and woman as legal identities, public dress codes, access to public services, sodomy laws, legal sex changes, and so on...)

If there is no definitive model of maleness and femaleness, this leaves us with a society that insists its public be accountable to the personal biases of medical professionals.

A society that insists on legislating personal bias as legal identity is not a free society.

A society that reduces legal identity to the presumption of reproductive capacity is one that subordinates its public as breeding stock.

A society that employs its medical professionals as the overseers of human breeding stock is a slave society.

I may have made a few leaps in logic there. I'm not sure. And yet it seems pretty clear to me that we are a society stratified under the auspices of a legal system that hasn't even had the guts to define the labels it forces upon the public.

What will Bailey's justification be for calling "biologic males" (whatever he means by that) Men, when human reproduction and its reproductive physical cues are one day fully liberated from "actual" biologic sex? A day when the transpeople he classifies by physical appearance are phenotypically indistinguishable from the "real" women who "really" turn him on? Thanks to the very same science and medicine that he and his colleagues function as the gatekeepers to?

On essentialism

A big chunk of the hostility that Bailey, and also Blanchard I suppose, surrounds the assertion that a sexual motive is responsible for transsexuality. That gender identity is a secondary issue, and the way Bailey dismisses it, gender identity can even be ignored altogether.

However, Bailey and Blanchard haven't confined this theory to transsexuality, have they? It seems to me that those who follow an essentialist/biological determinism school of thought say that the reason human beings do ANYTHING is because of sex drive. That the sex drive exists solely for the reproduction of the species, and women and men look and act the way they do, merely as reproductive cues to the other. This includes analyses of the very biological differences between males and females as the result of sexual selection.

So following this view, women (females) look and act the way that they do to attract men (males) for the purpose of mating and reproduction. And vice versa. Therefore, if the very existence of men and women depends on sexual motive, the existence of homosexuals and transsexuals must also be explainable as the result of some sort of directed (or misdirected) sex drive.

So, of COURSE homosexual transsexuals (according to Bailey) would be mimicking "real" women for the purpose of obtaining men as sex partners... considering that all women exist solely for the purpose of obtaining men as sex partners.

As for "autogynephiles".... that could be explained as a man (male), who normally exists for the purpose of obtaining a female mate, getting his natural sex drive all mixed up and turning back upon himself somehow.

I guess you have already made these points rather obvious, but it seems like most transsexuals are taking his theory as a personal attack on transsexuals, when really its an overarching attack on the very notion of gender identity as independent of reproductive function. The old sexism... women exist to have men's babies, and men exist to impregnate as many women as possible.

To offer any viable alternatives to essentialism, we have to call out the profound intellectual dishonesty that society has cultivated, (this includes our scientists), regarding civilization's self-protective power structures, and its institutionalized coercion of gender identity. A coercion that defines the reproductive instinct as the *sole* motivating factor of the human species, no other explanations allowed.

This isn't to say that reproductive instinct as sole motivator isn't as valid a theory as any, but I think its high time we worked on some new theories as well, in addition to exposing the cultural biases and research flaws of the former.