Saturday, July 11, 2015

Bits and Pieces: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Image via HuffPo

Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a chronicle [word choice? Greek, epic poem connotations?] of her life during a time when her partner Harry Dodge is transition to a Butch on T while Maggie is attempting to become pregnant. Well, while, and before and after. There's a lot of discussion on gender, sexuality, queer theory, and family.

I highly recommend it - though be prepared to keep your laptop or phone nearby so you can google people, theories and quotes - it made my head hurt some - honestly, I told a coworker who read it before me, that I didn't think I was intelligent enough to read it, but well worth the effort.

I beheld and still behold in anger and agony the eagerness of the world to throw piles of shit on those of us who want to savage or simply cannot help but savage the norms that so desperately need savaging. (32)

How to explain, in a culture frantic for resolution, that sometimes the shit stays messy? I do not want the female gender that has been assigned me at birth. Neither do I want the male gender that transsexual medicine can furnish and that the state will award me if I behave in the right way. I don't want any of it. How to explain that for some, or for some at some times, this irresolution is OK - desirable, even (e.g., "gender hackers") - whereas for others, or for others at some times, it stays a source of conflict or grief? How does one get across the fact that the best way to find out how people feel about their gender of their sexuality - or anything else, really - is to listen to what they tell you, and to try to treat them accordingly, without shellacking over their version of reality with yours? (53)

Homonormativity seems to me a natural consequence of the decriminalization of homosexuality: once something is no longer illicit, punishable, pathologized, or used as a lawful basis for raw discrimination or acts of violence, that phenomenon will no longer be able to represent or deliver on subversion, the subcultural, the underground, the fringe, in the same way. That's why nihilist pervs like painter Francis Bacon have gone so far as to say that they wish that the death penalty was still the punishment for homosexuality, or why outlaw fetishists like Bruce Benderson seek homosexual adventures in countries such as Romania, where one can still be imprisoned for merely hitting on someone of the same sex. "I still see homosexuality as a narrative of urban adventure, a chance to cross not only sex barriers but class and age barriers, while breaking a few laws in the process - and all for the sake of pleasure. If not, I might as well be straight," Benderson says. (73)

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