A friend and colleague was telling me about his numerous encounters with academia lunacy during his past year in doctoral studies when he used a term with which I had no familiarity.
Like any good student hailing from a liberal arts school, I understand the problems of adherence to the traditional gender binary. (For the record, I am a male.) However, this term, “genderfuck,” caught me completely off-guard. When I heard it, I burst into laughter.
“Genderfuck!” I exclaimed. “What the hell is that!? Is that serious!?”
Oh yes, he replied. One of the things I so love about the folks in the academic world is its utter disconnection with the rest of the universe. Once one’s mind is abreast to the universe of ideas, it’s hard if not impossible to go back. I get that — I’m a progressive myself. The issue here is that there is a tendency, almost an impulsion, for progressives to incessantly push the envelope. If not handled delicately, which few overzealous students and academics are capable of, the new ideas seem provocative only for provocative’s sake — i.e. wanton and stupid.
Perhaps now we can see a pattern. “Genderqueer” wasn’t enough for some; thus “genderfuck.” Likewise, “LGBT” just didn’t cut it; we need “LGBTIQA” or better yet, “FABGLITTER.” This is not my attempt to demean the sensitivities of the gender-concerned community. I just think there is something to be said for clarity and brevity. “LGBT” works well as a proxy for the whole range of (a)sexual identifications.
That is the real point here. It’s tough to get folks on board when the nomenclature is in constant flux. Even more so when the rate of introduction for entirely new concepts is so rapid — which brings us back to “genderfuck.”
I was still getting used to “pansexuality” when “genderfuck” waltzed into my life. I remember an encounter with a pansexual friend of mine: “Pansexual — does that mean potentially attracted to anything? Just because I can stick a door knob up my ass doesn’t mean it has a sexual character.” “That’s not what it means, Aaron.” It turns out that pansexuality is bi-sexuality with a nod to gender-blindness. Obviously.
From what I can gather, “genderfuck” began life in the 1970s as a term to describe the outright rejection of gender as a sensible interpretation of identity. The genderfucker, as it were, might have done this by deliberately mocking and exaggerating gender roles to wrap them in ambiguity and expose gender as a bankrupt social construct (a favorite term of aspiring academics). One might genderfuck in written or verbal form (e.g. alternating pronoun forms) or in their own appearance to varying degrees. Genderfuck was meant to destroy the traditional gender binary. That’s what differentiates “genderfuck” from “genderqueer.” The latter is meant to be an identifier of people who consider themselves as both man and woman, neither man or woman, or as something outside our this sort of gender binary. On the other hand, “genderfuck” has a sort of active quality — it is “fucking with gender,” one might say. (That formulation, I might add, makes the term look markedly less creative.)
Somewhere along the line, people began to identify as genderfuck. This seems like a bizarre misinterpretation, or even perversion, of the term’s intended purpose. I suppose, “genderfuck” is more quaint than “genderfucker,” but I also make a distinction between the two. A “genderfucker” participates in genderfuck as described above. The trouble is that the genderfucker cannot also identify their gender. In other words, the genderfucker cannot be genderfuck for it would undermine the whole project. The genderfucker is out to purge the very notion of gender from our consciousness.
So, I claim that “genderfuck” is in itself a legitimate idea, but “genderfuck” the identifier is sheer nonsense. Those who use it in that improper sense are the naive progressives. They remind me a bit of the people who would show up to philosophy club meetings so they could talk about The Matrix. They were bombarded by new ideas, and they were excited to jump aboard. But their minds in the early formative stages were just too muddled and confused to analyze or interpret these new ideas. They’re the ones who try to “find their selves” by smoking pot, not bathing, and reading Satre whilst mangling their understanding of it. As a result, they say some really stupid things.
It’s clear that amidst their confusion, they feel some torment about their inability to etch out an identity, intellectually or otherwise, and so they cling to progressive academia’s next frontier. Then they blow the lid off the damn thing and distort it until the idea is a mockery and in eternal disrepair. I fear this may happen to genderfuck. In trying to find some kind of identity, the naive progressive is undermining the very essence of genderfuck. They are, if you’ll allow me to say so, fucking genderfuck.