Assimilate can be seen as the idea of conforming to one’s ideas, cultures, information or even just the idea of resembling something else according to dictionary.com. Although not explicitly stated the idea of assimilation can be seen through a variety of the readings we’ve done on Transgender, Queer and culture. The idea of assimilation can be seen as a problem for a variety of reasons.
The Evan B. Towle and Lynn M. Morgan article, Romancing the Transgender Native: Rethinking the Use of the “Third Gender” Concept briefly explains how third gender relates or more-so doesn’t relate to the idea of the western ideas, cultures, or even civilization. Their article states,” The “third gender” concept is by nature flawed because it subsumes all non-westerns, non-binary identities, practices and, terminologies and history. Thus it becomes a junk drawer into which non-Western gender miscellany is carelessly dumped.” (Towle and Morgan 484). In this sense, the idea of having a third gender is not the norm and dismisses all the ideas of conforming to a more western civilization. It is not explicitly stated in the quote but implicitly what is being said is that because they are not conforming, because they are not assimilating, this is a negative concept. The whole idea of assimilation into Western civilization of course also has its flaws which are also expressed in their article. The article talks about Ogborn who spent her life as a hijra which in turn leads to her explanation of how the concept of “third gender” can be crossed across many platforms. “Ogborn has already told us that she is not a student of comparative religion, yet we doubt that one can begin to understand hijra existence or to communicate hijra experience to western readers without referring to “abstruse things.” Ogborn does not mention the social and political contexts that gave rise to the current condition of hijras, or the complicated relationship in India between Islamic and Hindu faiths and cultures, or the caste system, probably because they are besides the point she wants to make. Her message is simply that transgendered individuals ( as well as the category of “third gender”) are mobile across cultures and have affinities that transcend language and cultural barriers.”( Towle and Morgan 484). What is trying to be dismissed is that general concept of Assimilation, by implicitly saying there is more to western civilization than the concept of a two-gender system. Morgan and Towle explain this concept perfectly with the Ogborn example and how she doesn’t explain certain aspects of the hijra culture because that is besides the point, she was able to live life as a hijra without knowing much as a culture. The idea of living in a culture or society as “third-gender” ascends many boundaries that are much more important than simply the idea of “black and white.”
The idea of assimilation can also be implicitly seen in Najmabadi’s article, Transing and Transpassing across Sex-Gender Walls in Iran. Najmabadi states,” the very process of psychological filtering and jurisprudential wall-building between gender and sexual categories, far from eliminating gays and lesbians( if that is indeed what authorities hope for), paradoxically has created new social spaces. Instead of constructing an impassable border, the process has generated a porously marked, nebulous, and spacious domain populated by a variety of “not-normal” people. (Najmabadi 33) We can again implicitly see the idea of assimilation and assimilating to a certain norm whatever that may be. We also see this in the clip Susan posted from the film be Like Other where one of the characters tells another character how they should dress. The concept of “normal people” has its flaws in its own whether it be homonormativity or heteronormativity, how can we truly define these terms? What exactly does it mean to be normal? Do we have to assimilate to the ideas that are being brought upon us? Many questions that is too complex to get a straight answer from because honestly no one really knows the answer to these questions.
In essence, it is essential that we stray away from the idea of assimilation and understand that people can choose to be whatever they choose to be whether it is Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer or anything in between. The whole idea of having to assimilate to one central philosophy is one that comes with many repercussions and many disadvantages because of the fact that not everyone is going to enjoy or even believe in that philosophy. It forces people to be something that they may not want to be and forces them to conform to ideas they possibly don’t believe in. Throughout the semester, we have been implicitly looking at the idea of assimilation and how to stray away from it and I’m sure as the semester goes on we will continue to look at this idea and see the many other flaws with assimilation.