A Few Thoughts on Identity and Materiality

For those that don’t know, even though I still prefer terms that are associated with femininity (princess, girl, etc.), I also associate with the notions of non-binary and transfeminine and am very happy with “they” pronouns, and if you’d like to use those pronouns either exclusively or in alternance with “she” when referring to me, it’s totally sweet.

I do not, however, like either “iel” or “ille” in French because they are partly derived from “il”. “Elle” is the go-to in French.

Gender identity is complicated and honestly if it wasn’t for the fact that my womanhood is constantly called into question, I’d probably be more forward with the fact that I relate ambiguously to both womanhood and being non-binary. The truth is that I aggressively do not care what my gender identity is, have no idea what it really means to feel like a certain gender, and only claim words to the extent that it makes people act towards me in the ways I desire.

You’re allowed not to know your gender. I’m allowed not to know my gender. The requirement that we label ourselves to be granted recognition is liberal hogwash that cares about choices in the abstract rather than in substance. Labels matter because they allow us to speak about our oppression, to craft new discourses about ourselves, to form communities of resistance, and to attend to the materiality of subjugation and marginalisation. Materiality is what matters, not labels, and we should keep that in mind lest we forget that labels are meant to be labels to a material reality.

At the end of the day, my ambiguous relationship to gender, this queerness that refuses unambiguous, fixed labelling should not be the risk that it is. I should not have to fear that I will be excluded from women’s spaces for identifying as non-binary or having a complex relationship to my gender. Certainly not while AFAB are allowed to identify as non-binary or have complex relationship to their gender while being included; that just betrays the cisnormativity of those spaces. The details of my identification do not change my material conditions, and I’m situated the same way as a non-binary transfeminine person as I am as a trans woman (which is not to say that as a group non-binary transfeminine persons have the same experiences as trans women, but only that I inhabit my life the same way in both cases, personally).

Safe spaces and segregated spaces exist in response to material conditions. This is an important thing to keep in mind as the notion of identity becomes more and more prominent in social discourse, transforming itself and erasing its justificative relationship to materiality.

If our feminism isn’t informed by materiality, it becomes an empty liberal feminism. This is an important teaching of Black feminists. When I read intersectionality, I am reminded of how Kimberlé Crenshaw paid careful attention to the lived experience of Black women, and how her works attends to the material conditions of their lives. This is what we must strive for if we are to call ourselves intersectional.