28 January 2008

"Everything is Illuminated" - Jonathan Safran Foer

"I'm not going to lie and tell you that the future is full of promises. He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by feelings that nothing was right, or nothing was fulfilled, alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in the aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over. I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others - the only thing worse than being sad is others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room."

14 January 2008

Queering the self? : Reclamation and Use of Queer

Recent discussion in my LGBT Studies course has prompted much thinking on the use of the term "queer" and my personal identification. I have for the recent past identified as a gay man, largely because that is the political community to which I most strongly feel I belong. I am now finding, however, that my political beliefs are somewhat anti-assimilationist in nature and are overtly "queer" in nature, or at least fall under the paradigm of "queer politics".

But does the fact that many of my political values align with queerness mean that I should change my self identification as a gay man? What would this change mean to me, and how would it affect society's view of me as an extension of a community? I have been resistant to the term queer for several reasons: 1) identity politics are often difficult for me to conceive as something that is holistically personal and holistically political, and 2)The term queer still has vestiges of its pejorative meaning both for me personally and for society as a whole (or at least outside the academic community), and 3) I'm really struggling with associating myself with a community that can only be defined in the negative (or lack), as in a community that uses a lack of definition as its definition.

Allow me to comment on this last reservation. I believe, or perhaps I've just be been taught, that this lack of definition stems from the post-modernist de-centering of meanings and reality. Butler argues that Feminist movements are having trouble organizing themselves simply because there cannot exist and overarching and essentialist term that is "woman". Therefore, I believe that the term "queer" is an effort for people of marginalized sexual groups to provide a political face to a community while expressing the post-modernist decentralization of identity.

But I often wonder how useful this multiplicity of meaning is when it comes to identity politics and notions of selfhood. To allow for identity categories to be both constantly salient and constantly contestable sounds a bit like chaos to me. If a college student is in dire need of a self realization, but can't come to a sense of self simply because meanings of identity categories are constantly fluid, then how detrimental will her search for self be to her psyche? Will she ever be able to find "herself". And even if she is successful, then what's to say that her identity will not change tomorrow?

Now obviously identities change over time. What it means to be a women when one is ten years of age and what it means to be a married women with children at age 45 is holistically different. Identities are malleable and our societal scripts are edited as we negotiate our way through life. But to build a communal politics around identities that are never stable (and who would ever want them to be?) seems a bit dangerous to me. Moreover, I see using the blanket term of "queer" to mean gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, gender-queer, etc. as a faulty method of gaining political visibility. By using a blanket term to give a voice to the voiceless, you are removing the visibility of difference, which is what the whole movement was trying to give voice to in the first place.

Perhaps I'm still just a little too reserved on this issue. Today's class discussion has made me more open to the term, at least in an academic sense if not personally as well. My ideas of what it means to be "queer" are changing, and I'm hoping its for the better. Perhaps I need to reconceptualize my ideas of personal identity politics and what it means to me to be a gay man, or a member of the gay community. What privileges could I be unknowingly holding on to by my self-identification? Would identifying as queer demonstrate my want of a gender-inclusive movement that is not present within the gay community (since lesbians are so often left out)?

Look for more on this issue as the semester unfolds. :-)

11 January 2008

No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

"They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I don't know what them eyes was the windows to and I guess I'd as soon not know. But there is another view of the world out there and other eyes to see it and that's where this is goin'. It has done brought me to a place in my life I would not of thought I'd come to. Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction and I don't want to confront him. I know he's real. I have seen his work. I walked in front of those eyes once. I won't do it again. I won't push my chips forward and stand up and go out to meet him. It ain't just bein' older. I wish that is was. I can't say that it's even what you are willin' to do. Because I always knew you had to be willin' to die to even do this job. That was always true. Not to sound glorious about it or nothin' but you do. If you ain't they'll know it. They'll see it in a heartbeat. I think it is more like what you are willin' to become. And I think a man would have to put his soul at hazard. And I won't do that. I think now that maybe I never would."

09 January 2008

Take my hand and walk this road with me

It's now the third day of class of this spring semester and I'm already feeling a bit behind. The weather outside is a perfect reflection of my mood: sunny and warm one moment; cold, rainy and bitter the next. I wish that both the weather and my emotions would pick one extreme and run with it.

Admittedly it has been nice to get back into the flow of things, and I'm enjoying most of my classes. I'm finally in a place in my program where I get to take classes that specifically interest me. What sucks, however, is how limited I am now by my classes and their reading schedule. I've read well over two hundred pages of Feminist and LGBT theory in the past three days and I can already feel myself becoming overwhelmed. Panic is beginning to set in and I don't know how to curtail my feelings of indifference. I read over my last post and love how strong I sound in it, how sure I was of things getting better and my plan to re-evaluate and improve myself.

How silly I was.

Reading my last post gives me strength and hope that I can actually accomplish what I've set out to do. But the strength and assurance that comes from the wording of that entry does not accurately reflect the reality of my mental, emotional and spiritual state. Though I may speak with authority and sound brash and bold, I'm as scared as ever on the inside. Though I'm making progress in certain areas, I'm just as lost as before.

What I'm realizing is that, by giving up my "half-self" state of being, I'm actually risking much of what I've built my life on. Lately I've been reading Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex for my Feminist Theory course. In this book Beauvoir describes how women have become the subordinated "Other" through social institution of oppression that value men and their needs over women. Men do not need a definition, since they are the reigning champions of society. Women are defined as anything not male: therefore they become inessential beings who's subjectness can only be defined in relation to the being who has no definition.

What's more, Beauvoir wittingly shows how women are in fact "happy" with their state of subordination. If women were to suddenly cast off their men and assume a life of their own, then they are risking the loss of comfort and protection of the current oppressive system. Beauvoir says, "This is an inauspicious road, for he who takes it -- passive, lost, ruined -- becomes henceforth the creature of another's will... But it is an easy road; on it one avoids the strain involved in undertaking an authentic existence" (introduction, p. XX).

By casting off my "half-self" and rupturing my relationship with the person I most relied on for the gratification of all my needs, I have risked, and indeed, lost most of what I knew as life. I no longer have a partner. I go to bed and wake up alone. In fact, I spend most of my free time alone now. My joint banking account is gone, and I have lost an entire circle of friends. Moreover, my working relationships have been strained, and the color guard I've worked to build with my ex-partner is on the verge of falling apart.

No wonder women have been -- and to a certain extent still are -- afraid to rupture with the current power systems of privilege and oppression. As Beauvoir says in her introduction, we must get out of this rut! Rather than avoid the terror of taking on an authentic existence, I have taken the hard and arduous road of breaking with the one thing that gave me comfort, hoping that I can move on as an individual who is completely happy with me and who I am. As was stated in my last post, I will find myself in my studies (it's already happening) and I will learn to love again, both myself and others. I'm learning how to love in the face of hatred and extreme pain. I'm learning how to correct my mistake and let people love me the best way they know how. I'm ready to move forward, and I hope the people around me are willing and able to take my hand and walk this road with me.

02 January 2008

Wish me luck

I'm feeling this urge to write something, to let all that's happened over that past few weeks flow into this keyboard, hoping it will all somehow, once transfered to print, make sense. This holiday has been unlike any other I've experienced, and I can honestly say I've experienced the entire gambit of emotions ranging from complete despair to happiness to complete indifference.

And what scares me the most is that I've seemed to have lost who and what I am. I've worked so hard over the past couple of years to carve out a new me, someone that is independent of the Andrew that was present in high school. I intended to leave that person in Murray along with all the memories of people that I no longer need or want in my life. I came to the University thinking that I could have a rebirth of sorts, rising up in my own ashes a newer and better person. And in many ways, I think I've done just that: I'm now independent, I'm open and unashamed of who I am, and I'm no longer afraid of what being me may mean for myself or for others.

But in the process of all this, of recreating myself, of becoming the new me I made a grave mistake. Rather than defining myself as someone who is an independent subject, I allowed myself to become someone who was defined in part by my relationship to another person. Andrew was no longer the complete subject, but rather a half-subject that cannot be split from its other. This co-subject state allowed for me to put my life on the fast track to something that I never intended it to be, and the realization of this co-subject state and my subsequent break with this situation has caused plenty of mayhem for all subjects involved.

Let me be the first to admit that I've made plenty of mistakes: I am ashamed, and I see now that I have much growing to do. At times it seemed to me that my misguided choices had so irrevocably damaged the people around me that it was not worth carrying on. I wanted it all to stop, and if that had meant my "subjectness" needed to end, then so be it.

But of course that cannot be the answer. If god, whoever s/he may be, had wanted it that way, there have been ample instances that should have gone differently. I'm still here for a reason. And now, in this time of picking up the pieces, of once again trying to make myself whole again, I see now that god is trying to humble me and is deliberately putting me in this crucible. And I will not be defiant any longer. Come what may, I will keep my subject clean and close to my heart. I will no longer hurt anyone, whatever that my entail, even to the point of complete solitude (though let's hope it won't come to that).

Moreover, I hope that, if anything good comes of this, that its a renewing of my faith in whatever higher powers exist. I'm hoping to attend mass more often, and who knows, perhaps I'll start redeveloping my thoughts on god.

If anything, I want this next semester to be a time of self purification. I will find myself in my studies: I'm shooting for my first 4.0 semester in over a year. I will find myself trying to learn how to love again: this encompasses both myself and others. Should someone chose to take on my broken spirit and help me through this process, then so be it. If not, then so be it. Regardless, I will not become a half-subject again; I will not so attach myself that I cannot function on my own.

Wish me luck.