Gender Reassignment and the Precarious Politics of Homonormativity in Southeast Asia (CODW) - Thu Oct 11 6P

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Global Studies Program at The New School
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Coming Out in the Developing World (CODW):
Gender Reassignment and the Precarious Politics of Homonormativity in Southeast Asia
Thursday, October 11th, 2012 6:30P-8:30P
The New School

Focusing on Thailand and Singapore, this panel will explore two modes of cultural production within Southeast Asian LGBTI and queer communities: the role of gender reassignment in shaping identities and identifications of queer and LGBTI persons, and the privileging of male-based homonormativity. Homonormativity is a term that has emerged within queer circles and is associated with reactive and at times regressive developments within some LGBTI communities. Lisa Duggan writes, it "is a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions, but upholds and sustains them." Among Southeast Asian queer literature, this is often pinned to patriarchal heteronormative beliefs in the West and cultural mores inscribed within tradition. As a consequence, there has been both an overemphasis on men's sexuality in public and private discourse, and systematic exclusions of lesbian, queer, intersex, and transgendered persons.

When negotiating the role of homonormativity in Singapore and Thailand, the panel will contemplate ways in which spaces and practices of gender reassignment either reinforce or combat restrictive narratives, whether of patriarchy, liberalism, or capitalism. As a booming industry in Southeast Asia, the practice of gender reassignment has brought transnational migrations to the two countries at unprecedented levels and has had marked influence on their economies and societies. We will also discuss performative and artistic explorations in queer and LGBTI communities within the region that offer alternative discourses to homonormativity.

Questions we hope to explore include:
How have lesbian, intersex, and transsexual persons been implicated by patriarchal homonormativity? In what ways has the practice of gender reassignment surgery either reinforced or departed from discourse and cultures of homonormativity? How have transnational migrations of persons seeking gender reassignment surgery impacted local queer imaginaries and realities in Southeast Asia? What performative or artistic projects have sought to challenge gender and sexuality binaries and homonormative practices in neoliberal economies? What are critiques of homonormativity as they relate to queer of color and feminist of color perspectives?

If you are interested in participating, please send along a brief abstract to Brandon Fischer at by Thursday, October 4th, 2012. Also, we would greatly appreciate any recommendations on scholars or activists whose work would suit this discussion.

Many thanks!

About CODW:

The Coming Out in the Developing World lecture and discussion series highlights the 'coming out' experience in vulnerable communities, particularly in the Global South. To date, our topics have ranged from the role of porn in the formation of sexual identities in Eastern Europe to the negotiations of same-sex relationships in the Middle East as well as the impact of international organizations in combatting homophobia in North and East Africa. We have also examined policy areas including immigration, asylum and the Defense of Marriage Act in the United States and its impact on binational couples.