We are forsaken to our existential condition. We can simply make-do with what is already underway, or we can accept responsibility for having the power to explore in a fashion otherwise than tradition teaches. Anarchocynicism only works so long as it adopts a queer praxis. Queer means inhabiting the world through purposefully different interpretations than those prefabricated within the superstructure–that is, queer takes up freedom by being different not only on purpose but with purpose.
Why? I reiterate: We are beings abandoned to tradition, thrown into a world with others already at work, already at life, already on their own way. In our socio-cultural situation, the accidents of birth play a big part in the path of our lives: How we succeed, when we “peak,” where we live, who we know, etc. We inherit biographic benedictions and maledictions based on these structures we did not plan for ourselves. The power of categories like “white,” “male,” “straight,” and “cisgender” define the impact of the blessings (having two or more) and the curses (having only one or none of them).†
These are part of the interlocking circles of domination that circumscribe dehumanization in the 21st Century. Each is the “positive” side of a false dichotomy which subjugates those who fall onto the other side as the not-white, not-male, not-straight, and not-cisgender. The positive is the normal, natural, good; the negation is the abnormal, unnatural, bad. In fact, the vicious dualing (dueling!) becomes so pervasive that the very use of the words carries with them all of the disciplining power gathered to them over millenia.
Would it be better to work toward a different way of speaking about these things? Surely, yes. Wait, no–imperatively–yes!
Everyday words when used by any subaltern–folks subjugated as alter to the “superior” actor–can quickly erode any serious commitment to test the feasibility of getting-out of the circles of domination. The ease of existential (re)capture lies in how all these prefabrications–belief systems, vocabularies, technologies, etc–to a greater or lesser degree contain failsafes that reconfirm system controls. The more complex the device, the more likely such failsafes will engage when not used in the approved fashion.
Just like there is a difference in degree between a generic lightsource–like a flame–and a technical lightsource–as a fluorescent bulb–there obtains as well a difference in degree between generic words like “a being” and technical language like “man” or “woman.” Yes, they appear simple: so does a light switch. But a very complicated set of presuppositions, training, and hardwiring has gone into what the patriarchy means in saying Man and in saying Woman.
In this sense, it becomes crucial to queer language. Appropriation of what had been one of many epithets slung at those who differ from the status quo, queer thinking should welcome whatever surreal language best avoids recapture by the superstructure. Queering language overcomes the walling (defining) function of normal-abnormal.
There is neither masculine nor feminine, male nor female, man nor woman in the ways these notions are used at-large. The language of oppression continues because folks seeking liberation from the abuses of white-male-straight-cisgender “superiority” continue speaking the lingua franca of “superiority.”†† The struggle for many is real and profoundly engaged. Yet annulling the usual meaning should not be confused with liberation from categorical subjugation. Salvaging terms like woman-girl, she-her, man-boy, he-him allows reentry for the virus of dehumanization.
We can queer reality or we can make-do with it. But the only serious challenge to reality will be queering it up. Challenges that do not rise to queering are only making-do by creating other forms of assimilation. That is a limited-freedom for those who have repurposed the defining power. It is not a decision for the freedom of all beings.
† I am assuming the “we” to be all humans and not all animals. Animals may indeed be abandoned in the existential sense of the word, but it is hard to say absolutely yes given the inability to communicate. It should be taken into account then that an assumed vector dealing privilege is that of “human.” Within that category, the meaning of the four vectors detailed here take place.
†† A little something for those still struggling with recognizing the power of accidental privilege…
Because of who you were born to be — because of who we were born to be — we are handed a lot of things. Among them, we can live openly, in safety, be employed and be ourselves and nobody can ever legally tell us not to be. There are a few ways we can react to this. We can feel guilty. We can feel lucky. We can ignore it all and and pretend it’s a liberal conspiracy and continue living blissfully.
Or we can engage with our identities.We can have conversations that will expose us and make us vulnerable, make us question ourselves and find answers, help us better understand ourselves and others. You have a race, you have a gender, you have a sexuality. Stop thinking of yourself as the default, an unmarked canvas, and start thinking about what these things mean to you critically. Learn, challenge, grow. Develop empathy.
And hopefully, once you do, you’ll realize your role in all this stuff isn’t to be taken lightly. I know you didn’t make the mess. It’s wrong to blame you for what other people did throughout history. Adding shame to the conversation doesn’t lead to productivity. But allowing yourself to continue uncritically experiencing unearned privileges in your life is perpetuating oppression complicitly. A decision to do nothing is action in support of bigotry.