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Thursday, 16 February 2017

Claiming voice's reflecting on Annabel by Kathleen Winters

So this is the image I created in response to Annabel by Kathleen Winter I hope you like it. It's not a finished piece you'll have to wait a while for me to get it back from a printer and then I'll work into the image with stitch. If you want to see a review of the book please click here. I also have quotes and other fan art from other places which you can see here on an open Facebook group.

I don't go much into my thoughts of the rest of the book especially in the second half of the book in the video. I feel like I can explore the rest of Annabel a little bit more here. There are spoilers so be warned if you continue reading.

I really didn't discuss was how well the book was received in the video but when I looked into it, it got me thinking...

This is just based on a quick google and a wiki but I did learn that although it had received several awards (about five according to the article) it wasn’t however well received by the intersex community itself:

Despite popular acclaim, the book has not been welcomed by intersex organizations. Organisation Intersex International Australia described the book as fundamentally flawed and deterministic, based on misconceptions about intersex.

This is really interesting to me, when I was reading it I did feel like a parent’s voice had dominance in the book and I suspect that’s the writer Kathleen Winter’s empathy for the situation shining through (this was later confirmed by an interview linked below she has daughter who is Wayne’s age).

It did make me consider the concept of a claimed voices.

I find the notion of owned and claimed voices massively interesting, conflicting, and problematic but in some ways liberating? If I was a writer the concept of creating a character from another world or a separate identity form my own is exciting. As a reader it’s a big part of why I enjoy reading so much. I get to enter someone else’s world and point of view. That’s exciting to me. I understand however the danger of having access to a limited number of voices and taken those as authentic experiences. Especially if the reality is that they are fictional with little dialogue from those that the writer is representing.

However, as someone who is creating an artwork based from someone else’s story. I see that in a way am partially claiming it for myself too. The experience is being re-interpreted and displayed in my own way. It is however from a place of having experienced their work through reading the novel. Also just in principle I no problem with a woman writing about the experiences of a man or vice versa, but then you we have access to each other all the time, so we have direct contact with each other making it easier to identify with each other and draw a characterisation from our shared experience.

What gets trickier is when facts are misinterpreted or agenda’s are thrown into the mix to push certain ideals on to others.
So with regards to Annabel, I googled Organisation Intersex International and found the following article which explained their issues with the book:

To be absolutely clear about a fundamental flaw in the book: there have been no recorded instances of self-impregnation by any human anywhere. The biological circumstances depicted in the book are fanciful, and essentially appear based on misconceptions of intersex as hermaphroditism. Very many people with intersex variations regard the term hermaphrodite as pejorative or, at the very least, misleading because humans, indeed all mammals, are not able to reproduce alone

A form of biological determinism is evident in the book’s treatment of Wayne/Annabel, insofar that discovery of a fictitious intersex trait appears, ipso facto to require a non-binary gender identity, or dictate gender identity confusion. This is reductive: identity and biology are not necessarily intertwined in this way. In reality, many people with intersex differences do have gender identities that are informed by their intersex variation, but our identities are hugely diverse. And many intersex people have a typical gender identity as a man or woman.
Moreover, fears around perceptions that intersex traits subject an individual to gender identity confusion form rationales for medical interventions aimed at “normalising” the bodies of infants and children.
In a world with so few positive, realistic portrayals of intersex, we had looked forward to reading this book but, sadly, we are unable to recommend it.
So the issue appears to be highly problematic! I did wonder about how Wayne/Annabel appears to want to identify with one particular sex more over the other and I questioned if it might be more complex than initially described? I did also googled the whole self-impregnating concept. Where I found this article which states Jose Maria Garcia gave birth to twins and is intersex.

Now again my research is limited to a quick google search so the validity of this is certainly could be in question but look legit? Without DNA evidence I could certainly say if this is made up internet story headline or actual fact? But several sites have run the article making it appear more legit. It’s certainly interesting that someone- Jose Maria Garcia, who is intersex gives birth to twins and they are super cute!  
I’d be interesting to see what the twins look like when they’re older how similar will they be emotionally and physically to Jose Maria Garcia? I am totally different to my two sisters we’re all from the same mum and dad. So surely they would be different as well even if only one person was involved in their creation?

Through googling Organisation Intersex International and Jose Maria Garcia nothing doesn’t come up with anything which is also interesting? Even if they were to either celebrate it or call it a hoax?
I also dug deeper to see what research Kathleen Winter’s did in prep of the book. Turns out she has done some but not ever actually met someone who was intersex, at least not until after her book had been released. She reflects how she had done research in the form of reading and looking at pictures, but when she actually met someone who was intersex she appeared to develop a different appreciation for the fluidity of someone who is actually intersex?

The person she is describing also really loved her book by the sounds of it. Maybe if she had spoken directly to more of the Intersex community directly before writing the story she would have gained more support from the rest of the intersex community?
In reflection for me though, I’m going to do a series of three reviews about claiming another person’s voice because of this. So keep an eye out for that in future because the ones I have in mind might be unexpected?

There is more discussion on the fluidity of Wayne/Annabel in the book ‘Shifts in the Representation ofIntersex Lives in North American Literature and Popular Culture’ by Viola Amato you can sample it here.
For me overall I enjoyed Annabel but I can also appreciate that the story may have rung untrue for some. 

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