The Gender Agenda: The Voiceless Can Speak

In the previous issue of The Waltonian the front page headline read, “Duffett and Brigham Weigh In on LGBT Conversation.” As copy editor, I had to read that title multiple times and it made me pretty upset, yet I couldn’t quite pinpoint why. It had nothing to do with the content of the article (though I have my own reservations about Duffett’s signing and the task force); it was directed at the phrase “weigh in on LGBT conversation.” Privilege.

Duffett and Brigham have privilege, obviously, as influential figures in a university, but also as cisheterosexual people (meaning, straight people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth). It should be said, of course, that it is not their fault they have privilege. So my critiques are less directed at them specifically and more directed at systems of oppression, matrices of domination and kyriarchy. They can choose to “weigh in” on this “conversation” or not to, whereas people such as myself cannot choose. I am–we are–perpetually aware of our subordinate and lowly position in society. We cannot choose, or even afford, to “weigh in on the conversation” because we bear the entire weight of the conversation itself.

It is indicative of a community that hates (in action, not necessarily in intention) transpeople for a straight cisperson to express their opinion and have it be heard campus-wide, get a front page article, and expect that people will want to hear their opinion when they decide to express it; whereas we have to put forth twice the effort to barely be heard, on top of all the other things we go through. But my life, my body, and my well-being are not platforms for public discourse. So I think it is most important for this upcoming “conversation” to recognize that this is not just a matter of people disagreeing. To anyone who isn’t directly affected by these issues, it may seem that way, but it is quite potently not for trans and queer people. Justice is not simply a philosophical argument; trans and queer people are not platforms for public debate.

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s concept of “kyriarchy” should not be ignored throughout this conversation. Sexual and gendered differences are filtered through each other and many other experiences, like class, race, ethnicity, and disability. So let us listen to the trans queers, the disabled women of color and the homeless non-binary Latino. To oppose marginalization is to let the marginalized speak for themselves.

Any suggestion that “queer people need to listen too” reflects a puerile reaction to our indignation. We need to listen?! We have grown up listening. We go to churches and listen. We attend, will attend or have attended an institution where it was made clear to us every single day that we are not welcome, that we are an embarrassment, that we are ignorant of human nature. Anyone who says that we need to listen is not listening. And if we are ever fighting fire with fire, we are fighting centuries of arson with a votive candle in each of our hands. With the encouragement of the vibrant Ivone Gebara, we plead for justice:

“All this is a sort of theopraxis, encounter with God in life, experience of God in the events that go to make up daily living. This love surpasses the law of any doctrinal systemization. It simply appears in the experience of living. It is there, often nameless, mixed up with all sorts of behaviors.”

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