Transsexual people are willing to become invisible, international acclaimed photographer and researcher Sara Davidmann maintains, in order to be accepted in the social norm, which wants a strict binary distinction between genders. The issue of safety in public space here, I guess, is crucial – hence, the urge to comply to the visual stereotype of the male or of the female. As it is the issue of ‘medicalization’, that is, the tendency of western culture to push ‘deviance’ to the safe border of psy-disciplines as well as towards surgery: the idea being of fixing the ‘wrong’ bodies.
On the other hand, the insistence on the inadequacy of our language categories (most notably written texts) to describe and hence make acceptable situations at the border, or in-between binary constructions, seems to me quite inadequate. I borrow an expression from Thrift (2008), according to whom: ‘Practices are property of the practises themselves, not of the actors’.
Let’s look at the problem of the public toilets, for instance: two signs on the door of the cinema or the pub, no other chance. This action, which most of us takes for granted, might become a big issue for some people. Pace Judith Butler, the social construction of gender seems a lived practical experience, which involves all sort of conflicts, misunderstanding, resistance, defences, and so on. Davidmann’s critical photography seems to me to do more and better.
Border Trouble: photography, strategies, and transsexual identities by Sara Davidmann [CONTAINS NUDITY]