106 responses

  1. Timothy Kincaid
    April 5, 2011

    Shofixti,

    I will try to answer you honestly and directly. Please, if I speak offensively, don’t take offense. I am trying to communicate, not shut you down.

    It is a mistake to think that people who identify as being gay engage in identity politics. Nor do gay people necessarily operate within a ‘gay liberation’ movement.

    These are concepts and notions that evolve out of theorists seeking to compartmentalize and describe what they don’t understand. They provide a way of seeing that which does not conform to theory as though it does.

    And Queer Theory, more than most, seems to adapt language so as to remove meaning and deflect analysis and divert thought rather than address the concepts and ideas that language helps express.

    I have a challenge for you. You don’t have to do this for us, but when you get a moment, get a piece of paper and – without using a single term or piece of Queer jargon or special phrase – write out what it is that you believe. In clear English. Then take a look and ask yourself if you really believe it.

    I would like to address one of your examples, but I am hindered by vocabulary. You and I seem not to share the same understanding of what words mean – I am using them conventionally, but that seems not be be what you intend.

    I suspect that “readjust” and “imperium” and “domesticate” and “reprisal” and “colonize” all have specialized meanings to Queer that would not be addressed by any attempts on my part. But even aside from that problem, I am at a loss as to what you see in terms of the privilege/marginalization dichotomy.

    What, for example, does that have to do with gay Republicans?

    I fear that we are so far apart here that we lack the tools to communicate. I further fear that Queer likes it that way.

  2. Shofixti
    April 5, 2011

    Thanks TK,

    I am very edified by your responses. I do consider you to be a political, ideological and identity activist solely by virtue of being part of this blog. But for the sake of rhetoric, I too will refer to the hypothetical person who identifies as gay. In a moment.

    Answer: I believe in love that is active in the search of meaning. Empathy is the primary tool of this pursuit with reason in the secondary position. To correctly empathise I think one needs some sort of access to another’s subjectivity (not merely their subjective thoughts and feelings).

    But if you don’t critically believe that there is such a thing as subjectivity – then I will say that I don’t think “GAY” is a productive word for the outsider who wishes to understand me or you. It doesn’t answer any questions and only defines you in relation-to/separation-from the hetero observer.

    -

    Returning to the person who identifies as gay: If I pool from EA’s and TK’s responses then what appears to qualify as gay identity is just a feeling, or a recognition of a pattern of sexual response in your body. Once aware of this, the person should then conclude, this is my identity – gay. Case closed.

    However, what is not necessary is to have sex, or operate in any way associated with a gay liberation movement.

    I will elaborate on that as to mean that to be authentically gay you do not need friends within the gay community, you do not have to set foot inside a gay club, you do not have to be educated about gay health, you don’t have to buy a single trinket of gay culture, you do not need to have knowledge about the gay rights stances of your politicians nor vote accordingly, you do not have to stop going to church, you do not have to think or care about any other gay person on Earth, you do not have to watch Will & Grace.

    You do not have to do anything.

    Then what is so important about this category of identity? What imbues it with such power to define? What makes it cohesive and universal? Why ought we to use it?

    -

    I love your paragraph two responses ago beginning with: [True, it has convinced me even further that I and Queer Theory have almost no shared premises . . .] It is a great work of succinct meaning.

    Not only does it become apparent that Queer Theory and post-structuralist approaches to identity have little to no explanatory value to you, but you go further – I think maybe too far.

    Power, gender, hegemony, imperialism, marginalisation – these are all entry-level tools of a structuralist cultural criticism that every seventeen year old media studies student will begin to use. I do not say this as an act of intellectual snobbery – but I say this because your discussed formulation of ‘gay identity’ is one that appears to be at very-high-risk of writing off lesbian feminism (not the same thing as queer theory) as unnecessary or not-included for the sake of gay clarity.

    One of the first ideas I touched on was that the project of naturalising sexuality as a ‘real’ part of ‘reality’ contains the possibility that the needs and wants of white-male “homosexuality” might trump or speak over the top of all other “homosexualities”.

    I would like to quote someone, just to liven the mood up, from a quote in this book (Butler is a queer theorist).

    Warner (1992)
    “Radicalesbians began their manifesto ‘What is a lesbian? A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion’. If Butler could be persuaded to regard the question ‘What is a lesbian?’ as one worth answering, she might respond that ‘a lesbian is the incoherence of gender binarism and heterosexuality condensed to the point of parody’.”

    It’s funny to me because it gives a glimpse at both sides of the coin at once, the structuralist and post-structuralist approaches to identity.

    -

    I listened to one of the ‘Queer & Queerer’ podcasts recently where one of the speakers, a gay man, talked about having sex with a transgendered person – this person being a man in the body of a woman. He recognised a psychic masculinity to this person that he could connect with that was unlike any woman he had met.

    How do you feel about this story? The part of me that remembers how to be cohesive-and-gay was saying ‘That’s not right!’ but the rest of me was intrigued and I have pondered this event several times since hearing about it. Who hasn’t, for a moment, been attracted to a butch or boyish lesbian for a moment before recognising signs of gender?

  3. enough already
    April 6, 2011

    Shofixti,
    I hesitate to speak here, you and Timothy share a common language which is foreign to me. Still, my ego is big enough for me to overcome my hesitation.

    Each of us here is unique. We all have different backgrounds, interests, reasons for being involved in this blog – and many more.

    Personally, I find this good. Maybe you don’t, maybe you do. I don’t know. I can’t know – which is one reason I like finding out how other people view things.

    You raise a lot of very important and interesting questions and I think most of them can be classified under the rubric of “power relationships”.

    These questions are important to me. I don’t much care to live in a world in which one group of people has power over another group for no other reason than the possession or lack of immutable characteristics.

    At the same time, I have the distinct impression that many of these discussion are a result of too much energy which has nothing to push against. Sort of like when you’re car has one wheel stuck and the other is spinning around madly, but not getting anywhere.

    Our freedom movement is not advancing at a pace I’d like to see, especially in Africa and the Islamic world. Nor are we doing much more than holding (barely) to our gains in the US through a few puny laws and administrative actions which, while maintaining our sub-human status, grant us a few minor privileges. A bit like our dog. The cat runs the place, she is a god, after all. The dog gets to sleep in our bed during the day IF she doesn’t whine in the morning to follow the kids next door to school and then come back home, alone, crossing the interstate (shudder). That’s about the level of privilege we are granted in the US right now. Behave ourselves and don’t speak out of turn and massa will let us set on the stoop (in the far corner, behind the columns) and rest a spell before we finish the evening work. The threat – whine and no bed and TV, er, sorry, the threat, get uppity and we’ll take away your temporary ability to visit your husband or wife in the hospital where they lay dying is constantly present.

    There is a place and a need for theory in freedom fighting. There are, however, many of us gays who actually do know who we are and are comfortable with being 100% homosexual. I will not speak for them, but I have no transgender friends who, if offered the choice, would ever go back to living in the wrong anatomy. None. Zero.

    One minor note to lighten the matter. I was in a pretty rough gay bar about 25 years ago with a straight friend. He found himself attracted to a cute guy. Smaller than him, but some very nice assets and a cute three day beard. He danced with “him”, they talked a bit and, looking at him I suddenly saw the light bulb go on over his head! “He” was a woman in boy drag! I can’t use the proper term here on this blog for what she was doing -and doing well.

    Well, they had a great time together.

    Now, that is immutable sexuality. I can find a woman who’s hitting the secondary sexual characteristics hard attractive – but when push comes to shove, my orientation is to men. That’s the whole joy of genderf…whoops, I mean of boy and girl drag.

    Please don’t dismiss us because we don’t see the world through your eyes. I had my nose broken and was splashed with blood by those Christians who hate us back in the 1970s, marching for a woman’s right to chose. There is more to being a gay activist than only in your face protests. There is also more than armchair theory. We need both.

    Oh – and I do use the word “gay” because, as a cis-gendered male who has never had a rise in his Levi’s towards a woman, yet the touch of my husbands hand on my neck can lead to popped shirt buttons in three seconds… that’s the word for me. Some theorists demand we only speak for ourselves.

  4. Timothy Kincaid
    April 6, 2011

    Shofixti,

    I think our effort to communicate has proven ineffective. Enough Already is mistaken. we do not share a common language.

  5. enough already
    April 6, 2011

    Timothy,
    I meant that quite literally. Your conversation is shaped to a great extent by the English language.
    By “your”, I mean his and yours.

    Which is but one example of how English may be misleading.

    I don’t understand Shofixti in quite a few areas. To be honest, I have at least as much trouble understanding your position on Christians.

    But I’ve more or less found a way to work with you – sorta, kinda, because what you say here is really valuable.
    Especially because, although I don’t agree with some of your positions, I surely do appreciate that your contribution to making the Uganda “kill the gays bill” public materially averted (for now) a massacre.

    That alone earns you my respect.

    Shofixti is, for me, the first person from the lesbian separatist, white cis-male gay men are the root of all evil faction of our queer community who seems sane and competent. He doesn’t lie in wait to entrap, his questions are clearly honestly meant, if colored by the language of this particular linguistic structure.

    Then again, so are mine and so are yours – I shudder every time I right “those Christians who hate us” because that implies a minority when my personal choice would be more “with the exception of that fraction of 1% of Christians who don’t hate us.”

    But those are among the many rules to play on your blog, so I follow them as honestly as I can.

    This is, by the way, the primary difference between us queers and our enemies, those Christians who hate us. Who would have ever thought that the Mormons, the Southern Baptists and the Catholics could set aside their sectarian battles to join forces to destroy us? And yet they have.

    We, on the other hand, are near incapable of working together because, gasp, it’s all just playing the “man’s” game.

    If I can learn to work with people like you and Shofixti, then I increase the chances of all of us achieving freedom. Oh, not in the sense Shofixti desires it, but let’s face it – on the Maslow scale, we’re still fighting for the right to live.

  6. Shofixti
    April 6, 2011

    EA
    Thanks. I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. You show up on my radar. You see the causal link between identity and activism, politics and theories. You make ample room for difference, for parody, for performance, for moments when it’s good to march to the beat – and other times where its good be your own drummer.

    I took ‘gay’ and ran with it for a few years, I tried to milk it for meaning for purpose for identity but I found it to be a barren teat. If there’s something inside of it that I’m missing – please tell me, so far I haven’t been given a workable answer here.

    I never became more ‘me’ by having a gay identity and as I am sensitive and contemplative I became confused and disatisfied by the current (same-ness) and counter-current (difference) of what gay means. It means both at the same time. “I am gay” means I’m different, “I am gay” means I’m the same. It is a contradiction. But it is a contradiction that can do a lot of good policy work on removing discrimination from work and marriage – that is to move from a legally marginal position to a legally assimilated one.

    TK
    Thank you, too. I am as confused as you by the end of this. From your original writing I get a sense of an intelligent passion for language, words and identity. There is subtlety to the way that intention affects meaning, how language changes atmospheres, creates outcomes and importantly how other organisations weight in and seek to restrict or punish others for language.

    You say GLAAD went too far, but you seem to reject the notion that GLAAD’s position can be framed in terms of centring the meaning of the word ‘fag’, because of an investment in cohesive identity, and marginalising those who would use it how they want to.

    Also too there is comedy. And in suggesting we not take offence, you’re saything that things aren’t always exactly how we experience them – that meaning might take a little bit of patience and reflection.

    I don’t know how we got from there to here. If we are capable of not, as two English speakers, sharing a common language – then doesn’t that make the role of a word-Nazi, in commenting on another’s use of language, a little less authoratative?

    Thanks for engaging me this far.

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