Immunising Birthsex: Ontology's Place in the Pandemic

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On 30 March 2020, the Hungarian parliament approved emergency measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, granting prime minister Viktor Orbán the power to rule by decree. The very next day, the government repealed the legal recognition of transgenderism, ruling that assignations of biological sex are binary and permanent. The decision to place sexual difference under house arrest during a time of lockdown was not coincidental. As I argue in this short essay, Orbán’s move was itself a kind of assignation, an act of discursive placing designed to eradicate transgenderism under the name of immunisation.
Drawing on Derrida’s motifs of the gift and the dance, I offer a topology of birthsex, the ontological category produced by Orbán’s law of immutable, dichotomous sexual dimorphism. I observe the movements of ipseity to show how Orbán’s placement of the birthsex legislation within his pandemic programme enabled him to define transgenderism as a dangerous and foreign illness that requires an immunising response. Finally, to consider the racial and colonial context of this assault on trans, intersex, and nonbinary lives, I turn to María Lugones and her work on the coloniality of gender, finding her choreography of resistance to be in step with Derrida’s.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-164
Number of pages6
JournalDerrida Today
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2020


  • Covid-19
  • transgender
  • Hungary
  • ontology
  • Derrida
  • Lugones
  • Hungarian politics
  • Queer
  • Sexuality
  • Gender


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