Identity


BA wrote a really cool post, and by cool, I mean hot.

Hawt, even.

I’ve been kicking myself to start writing again, and with a subject like this…how could I resist.

BA is right.

my thought is that sexual care fits into self care because it is an admission of yourself and the right to live as that self…

There’s a world beyond the sunset…where the playing out of what we need in private doesn’t always have to refer back to the troubled world outside. But the correct answer is not to stop fucking the mean time. “Ain’t this what you revolutionaries are supposed to be dying for?”

A good fuck has rarely cured the world, but since when did we ask that of everything we do? Recently, i think in commentary on Sudy’s awesome video, some folks talked about how the phrase complicity is usually a good sign that we’re doing some good old fashioned self-examination that has the big raging problem of assuming that collective individual action is what’s required. As you know, opposed to just plain collective, break the damn mold action.

Which is why so much of the continual sex wars bullshit is just that. Power intersects with the sex I have. But as R Mildred aptly points out…

Yes, and?

The world and we are dying every day. And practices of self-denial feel like something we can do about it…a tangible, feels good in a feel bad sort of way.

We are a nation on converts and backsliders, dependent on rituals of lapse and redemption.

What BA points to, is the richness of sexual imagination and what it means to actually take it to heart. There is nothing wrong with being the

oral fixated hand on her chocha, big titted bitch in me.

And there’s nothing contradictory about that statement and still being a virgin.

I had a sexual identity long before I had sexual partners. Some parts of that identity have come to expression, others found compromises, some have evolved, some I have hopes for, others I treasure memories of.

The SO and I were at brunch in her hometown, catching up with a friend. Apparently, he asked while i was away from the table…”Does he miss the cock?”

She replied, and incorrectly.

It means nothing. I had and have no plans of leaving her, going outside the relationship, or even directing my imagination in ways that detract from the relationship.

But it means everything. I do miss it. That desire and urge, even if never acted upon, remains with me, helping me to understand who I am in the summation of things.

I desire.

I desire things, people, feelings, comfort, pain, experience, growth, shelter, and new horizons. I desire, and the naming of my desires is important, not a list to be abridged at the whim of others.

I am a person who desires, for desire is that which a person does. A pawn, a stand in, a cardboard cutout…a stereotype….could not do so.

They might have a fixation, or a fetish, the animating purpose of such a caricature, But it is in fact, they that are the fetish, the toy of a lazy imagination.

I am, one who desires, who names what I desire in all the contradiction and complexity that I can muster, knowing that it comes down to this.

Who I am is not what I name myself as. There is no end result, only the striving.

Who am I?

The one who names myself.

This is what i need and i wont accept anything else nor

WILL I LET ANYTHING or anyone try and sell me ANY OTHER VERSION OF IT

PEtit imagine what movement full of people thinking like that loosk

-sly

PS: Links go where they came from, all block quotes are from Black Amazon. Video embed from Ms. Sylvia/M.

The word, of course, being “queer.”

I’ve been getting this reaction, or some variation thereof, when discussing idenity politics with folks at Yale. And my response so far has been to try to explain the politics of reclaimation in gltbq communities, and how they might differ from the use of say, racialized language (Hi, Kramer!). I get a little frustrated that there’s still this weird aura around discussion of queer issues, the one that loves to talk about mawwidge equality and how terrible those bigots are, but gets squeamish if the discussion turns to broader topics. I don’t just mean “sex” and i’m a big beleiver that intrusive discussions of sex are not cool. But talking about the other intersections of queerness with political and social life often gives the hint that some of us aren’t in it for the Het Norm, and may not think that state sanction is the be all end all. So what about these identities that don’t map back onto heterized Alisa and Eve or Adam and Steve?*

If you have a problem using the language that I have chosen to use to describe myself, I have a request. Do not erase that choice by using language that I reject. Do not compromise your own conscience.

Repeat after me.

“Name, who self-identifies as queer, whatever you were planning on saying that I hope are nice things that intelligently reflect upon the nature of queer idenity…”**

This places the contest of language back into queer communities, and absolves the speaker of anything beyond the courtesy of describing a person as they have sought to be described. It’s up to us to create Queerdom, since it’s a lovely and fictitious place anyhow. The only real grievance I have here can’t be with the fact that some folks don’t like saying the word queer. It’s a word with plenty of ugly history to it, so I have been deliberate about choosing it despite that. I still twitch at “fag,” and I know plenty of good folks who use that. So the problem came down to feeling like some people were, because of issues of language with varying causes, were simply bypassing the whole deal. It’s their prerogative to determine their relationship with queerdom, the language thereof, and how they fit into the wider picture of how values, cultures and politics get expressed through sexual and gender idenity.

As long as they are calling people by the names that they have chosen.

-sly

* Heterize – Verb. To apply “traditional” standards and mores to queer cultures, and make them “just like us.” Also, the conflation of middle class white values with the “real” nature of homosexuality that emerges as repression recedes. Example: The Party Boy and Butch Dyke are both stereotypes that scare Het Folks into giving queer people rights in the hope that they will heterize themselves.

** This generally doesn’t work for personal pronouns. Verbally marking them off tends to be the linguistic version of airquotes in that situation. Reserve this for language that you have a problem with as a whole, not just applying to an individual. I’m willing to bet you say “she” or “his” all the time.

Note: The following contains a discussion of white guilt. This is not meant to be a pity fest or a cue for reassurance. I’m trying to, as the title implies, disarm that guilt and start moving forward again.

I mentioned in my last post that I’d made a less than brilliant choice of walking to the subway the last time i was in New York. The story is as follows.

My friend lives pretty far uptown on the east side, and so I needed to get from the Metro-North station at 125 all the way over to the 1 line. Now, it happens (and i suspect this is not in fact a coincidence) that there is not a good way to take the subway cross town that far up. So waiting for the M60, I realize that I don’t know the schedule, and it may not even be running this late. I have no idea where the 101 goes. Feck. I start walking.

Seven blocks in or so, everything is going to plan. People in NYC don’t want anything to do with you. They’d much rather move to the other side of the sidewalk, and just keep moving. The fundamental rule of social compact is not based on interaction, but rather neutral neglect. So when i see a guy walking right towards me, I know something is wrong. As he passes, I keep moving to the left, but he corrects. Slamming his bagged bottle into my right arm then letting it fall to the pavement with a sickening crash, he turns and begins a confrontation.

This is the point at which my heart rate is up, and I begin to realize that I may have done something really, really stupid.

Two guys walking even with me turn just a little and tell me very clearly: “Keep on walking. Just keep walking.” I start to take this advice, but I can hear the man closing in from behind. I’m carrying my backpack, and let’s just say this. I’d tip over pretty easily if i wasn’t ready.

I turn, still walking backwards to keep pace with the two guys who seemed like they might help. The argument that follows is kind of a blur. Something about last bottle, 8 bucks, and a whole lot of angry.

After the other guys say something about it not being my problem, and I repeat an apology without offering any money, he starts to slow. I turn and speed up. I face my helpers for a moment, and feeling infinitely awkward for involving them in a scene they had no interest in being a part of, I say thank you, and walk away quickly.

Enter white guilt. In the rest of the long and chilly walk, I had plenty of time to think. I wondered if I could even remember any of this right. If i saw pictures, could i have picked out the angry drunk guy from the men who helped me? Or had they all been subsumed into a larger cultural image of the threatening black man? Why had I been scared of this walk in the first place? 75 blocks south, would I have even thought about it? Hadn’t humanity actually come through this time? Why was I still shaking? What made me think of this one person as a threat, when the white power that I daily participate in is far more menacing to his existence than he was to mine?

I came back to Yale, and we talked about Malcolm X. As I had been reading, I kept cheering along. It was about time to shake things up, and be decisive, even at the cost of civility.As we talked, I got a ill feeling. In many ways, I’m still an institutional man.

I talked with one of my friends, and we wondered about how we were going to deal with all of this as we try to be white allies in anti-racist work. We agreed on needing a space for us to start defusing some of these issues, emotions, and problems. If the broader conversation is going to keep moving, we need to disarm ourselves before we join. White guilt can be toxic, shutting down discussion, reorienting the space on to white concerns again.

However far I’ve come, I still have my fair share of demons. And they need to go.

Yours in contrition,

-sly civilian

Y’all take a chill. You got to cool that shit off. And that’s the double-truth.

Mister Senior Love Daddy has it right. Y’all take a chill.

Ann Bartow is now threatening lawsuits to shut up Zuzu. If you care about the conversation in the lefty blogosphere, and think that people have a right to protect their idenity so that they can speak freely, get over there and show some love.

I’m shaking angry about this shit. There are a good number of us out there who don’t have tenure, who depend on the conceit of plausible deniability to keep our views out there. I know you can figure me out from this blog, and I’m pretty sure that several folks already have. I’ve had communication from faculty members here that strongly suggest that they believe I’m responsible for this blog. And as long as that dance keeps going, and nobody puts my name in stone next to this blog, I can distance myself if i have to. If i was putting out pro-establishment stuff, I’d have no reason to care. But I don’t. I work out my anger, my disagreement, my challenge to the institutions in these pages. And if you think that those challenges are worth making, if they have a space in the public discourse, you need to respect the right of people to protect themselves so that they can withstand the social, cultural, economic, and political fallout of opposing the status quo. I don’t know about everybody else, but if i had the choice, I’d blog under my own name. I’ve long told myself that the day I get tenure, I’ll start posting my name here. Anonymity is not priviledge, it is the inverse.

As I’ve said before…I don’t give up my name because I’m ashamed of what I say. I do it because the way the system works, I have to choose between having a face and having a voice.

Always do the right thing,

-sly

Edit: Follow up here.

Go read this book. Really. All the cool kids are, and I’ll tell you why.

Our very own Jay Sennett has put together an awesome anthology of reflective work on the nature of idenity, masculinity, change, love, and the human condition writ particular.

I’m still working my way through it, but I wanted to pause and write a little. I figured Jay ought to know that I actually started reading, in the hallowed halls of Yale no less.

So after reading these stories, the thing that struck me the most was when i caught myself casually applying a shiny yellow phallus to my body, not even thinking about it. A look in the mirror brought me back to the reality that everything I had done that morning had radically changed my gendered presentation, and i’d barely spent a moment since waking up not manufacturing my masculinity. And just hanging down the entire length of my chest is this metaphor, this dick.

The yellow tie that has to perfectly related to my waistline, the pants that sit just so and change how i connect to the ground, the collared Brooks Brother’s shirt that draws a new shape of my torso and brings the eye upwards, the padded shoulders in my jacket, the extra half inch in my dress shoes, the part of the hair i have, the absence of the hair i take off my face, the way my glasses frame my face…

The possibility that opens up in these narratives for me is the idea of self-organization. I was organized into a man before I ever thought about it. My entire upbringing, cultural location, and experience produced a man. But what is the relationship between the man I’ve been made to be, the man I’ve been making myself to be, and the one that I want to be? This is where this book has been a really amazing read, one that has given me a lot to be excited about.

These men aren’t going to do my work for me, they aren’t genderfucking the rest of us out of our problems, but they have given us an interesting challenge. What would it mean to be self-organized?

What would it mean to choose our masculinity? What would it mean to be responsible for it?

-sly

A long overdue post, and one I’ve been thinking about for some time.

I’ve looked at appropriation from the other side in this space, showing how the removal and recontextualization of marginalized cultures is part and parcel of imperialism. But I haven’t talked about my people. And as Max Julian puts it, white folk are used to treating other cultures like a damn shopping mall. Where does this stop? Where do we recognize our own Whitenesses (how the hellass do you pluralize Whiteness, but it’s gotta be plural because the whole idea that we’re all the same contributes to the notion of Whiteness as gap or lack that must be filled in with the interesting “other”?) as a source of idenity?

I can’t recall when I first blogged this idea, but a while back, I suggested that White Americans probably have more of a chance of meaningfully connecting with a regional culture than they do with an ancestoral one. We’re likely to be mutts, and depending on when we came over…often long removed from “authentic” immigrant experience. In my case, I’m actually not that far removed on one side (German immigrants to Southern Minnesota), but on the other side…let’s say my sister was eligable for the DAR.

There is some difficulty in remembering such history, although it is certainly worth the effort. One obstacle is the tendancy to family hagiography, and the self-serving family trees that have been created. To be honest, I have very little clue about my heritage going back more than a few generations before it devolves into “we must all be related to someone famous.” Possible entries include Jefferson Davis (Yuck!) and Sam Adams (Hooray Beer!).

But my people…the ones whom I am most ethnically linked? Minnesotans. A strange amalgam of immigrant cultures and historical influences, Minnesota has a distinct culture not only when compared to other regions, but even within the Midwest. This brief series is intended as my love for my cultural heritage, a love both critical and kind. There is much to know about the history of White idenity here, and I’m only going to scratch the surface.

The first thing that I will have you know is that we do not all talk like Fargo. Seriously. Discussing accent is a tricky subject here, and so I’m going to be direct about my position here. I have a light accent, one that is not easily read as Minnesotan. With long “a” sounds and a few regionalisms, I am pointed as Midwestern, but I have never felt that my dialect has been an obstacle, but rather a source of priviledge. So it is somewhat impolitic for me to discuss this with you all, so I will be careful. Raised in the metro area (as opposed to the rural “outstate” or “Greater Minnesota,” I’m an outsider to much of this.

To wit, I hear a prof at Yale (from Texas, but with roots in Wisconsin) make a joke about Minnesota. I realize a few things. I “let” her make the joke because I realize that from the perspective of Yale, she’s a practical insider. I wouldn’t be okay with the same joke if we were here. And I couldn’t tell the same joke (much less be the arbiter of if it was okay or not) if I were in outstate Minnesota. With grain of salt thus in place…

What many people do not initially realize is that we don’t even all talk the same. The “from the city” and “from outstate” difference is first to be noted. The northern outstate/southern outstate difference takes a little more time. Even one of the better done Minnesota movies (North Country) flubbed this a couple times. The North is historically Scandanavian, the South is primarily German. The accents are accordingly distributed. Rural southern accents are a little more gutteral with some loan words from German (although much of this was intentionally suppressed during the Wars.) With strong history of Bund activity, there is fairly visable connections to German culture. The beer is damn good.

Up North, you’re much more likely to hear loan words and adapted Finnish, Swedish, or Norwegian. Again, this all depends on location, as these immigrations happened in waves. Initially quite distinct and avoidant, these nationalities have now largely been combined into a Pan-Scandanavian idenity, though families tend to know and have pride in their specific national ancestory. The rivalry is now quite friendly and through intermarriage less salient, where as previously it had a lot to do with competition for land and resources. If you’ve heard lutefisk jokes, this is where they come from. Don’t be mistaken, as the food is actually quite good. I might pass on the lutefisk, but never miss an opportunity to have krumkake.

Happily, Minnesota does seem to be somewhat aware of these cultural resources as legitimate sources of idenity. Through our anthropologist in cheif, Garrison Keillor, who does half-send up and half-tribute to our state, we seem to have at least a baseline level consciousness that other people recognize us as distinct, as in “You’re from that place, Lake Wobegon, right?”

Yet, the number of people here who speak their ancestoral language is falling, and it is often difficult to connect the kitchy and vaguely empty reproductions to the real thing. Where does that leave an aspiring anti-racist examining and rediscovering his culture?

Part 2 will survey the history of the state, with special attention to white forgetting of conflicts with the First Peoples of the region. If I can get some resources together, I’ll make a separate entry about the destruction of Rondo.

Part 3 will be a look at urban Minnesota, and the development of the Twin Cities. With a whole lot of material (this is my home turf), I’ll try to talk about the historical differences as well as that which makes them “not just another town.”

Part 4 will examine contemporary productions of Minnesotan culture, and look at the resources available for idenity construction. Is regionalism a healthy option?

I’ll intersperse these with my regular blogging, so expect these entries to come over the next few weeks. I’ll try to finish them before I get back to Yale and homesickness completely clouds my judgement.

-sly

What’s that you say? Sly, wearing a…ring?

As we’ve long known, rings are culturally significant gifts. But as we’ve also known, Sly is one to play with the significance of such items. For instance, my faux-engagement for a few months last summer. Serious.

This one is a little more conventional, though the partner and I have no plans of marriage or anything. For starters, it’s illegal in this state, and the real important part is that we’ve been together much too short a time to consider it. But as i type, the claddagh flashes back at me, turned with the heart in and the crown out. I’m owned.

But is it read that way? I go shopping this morning, and I’m a single man walking around with a ring. I’m much more likely read as an owner than anything else. Out of the context of seeing the both of us, a ringed man is identified as a woman owner. And what is it that the partner and I intend? He says that he wants it to be something of his (he used to wear it) to remember him by. Is that how I read my use of this?

As I mentioned, last summer, I gave an “engagement” ring to a friend…and we played with the idea that a man and woman are automatically together if they spend enough time together. It had an odd history, marking both our agreement to perform this kind of burlesque of the normative hetero pairing…and by later absence, our eventual falling out.

Now, I look at this decidedly less ironic piece of jewelry…

What exactly are my investments in these ideas? Am I really pushing back? Or did I just sell out?

-sly

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