Cristan Williams, a trans historian and journalist, interviewed Judith Butler about gender and the trans experience for The TransAdvocate. They discussed the problem with TERFs and the work of Sheila Jeffreys and Janice Raymond.
Cristan Williams: You spoke about the surgical intervention many trans people undergo as a “very brave transformation.” Can you talk about that?
Judith Butler: It is always brave to insist on undergoing transformations that feel necessary and right even when there are so many obstructions to doing so, including people and institutions who seek to pathologize or criminalize such important acts of self-definition. I know that for some feels less brave than necessary, but we all have to defend those necessities that allow us to live and breathe in the way that feels right to us. Surgical intervention can be precisely what a trans person needs – it is also not always what a trans person needs. Either way, one should be free to determine the course of one’s gendered life.
The right to demonstrate is non-negotiable. But in towns and cities across France, society is being reordered in a way that criminalises social and political struggles.
In Madrid, the opponents of the new Internal Security Act organized a demonstration of holograms in the Spanish Parliament.
Philosopher and professor in rhetoric at the University of California (Berkeley), Judith Butler, born in 1956, made her name in the English-speaking academic world a quarter of a century ago with the publication of her Gender Trouble. Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. This complex work, which has now become a classic, has nothing in common with the ‘gender theory’ recently invented by the opponents of gay marriage.
Far from having invented gender studies, which have been taught in American universities since the early 1960s and which sought to distinguish anatomical sex from socially or psychically constructed gender identities, Judith Butler was rather more of an iconoclastic heir to them. Basing herself on the French thought of the 1970s – from Simone de Beauvoir to Jacques Lacan – in her 1990 work she gave due focus to life on the ‘border lines’, arguing that sexual difference is always fluid and that transsexuality (the conviction that one belongs to another sex), for example, could be a way of subverting the established order and refusing the biological norm. Butler had herself very early in life found herself in a situation outside the norm, lacking in borders, on account of her identity as a Jewish woman raised as a Jew but critical of the policies of the State of Israel.