Butler's NS interview reminds us that writers/scholars evolve. Their earlier work in Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter--despite being revolutionary--also did harm to trans & nonbinary communities. This new interview offers a changed and thoughtful perspective.
This doesn't undo any of the criticisms that scholars like Prosser and Stryker have leveled at Butler's past work, or Butler's own problematic siding with predatory academics. It does, though, reveal that someone's own gender ideas/experiences change over time.
Butler's past re-evaluations of their own work have often been cagey--saying the audience "misunderstood," or becoming abstract in ways that elided particular communities. There are still harmful elements in that work, but research can also be a life-long, changing endeavor.
Work by Butler & other queer scholars--who were forming ideas around the same time--is still taught far more often in queer/gender studies classes than work by trans & nonbinary scholars & creators. Butler's evolutions don't fix a field still dominated by mostly cis POVs.
We can spend a lot of time re-appraising the significance of that work, but this still freezes us in a 80s/90s timeline where queer/gender studies fixates on trans experiences as something to be "read," studied, often violently. We need more space for trans & nonbinary POVs.
My worry is that, in our rush to valorize Butler for evolving--and for aptly defending trans lives--we risk returning to their earlier work as safe, already canonized, now further validated somehow. But Butler is still speaking from a position of enormous privilege and power.
It can feel as though what they're doing in the interview is exceptional, but it's a low bar for simply being humane and trans-inclusive. Meanwhile, a lot of this work is being done by precarious writers, creators, and scholars, with little to no compensation or acknowledgment.
You can follow @jesbattis.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: