Yuriy Zikratyy

Politics of transgender exclusion in gay men self-normalizing strategies


How to present oneself as an openly gay and to keep (or defend) your status of normative subject?

Dominant post-soviet discourse on sexuality tends to conceptualize homosexual desire by the metaphor of gender inversion equating homosexuality with gender dysphoria and placing transsexuals, transgender people, cross-dressers, female impersonators along with homosexuals under the same rubric of ‘sexual perversion’.

We address the issue of normative subjectivity and how homosexual individuals can prove it. What are their responses to such kind of discourse, how it is modified or even drastically changed in order to provide oneself with status of normative subject and what politics of exclusion it presupposed. We deal with different kind of Ukrainian gay men narratives, life stories, relevant non-fiction presented in gay media and the transcripts of TV talk shows on gay issues.

We suggest the main strategy of normalization is that of narrowing one’s homosexuality to sexual object choice only and diminishing its importance to the overall construction of subjectivity. What this strategy presupposes is the refining of the upholding concept of homosexuality from any gender transgression issue. Keeping the normative masculine gender expression for gay men becomes the approved way to reach the status of normative subject.

Such configurations of discourse are also analyzed using concept of ‘abject’ and its modification in subjection and identity politics theories. It is suggested that transgender identity and expression become ‘constitutive outside’ for normative gay identity construction and these discoursive operations produce the reality of exclusionary politics - stigmatizing and discriminating practices towards people whose gender identity and expression is ‘inappropriate’.

At the same time this ‘constitutive abject’ of transgender haunts the developed boundaries of normative identity as the persistent possibility of their disruption and re-articulation, being simultaneously ‘inside’ of the subject as its own founding repudiation. The notions of (gender) ‘visibility’ and (gender expression) ‘self-control’ as they’re presented in a gay man narrative are understood as oriented towards persistent maintaining these borders between ‘normative’ gay identity and ‘perverted’ gender expression. Any behavior that is suggested to be a (transgender) performance is stigmatized as unnatural affectation. The idea of being visible as a gay is modified in cross-dressing as a border crossing, and then as an identity trouble that presupposes the persistent self-control of not declining to ‘faggot’ appearance.

We mainly emphasize the gender issues as they are interrelated to such cultural constructs for in-depth understanding the politics of representation involved homosexual and transgender identity building.