Photo: Mónica González Islas
Ophelia Pastrana is a Colombian-Mexican trans woman. She is a physicist, technologist, and media personality who, despite being the relative of two ex-presidents of Colombia from the conservative party, transitioned into a trans woman and became an advocate of the LGBTQ+ and women+technology movements. She recognizes having used her mediatic privilege to be heard.
In a conversation with Luisa Almaguer, a trans woman from Mexico who directs a podcast called La hora trans, Ophelia points out how she can see the concept of trans extending from gender to species. Transgender is considerably common, but transpecies is yet to come… from superheroes to indigenous mysticism, the idea of becoming a mix of human and another being has always been within our imaginaries, and one day, it will be common to see humans with tails or cat ears.1 Science fiction as a point of departure to theorize and imagine better social configurations is precisely what Donna Haraway tries to communicate through her mythical approaches. Not to mention that the transhumanist path is being led by prosthetics. In medicine, for example, runner athletes can gain performance advantages from a prosthesis replacing a lost limb. But even within the arts, Stelarc already started that journey when he implanted an ear into his arm.2
Ophelia gives the example of conservative cis women (within a Latin American context) who criticize trans women for being unnatural, when they themselves have breast/ass implants, hair extensions, fake eyelashes, makeup, nails, heels… “What about you is natural?”3 For her, being trans is an expression of transhumanism. And she sees the links with spirituality, similarly to the Mesoamerican nahuales, who are shapeshifters. She herself had out-of-body, dream-like experiences after which she decided to begin her transition. Likewise, Paul B. Preciado, a trans man writer and philosopher, recalls assigning himself his male name with the help of a shaman, through a dream. His work focuses on the dangers of splitting up humans based on their genitals, having extensive reflections on biopolitics. He believes one day we will see assigning gender at birth as something brutal and unjustified.4
There is a community in the South of Mexico that has the notion of a third gender. The persons that choose this identity are known as the muxes of Juchitán, Oaxaca. They are transgender, assigned male at birth, who at certain age decide to become muxes and assume roles associated with womanhood; although, they do not identify as women. It is an identity choice linked to their true selves, their spirit.5
Muxes fall within the category of “two-spirit”, which is an umbrella term describing a third gender found in some Native American cultures, which often involves exchanging their birth-assigned gender for identities and roles of the opposite sex.6 Noteworthy, in the ancient version of the language of the region, Zapotec, “there is no difference when referring to a man or a woman. This changes with the language of the Spanish conquistadores, as they value the two genders differently: him, her.”7
Gender binarism (the pillar on which patriarchy is built) has hindered science as much or more than the Catholic religion.
Diana aka Pornoterrorista Torres8
Xenofeminism’s motto is “If nature is unjust, change nature!”9 What the movement encourages is to not accept anything as fixed, permanent, or “given”. Injustices should not be perpetuated in the name of nature, or the pure. Consider the queer, the trans, and the differently-abled. Biology can be transformed to pursue justice; genital difference will no longer matter.10 However, xenofeminists stress the fact that their goal is not to bring about a genderless world, but rather to have multiple genders, a world where the gender box in entry forms does not give the options “man/woman/other” but simply does not exist.
Laboria Cuboniks also stress the importance of debunking the nuclear family, normative white reproductive futurity, and compulsory heterosexuality as excuses for the species survival. They set forth the concept of “kin”, developed by Donna Haraway; it is about solidarity with the “other”, be it a different-to-oneself human being or a different being altogether.11 To move beyond the monogamous, heterosexual, patriarchal, perfect, pure, “normal” family as the support pillar of society opens up room for the possibility of creating other sorts of ties that do not rely on blood-sharing to exist. Our communities would form transcending beyond the binaries.
1 Almaguer, Luisa. “Ophelia Pastrana” La hora trans (The Trans Hour), Spotify, 27 March 2019, https://open.spotify.com/episode/7HtC8dX41VUNpfCm2JoR33?si=zE8elDSVTju6pv9maDJh9w.
2 Stelarc. Ear on Arm: Engineering Internet Organ. 2007, http://stelarc.org/?catID=20242. Accessed February 2020.
3 Almaguer, Luisa. “Ophelia Pastrana” La hora trans (The Trans Hour), Spotify, 27 March 2019, https://open.spotify.com/episode/7HtC8dX41VUNpfCm2JoR33?si=zE8elDSVTju6pv9maDJh9w.
4 Tramontana, Mary Katharine, “Paul B. Preciado: ‘One day we’ll see assigning gender at birth as brutal’”. I-D Vice, 12 March 2020, https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/jgeb4b/paul-b-preciado-one-day-well-see-assigning-gender-at-birth-as-brutal. Accessed May 2020.
5 Olita, Ivan. “Define Gender: Muxes.” Nowness, 5 December 2016, https://www.nowness.com/series/define-gender. Accessed May 2020.
6 Dictionary.com. “Two-Spirit.” Dictionary.Com, 2021, https://www.dictionary.com/e/gender-sexuality/two-spirit/. Accessed February 2021.
7 Olita, Ivan. “Define Gender: Muxes.” Nowness, 5 December 2016, https://www.nowness.com/series/define-gender. Accessed May 2020.
8 Torres, Diana J.. Coño Potens. Txalaparta, 2015, p. 27. Translation by me.
9 Laboria Cuboniks. The Xenofeminist Manifesto: A Politics for Alienation. Verso, 2018.
10 Hester, Helen. Xenofeminism. Polity Press, 2018, p. 20-25.