Borders

People like to identify their surroundings and their environment into distinct ideas. In this process of understanding through differentiating it is very helpful to create a framework in which this idea can exist in separate and contained spaces; borders become an ideal tool for separation and differentiation. For the purpose of understanding concepts and ideas borders provide the ability to compare distinct ideas to one another—borders create order.

Borders can do many things, my intention is to discuss two specific functions of borders: national borders and gender borders. Both of these borders have been put in place to create order and distinction; the former accomplishes separating and differentiation between countries, cultures, and races while the latter achieves a socially constructed dichotomy of ideologies: the male and the female gender. Borders in this sense are continuously used to organize, to differentiate, to distinguish, and to keep separate one person from another and to keep segregated the female and the male. Because of their ability to distinguish and keep things separate borders further create a sense of security. National borders allow for national security and provide a space for the control of whom enters and leaves a country. The border between gender and its categorization provides security from the unknown. When individuals cross these borders or even live in between borders, it gives others a sense of uncertainty as the in between space is not defined or known. Thus the unknown introduces a loss of security because it cannot be controlled.

Martin Manalansan’s project in “Borders between Bakla and Gay” is to “map out the border between bakla and gay not in terms of self-contained modes of identity but as permeable boundaries of two coexisting yet oftentimes incommensurable cultural ideologies of gender and sexuality” (21). His use of border is intended to show that these two ways of identifying are unique and distinct. They both create frameworks in which individuals may express and understand oneself. Rather than conforming, Manalansan critiques the idea that bakla ideology is contained in gay ideology. Thus his border is used to distinguish one from the other, which enables us to move towards understanding bakla as its own ideology—one which reflects the Filipino culture. Furthermore, The permeability of this border allows moving between the two experiences of gender. Manalansan’s border reminds us that bakla is not an identity that is held inside of the gay identity; the bakla identity cannot grow into the “universal” gay identity.

Alisa Solomon writes about the borders of both gender and nation as equally tangible and effective forms of containment. She talks about Christina Madrazo’s experience as being both a crossing of gender border and of nation border. She delineates that borders are used as a tool by the system to create order. “But because she has refused to remain inside the official borders of gender and nation, Madrazo’s case magnifies the various ways the regimes of gender and nation reinforce and mutually constitute each other” (4). In her writing, Solomon expresses that borders give more power to the systems in place by enabling them another level of control over a deviant individual. The existence of the border magnifies any deviation of the norm.

For Transgender studies, it is very important to have a converstaion about borders to understand not what they are distinguishing, but why they exist and what their purpose is. Borders are often put in place to control people in their nationality as well as how they take up space in society. Having borders makes it easier to spot an individual who is out of place and allows for more policing and targeting of them. However Manalansan’s use of border is one that provides a better understanding for different experiences and ways of understanding oneself in society; in this case borders are helpful. These borders are used for theory and literature. The use of borders is both useful and also hurtful and in a transgender discussion, it becomes important to understand which borders are helpful and which are derogatory.

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One thought on “Borders

  1. I agree with you Suzanne that borders are an important conversation that needs to be had in transgender studies. I like your conversation on the nation borders and gendered borders but I definitely think that we can expand the idea of borders within the study of transgender studies. A discussion that is important to have is how transgender bodies travel across various borders. In the Alicia Solomon piece on Christina Madrazo comes into the custody of the immigration officers. There is an interesting point in this specific story because after illegally crossing the border , Madrazo is denied access and faces gendered violence. Then once this violence occurs we see that since she cannot stay in the country legally by seeking asylum that she obtains “Diva Citizenship”. Is this the only way trans bodies can cross this nation border? This specific case made me contemplate if asylum was only legal way for trans bodies to cross these borders.
    I like your discussion on gendered borders but I want elaborate on the idea that for some trans bodies there are no borders. People who are transgender occupy this sort of borderlands space, for those who can’t pass as male or female. I use this in the context of what Gloria Anzaldua calls the “borderlands”. The borderlands is one of these theortical third space but with someone who faces issues of intersectionality in their everyday life , it is likely for transgendered people/bodies to claim this space. Occupying the borderslands means claiming no homeland and in a way I see this within the transgender lens with the homeland referring to being cisgendered. It’s a kind of outlandish theory but I feel like it applies. I only say this because transgender people/bodies are often seen as the other and it varies more pending the person’s race and class. I think that’s what has been great is to see the various ways gender and what it means to be transgendered is viewed across transnational borders.

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