disidentification

Permanent Tomboys, Perceptions of Maturity of GNC Women

One of the things that tires me out as a GNC woman is how young people perceive me to be. I’m not entirely sure if it’s because I am so often initially read as a young man or boy (no boobs, no receding hairline, short af) or if its because people’s mental image of a twenty-something adult woman is quite necessarily an image of a stereotypically feminine, attractive heterosexual woman. Either way, it gives them an excuse to condescend to me. It probably goes back to the trope of the tomboy kid eventually “growing out of it” and becoming a Full Fledged Real Woman–disidentification with femininity and refusal of the feminine role, for young female people, is thus associated with childishness and immaturity. It isn’t necessarily that tomboys are supposed to give up all of their apparently unfeminine interests: sports and outdoors and videogames, stuff that might actually make them desirable to men or somehow “not like other girls”, but they are definitely supposed to take up feminine interests as well at some point. Not doing so is a sure sign of social underdevelopment. GNC women are seen as these ugly ducklings who never became swans by failing that all important outgrowing step. 

Even when people know I’m a woman they still seem to assume I’m younger, even in my late teens, and treat me as such. I never wear makeup, I never wear high heels. I never wear anything but baggy, comfy clothes. Placed next to my peers, I probably do look younger just because I don’t put in the same amount of work into a feminine appearance, and luckily I have a job where I don’t need to. 

The problem is that I tend to internalize this sentiment and start to assume that I must actually seem and act younger. I fear that misinterpretation of my age/maturity will serve as yet another social stumbling block when I try to interact with others out in the world. Or, I fear that people will assume I am underdeveloped or socially deficient. I fear that I really am socially underdeveloped and deficient. In reality this anxiety is absurd. I’m a full grown woman with the same amount of experience and capacity for intelligence and competence as anyone else my age. At this point I’ve lived in four different states and I’ve held more than a handful of full time jobs. I have a degree. I can replace a radiator hose and follow directions. I’m a damn adult. I’m not less of an adult because I refuse to take part in the ridiculous heterosexual dress up and make-believe games that we believe to constitute “adulthood”. 

Its not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things compared to homophobia and misogyny but its annoying to say the least and I’ve got a good amount of social anxiety around assuming that people are going to condescend to me. Waiting for that gray hair to start coming in, I guess. 

No reblogs///// because I’m not starting this fight with anyone but it is so wild to me that so many people are very willing to acknowledge there is a current massive wave of detransitioning women, there have been these waves before, and we will probably have another one, or at least waves of reidentifying/reidentified women like myself, like huge numbers, to where you can’t be involved in any lgbt scene and not know a gnc cis woman who at some point identified as trans or nb or both, etc, but NOBODY is interested in an honest discussion of what forced so many women into disidentification in the first place. Like even if you thought all these women were just stupid and “got it wrong” for themselves, you’d think you would at least honestly acknowledge that this happening in scenes all over the country means soooooomething must be connecting them. Couldn’t possibly be the way we think about gender nonconformity right? Couldn’t possibly be unattainable standards of femininity for people to not stop telling you to consider that maybe you’re not really a woman after all. Couldn’t possibly be politics in queer scenes explicitly stating that it’s both cooler and more politically radical to be something other than a woman. Couldn’t be discomfort with adult gnc women.

I find both the idea that women are biologically defined but somehow also have the same relationship to patriarchy (like I guarantee you Buck Angel and I do not have the same experiences of walking around the street, although I think we were on a good path in the 80s with some solidarity between butches and trans men because have a loooooooot of the same experiences and sometimes the exact same ones and just use different words to describe them, even though our bodies started in physically similar state) and the idea that it’s wrong to say your body has anything to do with your womanhood (like, my experience of womanhood has been shaped by being raised in a world intending to shape me into a woman, and my all the things that come from menstrual stigma, and when I disidentified nothing materially changed about my life, as is often the case for women who don’t pursue a lot of transition measures) to both be preposterous. They are both ways of evening out experiences that are the same in places we may not want to acknowledge, and of totalizing in ways that write other people out- like trans women are obviously not walking the streets making huge paychecks or safe from violence from men, but also for a lot of women there’s nothing we feel like a gender identity (I do not have one, I do not need one) and the idea that all women relate to womanhood that way is demonstrably false, and the idea that all should is deeply offensive.

It is no surprise that so many women who reidentify at least temporarily claim really easentialist politics that I object to myself, when their bodies are sometimes the only thing they can offer up in the face of gender identity politics as legitimizing their womanhood, and often bodies to which we have done permanent, physical changes in ways some of us are happy with and some of us find traumatizing. I think (I hope) that most eventually find their way at least a good bit from those politics, which attract them because they genuinely make much better sense of their experiences than many other popular alternatives (like those that pressured them to transition to begin with) but just don’t hold much political weight. Either womanhood is a material class or a biological category or a mixture of the two, but radfems who want to have their cake and eat it too there by saying those are the same thing are just kidding themselves- gay trans men and I do not have the same life experiences, especially if the guy in question is able to go stealth, and our paychecks will be different, and our odds of receiving male violence on the street will be different, even if we have a lot of the same feelings about our bodies.

But I saw a post the other day saying some nonsense like “Anyone who says there is pressure on gnc cis women to transition is a terf” and like, alright, pull the wool further over your eyes if you want, but more women are going to get hurt in the meantime and also, just literally ask those you know, and also I guess all these dykes having the saaaame experiences and experiencing the same pressures are just making it up and we are crazy and not to be listened to! I guarantee you they’ve also been straight up told they should call themselves nonbinary for liking ties and not liking pink and shit, I guarantee you they’ve told someone to use she/her and had that person use “they” repeatedly, like this shit will straight up make you feel like you are literally going insane. This is why I don’t touch those scenes anymore. But many women are still in them and okay, we can put the conversation off. But girls and women are going to get hurt in themeantime. I don’t even think there is anything wrong with new terms popping up to describe experiences, but the idea that there are natural lines to be drawn between them is very harmful and encourages us to pick a side. And when one side gets you respect from your friends, you pick that one.

The Disidentifications of Vaginal Davis & José Esteban Muñoz

When I tell other artists I am studying performance art, they usually ask- “Like Guillermo Gomez-Peña?” But really, they should be asking me, “Like Vaginal Davis?” In the introduction to his book of essays, Disidentification: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (1999), José Esteban Muñoz describes disidentification as, “the survival strategies the minority subject practices in order to negotiate a phobic majoritarian public sphere that continuously elides or punishes the existence of subjects who do not conform to the phantasm of normative citizenship” (Muñoz 4). But Muñoz also clarifies that disidentification doesn’t work for all, “At times, resistance needs to be pronounced and direct; on other occasions, queers of color and other minority subjects need to follow a conformist path if they hope to survive a hostile public sphere” (Muñoz 5). Muñoz is referring to his own early history when he dated white men in order to have access to a world he wouldn’t have had access to, otherwise. In his seminal queer black performance video, Tongues Untied (1989), Marlon Riggs describes his first white love as both, “a blessing and a curse.”

(Vaginal Davis wearing the bra from Pat Benatar’s early video. Photo credit Michele “Hell” Carr of Jabberjaw)

However, to relate disidentification simply to who one is dating, or making love to, would be  unjust to what the word can really signify- or how it can be used. As a young, closeted-gay, inner-city Chicano (we used the word Vato, back then) I was pressured to join a gang. Which is fine by me, my freshly pressed size-50 Dickies pants, and shaved head with one-foot rat tail hid the fact that I was a also a raging homosexual. I was the fiercest of the group, and nobody would have guessed my secrets- until much later, when my fashion got even more drag. Meanwhile, I had a friend who when you told him to, “Suck my Dick,” as an insult, he would get on his knees and yell, “Pull it out, let’s do this, don’t be a Pussy!” Both shocking and defeating his homophobic friends. That friend might as well have been a former incarnation of LA conceptual drag artist Vaginal Davis. In his essay, “‘The White to Be Angry’: Vaginal Creme Davis’s Terrorist Drag,” Muñoz discusses his affinity for punk rock music as a teen, despite the common homophobic and racist messages he already endured in real life. And how some people, such as Vaginal Davis, are able to not only be respected, but thrive in this environment- despite being a Black/Chicano who doesn’t look manly, feminine, or more importantly- white.

(Vaginal Davis reveals the secret to her pearly whites, Date/Source unknown)

Davis originally explored issues of blackness with her LA punk zine, Fertile La Toyah Jackson, and later her musical group Afro Sisters- which she fronted with two white girls as back-up dressed in extravagant afro’s reminiscent of Angela Davis and 60’s revolutionary Black fashion- whom which she borrowed her name. She also played with Latino conventions, with her music group Cholita! which is billed as the “female Menudo.” Quite ironic, when you consider that menudo is most commonly made by women- and demands more than 24-hours of slow-cooked attention. Davis describes this transition perfectly, “Vaginal emerged as a filtering of Angela through humor.” Which is where The White to Be Angry comes in. In that performance she played a black woman who has had both racial and gender reconstructive surgery to become a bearded, bald, white supremacist male. During her performance her layers are literally dropped off, revealing a man dressed as a “woman” within. Muñoz explains, “Her uses of humor and parody function as disidentificatory strategies whose effect on the dominant public sphere is that of a counterpublic terrorism” (Muñoz 100).

(Press Photo Head for: “Vaginal Davis, Beware the Holy Retarded Whore;" Photo by John Vlautin; styling and make-up Glen Meadmore; Gown by Rick Owens, 2002)

Suddenly, so much of what I do, so much of what I have lived- and artistically, so much of what I intend to produce and accomplish- makes more sense to me.  Muñoz “Disidentification” applies to me from my being the first in my huge Mexican-American family to attend graduate school, and my lovely white fiancé (who might as well be "Chicano”- an Irish gentleman who grew up Southern Baptist in rural Texas), to my elaborate, multilayered performances where I often portray a multitude of races, genders, characters to tell a story about my family history. But Davis’s performances, and Muñoz critical art theory- are opening up new avenues of thinking- what is next? How can I push the boundaries further; without myself, becoming complacent with satisfying the white majority (hello Portland, OR) around me? How can I stay “underground,” while also entertaining said audience? Sticking to parody and humor seems an excellent way for me to address these issues, because after all, they aren’t “issues” or problems to me; rather, they are different avenues of expressing myself as a queer, Chicano, performance artist. New layers added to my growing stories, characters and performances.

(Photo of José Esteban Muñoz at NYU; Muñoz passed on December 4th, 2013. He will be missed dearly, may he forever Rest in Peace.)

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Hey, Young Queer Women, Baby Boomer Lesbians Are Not the Enemy

Dyke Culture and the Disappearing L

By Bonnie J. Morris

My generation of lesbian activists, who honed our identity politics and confronted racism and classism in the spaces of women’s music events and women’s bookstores, are approaching a cultural expiration date. Having achieved many of the radical goals we pursued through the late 20th century—same-sex marriage, antidiscrimination laws, openly lesbian celebrities and politicians—we are indeed celebrating new opportunities to be out and proud. Yet having been permitted to be “out,” many of us are now spending the energy of our menopausal years pushing back against encroaching disappearance; our own invisibility. Dyke identity, that specific nomenclature of the fierce woman-identified woman, has been replaced by the more inclusive queer, as a new era of thoughtful LGBT activists proclaim their disidentification with the categories woman and lesbian.

The recent, ongoing interrogation of those categories in academic theory and cyberactivism clashes with concurrent efforts to preserve, as historically meaningful and valuable, the past 40 years of lesbian cultural spaces. Yet making peace with the radical separatist past is an important historical step for those charting the progression of LGBT visibility, rights, and power. The present impasse, in the LGBT movement, is over how to frame lesbians’ successful construction of an autonomous subculture that was not G, that was not T, but L.

My concern is that as we advance further into the 21st century, we are witnessing the almost flippant dismissal of recent, late 20th-century lesbian culture, particularly the loss of physical sites such as women’s bookstores and women’s music festivals and their material legacies (books, journals, albums, tapes, magazine interviews with artists). This was a specific performance culture: a movement through which fresh ideas about woman-loving were transmitted via song, speech, and the written word and marketed to a like-minded audience at quasi-public but distinctively lesbian-feminist spaces. At its peak, lesbian performance culture in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s was every bit as unique as gay male drag, punk rock, Seattle grunge, and other genres, particularly because it put a new face on the tradition of grassroots American folk. However, because most women’s music recording artists earned very little money, and not only neglected but rejected commercial male approval and participation, their contributions are difficult to place on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame timeline.

Despite so many gains in LGBT rights, sexism and sex discrimination have not been vanquished, and scholarly support for examining women’s lives and communities remains contested. The traditional academic canon, with its focus on male achievement and leadership, embeds many contributions by gay men through the ages, whereas lesbians have had barely a generation and a half of scholarly scrutiny (corresponding to how recently women were allowed to attend college at all). Although women’s studies programs have always been charged with pushing a lesbian agenda, or just being controlled by man-hating lesbians, this was never true and is even less true now. In fact, as women’s studies programs expand to attract male and trans-identifying faculty and students, many administrators are backing away from the word women altogether, striving for inclusion by renaming departments gender studies.

Although various woman-identified, lesbian separatist platforms and events that characterized a self-proclaimed dyke subculture throughout the 1970s–’90s still exist, they aren’t yet popular subjects of historical inquiry. Instead, these remaining activists and institutions have become popular subjects of criticism and contempt. Despite a wealth of feminist scholarship on aging, elder abuse, and the intersectionality of ageism and sexism in older women’s economic vulnerability, far less work has been produced on the aging lesbian, who (whether activist veteran or not) offers a wealth of generational tales and insights.

The disappearance of lesbian spaces is also one aspect of the aging baby-boomer generation. Many, though not all, of the most creative, visionary, and accomplished lesbian activists from the 1970s and ’80s were born in the late 1940s and early ’50s, their politics informed by childhoods spent crouched in Cold War air raid drills, McCarthy hearings on new television sets, and the civil rights movement.  It’s not coincidental that the lesbian-feminist movement included intense scrutiny of militarism and racism and turned politics into a musical stance. Although younger women (and men) may feel that Americans born between 1945 and 1961 have been studied enough, have indeed monopolized cultural attention for decades, are a tiresomely overcredited American demographic, with lesbians it’s a different story. Despite our national fascination with the 1970s, most historians still fail to inscribe the accomplishments of that decade’s lesbian pioneers in our national textbooks. Right now, it’s imperative that we find better ways for the vanishing ideas, sites, and inherited stuff of late 20th-century lesbian culture to be valued, preserved, and known by future generations. Later, we’ll wish we had these feisty dykes in front of us to explain what they did—and what it meant—and how they did it with no internet.

Who’s still willing to bat for Team L? Once an empowered statement of out and proud, it’s now an identity buried within the topical hierarchy of queer studies, gay marriage, gender identity. The disappearance of the L may be due in part to mainstreaming LGBTQ civil rights issues into one catch phrase, but it’s also an intentional disruption of what the aging “flannel shirt lesbian” stereotype signifies: a person who symbolizes folk guitar at festivals in the woods; politically correct potlucks attended by crystal-wearing numerologists in Birkenstocks and bi-level haircuts. These images are all white, as well as derisive. If the L-defined woman and her separatist cultural spaces are troubling remnants of an exclusive, retroactive essentialism, why would anyone want to interview her now? Lost in the stereotype is the backstory of unlearning racism workshops, disability activism, drum circles, and poverty activism, which characterized events of the 1980s and ’90s.

Generational change is inevitable, healthy, and necessary to progress. What I am living through right now is a painful transitional moment in which some of those older lesbian institutions are still going strong, and seeking participation and funding, while a current generation of activists are distancing themselves from such events, or even demonstrating against them. Younger, queer activists were vocal in opposing the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival; right-wing religious groups once eager to shut the festival down had moved on to bigger targets. This dynamic—a next generation of feminists attacking earlier lesbian institutions and disparaging their participants as less evolved—is not unique to the 21st century or the United States; it is embedded in Jill Gardiner’s powerful book From the Closet to the Screen, which describes a 1970–71 Gay Liberation Front “zap” against London’s Gateways Club bar. As this generational shift grinds on, how should the most recent decades of cultural production be interpreted, understood, and preserved? How will we use the tools of history to examine something we know existed as an investigable community?

For veterans of a certain kind of lesbian activism, who poured time, energy, and resources into sustaining alternative spaces when other doors were closed to us, the triumph of civil rights is a bittersweet victory if our tremendous efforts and contributions are to be written out of the record. The fearless Amazon generation that built an entire network of lesbian music festivals, albums, bookstores, bars, presses, production companies, publications, and softball teams is teetering on the brink of oblivion, just gray-haired enough to be brushed aside with an impatient “good riddance” by younger activists, yet too recent a movement to enjoy critical historical acclaim.

The mainstreaming of gay rights and gay marriage, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the elevation of Ellen DeGeneres to talk show mogul and cosmetics cover girl on billboards in every mall, and the gradual inclusion of same-sex couples by institutions of faith was inconceivable when I first came out as a lesbian teenager—on the eve of Ronald Reagan’s election, in 1980. There were few youth support services, no anti-bullying programs in schools, no LGBT studies conferences in academia. In fact, at age 19 I attended my first lesbian concert less than half a mile from the gates of Georgetown University, then in the midst of its costly legal battle against its own gay students, who simply wanted to form a campus group. Thirty years later, this same Jesuit campus now hosts an annual Lavender Graduation, as well as funding a well-staffed LGBT Center and paying me a handsome part-time salary to lecture on lesbian history. Today we see far greater representation of LGBT families and couples on prime time television and in commercially successful films. Thankfully, across global entertainment networks there are also more and more heterosexual artists willing to speak out for equality (and/or to play LGBT roles). This gradually LGBT-friendly media is redefining who “lesbian stars” are.

But while it is a victory to see lesbians gaining acceptance into the mainstream of American culture—due to stronger civil rights protections, informed political allies, and other successful advocacy—recent media validation has been limited to those lesbian couples with “successful” roles or individual women who are beautiful, able-bodied, affluent, and white. Less often depicted is working-class lesbian culture, which thrives in small towns and urban bars; in house parties and social events where women still meet as they always have. And the politically engaged lesbian activist is portrayed as dressed for Congress. For better or for worse, the stereotype of the angry radical lesbian marching with fist raised against the patriarchy has been replaced by the embossed wedding invitation to Megan and Carmen’s nuptials.

This shift in media representation idealizes lesbians’ participation in the American dream: settling down with a partner, marrying a beautiful wife, raising children, being active in the local school PTA and church community. It’s a wholesome, nonthreatening participation in middle-class values by women who just happen to be gay. This is the image mainstream LGBT groups have promoted since the late 1990s: lesbians as soccer moms, as consumers, as participants in faith, nuclear family, and military service. Vanishing from this landscape are the many large-scale gatherings once typifying dyke subculture, where talking points included some very tough critiques of church, state, family dynamics, and military imperialism.

We’re still here. But there we were. And we remember.

Adapted from The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture, by Bonnie J. Morris. Reprinted with permission from SUNY Press.

I pop into the detransition tag often and lately I’ve read some stuff from non detransitioned people, I imagine, about how sad and ridiculous it is that many young dysphoric women (teens and early twenties) become disillusioned with queer theory/the transition narrative itself as they figure out that transition is not helping them. Specifically, I have read that it is apparently sad and ridiculous that many of them arrive at radical feminist understandings of themselves and the world as a result of their experience with detransition and disidentification. There’s this notion that there’s a whole bunch of teenage detransitioned/reidentified radical feminists who just never really took *real* steps toward transition and are now just a bunch of angry gross dykes. This despite the fact that last I checked with the self-named queer community, you don’t have to want to alter your body to be under the trans umbrella. 

Along with this, there is the notion that what these young women have experienced is less legitimate or not legitimate at all because they are young—disbelief that they could have sought transition in their young to mid-teens. There are insinuations that many of these women’s stories are fake or made up for political points. It is not uncommon at this point for teenagers to be the recipients of transition related therapies (I mean, there’s been a huge increase in pediatric gender-ID referrals in the past couple years) so this sentiment strikes me as either ignorant or dishonest. Or reaching. And writing off teenage girls in this way–calling them fake, attention seeking bitches–is pretty much garden variety misogyny, is it not? 

I don’t find it surprising at all that a set of women who have experienced what basically boils down to medical/psychiatric malpractice and misogyny from their own communities would abandon the set of ideas that in part caused those experiences. Take girls and women seriously.

I am not my body. I have a body and that is not who I am. My body may be in different conditions of health or sickness; it can be rested or tired but that is not my self, my real “I.” My body is my precious instrument of experience and of action in the world, but it is only an instrument. I treat it well; I seek to keep it in good health, but it is not my self. I have a body, and I am not my body. I am I.

Listen: Practice Disidentification. This is one of the best practices I introduced to my life. It’s especially helpful when you take yourself way too seriously, like I do.

Basically everyone has this problem: They strongly identify with what they like, what they do, etc. This results in suffering: When making a mistake, it makes you think you are a mistake. When doing something bad, it makes you think you are bad. When somebody else does not like something that you like, it makes you think they don’t like you. When someone doesn’t agree with an opinion of yours, it makes you think they reject your whole being

You are not the things you do or the things you did, you are not your thoughts (you don’t have to believe in your thoughts! you are not the thinker, you are the one observing the thinker!), you are not the things or the people you like. Your essence is pure and untouched and innocent and it will be so forever, no matter what you do or what is done to you. Your core is of infinte worth.

Practice Disidentification.

okay NO HATE i love you all but naming our experiences concisely really does matter, and i think theres some misunderstanding about what these words mean

  • detransitioned= having a history of medical and/or substantial (in general- being read as the other gender very regularly, changing legal sex, being stealth as the other gender in some or all areas of your life, etc) social transition, and ultimately realizing that this wasnt your truth, and that you are female/a woman (whether or not you are in a position to share this paradigm shift with others)

  • history of disidentification= having spent time conceptualizing yourself as something other than female and a woman, having used other pronouns online or with lgbt friends, having considered transition etc

neither is any more or less significant than the other, but these two things are different, and it doesnt do any of us any favors to falsely conflate them. there are a lot of times when these groups have the same issues and interests, but theres still value in differentiating.

Disidentification is the third mode of dealing with dominant ideology, one that neither opts to assimilate within such a structure nor strictly opposes it; rather, disidentification is a strategy that works on and against dominant ideology. Instead of buckling under the pressures of dominant ideology (identification, assimilation) or attempting to break free of its inescapable sphere (counteridentification, utopianism), this “working on and against” is a strategy that tries to transform cultural logic from within, always laboring to enact permanent structural change while at the same time valuing the importance of local or everyday struggles of resistance.
—  Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics, José Esteban Muñoz
The process of organizing collective subjects for social change does indeed involve “movement” on many levels, and one of them undoubtedly entails forging forms of collective consciousness. This process is not merely cognitive and rational — though it is that, too; it also works on the affective investments people have in the identities they claim. One of the steps in forming collective agency entails ‘disidentification.’ Disidentification is a practice of working on existing ways of identifying that we embrace and live by. This “work” is a process of unlearning that opens up the identities we take for granted to the historical conditions that make them possible. It involves uprooting these identities not just from ways of thinking that invite us to construe them as natural but also from a history of suffering—the fertile ground for resentment to grow—and resituating how we know them in a different historical frame, a frame that allows us to see how this suffering is the product of a mode of production that out- laws a whole array of human needs. The disidentifying subject taps into the ways her outlawed needs, including her affective needs, are channeled by culture-ideology. She replaces the narrow resentment of identity politics with the potentially much more powerful and monstrous collective opposition of all of capitalism’s disenfranchised subjects
—  Rosemary Hennessy, Profit and Pleasure: Sexual Identities in Late Capitalism, p. 229
Although the political discourses that mobilize identity categories tend to cultivate identifications in the service of a political goal, it may be that the persistence of /dis/identification is equally crucial to the rearticulation of democratic contestation. Indeed, it may be precisely through practices which underscore disidentification with those regulatory norms by which sexual difference is materialized that both feminist and queer politics are mobilized. Such collective disidentifications can facilitate a reconceptualization of which bodies matter, and which bodies are yet to emerge as critical matters of concern.
—  Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter
One of the ways to make use of existing identity forms is to highlight the gap between identities promoted by the dominant culture and the lived “experience” of social relations that is not summoned by these terms. This is the ‘excess’ that is often ‘experienced’ as an inchoate affect of not belonging, of not fitting in or not feeling at home within the terms that are offered for identity. The process of disidentification can zero in on the affective component of this misrecognition and invite consideration of the ways it is named and routed into emotions (of shame, denial, resentment, etc.) that can naturalize the existing categories. Disidentification invites the renarration of this affective excess in relation to capitalism’s systemic production of unmet need. At the same time it works on forms of misrecognition, disidentification also makes visible the ways the dominant organizations of sexual desires and identities are real sites of affective investment, and through this critical awareness invites a process of unlearning. Unlearning these investments is always an incomplete, unfinished business, and recognizing this is an important lesson on the limits of one’s historical position. But this ongoing lesson in historical limits does not have to be dismissive or belittling; it can also fold the forms of affective identification we historically and critically inhabit into a more ambitious political project that claims the radical outside of unmet human needs as the starting point for a much needed anti-capitalist project
—  Rosemary Hennessy, Profit and Pleasure: Sexual Identities in Late Capitalism, pp. 230-31
The Color Queer

Where do we locate same-sex desire in the postcolony? I think about this question as we attempt to unpack “queer of color” as a “cultural critique.” This has shaped my reading queer theory over the past few years and certainly my reading of José Muñoz’s Disidentifications. What’s at stake with such a reading is the ontological and racialized intervention of queer spaces.

José argues that queers of color are excluded in representation of queer space “colonized by the logics of white normativity and heteronormativity” (xii). In this sense, disidentification is a process of responding to ideological hegemony; it’s a queer strategy that neither assimilates nor opposes, but rather, looks for new ways to negotiate power. He says, “We thus disidentify with the white ideal. We desire it but desire it with a difference. The negotiations between desire, identification, and ideology are a part of the important work of disidentification” (11). While Muñoz’s primary focus is examining the performance of politics for queers of color (which I believe he does exceptionally well), I read José as racializing questions of queerness that reimagines the queer of color body and thought precisely through resisting and negotiating dominant white heteronormative ideologies. Moreover, when José draws attention to disidentification as a process (a strategy even) that “works on and against” dominant ideology “to transform a cultural logic from within, always laboring to enact permanent structural change while at the same time valuing the importance of local and everyday struggles of resistance,” he is, effectively, positing a strategy of existence and postcolonial consciousness (11).

A strategy. This resonates with how I think about how queers of color navigate queer spaces. I would argue that this has to challenge our understandings of queerness and the question we’ve been wrestling over about what is queer. A proposal by José: ”One possible working definition of queer that we might consider is this: queers are people who have failed to turn around to the ‘Hey, you there!’ interpellating call of heteronormativity” (33). Queerness is thus a resistance to institutions of power and hegemonic ideology. Thinking then about disidentification of queers of color, my close friend Joni and I raise the question: Can whiteness be queer? I often see modes and examples of queer thought and experimental spaces of queer performance only falling trap to the same institutionalization of power and ideological hegemony that queerness seeks to dismantle. If Muñoz is regarded as a postcolonial queer thinker that reimagines categories of analysis in terms of race and sexuality, then I don’t think we can think of white queerness the same.

In this regard, thinking about “queer” extends beyond identity and sexuality, and instead invokes questions about the aesthetics and affective dimensions of what the performance of queer spaces do to bodies and ideas; that is, questions of alterity and ontology. Furthermore, it advances David Halperin’s early thesis in Saint Foucault that queer theory is a logic of renunciation: how do we renounce systems and categories of power and hegemony within queer theory itself?

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11 Lessons That 'Jane Eyre' Can Teach Every 21st Century Woman About How To Live Well

Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” was published on this day in 1847. While I’m a very big fan of most Victorian literature, “Jane Eyre” made an impression on me that other novels formerly hadn’t.

Lesson 1: don’t get married.

Lesson 2: if you marry a man, make sure he’s incapacitated and completely dependent on you. 

Lesson 3: if some douche locks you in an attic, burn his shit to the ground. 

Lesson 4: it’s perfectly normal to have a “special friendship” with another girl in middle school. 

Lesson 5: if some dude is a dick to you, he might secretly like you, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still an asshole. 

Lesson 6: “I CARE FOR MYSELF.”

… 

Disidentification is about recycling and rethinking encoded meaning. The process of disidentification scrambles and reconstructs the encoded message of a cultural text in a fashion that both exposes the encoded message’s universalizing and exclusionary machinations and recircuits its workings to account for, include, and empower minority identities and identifications. Thus, disidentification is a step further than cracking open the code of the majority; it proceeds to use this code as raw material for representing a disempowered politics or positionality that has been rendered unthinkable by the dominant culture.
—  Disidentifcations: Queers Of Color And The Performance Of Politics, José Esteban Muñoz

honestly I try not to be so sad about it bc I get that were doing what we can to survive under patriarchy but I grieve so much we’re losing all our lesbian sisters to disidentification, to the effects of queer theory, to transition and it hurts so much to recognize a woman like me and know that most likely she doesn’t see herself that way, and it hurts too to see those who have tried hard to hold on to womanhood let go bc the world sucks too much , and it’s just so much loss