Thursday, 30 September 2010

Cisgender male PANIC!

The arrest and imprisonment of apparent transman Lee Brooks in Scotland represents a desperate panic situation for cisgender males. The crisis goes right to the heart of cis male identity and threatens to undermine their worldviews, their own perceptions of manhood and selfhood. Lee Brooks is in jail because what Lee has done represents such a profound threat to the very core of cisgender males' identities as men, that, despite the fact that it appears that Lee has almost certainly done nothing wrong or harmed anyone, this person will be severely punished for threatening to undermine male selfhood in such a profound way.

It is alleged that Lee lied to a number of women to the effect that they believed they were going to have sex with a man. The panic for men's very self image comes from the fact that at least one of these women must have been quite satisfied with this sex, since she was in a relationship with Lee for six years. The threat to men comes from the fact that a man without a penis can satisfy a woman, that a self-defining heterosexual woman can be happy in a relationship with such a person. Of course this is nothing new, musician Billy Tipton lived his life as a man, including being married to an apparently heterosexual woman. It was only discovered that he had been assigned female gender at birth when he died. He died of a very curable illness, because he was afraid to go to a doctor because he was terrified that he would be jailed if it was discovered that he did not have a penis. People have often reacted to this to the effect that it is almost unbelievable that he might think this, and that nowadays this would not be a problem. Maybe the case in Scotland demonstrates that he was right.

The important implication to draw from the cases of Billy Tipton and Lee Brooks, is that a man does not have to have a penis in order to maintain an extended sexual relationship with a women. Yet this is the one possibility which the male hegemonic culture must, from its own point of view, suppress at all costs. Men's identities are totally bound up with the fact that they posess a penis. The Freudian assumptions in this regard have become part of masculine culture to the extent that the phallus has become the core of male identity such that that male selfhood is almost entirely dependent on this. The idea that such an appendage can be irrelevant to maintaining a heterosexual relatinship with a woman is almost certainly privately terrifying to many people born with penises. This is why Carrie Paechter observed, in relation to transgender people, that the masculine gender is more heavily policed than the feminine gender. Men have much more to fear, and much more to loose, and their identities are much more fragile and more easily undermined.

However this also represents a potential cultural (as opposed to sexual or psychological) identities of the women who sleep with these transmen. This is almost certainly the reason why there has been a complaint made to the police after such a long time in a relationship. The Foucauldian idea of different sexual orientations developing into personal identities through the establishment of the categories of 'homosexual' and 'lesbian' means that women who percieve themselves as heterosexual and engage in this type of relationship are likely to feel the need to disown their involvement with someone like Lee because they do not want to be seen socially as lesbians. Indeed this entire trial and the reason why Lee is in jail now may well not be because of any wrongdoing but because of the crisis of identity of these women. It is likely that these women have gone to the law in order to establish their own identities as heterosexual women rather than because of any damage their involvement with Lee has caused them.

Of course there could be other sides to this story, we still have very little information however it seems that sam is likely to be severely punished, not for any sexual wrongdoing but because of the threat Lee represents to heterosexual, cisgender identities, particularly heterosexual cisgender male identities. Cis-masculine identities are too fragile to allow this challenge to go unpunished.


  1. This seems insane.

    Hard to believe that it is actually happening in 2010.

    The legal implication of this, should it be upheld, is that men can press the same criminal complaint against those transwomen who have not "come clean" to them about their past status.

    It blows the whole concept of "stealth" out of the water, as well as negating past official and legal policies about changing one's gender marker.



  2. I don't think Brooks is a transman - they were remanded to a women-only prison without comment, which would suggest that although perhaps somewhere on the T* spectrum, Brooks is not taking male hormones and hasn't changed name. (The photo isn't from a good angle, but would suggest this is the case too)

    Nonetheless, the implications are still worrying.

  3. You don't have to take hormones to be a transman. And isn't "Lee" a gender-neutral name?