This class has not changed my opinions and beliefs on issues of gender and sexuality. What it has done is help me realize how basic and primitive my understanding of the issues was and how many issues there are. For instance, I have always supported anti-discrimination and hate crime law and I have never believed that people fall into two distinct and “appropriate” genders. Now I understand that heteronormativity is the belief system that our regressive Republican legislature used as a weapon to implement HB2. “Two bathrooms, two sexes.” Those same legislators used their own ethnocentric views of what is “normal” to mandate who uses which.
After taking this class, I think of gender as more fluid, like a spectrum. Most guys are either more or less masculine than me–not exactly the same. My Contemporary Media Analysis focused on Caster Semenya, an intersex track athlete. Like our Republican legislature, track officials have approached Semenya’s gender from their own ethnocentric, heteronormative perspective in an attempt to “label” her a male and conclude that she has a “disorder.” While she does have some male biological characteristics, I believe that Semenya’s gender can only be fully understood when viewed from her perspective. Cultural relativism requires it.
I am very interested in both protecting and empowering people like Semenya who are marginalized by our culture’s views of gender and sexuality. After reading Normal Life, by Dean Spade, I am aware and intrigued by the notion that laws which focus on individual bad acts can actually be used by conservatives or neoliberals to limit or eliminate systemic protections like school busing. “Discrimination law’s reliance on the perpetrator perspective creates the false impression that the previously excluded or marginalized group is now equal, that fairness has been restored. (Spade 42)” I would have never considered the possibility that hate crime and anti-discrimination laws can be harmful. My focus would simply have been how to make them stronger. Spade, a transsexual himself, helped me understand that when we trade systemic protections like affirmative action for individual anti-discrimination protections we lose sight of the bigger picture. I believe we need both individual anti-discrimination laws and systemic protections. Now I realize, however, that if we are not careful our opponents will play them against each other in an attempt to dilute them.
To expand on what I have learned, I plan to pursue research regarding the potential tension between anti-discrimination and hate crime legislation and population level protections. If Alan Freeman (Legitimizing Racial Discrimination Through Anti-Discrimination Law: A Critical Review of the Supreme Court Doctrine) is correct that crime laws individualize racism and as a “result systemic racism is rendered invisible,” then all marginalized groups have an enormous problem. If we can confirm this conflict between good intentions, we have to figure out how to address it. We can’t forego individual protections in order to empower populations. We must find a way for protection and empowerment to coexist.
Freeman, Alan David. “(,1 2 1/,1( – Dariaroithmayr.com.” Hein Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.
Spade, Dean. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. Brooklyn, NY: South End, 2011. Print.