Transsexuality is not a lunch for genderqueers

Being transgender is not transgenderism but a deeply dramatic experience with an uncertain outcome. Which has nothing to do with the stale stereotypes with which gender identity is expressed. Neviana Calzolari's reflections
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Republished courtesy of Dol's Magazine. Original article here

Neviana Calzolari, sociologist, activist, writer and TV face. Yet hardly mainstream, indeed among the most acute (and critical) observers of the social-political landscape of our times (...) The group I-Dee of Milan and the association Hypatia of Catania met her.

La transessualità non è un pranzo per genderqueer
Neviana Calzolari

- The Zan ddl was designed to combat homotranssphobia, so it was well-intentioned,' Neviana began. 'Nevertheless, I remain sceptical about certain terminology, in particular 'gender identity', which alarms a large part of the feminist world and - no one denies it any longer - even many intellectuals in the progressive area. It seems paradoxical to say this, but I, as a transgender woman, do not feel represented. Among the 'categories' listed in Article 1, transgender people do not appear. How should they be placed? In gender or sex? For the promoters of the law, these are useless distinctions, since transsexuality would be subsumed under the broader umbrella of gender identity. But this is a simplistic and misleading argument: transsexuality, it must be remembered, is not about the perceived, but about bodies, and Nor can women and men be equated at birth with people who have completed the transition, as if the difference between their experiences was non-existent.

I-DEE/IPAZIA - But does not emphasising this difference imply discrimination?

NEVIANA - To discriminate means, precisely, to make a difference. It then depends on how one understands it: whether as unequal treatment, prejudice... or, instead, as a recognition of a reality. Obviously it is the latter that interests me. Biological sex and registry sex are not fictitious identity constructions. Sexual identity concerns both biology and the experience of individuals. The confusing overlap between sex and gender, which the bill grafts on in an anti-feminist key, is experienced in public counselling centres (often promoted by trans associations themselves), where an almost caricatured adherence to gender stereotypes is encouraged. Gender ideology, commonly flaunted as the new advance, echoes the most stale clichés about femininity and masculinity. What identifies us as women: make-up? The heels? The clothes? The place where one 'disguises' oneself (I was also asked this...)? The behaviour? Do I have to be sufficiently nice, welcoming, considerate to be considered a woman in all respects? I realise the difficulties in making certain assessments, but precisely because of this the centre-left would need organic political thinking on the issue, which is completely absent today.

- Why do you speak of anti-feminism?

- Because people T are pushed to adhere to a bias against the demands of the feminist movement, which, on the contrary, has always fought for the elimination of gender stereotypes. Let us not forget that, in recent years, centre-left councillors have indifferently financed both historical feminist associations, such as Udi or the Casa delle Donne, and activities such as Arcigay that were driven by different and in some cases opposing demands to those of feminism itself. I have spoken of anti-feminism, but I should add transphobia; let us reflect: what could be more transphobic than a T-woman being encouraged to act like a bimbo or a T-man being forced to play the part of a bully?

- But couldn't T people rebel against this conditioning?

- It is not easy, because renunciation would, in their eyes, lead to complete social marginalisation and many problems in the consulting rooms.  Most people T shore up their sense of security in constructing their identity from the most conspicuous and superficial aspects. Contrary to the glamorous message conveyed by the media, the transition path is deeply dramatic. Changing one's sexual identity means entering into a "no-man's-land' where you abandon the sex of birth without being able to fully rely on the sex of choice. Most T persons cannot accept that there is still a difference - a distinction to return to the previous discourse - between their human experience and that of those who are born and identify with their biological sex. This is why I object to the trivialisations inherent in the bill: such complex experiences must never be removed, also because T persons are victims of hatred and violence precisely on the basis of their history and not apart from it. If instead of obsessively attaching oneself to stereotypes or insisting on social approval one would focus on oneself and on being proud of one's path, one would certainly live better. Certainly in a more adult and mature way, because transsexuality does not only imply suffering but also joy, pride, serenity.

- In recent years, especially after the uproar provoked by certain news episodes, we have witnessed an increase in men's interest in T-women, as if they were seeking in them not only the 'forbidden', but also that passive femininity, subservient to male desires, to which biological women are no longer willing to submit. Certain 'media' transwomen do not miss a chance to repeat that they 'are more feminine' than all...

- Not only that. Women T more obsessed with difference go so far as to simulate menstruation, soiling tampons with fake blood and live in fear that their partner will discover their transsexuality. No one dares to talk about it because it collides with the sweetened narrative spread by the mass media; instead, transwomen should recognise, and fight against, this omertous and profoundly untruthful experience. As for the interest, or rather attraction, of certain men towards them... well, it only confirms what has been said. They are not interested in real people, only in their supposedly dark, taboo side. They are seen as 'monstrosities', not as human beings to be known and loved. It is a totally morbid, perverse, pathological attraction.

- Does it not also denote male bewilderment, his inability to accept the emancipation of women? They seek out transwomen because with their sometimes exaggerated adherence to models of submission they represent the antithesis of feminism.

- Without a doubt. For this, Instead of insisting on gender identity, T-women and biological women should extol their respective diversity, make it a strong point to counteract the machismo of which they are both victims. Even a woman at birth almost never fits the clichés imposed on her by society and 'constructs' herself independently of dominant expectations. This is an opportunity not to be missed.

- In a previous meeting you emphasised the importance of the educational factor...

- This is not exactly the case. I was responding to a specific question about the day against homosexual transphobia and possible applications in schools. I do not have any formula to propose, in fact I would be very careful not to! Education for human respect is certainly needed, but in an ontological sense and in all fields. I am thinking of the increasingly invasive presence of pornography, which now spares no age group. Here, an alliance between schools and families would be necessary to prevent a phenomenon that, whether directed towards heterosexuals or homosexuals or transsexuals, represents the most trivialising and enslaving form of sexuality. One thing is for sure, I would not go and talk about my experience in lower schools. Older children can access it at some juncture, but the younger ones need to be helped to understand from their own experience, not from that of adults often grappling, themselves, with a complex and not entirely resolved experience.

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