Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can Queer Radicalisms Be Enabled by Gay Assimilationist Politics?

As a queer teacher and practitioner of nonviolence who thinks marriage is mostly an invitation to unhealthy co-dependence and a patriarchal vestige of human trafficking and who believes first of all that the derangements of desire are self-creative ends in themselves, even when they fail, I cannot help but re-iterate that I am far from enthused by the reduction of emancipatory queer politics to what amounts to celebration of and assimilation to the bourgeois project of endless shopping, patriotic murder to maintain attractive markets for endless shopping, and compulsory reprosexuality to provide the next generation of consumers and warriors for endless shopping (that is to say, gay politics as nothing but the struggle to legalize open military service, gay marriage, and gay parentage).

But I do recognize that legal legibility in these terms provides what for many really does seem to amount to the indispensable foundations for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, let alone for any more capacious understanding of queer political projects. And this recognition suggests to me that queer radicalism demands at once that the assimilated queer subject be provided for, the better to be rejected or elaborated otherwise.

In other words, my own queer repudiation of militarist masculinity is all the more forceful now for its welcome after the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" of my participation, which I now reject on my own terms rather than in a lame recognition of the fact that I am always-already rejected come what may. My queer repudiation of marriage as a delusive and possessive organization of meaningful loving affinity is likewise all the more forceful for its welcome after the legalization of Gay Marriage and even robust Domestic Partnership statutes of my participation. So, too, my queer repudiation of the reprosexual reduction of the contingent disruptive provocative problematizing promising experimental field of embodied and desiring practices of sex-gender is all the more forceful once adoption and same-sex parental rights and protections welcome my participation on those reductive terms.

Sex-Gender-Sexuality are languages we speak and which speak us no less. We are all of us prosaic legal subjects (or at any rate, we hope to be: to fail to manage to be prosaic is to risk being rendered illegal in our substance, informal, incomparably precarious), and we are also all of us, in certain blessed moments of serendipity and grace at least, incarnated poems.

To strive to be free is at once to strive to be legible, literal, but also to resist reduction to the literal, to desire to be figurative, to turn and in turn provoke the profound turn of desire and change in others.

The competent speaker of a language, mind you, not only knows how to make meaning in that language through the proper deployment of its literal vocabulary and following its grammatical rules correctly, but also grasps and knows how to make meaning by violating the rules of that language while still, somehow, speaking it, deranging its literal usages and taking up its fallacious forms turning then into forceful rather than simply incorrect or nonsensical figurative ones.

To be illegible is to risk violation and abjection, even if for some lucky people this illegibility has provoked creative expressivities and lifeways that are wonderful, heroic. But while it may be radical to demand an impossible heroism of all people and in all moments of life, that radicalism too easily amounts to little more than a declaration of indifference and hostility for one's peers in the world and the terms in which they actually live the meaningful substance of their lives, it is too easily an ungenerous, inhumane radicalism: What is radical and also liberal, generous, humane is to grasp the beauty, the creativity, the meaning in lives that are not heroic, or in those parts of our lives that are not heroic, as well as in those few who or moments which do differ heroically in ways that render more capacious the space in which the everyday lives free.

A queer politics reduced to bourgeois assimilation is a queer politics shorn of its promise and provocation, no doubt, but a queer politics that rejects the assimilationist project altogether in its bid for radicalism (a gesture to which I am all too prone myself) is, I fear, a queer politics too readily shorn of its promise as well: Availability to gay assimilation is necessary to those queers who would refuse to avail themselves of it in their work to be queer otherwise. What is wanted, I think, are queernesses that welcome being welcomed into the world on its terms, and then welcome that world to come well elsewhere.


Chad Lott said...

Sometimes you don't want to go to the party, but you always want the invite.

Dale Carrico said...

Especially when the party is in your pants.

jollyspaniard said...

Speaking of endless shopping I'm visiting Toronto for the first time in 9 years and I feel like I've been teleported into a world made entirely out of concrete, asphalt and advertising. Blech.

North America needs more urban landscapes that pedestrian friendly and which are logo free.