Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nobody Passes

So I've been reading Nobody Passes by Mattilda AKA Matt Bernstein Sycamore and really enjoying it. I think it's a great anthology with really diverse and interesting submissions. The book explores and critiques the various systems of power seen (and not seen) in passing.

In an article titled The End of Genderqueer (by Rocko) the author writes about how Genderqueer has become more of a scene and not a movement, "Exclusivity and attitude are qualities of a scene, not a revolutionary subculture." The article also includes a top ten list, which is pretty fucking hilarious and sadly true.

Top Ten People Most Excluded From Your Genderqueer Scene:

1. People of color

2. Femmes

3. Transwomen and others who insist on continuing to use female pronouns in this day and age

4. People who do not wear the uniform: work pants, trucker hats, etc.

5. People over twenty-seven, unless they have contributed to your top surgery fund.

6. People who express hetero attractions

7. People who do not speak the latest activist lingo

8. People who aren't kissing your ass right now

9. Transsexuals who have "fully" transitioned, however you define that today

10. Cross-dressers

As a trans person I often think and engage in dialogues with others about the messed up and detrimental (racist, cl assist, sexist, homophobic) effects of "passing" in trans communities. I haven't given the term or concept much thought outside of gender. I started thinking about all the differed ways where I pass or don't pass.

When I think about passing and my different identities--I often think of mental health/mental illness. How I "pass" as a mentally healthy person, when in reality I had my first interaction with the mental health industry when I was about 7 and have been institutionalized 5 times racking up numerous diagnoses. I am an ex patient and consider myself part of the consumer and psychiatric survivor movement. People assume that a "crazy" person couldn't have a masters degree, hold down a job, write, thrive, teach, enjoy live, etc. I am always shocked at how surprised people are when they find out.

I've very open about my past for these very reasons. To help people understand that there is nothing unusual, scary, or wrong with "crazy" people. And, to begin to talk about where this stigma comes from. To ask, "who would pass as mentally ill? and "why".

I think this is more noticeable to me working in health and social services. There is often this model that's set up that there are helpers and then there are those receiving the services. Following along with this model, these people are vastly different: One is healthy--the other is sick, one has the answers--the other is just seeking their info/assistance. Of course, what this medical model leaves out is that so many of us "helpers" have very shared experiences with those in our care. I don't think people talk about this enough, which is why I ended up writing Velcro, my first zine. I think ultimately I was sick of passing.

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