‘Deficient’ Womanhood: Girldick and Transmisogyny as Debilitation/Capacity

Original article located here: medium.com/@chriscoles_66854/deficient-womanhood-girldick-and-transmisogyny-as-debilitation-capacity-889fa751946e

By endorsing the de-signifying potential of girldick as the generator of trans womanhood, rather than ascribing it around the lack of a penis (cis womanhood), we are able to manifest an insurgent womanhood.

Gender, understood as a violent paradigm of settler colonialism, could be understood as a project of policing. Policing in the sense that Gender seeks to reconstruct the nothingness that constitutes life as determinate.[1] Gender seeks to reduce the indeterminacy of life down to the ontological constrictiveness of ‘man’ or ‘woman.’ In this sense then, it could be said that Gender operates as a project of coherency; seeking to index all of life into a paradigm of gendered-subjectification, eradicating all that which refuses such indexation. This violent project of gendering operates in a multitude of different ways, but for the purpose of this paper I have chosen to focus on the way in which it necessitates the creation of transmisogyny; to focus on trans women. It does so because trans women exist as difference to Gender’s coherency, we are unruly bodies that refuse to be stabilized within being coercively gendered male at birth.[2] We are bodies who refuse to be complicit within Gender’s paradigm of womanhood, and consequentially because of this, our womanhood is always framed as ‘deficient.’ To be clear, I seek to focus on trans women not because the binary of cis/trans can adequately capture the totality of Gender’s violence (because that framing works to sustain Gender’s colonial project), but rather because trans women are constantly disqualified.[3] We are axiomatically framed out of epistemological projects not only about transness in the abstract, but especially in ones oriented towards trans liberation.

This epistemic disqualification is purposeful, its purposeful because it operates as an extension of “the material precarity of antinormative bodies in general.”[4] That said, trans women are targeted specifically because acceding to the materialist conception of womanhood that an epistemic centering of our bodies would necessitate would disarticulate the system of Gender entirely.[5] A system that I have argued elsewhere is anchored around the deployment of microfascist semiotics; signification.[6] Signification, specifically, of the penis as ‘male’ and vagina as ‘female.’ Under this paradigmatic process, womanhood becomes semiotized around the lack of a penis, and having of a ‘biologic’ vagina, and thus trans women are perpetually framed as not-quite women. Analyzing this through Jasbir K. Puar’s re-articulation of disability as ‘debility/capacity,’ I write this project to reveal that through these Gendered realities, trans women become always already debilitated; transmisogyny operates as a process of debilitation and capacity.[7]

Debility, Capacity, Disability:
That said, before getting into how transmisogyny operates as a process of debility and capacity, its necessary to understand what such refers to. Theorized by Jasbir K. Puar, debility/capacity refers to a re-conceptualization of how disability has traditionally been theorized, and by extension understood; disability/ability. Puar articulates that this traditional model is insufficient in grasping the way in which colonialism, specifically settler colonialism, exports its violence against bodies, and how those models of violence have intermeshed with the development of neoliberalism.[8] For Puar, the rise of the transformations of capitalism’s material realities from Fordism to neoliberalism has fundamentally altered the way in which the process of subjectification (creation and application of subjectivity) comes about. To elaborate, given the way in which neoliberalism seeks to forward its process of constant market creation through the envelopment of all life under its coffers, one of the primary ways it seeks to do is through rights frameworks.[9] In other words, the only way in which we can understand bodies, violence, and restitution is through the establishment and proliferation of paradigms of ‘human rights.’ What this requires then is a conception of life that is able to be captured, and redeployed, through rights-as-taxonomy.

The way in which this operates is through neoliberalism’s creation of a subjectivity and forcible deployment of that subjectivity onto life in such a way that it becomes primed for capture. This neoliberal-subjectification is one of individualism, in which the affective intensities of life become captured, and collapsed, within the referent of a universal signifier; an atomized individual.[10] Often taking the form of normativity, individualism is able to produce a model of life that semiotizes itself around the possibility of being articulated within rights; a determinate whole that merely has to have the ‘proper’ definition applied to it to be understood. The problem with this sort of subjectification is not merely that it justifies the process by which neoliberalism is able to penetrate into all aspects of life, but in the sense that it re-creates the process of othering for which marginalized bodies are dealt. Examples of this are unfortunately everywhere, but can be clearly seen in the turn towards ‘trans liberalism’ in which the creation of a coherent categorical transness that can be ‘protected’ vis a vis rights has worked to justify the further eradication of trans women of color.[11] To elaborate, given the definition for which transness comes to be under ‘trans rights’ becomes centered around the possibility to transition through the medical industrial complex, acquire specific gendered ‘parts,’ and ‘pass’[12] as cisgender it will always privilege white trans folks.[13] Or in other words, “neoliberal states, in which these demands are made, reproduce socio-economic divisions along intersecting lines of race and class, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, nationality and immigration status.”[14] In this context then, the neoliberal process of subjectification is utilized in order to create a semiotization of transness in which trans poc, especially black trans women, are perpetually framed out in order to further justify their lack of protection, death at the hands of police, and eradication from trans ‘history.’

In the context of disability, Puar argues that this neoliberal process rears its ugly head in the framing of disability as “fixed state or attribute.”[15] Specifically, due to the material power for which neoliberalism is able to exert over the creation of semiotics, through the process described above, it is able to create, circulate, and concretize a definition of disability that serves to reinforce its projects. Disability and ability become understood as permanent states of being, an ontology, or as a process of interiorized ‘identity’ that someone is inherently born with; one is either disabled or they are abled.[16] In this sense then, one is disabled if they become recognized as such, or rather more trenchantly, if they have the possibility of being included within neoliberal rights paradigms. Utilizing the example of Israel’s settler colonization of Palestine, Puar forwards that this neoliberal conception of disability will always forward colonial notions of deservedness. If under the paradigm of disability-as-ontology one is only disabled if they are included within rights as such, colonized bodies like Palestinians will always be perpetually framed out of theorizations of disability because they will never have access to such.[17] They will never be included because under conditions of settler colonialism, like Israel, legalistic practices like the law are weaponized to further the settler project of total eradication of the indigenous.[18] In committing itself, purposefully, to this attachment to legalism neoliberal conceptions of disability work to further obliterate colonized bodies from being considered legible bodies, and instead works to further the gratuitous violence against them.

Additionally though, the problem with this model of disability is that disability is not stable, it cannot be understood as a permanent state of being, because it “shift[s] geographically, as varied cultural, regional, and national conceptualizations of bodily habituations and metaphysics inhabit corporeal relations differently and sometimes irreconcilably.”[19] In ignoring this materiality in favor of ontologization, neoliberalism is able to once again deploy disability as a force for colonization rather than as one for liberation. To elaborate on this point, let’s propose how a hypothetical wheelchair bound person in the global north with access to a wheelchair, lifts, and accessible walkways and an otherwise ‘able-bodied’ Palestinian living in Gaza would be rendered under the frame of disabled/abled. Under the traditional paradigm of ontologized able/disabled, the wheelchair bound person would be understood as ‘disabled’ and the Palestinian as ‘abled.’ The problem with this framing is that it ignores that because of the access to infrastructure, a direct result of colonial and imperial violence, that the wheelchair bound person has, they have the ability to be rendered ‘mobile.’ The Palestinian on the other hand, because of the constant reality of checkpoints, biometric scanners, and settler surveillance, is always already restricted in their movement; locked out of self-determined mobility entirely.[20] Under this specific analysis, if access to mobility is the determining factor for whether one is disabled or not, the neoliberal framing falls apart; it is the one who is thought to be abled (Palestinian) who is disabled.

What this analysis indicates is that not only does the “globalization of disability as an identity through human rights discourses” serve to obscure the fact that 4/5ths of disabled people in the world live in the global south, but in fact operates as a mechanism of imperial and colonial power.[21] Through sublimating disability to a framework that is only ever accessible to settlers, colonizers, and those in the global north, neoliberalism is able to utilize disability theory and activism as one of the weapons modernity uses to frame indigenous populations as neither object nor subject, but rather just mass to be eradicated.[22] Independently though, given that, as David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder argue, neoliberalism always works towards ableist violence through its attempted transformation of the disabled body into a commodity in of itself, it’s clear that this conception of disability must be rejected for any semblance of revolutionary power to be recovered from disability theory in the age of neoliberalism.[23] In the wake of this is where Puar proposes that we utilize the frame of debility/capacity, as both an addendum and independent vector, to theorize the process, embodiment, and violence of what we might call disability. Operating in direct opposition to the individualizing impetus of neoliberalism, debility and capacity refer to the ever shifting status bodies are drawn in and out of due to the materiality’s for which they occupy.[24] Instead of operationalizing disability to further the states politics of inclusion, debility and capacity are able to reveal the way in which specific populations are rendered to realities of slow death, and the conditions for which bodies are allowed respite from such.[25]

To elaborate, debility seeks to reveal that due to the way in which bodies are perpetually situated within assemblages of affect, the violence that arises due to despotic assemblages is never the cause of some internalized ‘being’, but rather is caused by the way in which violence becomes endemic to how certain populations become materially framed. Forwarding Lauren Berlant’s conception of ‘slow death,’ which refers to the perpetual state of divestment, violence, and suffering marginalized populations are afforded while still being biologically alive, Puar articulates debility as the process by which populations become affected by slow death.[26] Debility serves as both a description of the analytic frame for which we should understand how violence operates, and a mechanism of biopolitical control that is enacted on populations as part in parcel to the violence of systemic oppression. In this sense then, while under the traditional frame of disability we would not understand black folks as ‘disabled’ by antiblackness, under this analysis we would understand them as debilitated. Debilitated by a regime in which due to being signified by ‘blackness’ they are constructed as worthy of nothing to civil society but eradication, experimentation, or enslavement, or in other words, “exhaustion as a mode or form or way of life.”[27] Thus, a move towards debility is important not only in the sense that it provides a more nuanced understanding of power, violence, and relationality, but because it “is…a crucial complication of the neoliberal transit of disability rights…it reflects a need for rethinking overarching structures of working, schooling, and living rather than relying on rights frames to provide accomodationist solutions.”[28]

Capacity on the other hand refers to the possibility of bodies to avoid, escape, or gain reparations for/from their condition(s) of debilitation.[29] Capacity is attenuated to the fact that by the very nature of bodies being suspended within a multitude of assemblages, especially within the materiality’s of neoliberalism, rarely can violence be understood as a singular position. Rather than being inherently debilitated at all times, populations are often times brought in and out of processes of debilitation due to this reality.[30] As Puar mentions else ware, this position is indebted to the amazing work of Black Feminists who argued that because of the presence of intersectionality one is never an oppressor or oppressed, but rather generally both.[31] As will be explored later in this paper, an example of this is that despite the fact that Gender’s transmisogyny debilitates trans women, those of us who are white are able to be recuperated from damage because of our whiteness. In this sense then, unlike the ontological boundary that disability/ability purposes, debility and capacity refer to “a mutually reinforcing constellation…often overlapping or coexistent, and that debilitation is a necessary component that both exposes and sutures the non-disabled/disabled binary.”[32] Working with this methodological approach for understanding violence, I seek to reveal the way in which transmisogyny operates along the continuum of debility and capacity, and how we might theorize an insurgent womanhood that seeks to rupture the processes of both.

Transmisogyny and Debilitation:
Transmisogyny, like Gender, is not a ‘natural’ result of how bodies come together. Rather, it is a purposeful paradigm that is deployed both as a result of, and as a justification of, the systems of Gender (and thus coloniality), patriarchy, and capitalism. There has already been a large breath of incredible work on what ‘transmisogyny’ is and thus I am not concerned with producing a project that seeks to explore its definitions. Rather, I am more concerned with analyzing how transmisogyny operates instead of exploring what it is. I make this move because I don’t seek to position my writing as mere epistemological accumulation, because of how the academy utilizes these sorts of projects to reproduce its hegemony, but instead as praxis.[33] Praxis not for anybody, not for cis people to ‘understand’ or make legible our womanhood, the violence that scars our bodies, or our desires. I am done doing so because I refuse to be perpetually situated within the ‘rebuttal system,’ to have to always argue the ‘justified’ existence of trans women.[34] Against this, I produce this praxis by and for trans women, both as a further tool in our projects of liberation and as a impetus for those of us who are white and settlers to reconcile with such. To recognize the necessity of both centering the embodiments of trans women of color and to understand how decolonization, Black Power, and the dissolution of civil society are necessary for liberation of any sort.[35] All of that said, the conception of transmisogyny that I will be operating with in this project will be the one that is elucidated by Nat Raha in “Transfeminine Brokenness, Radical Transfeminism” which forefronts it as a specific form of both misogyny and transphobia that positions our bodies as monstrosity.[36] A permeable reality which produces trans women in “states of brokenness: states where bodies are jammed, depowered, isolated.”[37]

The question then becomes, “how does transmisogyny come about?” That’s a question that can be answered from examining the violent project of Gender, and the resulting gendered-subjectivity of ‘womanhood’ that it creates. Retooling the arguments of Simone de Beauvor, Monique Wittig argued that ‘womanhood’ was a myth that was instilled within our bodies as ‘natural’ as part in parcel to patriarchal control.[38] Womanhood is a myth because despite what it claims, it has no basis within what we would think of as indicative of ‘naturalness.’ In fact, if we are to understand nature as emerging “from a self-birthed womb fashioned out of a raging nothingness…regeneration out of a fecund nothingness” then the analytic that transness proposes deconstructs the entire notion of a signified ‘nature.’[39] Rather, womanhood exists as a subjectivity that is coercively imposed upon particular bodies upon birth; those that lack a ‘penis’ or are born with a ‘vagina.’ A subjectivity that is necessarily produced due to the way in which Gender is able to exert its hold over the molecular and molar.

To retread what feels like familiar territory for me at this point, capital G Gender does not refer to gender identity in the abstract, but rather to the hegemonic form of Gender that coheres gender identity as only ever being able to express itself through its registers. What I mean by this is that if we understand identity to be the crystallization of affect around a particular event, an ‘identification,’ then gender identity refers to life’s attachment to what gender could be.[40] Gender on the other hand refers to a larger system that deploys the dialectical gendered subjectivities of man and woman, collapses genital life down to penis and vagina, and forcibly strains all of life through this process of gendering. In other words, Gender refers not only to the ideology that manifests this specific conception of gendering, but also the apparatuses, enforcers, epistemologies, and semiotics that work to deploy and sustain its material power. A material power which is inseparable from the settler colonization of the land masses we call the ‘Americas’ and ‘Canada,’ and the consequential globalization of coloniality that resulted from such. It’s inseparable because Gender did not arise by happenstance, but rather was derived from a very specific European-Christian understanding of gender that was deployed as a force of colonization.[41]

Due to the fact that a vast majority of the indigenous peoples, whose land we are currently occupying (Coast Salish specifically), of the ‘Americas’ and ‘Canada’ understood gender in a way that was inherently at discord with this European one, Gender’s hegemony was established as a way to carry out the dictum of settler colonialism; complete eradication of indigeneity.[42] What’s important is to not only understand the colonial violence of Gender as an epistemological one, locking out indigenous knowledge from ‘truth,’ but most trenchantly as a material one. As a process of settler colonialism, Gender sought (and succeeded) to justify violence against those indigenous bodies that could not be read under ‘male’ or ‘female,’ eradicate their cultural importance, and force an adoption of patriarchal sociality.[43] Thus, while we should understand Gender as operating as a system of violence in unique ways, it is always already a force of the continual colonization of the land which we currently occupy, or in other words, one of the many tools in the project of “making the First Peoples of a place extinct.”[44] To be clear, this is not to say that the violence that indigenous bodies and settler/colonizer trans bodies face under Gender should be thought of as analogous. Rather, this just serves to indicate the complex field of debilitation for which Gender deploys, creating conditions for bodies in which they are both disciplined by the logics of Gender and recuperated from such discipline by the force that created it (settler colonialism).

This reveals that one of the primary ways in which Gender is able to sustain itself is through the constant iteration of its logics; the process of gendering. What’s important to understand is that the mechanism for which bodies become gendered is never lacking violence, but rather, due to the fact that this process is coercive it could be thought of as a (constant) war on the body.[45] It’s coercive in the sense that bodies never are asked to be gendered, rather they are labeled as such from the moment they are thought to be ‘alive,’ codified as such by legalistic measures like birth certificates and ID cards, and then constantly told that they are nothing but what they have been gendered. Gender’s process of labeling, or gendering, happens by way of an attachment to a particular generation of meaning; semiotics. That specific conception of semiotics is that of signification and the deployment of signifiers as the locus for which meaning can be apprehended and ‘understood.’ Signifiers refer to a conception of the communication of meaning around “formal units of content,” or in other words, as meaning only ever having a singular expression.[46] An example of a signifier would be how we come to ascribe the meaning of ‘productivity’ to the body under capitalism, and how we are taught that is the extent for which the body will mean. Thus, signification refers to the conception of semiotics which seeks to proliferate the creation of signifiers, attach them to the signified, and then invest material power in sustaining that as the signified’s singular meaning.[47] In the context of Gender, signification occurs through the creation of the signifiers of ‘penis’ and ‘vagina,’ imbuing penis with male-subjectivity and vagina with female, and then the hegemonic attachment of the signifier (and subjectivity that comes with) to bodies that are read to have such genitals. In this sense, I would argue that under the regimes of Gender a body is only considered ‘alive,’ ‘social,’ or intelligible if it has been gendered by such process.[48]

It is through this process for which transmisogyny arises. To elaborate, given that under Gender womanhood becomes semiotized around having a ‘biologic’ vagina,[49] and lack of a penis, trans women get perpetually coercively assigned male. Due to this fact, and the inherent discord that our bodies have with this conception of womanhood, Gender does not merely frame trans women as ‘lesser’ women but rather as men. Our presence of a penis, and lack of what is considered to be a ‘real’ vagina, locks us into a reality in which our bodies have a male-subjectivity that is inherently violent constantly impressed upon us. This discord, the continual assertion of our collective womanhood in the face of a reality in which we are semiotized as men is what causes the basis for all transmisogynistic violence. The unruliness of our bodies to conform, become compressed, and confined within the way in which Gender necessitates (maleness), and the materiality of non-normativity that stimulates, is what causes us to be framed as ‘monsters’ that dare refuse ‘biology,’ ‘nature,’ or ‘morality.’[50] The framing of monstrosity is not mere rhetorical flourish, but rather as Susan Stryker argued, trans women are specifically framed as monsters that are always already risking the sanctity of sociality and thus must be purged in order to regain it’s ‘purity.’[51] In this sense, transmisogyny operates not merely as a process of marginalization, but rather as eradication; the elimination of trans women from all space.

This is a process of debilitation; trans women are debilitated by transmisogyny. To return to Puar, if we understand debilitation as the process by which populations get placed into conditions of slow death then that is exactly what transmisogyny does. Whether it’s constant street harassment; legalistic denial of our subjectivity; lack of access to safe housing; violence at the hands of the police; violent assaults; the medical industrial complex; lack of access to necessary biomedical technology; intimate partner violence; systemic depression; institutionalization; rejection from family; hatred from cis women; structural deadnaming and misgendering; being the target of parody and satire; exclusion of social space; weaponization of womanhood against us; being jailed in men’s prisons; transmisogynoir; barred from retaining rights to have families; disqualification of our history and knowledge; whorephobia; imperial violence; death by drone strikes; destruction of key infrastructurel; etc, they are all animated by the logic that trans women are monsters.[52] All of these multiple strains of lived experiences with transmisogynistic violence constellate in a condition in which trans women are divested from the social and continuously deteriorated in “the banal contours of the intimacy of the everyday”; debilitated.[53] In this sense then, it would be incorrect to understand my argument as merely that “transmisogyny makes life hard for trans women,” which yes is certainly true, but what I am gesturing towards is that due to this general condition of debilitation for trans women, sociality itself is oriented towards our destruction. Our womanhood is framed as a deficiency that justifies the violent materiality’s for which we become thrust into. Those of us who are lucky enough to be kept alive, not killed by the state or individual actors, are kept alive in a materiality in which we have no access to the necessities that one would define as generally afforded and where our articulates of pain are never considered legible; slow death. As freedom fighter and revolutionary CeCe McDonald succinctly articulates, “It’s fucked up to hear about the murders of trans women every day.”[54]

The violence of transmisogynistic debilitation is not merely contained to the totality of this molar reality for trans women though. As Puar articulates, debility as a process is not merely concerned with channeling itself through the traditional spaces in which we would think ‘politics’ develop, but rather also through the circuits of life itself; the molecular.[55] To summarize an argument from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, the ‘molar’ and ‘molecular’ refer to the two spaces for which life, and thus politics, arises. They should not be thought of as dialectical, or as unitary, but rather as co-constitutive forces.[56] Molar refers to classical spaces of political organization, the state, laws, street action, mass line, or that which is “extensive, divisible…and unifiable.”[57] The molecular on the other hand refers to the space in which desire, subjectivity, and semiotics develop; spaces in which conceptions of each are created and deployed.[58] So far my analysis of the debilitating realities of transmisogyny have been located squarely within the molar, for which now I will turn my attention towards my molecular, specifically that of subjectivity. I am concerned with the specific process for which trans women get subjectified under Gender, as men, and how that produces conditions of molecular debilitation.

To elaborate, given the fact that one of the primary mechanisms for which transmisogyny arrives is through the coercively assigning trans women as men, it means that the specific form of subjectification we face is unique. What I mean by this is that not only do we face the generalized transphobic violence of being misgendered, our subjectivity framed as ‘inauthentic’ and forever unreal, but we face the particular patriarchal violence of having maleness circuited within the entirety of our bodies. This is an especially violent form of misgendering because if we understand patriarchy as the structural elevation of male-subjectification, and codification of apparatuses and institutions against womenhood and non-men, then the process of gendering a trans woman as ‘man’ is an act of molecular debilitation.[59] It’s an act of debilitation because it utilizes the image for which trans women’s bodies have been projected, maleness, as a weapon against our authentic subjectivity; womanhood. It creates a reality in which not only are you faced with the external violence that constitutes existence within transmisogyny, but your own body has been weaponized against you as a marker for the systems that want you dead. Maleness, cis or trans, as a structure is always inherently violent towards womanhood, the materiality of Gender and thus patriarchy make it so. In this sense then, the body of a trans woman could be thought of as a constant battleground in which maleness wages war against the insurgency of trans womanhood.[60] This causes an internalization of slow death, of the death-making, monstrosity, and violence that transmisogyny projects as justified against trans women. The totality of your psychic reality becomes defined by a hatred for yourself, your body, the world, and you resign yourself to being a body that is worthy of the violence you have been situated through. In this sense then, the molecular debilitation caused by transmisogyny answers the age old question of “why does desire desire its own repression?,” contextually “why do trans women desire death as respite?”[61] We do so because the molecular environment for which our trans subjectivity arises is one of constant death; death is all around us, it is us.

White Capacity:
As Puar reminds us though, debilitation and capacity are dynamic and multivalent, a process.[62] Given this, while transmisogyny certainly places trans women into realities of slow death, due to the way in which trans women (and all populations) are simultaneously situated within other nexus of power, it means that particular trans women are able to be recuperated into dominant realities in spite of this debilitation. While there is a variety of different intersections for which these materialities could be teased out, I seek to specifically focus on the way in which whiteness provides capacity for white/settler trans women. I do this not only because it is the most proximal to my specific subject location, but also as Elías Cosenza Krell reminds us, those trans women who are the most targeted by gratuitous violence cannot merely described by a frame of ‘transmisogyny’; black and indigenous trans women.[63] This frame is insufficient because it assumes a universalist frame in which all trans women, regardless of how they are racialized, face violence in a similar way.[64] In doing so, analysis that refuses to attend to the violences of racialization ignore the way in which white and settler trans women not only act as inherent exporters of violence onto trans women of color, but also how they are able to escape the systems of debilitation described above.[65] In other words, a reading of transmisogyny that leads to a “universalization of whiteness has a negative effect…it forges a theory of transmisogyny through whiteness and middle-classness while purporting to speak for all.”[66]

In an attempt to be attentive towards this, engage with a conception of transmisogyny that is imbricated with racialization, with transmisogynoir with its specificity towards antiblackness, I hope to indicate the capacity that white settler trans women like myself are afforded.[67] Forwarding the brilliant work of Jessica Jung, I hope to indicate the way in which white trans women are always already part in parcel to the sort of colonial violence that constitutes the experience of trans women of color.[68] In order to do this what is necessary is an understanding of what whiteness is, and how it operates as vectors of violence. Despite what antiblackness has forged to make one believe, race does not refer to a biologic characteristic of humanness. Rather, it refers to ontological paradigms that become signified onto bodies as justifications for their life-bringing or eradication.[69] The primary ontological screen for which these processes of racialization depart upon in that of whiteness and blackness, the dialectic for which civil society, modernity, and politics have become plotted along.[70] To elaborate, during the process of chattel slavery, and its afterlives, there needed to be the creation of an a-priori justification for the enslavement of Africans; not only justify current violence, but the perpetual continuation of such.

From this arose the ontological categories of whiteness and blackness, in which whiteness was constructed as the ‘good,’ ‘pure,’ and ‘master,’ and then signified onto all those with white skin as constituting their ‘being.’ Blackness went through a similar process, being signified as the ‘being’ for all those with black skin, but instead referred to the negation of value.[71] Those bodies (Africans and their descendants) that became disciplined by blackness became constituted, from the vantage of civil society, as nothing but worthy of death and enslavement.[72] To put that succinctly, “to the extent that we can think the essence of Whiteness and the essence of Blackness, we must think their essences through the structure of the Master/Slave relation.”[73] Thus, through the apparatuses of chattel slavery, the prison industrial complex, the police, the state, the law, and all other facets of antiblackness the Master/Slave relation of whiteness and blackness become the dominant grammar for which the world becomes premised on.[74] Our realities, whether we are the exporter or target of such violence, is constituted by antiblackness. In this sense, there are two primary reasons as to why understanding whiteness as ontological is important. Firstly, it indicates that no matter what violence you may be subject to, if you are white you are a protected body; the world is/was crafted for you.[75] To quote Tumblr user nemuwii, whiteness “effects everything. being trans is easier when you are white. being gay is easier when you are white. being disabled is easier when you are white. being a woman is easier when you are white…never forget this.”[76]

Secondarily, it reveals that whiteness is not a question of mere privilege. White bodies, like myself, are not innocent bystanders who are used as the justification for racialized violence. Rather, because whiteness is ontological it means that the totality of how our subjectivity is oriented is towards projecting antiblack violence. Whiteness will always seek the consumption of blackness, through gratuitously violent means, not because of the action of ‘racist individuals’ but rather as its reason for being.[77] It does so because it is pleasurable, fulfills the purpose for which whiteness requires to generate its coherency, and because for whiteness “violent consumption is the only way to seemingly benefit from encounter.”[78] What this reveals is that white trans women, despite our debilitation by transmisogyny, are active exporters of antiblack violence. Regardless of the violence that is contingent on our bodies, we will always work to the forward the gratuitous violence of antiblackness because under such a dominant grammar it is circuited into our ‘being.’ Thus, the world will always provide the opportunities for our white transness to become protected and elevated from the debilitation for which we face; capacity.

Nowhere is the possibility for this white capacity anywhere more evident than in the rise of trans liberalism. Specifically, the turn towards articulation within rights based frameworks and increased representation in media as an outlet for trans liberation indicates the possibility of capacity. In utilizing the state, a bastion of the ontology of whiteness as described above, as the arbiter for determining those trans bodies that are ‘liberated’ trans liberalism allows for the re-articulation of racialized violence. It allows for white trans folks, specifically white trans women, to occupy the new conceptualization of the docile white women that needs to be protected by the state from ‘foreign invaders.’[79] Foreign invaders understood as a coded racialization for black and brown bodies. We are elevated into conceptions of trans exceptionalism, forced to perform in such a way that corresponds to such, and in essence allowed to embody new images of the neoliberal nation.[80] Neoliberalism, always articulated through antiblackness, sutures the old white nationalist construction of the ‘pure’ white woman onto the body of the white trans woman, and provides the material support necessary to create them as such. We all become, and have the possibility to become, Caitlyn Jenners. We have capacity, capacity that may be liberatory for ourselves (in the sense that whiteness always benefits white bodies), but it is never revolutionary liberation because it operates as a direct exporter of the white violence that is endemic to these apparatuses of antiblackness. Increased access to biomedical technologies; ability to change our legal documents; legal counsel; access to therapy; protection from the police; acceptance into academia; and so much more are afforded to white trans women in such a way that systemically locks out trans women of color from accessing such necessities.[81] In other words, the process of capacity “reveal the insufficiency of trans liberalism…Everyday racialised police brutality…and the murders of Black people in America, and the killing and harassment of trans women of colour, continue, and will continue.”[82]

Insurgent Womanhood(s):
What this analysis hopefully reveals is the necessity for a politics of trans liberation that not only centers trans women of color, but that seeks the complete abolition of transmisogyny and transmisogynoir’s processes of debility and capacity. A politics that forefronts not only the survival of trans women within current regimes of violence, but seeks for complete transformation of the conditions of the status quo; by any means necessary. This project is what Nat Raha has termed ‘radical transfeminism,’ a politics which pushes “the work of transformation below the visibility of the surface of neoliberal capitalist society.”[83] What’s important about this militant practice is that it operates as assemblage, never prescribing a universal program but rather a multitude of strategies, tools, and weapons that can be utilized against the “world that breaks us and for the inauguration of a world of mutuality and support.”[84] Radical transfeminism operates as such because it centers the importance of trans woman embodiment in developing praxis, and given that embodiment is an ever shifting question of relational space it means that the practices developed from such will be equally porous.[85] Adding to this assemblage, and grounding the necessity of the deconstruction of both debility and capacity, I seek to forward the creation of a conception of trans womanhood that is no longer tethered to Gender’s womanhood but rather around ‘girldick.’

Girldick is slang that is often heard in leftist trans woman circles, and refers to a reclamation of our penis as being ‘authentically’ woman. It operates as a sort of refusal to participate in the signifying project of Gender, and instead locate the creation of our trans womanhood squarely within our own embodiment. To elaborate, one of the foundational ways in which Gender is able to constantly get life to reinvest within its transmisogynistic project of debilitation and capacity is through reformism. Gender is able to paint its own internal systems as ‘neutral,’ and thus impels politics to merely seek new ways of gendering-subjectivity under its registers rather than rupturing the system entirely. This is the sort of logic that leads to trans liberalism, transnormativity, and the politics of passing. It creates the cis body, or exceptional white trans body, as that which is ‘truly’ trans and then by deploying signifying semiotics, disciplines trans bodies into attempting to become as an indicator of their transness. In the context of trans woman politics, this looks like utilizing cis womanhood as the litmus for which we should strive to articulate our womanhood; a hegemonic signification of womanhood. What is needed instead, is a disarticulation of Gender, and in this context, its deployment of womanhood entirely. By endorsing the de-signifying potential of girldick as the generator of trans womanhood, rather than ascribing it around the lack of a penis (cis womanhood), we are able to manifest an insurgent womanhood.[86] A possible womanhood that works towards the survival and liberation of trans women, rather than our debilitation or capacitation.

To elaborate, given that the way in which Gender produces womanhood, and thus transmisogyny, is through the proliferation of fascist semiotics, it means that insurgent womanhood’s must target this semiotic practice. This specific revolutionary tactic is what Félix Guattari calls ‘militant pragmatics,’ or the creation and proliferation of semiotics that seek to destabilize, decode, and de-signify the dominant organization for which meaning has been forced into.[87] In other words, militant pragmatics seek to engage in “the refusal to legitimate the signifying power manifested by the ‘evidence’ of dominant ‘grammaticalities.’” and instead “endeavor to fabricate a new map of competence, new a-signifying diagrammatic coordinates.”[88] This is exactly what girldick-as-womanhood does, by endorsing the sort of semiotic discordance produced by a conception of womanhood that frames the dick as ‘male,’ it causes an internal semiotic collapse. By creating an assemblage of enunciation that operationalizes girl and dick as productive of each other, it generates meaning that was never meant to be possible under Gender’s semiotic imperialism; a womanhood that springs forth from the dick instead of the ‘biologic’ vagina. It creates micro-conditions in which the signifying power of Gender slip, and instead of being perpetually signified as ‘male’ an insurrection of womanhood is able to be produced. This is important as a micro-political strategy not only in the sense that it seeks to rupture the very semiotic logic for which debilitation and capacity, processed through transmisogyny and transmisogynoir, are able to arise from, but it also provides spaces of radical joy. Joy not in the cruel optimist sense, never reinvesting within the dominant systems, but rather radical love of your womanhood and the necessary revolutionary action that such love motivates.[89]

This sort of radical trans joy is important for liberation. It’s important not only in the sense that it provides a brief respite from the psychic condition produced by molecular debilitation, but also because it refuses the way in which joy is captured by the status quo. To elaborate, the primary mechanism for which dominant grammars are able to get life to invest within their system is through directing a desire to do so.[90] The joy one feels in voting, the pleasure we get for campaigning for new imperialist, the way in which campaign advertisements harness affect, all are examples of the way in which the political utilizes joy as a mechanism for its perpetual production. It indicates how we must liberate affect from the way in which it has been captured by the dominant order, and instead invest it within the projects that would seek the complete abolition of the world as we know it. As Alfredo Bonanno said, “Joy is arming itself,” we must instead take joy in arming ourselves with a radical conception of womanhood that seeks not to be indexed within cis womanhood, but for the destruction of the myth of womanhood entirely.[91] A radical materialism that seeks to “hurry to attack [Gender], before a new ideology makes it scared to you.”[92]

The ever shifting process of debilitation and capacity, for which Gender is able to sustain through the deployment of transmisogyny, is only able to sustain itself through the perpetual reiteration of Gender’s logics. Trans women cannot be placed within conditions of debilitation if we are not framed as monstrosity that needs to be eradicated, the capacity of white trans women like myself cannot be utilized as formulation of antiblackness if civil society is in ashes. What this requires then is a radical politics that is uncompromisingly positioned against the status quo, resisting it at every turn, and organizing for the revolutionary militancy that will be needed to overturn it. While the way in which our desires have been circuited by the dominant order would tell us that these sorts of politics are ‘unrealistic,’ that our only ‘hope’ is the political, as CeCe McDonald powerfully argues, the very radical imaginative power of these politics is what necessitates that we will bring their possibility out.[93] I would argue that radical transfeminism is the overarching method for which we should seek to manifest these radical imaginations, an assemblage of embodiments that will lead us to the type of autonomous organizing that works across difference; refuses difference’s criminalization.[94] I have offered one such possible mechanism of enacting such method, girldick-as-womanhood, but don’t take my word for it. Organize, create, and manifest the radical trans liberationist strategies that are most effective for the material realities for which you are situated within. Ladies, we are debilitated, some of us deploy violence vis a vis capacitation, let’s take to the streets, grab our dicks, our weapons, and our comrades and end the world as we know it!!

Bibliography
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Endnotes
[1] nila nokizaru, “Against Gender, Against Society,” in LIES II: a journal of materialist feminism, ed. LIES Collective (2015), 5.

[2] Nat Raha, “Transfeminine Brokenness, Radical Transfeminism,” The South Atlantic Quarterly 116, no. 3 (2017), 633.

[3] nokizaru, 5.

[4] Raha, 639.

[5] Alyson Escalante, “Biology and The Oppression of Women” last modified May 3, 2018, https://medium.com/@alysonescalante/biology-and-the-oppression-of-women-....

[6] Chris Coles, “Assemblages, Or, A Manifesto about Gender, it’s Functions, and the Necessity of its Abolition” last modified Oct 9, 2018, https://medium.com/@chriscoles_66854/assemblages-or-a-manifesto-about-ge....

[7] Jasbir K. Puar, The Right To Maim: Debility | Capacity | Disability (Durham and London: Duke Univeristy Press, 2017), 13.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 12.

[10] Jasbir K. Puar, “Prognosis Time: Towards a geopolitics of affect, debility, and capacity,” Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory 19, no. 2 (2009): 164.

[11] Nat Raha, “The Limits of Trans Liberalism” Last Modified Sep 21, 2015, https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2245-the-limits-of-trans-liberalism-by-....

[12] The politics of passing are far more complex then trans people either ‘passing’ or not. I would also like to note that the general move to paint trans people who are thought to ‘pass’ as somehow more privileged then those who are thought to not is a reductive, and grossly transmisogynistic frame of understanding transphobia. My argument here is that neoliberalism constructs an image of transness, and forces trans bodies to perform as close as they can to that image to be considered ‘authentically’ trans in the first place.

[13] Puar, 70.

[14] Raha, “The Limits of Trans Liberalism.”

[15] Puar, 12.

[16] Puar, 13.

[17] Puar, 176.

[18] Maile Arvin, Eve Tuck, and Angie Morrill, “Decolonizing Feminism: Challening Connections between Settler Colonialism and Heteropatriarchy,” Feminist Formations 25, no. 1 (2013): 12.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Puar, 155.

[21] Ibid., 12 & 15.

[22] Achille Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” Public Culture 15, no. 1 (2003): 27.

[23] David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder, “Disability as Multitude: Re-Working Non-Productive Labor Power,” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 4, no. 2 (2010): 190–91.

[24] Puar, 14.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Puar, 27.

[27] Fred Moten, “Blackness and Nothingness (Mysticism in the Flesh),” The South Atlantic Quarterly 112, no. 4 (2013): 738.

[28] Puar, 15.

[29] Ibid., 13.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Jasbir K. Puar, “’I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’: Intersectionality, Assemblages, and Affective Politics,” Last Modified Jan 2011. http://eipcp.net/transversal/0811/puar/en.

[32] Puar, 13.

[33] Julia Taylor, “Fungible Indigeneity and Blackness: On the Paradigmatic Domination of Borderlands Theory,” Last Modified Jun 11, 2018. https://medium.com/@julia.taylor92/fungible-indigeneity-and-blackness-on....

[34] Sara Ahmed, “An Affinity of Hammers,” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 3, no. 1–2 (2016): 29.

[35] Raha, “The Limits of Trans Liberalism.”

[36] Raha, 638.

[37] Ibid., 632.

[38] Monique Wittig, “One Is Not Born a Woman,” in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, ed. Henry Abelove, Michèle Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin (New York and London: Routledge, 1993), 104.

[39] Karen Barad, “Transmaterialities: Trans*/Matter/Realities and Queer Political Imaginations,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21, no. 2–3 (2015): 393.

[40] Puar, 44.

[41] nokizaru, 4.

[42] Ibid., 5.

[43] Maria Lugones, “The Coloniality of Gender,” Worlds & Knowledge Otherwise (2008): 7.

[44] Arvin, Tuck, and Morrill, 13.

[45] nokizaru, 5.

[46] Félix Guattari, The Machinic Unconscious: Essays in Schizoanalysis (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2011), 43.

[47] Ibid., 45.

[48] Ibid., 40.

[49] I use this terminology because in so far as Gender deploys biologization as an extension of its violence, even trans women/bodies who have undergone surgery to gain vaginas are constructed as insufficient to meet this violent paradigm.

[50] Raha, 638.

[51] Susan Stryker, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 1 (1994): 238.

[52] Raha, 633.

[53] Stephen Dillon, “’Can They Ever Escape?’: Foucault, Black Feminism, and the Intimacy of Abolition,” in Active Intolerance: Michel Foucault, the Prison’s Information Group, and the Future of Abolition, ed. Perry Zurn and Andrew Dilts (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016): 263.

[54] CeCe McDonald, Foreword to Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, ed. Eric Stanley and Nat Smith (Chico: AK Press, 2015), 8.

[55] Puar, 38.

[56] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), 33.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Alyson Escalante, “Beyond Negativity: What Comes After Gender Nihilism?,” Last Modified Mar 14, 2018. https://medium.com/@alysonescalante/beyond-negativity-what-comes-after-g....

[60] Raha, 641.

[61] Deleuze and Guattari, 215.

[62] Puar, 38.

[63] Elías Cosenza Krell, “Is Transmisogyny Killing Trans Women of Color?: Black Trans Feminisms and the Exigencies of White Femininity,” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 4, no. 2 (2017): 235.

[64] Ibid., 226.

[65] Ibid., 236.

[66] Ibid., 235.

[67] Ibid., 236–37.

[68] Jessica Jung, “Space and Subjects: An Analysis of Transgender and Queer Spatiality,” Last Modified Dec 5, 2018. https://medium.com/@jessiejung/space-and-subjects-an-analysis-of-transge....

[69] Frank B. Wilderson III, Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010), 11.

[70] Frank B. Wilderson III, “Gramsci’s Black Marx: Whither the Slave in Civil Soceity?,” Social Identities 9, no. 2 (2003): 231.

[71] Wilderson, Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms, 18.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Wilderson, “Gramsci’s Black Marx: Whither the Slave in Civil Soceity?,” 232.

[75] A similar process could be said for the dimension of settler subjectivity, for some amazing work on that I would recommend reading Qwo-Li Driskill’s “Doubleweaving Two-Spirit Critiques: Building Alliances between Native and Queer Studies” as well as Kai Pyle’s “Naming and Claiming: Recovering Ojibwe and Plains Cree Two-Spirit Language.”

[76] nemuwii, “i don’t think whites understand how being white makes literally everything easier,” Tumblr (blog), February 19 2019, https://anti-oedipussy.tumblr.com/post/182924054038/i-dont-think-whites-....

[77] Emery Desper, “Violent Perception and Desire: some one that I am not at all,” ECLS: English and Comparative Literary Studies (Los Angeles: OxyScholar, 2009), 1.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Juno Mac and Molly Smith, Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights (London and New York: Verso, 2018), 125.

[80] Chris Coles, “Sutured Futures: Trans(homo)nationalism and Assemblages of Imperial and Colonial Genocide,” Last Modified Jun 3, 2018. https://medium.com/@chriscoles_66854/sutured-futures-trans-homo-national....

[81] Puar, 70–71.

[82] Raha, “The Limits of Trans Liberalism.”

[83] Raha, 643.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Jung.

[86] Two clarifications. First, I don’t seek to present this as a universal paradigm that is operational for all trans women, nor do I say that it is descriptive of all trans women’s experience with transmisogyny or transmisogynoir. Rather, I just propose it as one of many acts of radical transfeminism that has the possibility for liberation. Secondly, my claim here is not that trans women who do not have dicks or desire to get rid of them are somehow less revolutionary or ‘collaborators’ by any means. My argument is merely that utilizing girldick as an analytic is able to destabilize the hegemonic construction of womanhood, that to be a woman you have to have, be, do, [x].

[87] Félix Guattari, Lines of Flight: For another world of possibilities (London, Oxford, New York, New Delhi, and Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2011), 170.

[88] Ibid., 171.

[89] T.L. Cowan, “Transfeminist Kill/Joys: Rage, Love, and Reparative Performance,” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1, no. 4 (2014): 508.

[90] Deleuze and Guattari, 458.

[91] Alfredo M. Bonanno, Armed Joy (Fortitude Valley: Beating Hearts Press), 30.

[92] Ibid., 20.

[93] McDonald, 7.

[94] F L O C, “To make many lines, to form many bonds // Thoughts on Autonomous Organizing,” in LIES II: a journal of materialist feminism, ed. LIES Collective (2015), 62.

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goodmanenaya
Mar 26 2019 22:03

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rat
Mar 27 2019 22:29

Can anyone understand this?

Serge Forward
Mar 27 2019 23:19

One for "Pseuds Corner" I think.

Craftwork
Mar 30 2019 19:45

let’s take to the streets, grab our dicks, our weapons, and our comrades and end the world as we know it!!

I only have two hands.

darren p
Mar 30 2019 22:43

Poe's law in full effect.

bastarx
Mar 31 2019 07:38
Craftwork wrote:
let’s take to the streets, grab our dicks, our weapons, and our comrades and end the world as we know it!!

I only have two hands.

One hand for your dick/weapon and one for your comrades.