Loving Beyond our Body's Borders:
Gender Diversity and Peace
Gordene O. MacKenzie (6/15/02)
In these days of war gender flags fly high over our body's borders, marking our territory as women or men. Like flag waving nationalism unexamined gender can lull us into a dangerous amnesia-unable to see beyond our own body's borders. Conversely, gender liberation can inspire us to move beyond the binary and our body's borders toward a politic of gender diversity, inspired by peace and fueled by love.
In this climate of fear and increased security gender is policed not only in the media and at airports, where transgender people report a significant increase in harassment and gender profiling, but gender is also policed by our communities, families, partners and even ourselves. It is time to examine our own gender politics and resist merging with the latest surveillance technology, airport x-ray machines, designed to spy beneath our clothing!
If we are to achieve gender liberation we must resist using gender as a weapon against ourselves, others, and refuse to let it be used against us. It is vital that we be free to map our own bodies with gender and express our gender as transgender persons, women, men or however we choose to define- provided it does not oppress others. I'm sure most of us believe this. Yet, we are all capable of going on automatic gender pilot. In times of extreme stress it is easy to retreat to gender stereotypes. When this happens it is easy to mine our own body's borders and attack others. The gender propaganda we have been fed all of our lives fast forwards and plays.
On the cultural level we witness the casualties of a dual gender system and the spread of gender propaganda daily in media messages designed to make us over. We see it in the blitzkrieg of men as soldiers and women as pin-up objects. We witness it in hate crimes: when a young latina butch lesbian is attacked by several white guys who violate her body's borders by carving the word "lesbian" deep into her skin; in the horrors of domestic violence and violence against women; the brutal murders of transpersons whose murderers are rarely found or if found, given light sentences.
On the personal level it is easy to forget who we are when we are nuked with images of who we should be by ourselves and others. Gender is at the core of our very identities. It is the springboard to our sexuality-our connection with life. Stuffed into a gender box too small to hold the complexity of our beings, our own gender diversity, can make us lash out violently against our own body' borders and the borders of those closest to us. To stop the war and love beyond our body's borders we need to be vigilant and not react by becoming gender bullies.
To find peace with gender diversity we need to decolonize our own minds. We can begin by asking ourselves if we stereotype people based on gender. We can help create peace which opens the possibility for love by refraining from calling someone a name that denigrates their gender. We can find the courage to transcend our own body's borders by refusing to laugh with others about hurtful gender stereotypes and by refraining from striking out at gender difference.
We have all come of age during the Gender Wars. Finding peace means recognizing and repairing the pain these wars have inflicted. It is time to sign peace treaties with our own bodies and others. Telling our gender stories and listening to the gender struggles of others can be a springboard for change. We may not share the same stories, but we share similar struggles to love beyond our body's borders and find peace.
In a liberatory movement for change loving beyond our body's borders can be a challenge. It means being present, not framing relationships in old patriarchal paradigms that oppress our lovers and ourselves.. For gender healing to take place we need to listen to and treat each other gently.
We are living in exciting times where our old definitions of gender are being legally challenged . Across the nation more cities and municipalities are adopting legislation to end gender discrimination. Cases challenging firing from jobs based on gender expression, hate crimes, and students suspended from school for gender expression are yielding some favorable rulings. Feminists writers like bell hooks, Carol Gilligan and Allan Johnson and Paul Kivel's new works re-examine gender and love and imagine a gender democracy, free of oppression, where no voices are silenced.
With love there is hope to widen our body's borders beyond gender stereotypes or the clothing we wear. As more people become committed to loving and understanding, and healing beyond our body's borders peace with gender diversity becomes one more link in the struggle to end oppression. If we can love ourselves, our partners, and others we act to stop the horizontal hostility around gender that limits us and we become more empowered to do collaborative activist work necessary to create local, national and global change to help create a world worth living in.
Can we re-imagine ourselves and our partners beyond the prescribed borders of our gender? What would it look like? Would we discover there are at least 50 billion galaxies of gender and not just two? As feminist activist Vandana Shiva observes "the cultivation of diversity is the most important contribution to peace."
"...I am entering your soul through the long lashes surrounding your eyes, lost in the sequined slopes of our bodies where there are no rules. We are making love on the borders of sex and gender, blissfully exploring the peaks of our desires...Loving you there are no road maps only wild fractals where chaos is the only map for our desire...Traveling past the linear, we become stems and flowers all at once. Pushing past the front and the back doorways, opening all the windows to our bodies...the house of our love rattles from attic to basement. We are creating new doorways. Our gender and genitals touch in a new and open universe." (from "Performing TransLesbian" in GenderQueer: Voices Beyond the Binary eds. By Riki Anne Wilchins, Joan Nestle, and Clare Howell).
Reprinted from "The Burning Bush, Feminist News & Commentary for New Mexico", Vol 2, Issue 1, July/August 2002 (cover story)