From Chastity to Chaz

Over Spring Break while lying in a sun chair I decided to pick up the book that was assigned for one of my classes and start reading.  I wasn’t sure what to expect and was quite surprised to realize that Oprah may have gotten this one right, by highlighting this piece, Chaz Bono’s Transition: The Story of How I became a Man. While reading passages like, “Since I was a child, I’d been aware of a part of me that did not fit (Bono, 2).”  “Many people may not understand how, being born female, I can state with total clarity and certainty that as a child I felt like a boy (Bono, 21).”

While reading this I was immediately thinking about how this relates to performativity and our lady, Judith Butler.  Chaz’s story and the idea of transgender and feeling as though your gendered body doesn’t fit is a very much a performativity question.  Like we were talking about in class last week, being transgendered has been pathologized and as Chaz teaches her readers, “The actual clinical term to define being transgender in the DSM IV (the diagnostical and statistical manual used by physicians and psychological) is ‘gender identity disorder,’ which still carries with is a certain degree of pathology not to mention negative connotations (Bono, 6).”  To be pathologized, doesn’t that imply that it is out of the person’s control?  Then how does one accidentally on purpose perform an opposite gender if it makes it socially more difficult?

“The normative force of performativity-its power to establish what qualifies as ‘being’-works not only through reiteration, but through exclusion as well.  And in the case of bodies, those exclusions haunt signification as its abject borders or as that which is strictly foreclosed; the unlivable, the nonnarrativizable, the traumatic (Butler, 188).”  Although Butler kind of confuses me I think that this passage is interesting in connection with Chaz’s specific story.  In her book she says how she attempted a lot of different performative ploys to see if it fit what she thought she was.  She tried “different ways of ‘being a lesbian’-from lipstick to stone butch  (Bono, 3).”  She just knew it was something else.  Not her performance.   In Butlers piece I think that I take away that Chaz would be the exclusion of bodies or a body that fits how she wants to perform? She felt that her life was not right as a woman of any kind, nonnarrativizable.  Her story as it goes on will unfold and I’m looking forward to more insight on how someone in that gender cage felt and feels now.

Check out the Prologue of Transition

-Megan Bittner


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