Summary: What better way to learn about the multiplicity of genders than to talk openly about gender identities and expressions, especially those which appear to challenge the prevailing myth of a tidy binary? The director of this short film asks eighteen trans activists, "How do you describe your gender identity?" and one by one, they respond. "Being a woman has got nothing to do with having a vagina," one activist remarks, then adds, "being a man has got nothing to do with having a penis." The clip is useful for underscoring the analytical distinction between gender identity, which refers to one's inner sense of being a man or a woman, and gender expression, which refers to one's fundamental sense of being masculine or feminine through performance (see Riki Wilchins, Queer Theory, Gender Theory). The impulse to police the gender binary, to ostracize and assault those whose gender identity and expression appear incongruent or fall outside the gender binary is an oppressive project, and as the activists featured in this clip suggest, there is both conformity and resistance to this project. To some extent, the activists who identify as transsexual women, work within the schema that posits "woman" as an identity which is meaningfully distinct from "man." In contrast, one activist appears to reject the binary altogether (1:04 to 2:38) and identifies only as a "trans person." To my mind, the collection of interviews begs a central and important question: Is it possible to move beyond gender as a fundamental basis of one's identity?
Submitted By: Lester Andrist