Friday, April 20, 2012

THE ONTOLOGY OF TRANSGENDER

The attempts of third wave feminism to revivify through redefining feminist tenets has resulted in a broadening of its set of assumptions and ideological positions. As it seeks to embrace variegated strands third wave feminism demonstrates a fundamental contradiction. A universalization of differing cultural realities and contexts both serves the humanist assumption of wholeness and a decontextualization of diverse forms of feminism into a monolithic rubric. In a sense even though the aim is liberatory feminists reduplicate patriarchal structures of naturalization and crystallize intractably, under an undifferentiated canopy , the multiplicitous realities of experience.

And to consolidate, to assimilate does fulfill a humanist ideology but the need for such wholesomeness reflects on our collective consciousness which presupposes communality of human experience. It would be churlish to deny subjectivity but it would be equally petulant to deny that what makes us the race it does is the shared experiences, the stories we narrate and are moved by, the accounts that bring tears to our eyes and the fact that its not impersonal expressions of compassion that prompts this but a space where one's subjectivity becomes part of a larger subjectivity which it both mirrors and defines itself through and against. The larger subjectivity, many would argue is a construct and the individual subjectivity a peregrination through realms of singularity constituted and legitimized socially. But given the experiential realms we inhabit a transcendent conception of an unequivocally immutable, inviolable self remains an abstraction, amorphous and indeterminate.

The word transgender is fascinating. As is the case with any linguistic signifier,it defines and excludes, contains and repudiates and by its very linguistic constructedness atomizes and compartmentalizes. There are two ways of seeing this. Transgender would imply beyond gender, beyond antinomian schisms, beyond dichotomous constructions. This, as has been noted, throws into doubt the compulsory heterosexist notion of gender distinction as pronouncedly male and female. And a polymorphous possibility is instated that subverts this homogeneous postulation by revealing its own artificiality. So far so good. However transgender also is a locus of equivocation because by itself indeterminate it is still defined in relation to its essential difference from male and female. Moreover embedded in this is the idea that the transgender's indefinability  is placed against a panorama of gender dichotomy. A transgender is who he/she is because they aren't specifically he/she. However this defining themselves against this schism reaffirms the fact that the duality is the premise, the foundation from which other permutations and their possibilities of transgression are predicated.

And this is important because a nebulous indeterminacy, divested of cultural signification would always be an abstraction. To get at the heart of cultural constructedness its premises need to be tweaked from within. The irony is that it makes fluid and protean intransigent structures of power but unfortunately can exist only in relation to and in extension of the very structures of power it eschews and interrogates.

The question is that is it possible for us to think of a time when things were different, which becomes uncertain because the further we go back, the further does the beginning of things recedes. Or can we think of a time when things will be different. The past and future underscore the present which partakes of both yet   validates none. It seems acculturation has, by naturalization, created its ubiquity and actualized it. Things, concepts have been the way they've been for so long that teleological redefinitions are impossible. What is possible is to question the world and what constitutes it and wrest indeterminacy from the very heart of cultural determinism. The Lgbt community has to focus on the fact that its iconoclasm will be incessantly underpinned by its unconscious complicity with the very institutions it seeks to oppose. We need to redefine not who we are because we are what we are but the spaces we inhabit and what we choose to do with what we were, are or become. That, to me, that radical re examination of spaces, from within, would institute change and create spaces for coexistence of multiple phenomena where the centrality of one is an chimera and the margins themselves sites of center, of an undefinable, undefined, kinetic center, open to diversified change.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Homophobia- A humanist treatise

Stereotypes and ideas of normativity permeate our lives. We bring them into existence and are subsequently entrapped by them. One of the most visceral fears of mankind is fear of the unknown, the idea that the unknown is an alien mutation with an alien morphology. And a fundamental unawareness that the putatively incongruous always resided subterraneously, unnoticed and unconsidered. From a psychological perspective the mind is a vast repository of unconscious forces that defy explication . The unconscious is not merely of an individual nature the tapping of which would uncover the nebulous mysteries of the flesh. It is also collective in nature and a repertoire of social, cultural , a priori realities are embedded within it. Now a locke would suggest that the mind , by dint of association, apprehends the world, initially as sensations. My own view is that of this communal notion of mankind which is our given birthright containing within itself contradictory equivocations. And some are acknowledged as functional necessities of survival while others are repressed for fear of censure or disdain.

Such a view would suggest that a pre existent, albeit suppressed nature of the 'other' is inevitable. The more assiduously it is repressed within the unconscious, the more indefatigable its conscious repudiation would be. And the fissures or cracks within these layers of mind can induce willed ignorance or precipitate greater self examination. What, most often, is condemned, is many a times, a repression of that self same propensity in the self. And while not all homophobes are latent gays certainly their fear of homosexuality is visceral and primordially unsettling, to their notions of identity, rooted as they are in a manichean schism. The dichotomy is itself a construction and a defense mechanism. And while its constituents have been rendered threadbare by psychoanalysis their need is perhaps understated. We need these mechanisms to cope and a utopian world where the unconscious would be visible is unthinkable because as new realities emerge, newer forms of containment are promulgated.

One of the techniques of rendering the inadmissible 'other' permissible is its naturalization which seemingly assimilational redoubles difference. As political changes metamorphose gay lives the popular consciousness assumes a tolerant, condescending attitude suggestive of patronizing. And this in itself is an intricate psychological mechanism which diffuses the incendiarism of homosexuality by a show of tolerance and acceptance, themselves suspect words, redolent of superiority. Its ok to be a gay is not far off from, you're gay, how cool is that. And fashionability is a reductio ad absurdum of a mode of being and a way of life. Threats of reprisal and retribution lurk beneath, intimating the underlying impugning.

Which is not to deny the fact of change. Change there is and welcome too. A polymorphous society would embrace difference but the word difference is highly suggestive implying an anomalousness. When the 'norm' is in itself suspect efforts to sanctify it, affirm its sacerdotal quality can only intensify and augment otherness making co existence a possibility.From a humanistic perspective co existence is a misnomer, emblematizing different forms which are hierarchized and prioritized. Under a vast, undifferentiated humanity wholesomeness is the fundamental reality, a holism that acknowledges no distinctions. Assimilation is a problematic word too as it reinforces the ineffable centrality of a 'norm' where otherness is amalgamated.

But these are linguistic ratiocinations. Gays are speaking up and coming out and becoming comfortable where they are. Forms of homophobia are harmless largely because they lodge in the unconscious and rarely, if ever,emerge as everyone is too busy leading their lives to bother about two men. It is when leaders and religious groups and political parties intervene that an arena of warfare comes into being. These representatives of mass culture, however apocryphal, possess the ability to sway public opinions.

As thinking individuals we all need to interrogate the barrage of mis/information hurled at us, test them against our own liberal beliefs and constantly probe our minds to acknowledge the sheer irrationality of the positions we take and crystallize them into ideology. The unconscious is an untraversable sea and always will be but as layers are unfurling newer realities, always existent are arising and these are a testing ground both of the dubious nature of what we misconstrue as ubiquitous and the fact that in a protean, kinetic world, it is lateral  contiguities that exist, not linear, chronology.