Sunday, October 07, 2007

Transexuality and Transhumanism

Transsexuals were really the first transhumanists. The intertwining of human bodies and technology in sexual reassignments and hormone therapy depicts an entire process by which the human being switches physically, socially, and psychologically into the presentation of new kind of person in transit to something greater. As transgendered and transsexual people in transition, they are perfect examples of the transhuman, aided by the social benefits of medical and biological technology.

Are the rest of us ready?

As harbingers of a posthuman future, we must begin by overcoming gender and sexual paradigms. This has been the first big step technologically and socially. Can we move further unless we have all overcome the same paradigms and ideologies as the transgender movement has? Indeed, there is a strong dialectic relationship between these two concepts.

There are many constituencies and ideological threads that need to be woven into transhumanism in its libertarian form. First among them there are the disparate movements working to deepen our understanding of human rights to include the rights to control the body, such as transsexuals. Reproductive rights activists, who insist that everyone have access to reproductive and contraceptive technology without the intervention of the state, are natural allies of a libertarian transhumanism. Democratic transhumanists would like these technologies to be subsidized -- however, all that needs to happen is governments to step out of the way and let progressive markets find the right path.

Other traces of transhumanist thought can be found in feminist literature. Although many feminists have been influenced by ecofeminist bio-Luddism and left Luddite arguments about the danger of corporate technology, there is a broader feminist constituency that sees no contradiction between women’s empowerment and using technology to expand their control over their lives. Only a libertarian transhumanism, which embraces the market as an agent of social change, can respond adequately to the signals in medical technology and indiscriminately develop these at low costs. Thus the market and the cyborg are allies to the feminist struggle.

In 1984 Donna Haraway wrote “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s,” as a critique of ecofeminism. Haraway argued it was precisely in the eroding boundary between human beings and machines, in the integration of women and machines in particular, that we can find liberation from the old patriarchal dualisms. Haraway concludes “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess,” and proposes that the cyborg is the liberatory mythos for women as opposed to the ecofeminist female "goddess" ideal.

The feminist and transsexual movements are natural allies in the struggle for world transhumanism. And transsexuals are found all over the globe. Currently, Iran has between 15,000 and 20,000 transsexuals, according to official statistics, although the Guardian UK says the unofficial estimates put the figure up to 150,000. Iran carries out more gender change operations than any other country in the world besides Thailand. Hence Iran, although it views transsexuality as a disease or a defect that must be "cured" psychologically and religiously (like most clinical psychiatric practices in Western societies as well) contains the most natural transhuman allies than any other nation besides Thailand.

While this point is interesting given that Iran is labeled as an axis of evil, and hence an enemy of the United States, the physical location of natural transhumanist allies is not relevant. Physical locations matter less due to expanding social networks on the web, and Iranians are some of the most active online contributors in the social and blog scenes. Location is irrelevant with respect to sheer networking power, but counter-spectaclism as a tactic for social change would seem to require physical networking to build the spectacle. I speak like a propagandist. However, if one takes what Guy Debord wrote in Society of the Spectacle to heart, then there is no escaping the spectacle: we are dominated by modern conditions of production, and the spectacle is its highest form. The only way to counteract the domination of the spectacle is to create a counter-spectacle.

The building of this transhumanist spectacle requires the acceptance of transsexual humans into the broader community. This is largely ideological. Yet this legitimization has significant physical causes with roots in community spaces: the genesis of post-Enlightenment social life and interaction. The internet in its present state cannot match the social power of the community space. Provincial folk are less likely to begin an acceptance of transsexuality (or other socially deviant behaviors) if they are not physically exposed to them and their ideas. Often even being acquainted with a person in a friendly way broadens one's perspective and helps make the connection to an ideologically difficult concept, or a "hard teaching".

The acceptance of the transsexual concepts should naturally come first, dialectically, simply because transsexuality is more familiar to society than transhumanism historically. This way, one can make a "straight path" for the next teaching, the building of a posthuman future.

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