- Gender, Politics, and the Future
This issue focuses on Derrida's notion of the future, l'avenir, which incorporates the aspect of change, perhaps toward a future that is open and uncertain. The future as it stands must address the needs of individuals whose experiences are marked by the intersection of gender, race, and sexuality. More than ever, there is a need for transgender inclusivity, since the present-day sociopolitical environment is enormously troublesome due to its reliance on white supremacy and heteronormativity. For example, in October 2018 the Trump administration issued a statement expressing its aim to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law. And by December 7 the Trump administration had removed from its personnel website guidance for all federal agencies to follow regarding transgender employees. The website used to address common questions regarding the employment of transgender individuals in the federal workplace, and the removal of this information clearly sends a message of intolerance in establishing equal employment opportunity for transgender people. Further, the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance. According to a memo obtained by the New York Times, key government agencies needed [End Page 1] to adopt a uniform definition of gender as determined "on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable," which means that federally funded programs require the description of the recipient's sexual difference, not gender difference. More than ever, biological determinism is at its strongest—male and female binary definitions must accompany corresponding genitals. Furthermore, according to a draft reviewed by the Times, any dispute about one's sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing. This new definition would eradicate the federal recognition of 1.4 million American transgender individuals.1
This issue has prompted me to explore the question of whether or not and in what ways psychoanalysis and deconstruction can help to facilitate transgender inclusivity despite the current hostility. It is my view that they do offer an opportunity to facilitate conversations around transgender inclusivity. The concept of gender transition as a human right—to exercise hope, to create a better future—is now under attack. Current reality seeks to obliterate this hope and continues to maintain the structure of power supported by white supremacy and heteronormativity.
It is not an exaggeration to say that we find ourselves at a troubling moment in US history. Since the 2016 presidential election we have witnessed many instances of human-rights violations and the gross undoing of constitutional and democratic processes. In addition to abolishing protections of transgender people, the Trump administration nominated, and the Senate confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh to associate justice of the Supreme Court. Not only does his confirmation pose a serious danger to LGBTQ issues, but Kavanaugh is also a potential threat to women's reproductive rights—he referred to birth-control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs."2 During the testimony on September 7, 2018, NYU Law School professor Melissa Murray, a former law clerk to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said Kavanaugh would most likely provide the "necessary fifth vote that would utterly eviscerate" Roev. Wade.3 In addition, his appointment would represent an immediate threat to LGBTQ rights, as many suspect that he would also [End Page 2] become a part of the majority that would vote to start rolling back those rights in coming years.4
As the nation tuned in to watch the hearings, many viewers hoped to see the Senate, especially the women senators, reject the nomination. However, with the exception of Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, all the women in the Republican conference, including Susan Collins of Maine, voted to confirm Kavanaugh. In her article in the New York Times, Alexis Grenell argues that these women are "gender traitors," but more specifically she is describing the behavior of white women: "The same 53 percent who put their racial privilege ahead of their second-class gender status in 2016 by voting to uphold a system that values only their...