“Boys and girls who like girls and boys, or boys and girls, and the occasional boy who likes girls but also to dress as a girl sometimes.”
Lately I’ve been reading an old webcomic called Venus Envy. It’s an interesting premise, the daily life and somewhat unique trials of a 14 year old transsexual somewhere a little less understanding than a liberal college town.
I highly recommend it, not for the art, which is adorably … er, rough for most of the series (“it get’s better”), but for the subject matter. The stories are interesting and have a perspective most of us don’t get to hear from barring a very special episode of “Glee.” Eventually some of the more surreal elements take over and, as with any loosely autobio project, an actual plot emerges as a way of wrapping up the fictional bits, which kind of takes away from the slice-of-slice aspect. It’s not bad, it’s just a change.
Beside the MTF bisexual protagonist are a lesbian, about thirty other lesbians, a straight FTM transsexual, and a fairly straight transvestite. Last night, I finished a chapter that explains that last one with a pretty adorable diagram of boys and girls who like girls and boys, or boys and girls, and the occasional boy who likes girls but also to dress like a girl sometimes. The lesbian is rather confused.
Essentially, if gender is performative and sexuality an expression of innate desire, a “straight” crossdresser might be considered “transperformative.” But not transportative. That would be a body dysmorphic Transformer.
Oh, yeah. Last night I also fell asleep after watching a bunch of “Transformers.”
The two must have joined forces in my subconscious, because as I showered this morning, a realization dawned on me:
Transformers can be construed as a dissertation on transsexuality in modern America.
Now, before we continue, I should note that, as a giant nerd, I know on what Transformers is a dissertation. It’s selling toys. Made by a Japanese company. Originally, a bunch of toys they had lying around.
But hear me out. If there’s anything I learned in Intro to Crit, it’s that creators get very little say in how we read their works, mainly because we read whatever the hell we want to see in past works. So what the hell, let’s exercise some cognitive irreverence.
The over-simplified reading is Autobots and Decepticons disguise who they are with a different but familiar covering. This would be akin to saying an army sniper is a transspeciesist for dressing up like a bush. Camouflage is not the same as identity.
Transformation was developed, depending on continuity, as a covert military tactic, however it is a partially biological function. Transformers, silicon-based life forms, contain within them a biomechanical organ called a T-cog, which enables the process of transformation. Personally, I subscribe to the theory that this is a function of a high-energy reaction fueling the fundamental element of Cybertronian life—reconfiguring swarms of nanobots—but that’s a bit of a digression.
The important take-away is that transformation is an inherent property of a Cybertronian. It is not performative any more than respiration or—perhaps more aptly—running is to humans. However, the manner in which a Transformer acquires its alternate mode is something of a murky matter.
Like gender and sexuality, a Transformer gains the quality of its “disguise” both biologically and socially. Cybertronians, when not crafted directly from raw materials by the ethereal tools of their godlike forebears (themselves creations of the multiversal singularity and embodiment of creation held over from the universe which preceded ours), are “birthed” as protoforms from biomechanical pods. These pods convey upon the protoform both locally acquired vehicle/animal mode and party allegiance.
Let me repeat that. While the process of transformation is biologically inherent to all Transformers, what they transform into and even the world views set down over their base personalities are impressed upon them by Ideological and Repressive State Apparati. They are literally programmed what to look like and who to hate.
It is possible for a Transformer to switch its alternate mode and even its affiliation, though the latter is quite rare. More often personal agendas have more to do with breaking allegiances than ideological or moral differences. As to the former, vehicle guises are often switched as a result of a change in semi-permanent location, in order to better blend in. This process, however, usually requires “reformatting,” which outside of Michael Bay’s film universe, is a rather lengthy and resource-draining process requiring specialized machinery. (Or the multiversal singularity and embodiment of destruction which was split from the original essence of the last being from a previous universe. Either/or, really.)
Yet Cybertronians seem to take reformatting in stride, as if there were nothing they could do about it. That’s just the way outside forces made them. As much as Decepticons might prod at perceived lacks in a vehicle mode’s performance, Autobots and Maximals know that its a bot’s character that determines worth.
Of course, according to Michael Bay all Transformers choose their own disguises, and they all choose either Chevy or GM makes because Chevy and GM are American and if you choose to change into anything foreign, that means you are a spineless capitulating sissy-nancy who hates a Mer’ca.
Then again, that kind of over-performance just reeks of drag queens.
—Photo credit: by wakko™/Flickr