The origin of love: possibilities with/in of trans performance Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Nelson, Elizabeth A.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
  • This paper is a discussion of the way drag kings and transmasculine performers perform gender as a way to make personal, social, civil and legal change. This project began primarily focused on dramatizing trans as a dimension of sexual heterogeneity and trans performance as making space for gender heterogeneity. However, the project transformed to reflect the radically heterogeneous world of gender variant performance. The range of political engagement varies widely from what I would consider dangerously unreflexive reiterations of the worst of gender stereotypes to transformative performances of difference that open up possibilities for understanding gender variance and engaging people in political action. Nonetheless, most of these performers, even those who are not particularly skilled in performance per se, are performing courage. These performers are putting their bodies on the line to help audiences think, see and feel through the everyday threats (psychological, physical, sexual, political) they face. These performances are demonstrating not just the reality of difference as it already exists, but also ways to re/form the world so that gender variant people can access a full range of possibilities for a livable life. This project is an exploration of their experiences through their voices and critical theory. The people with whom I spoke are those who work to resist messages of oppression and stage messages of hope and possibility. They are creating critical work that strives to make this world not just welcoming to diverse subjectivities, but also a site of social change. Through their words and work I explore some of the questions such as: What motivates gender variant performers to perform? How do gender variant performers grapple with other intersecting identities they either bring to or represent on stage? Why performance? What are the erotics of gender variant performance? What is masculinity in a gender variant performance context? How might their performances contribute to, or complicate, claims that all gender is performative? Is this work making social change?
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  • Pollock, Della
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