Full Frontal Morality: The Naked Truth About Gender

Full Frontal Morality | Talia Mae Bettcher, Ph.D. from Susan Forrest on Vimeo.

Here is Talia Bettcher’s keynote address at the annual meeting of the Pacific Society for Women in Philosophy (P-SWIP). This is the first time she has presented this work. FEEDBACK IS WELCOME!

This page provides background material for Full-Frontal Morality: The Naked Truth about Gender.

This essay is part of a larger project. My goal is to develop an account of trans oppression/ resistance as inseparable from other loci of oppression/resistance. Below are four earlier essays which are part of this project. I have included video pieces with the essays. My hope is that the video illuminates the writing (and the other way around, too).

The first essay outlines a particular form of transphobia I call the Basic Denial of Authenticity (BDA). I argue that the prevailing account of transphobia – one which positions trans people “beyond the binary” – is not capable of explaining the BDA.

Appearance, Reality, and Gender Deception: Reflections on Transphobic Violence and the Politics of Pretence in Violence, Victims, and Justifications (ed. Felix Ó Murchadha), Peter Lang Press, 2006, 175-200.

This is a presentation on transphobia I gave at the 2010 HIV Data Summit. Much of it is an outline of the Basic Denial of Authenticity.  It also touches on the actual account of the BDA that I provide in the second essay.

Transphobia – the Basic Denial of Authenticity from Susan Forrest on Vimeo.

In the second essay I argue that the BDA is based on particular dominant gender practices according to which (public) gender presentation communicates (private) sexed body (and, in particular, genital status). I argue that this abusive system is part of a much larger system of sexual violence and racial oppression. In the third essay I expand this by pointing to some of the ways transphobia and sexual violence intersect for trans women.

Evil Deceivers and Make-Believers: On Transphobic Violence and the Politics of Illusion Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, vol. 22, no.3 (Summer 2007), 43-65.

Understanding Transphobia: Authenticity and Sexual Abuse in Trans/Forming Feminisms: Transfeminist Voices Speak Out (ed. Krista Scott-Dixon), Sumach Press, 2006, 203-10.

In this performance piece, I discuss the BDA, explore the relation between theory and performance, and dramatize the real ways in which transphobic and sexual violence can intersect for trans women.

Shattered Mirrors | Talia Mae Bettcher from Susan Forrest on Vimeo.

In the fourth essay, I contrast dominant gender practices with some that have developed in resistant trans communities. I argue that trans people have first person authority over their gender in these contexts and I elucidate what that means.

Trans Identities and First Person Authority in You’ve Changed: Sex Reassignment and Personal Identity (ed. Laurie Shrage), Oxford University Press, 2009, 98-120.

This performance piece dramatizes the intersubjective process of making meaning out of apparent nonsense. This “nonsense” arises when trans people identify in ways that do not accord with the gender practices of dominant culture. The piece illuminates how it can be than people have first person authority over their gender.

Merryleggs from CSGS Cal State L.A. on Vimeo.

Full Frontal Morality examines Harold Garfinkel’s notion of the natural attitude about sex and his claim that it is fundamentally moral in nature. I look beneath the natural attitude in order to reveal a moral order constituted through boundaries governing privacy and decency. I show how the fact that gender presentation communicates sexed body is a reflection of the very way that (intimate) personhood is constituted in dominant culture. In my view, naked bodies are sex-differentiated within a system which helps constitute the very boundaries between the public and private. The upshot is that the Basic Denial of Authenticity flows from the dominant constitution of the intimate person.

This paper will be published in Hypatia.

Hypatia is a forum for cutting edge work in feminist philosophy. Since its inception in the mid-1980s, Hypatia has been both a catalyst for broadening and refining feminist philosophy, and an invaluable resource for those who teach in this area. Feminist philosophy arises out of diverse traditions and methods within philosophy and is also richly interdisciplinary in orientation; we are committed to publishing articles that are broadly accessible. Hypatia serves as a resource for the wider women’s studies community, for philosophers generally, and for all those interested in philosophical issues raised by feminism.

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