Gender is a core way in which we understand and classify each other as humans. Society is broadly structured to regulate the gender binary of male/female, and gender expression that challenges this binary is often viewed as inconceivable, abnormal, and potentially dangerous. As art historianDavid Getsy writes in Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender, “In order for many to see a body (or an image of a body) as human, its relation to gender needs to be settled.”1 1 - David Getsy, Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2015),xiv. When a body fails to cohere as human, especially if gender is unsettled or unreadable, that body is often met with immediate violence. This violence, in many cases directed against queer, trans, and intersex people, has led assertions of humanity and normalcy to be the core focus of many LGBTI+ civil- and human-rights campaigns. This political strategy necessitates that difference be made visible, countable, and open to surveillance, as the foundation of arguing for sympathy and compassion. Although I acknowledge the purpose of these humanizing strategies, it is important to consider the ways in which creating strangeness can be productive. Rather than positioning the non-normative as knowable through representation and, as such, readily available for inclusion, I want to consider how gender and sexuality can be figured beyond categorization and how our valuation of personhood can expand beyond constricting binaries of male/female, gay/straight, and cis/trans.
This article also appears in the issue 91 - LGBT+Discover