Monday, September 24, 2012

Whiteness Assigned Gender (WAG)

Biyuti is a bakla Filipina living on stolen Algonquin land. He works to sustain and increase the biyuti of the world through decolonization and through her explorations of the intersections of race with queerness/gender. She also blogs at The Biyuti Collective and you can find her on Twitter: @JustBiyuti 

I was trying to talk about colonialism and its impact on gender a little while ago when I came up with this way of conceptualizing it: the gender I was assigned at birth is my whiteness assigned gender (of course, I do want to say that I’m neither the first nor the only person to deploy such a concept, I’m merely detailing my path to it).

It is almost unavoidable that, if you discuss gender stuff long enough, the terms like dfab/dmab or some other equivalent will be used. And I do get why it is occasionally necessary. Kinda. In part because while talking about trans women makes it clear who you are speaking about, it is a little murkier beyond the binary. And since transmisogyny is real and important, it is important to understand the differences of experiences between those who are dmab and those who are dfab. Fine.

But. More relevant for me is discussing the ways that being assigned a *white* binary gender has impacted my life. Thus, whiteness assigned gender. And, if further specification is needed to say which whiteness assigned gender, something like WAMAB or WAFAB is suitable. This is important because it highlights the intersection between the violence of being assigned any gender, but also the colonial violence of being assigned a *white* gender.

Now, one might think that this would only be relevant in western/white dominant countries. However, this is not the case. Whiteness assigned genders are a concern in any place touched by colonialism, particular those places where white religious morality has had any influence (for the past) or where white media is currently exported to. The realities of colonialism are such that even in poc dominant countries, whiteness and its standards are still being enforced.

But those of us who fail to conform to the white gender we were assigned need to have ways to talk about it that are distinct and separate from the white trans community, whose rhetoric and discourse so often erases or elides us and the ways they perpetuate gender oppression on poc communities.

Interestingly, such a concept can also be used by cis people of colour. Since being a cis Asian man is not the same as being a white man. Your whiteness assigned gender of cisAsianman will always come with a different set of gender expectations, roles, and stereotypes. By virtue of being a cisAsianman or cisAsianwoman, you will have less freedom and less leeway for gender expression. Or, rather, that whiteness will only ever understand you in very specific and narrow ways. The white colonizing of gender does go beyond just how it impacted third gender or how it reduced the variety of genders that existed. It is also the means by which patriarchy was introduced into many societies the world over.

Anyway, I simply wanted to share the stage where I’m at in terms of how I understand my gender and body in relation to the culture that it exists in. I want intersectionality incorporated into every single level of my understanding and conceptualization. Talking about my whiteness assigned gender does this. It also reveals the ways that my gender freedom is tied to the overall liberation and decolonization of all of my people.