defined by the contact. This is the basis of social construction, the idea of gender as performance, but something as fluid as this concept seems impossible to reconcile with the unremitting norms of our binary gender system. Yet, the same system has given rise to the normative, and ensures that the system is maintained. It is only through the constant repetition of normative gender performance that the binary gender system continues to exist, and those with an investment in the system not only willingly maintain it through “correct” performance, but use gender policing of performance as a way of preserving the construct.6
By privileging certain performances as ‘normal,’ other performances such as those enacted by transvestites in Goldin’s photograph become labeled as “abnormal.” This places those individuals within the borderland described by Gloria Anzaldúa as “a vague and undetermined place” created by an unnatural boundary.7 These borders are unnatural because they are based on binary, dualistic thought, which is itself unnatural. By placing individuals in this position, not only is the legitimacy of their gender called into question, but their identity becomes suspect. If we are to rise above such “classification trouble”,8 we need to accept that gender, much like identity, is constantly changing. It is fluid and subject to shift depending on the performance as well as the interaction of those performing. To overcome the binary gender construct it must be understood that all gender is “authentic” or genuine, because “through performativity, dominant and non-dominant gender forms are equalized.”9
Misty, Taboo!, and Jimmy Paulette all perform legitimate gender. Even drag, thus, or maybe particularly drag fits neatly into the feminine of the binary system. It is only through slippage that their gender performance could be construed as non-normative. It must not be forgotten, however, that slippage exists only on the mistaken belief that gender is somehow connected to a “natural” essence within the body, one that is intrinsic to an individual. In order to invalidate the binary gender construct, it must be understood that all gender is performative, and therefore all gender is legitimate. Once this is accepted, perhaps those who perform “non-dominant” genders will no longer be marginalized, or relegated to the borderlands.
1 Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands: La Frontera (San Francisco: Aunt Lute/Spinster, 1999), 25.
2 Ed. Hamburger Kunstalle. Emotions and Relations (Koln, Germany: Taschen Verlag GmbH, 1998), 30-31.
3 Anne Fausto-Sterling. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 51-54.
4 Kunstalle, Plate 47.
5 Donna Haraway. The Haraway Reader (New York: Routledge, 2004), 328.
6 Blessing, 72.
7 Anzaldua, 25.
8 I am playing off Judith Butler’s title Gender Trouble
9 Butler, Undoing Gender, 208.