individual

The differences that make collective work so difficult. Age, race, nationality, citizenship, orientation, sexuality, class, ableism, status, gender. The age difference at this moment rears its thorny head. The gap seems immeasurable, a loss of understanding and thus a shallow kind of empathy keeps us linked together yet without any collective agency or power to. There is a refusal, most generally, to engage theoretically with ideas, and to do the work of that engagement, of queer culture. What is that about? A refusal of queer theory, the very same as the refusal before it of feminism, always in younger generations. I know myself I was once young and, though I read feminist texts, they were  limited, but shone a light in darker times. I knew I needed words that were at once too feminine and too butch, but they were harder to find. Something of it also repelled me, fear of being known for that, the fear of more homophobia. Now there aren’t enough shelves for me to even access, queer, trans, black, brown, I cannot eat enough of it, even with the trans-queer-racialised phobias that generously still accompany such a diet. But now I am very middle aged. And I feel the youth holding on to me, either because I am a decrepit old relic of the past that needs aged care or like I am an old rock that anchors them in rough seas, usually both, sometimes neither. But yet they sail off into the heteronormitive world and seek to adapt themselves to it rather than to radically transform it. This is the greatest generational gap that I as a gen X adult become aware of. The acceptance of the generations not only before, this has always been, but after me, of the status quo, their desire to inhabit the middle rather than transform the shape and structure entirely, to push the margins out toward new worlds.

I am not interested in a life that re-situates me, my queerness (please do not call me questioning – as offensive as ‘confused’), in the centre of a renewed, late neoliberal white cis-heternormative episteme. And this fixes my alienation completely and also forces me back into the closet, for I must re-hide if I am to continue to survive in a renewed heteronormativised world. I have lived my adult life pushing and working for queer worlds, queer feminist space, trans queer anti-racist culture. And the youngers, hungry, sucking the blood and bone marrow I have produced to sustain myself and now them, feeds them in an unchanged heteronormative, white, cis money world. Everyone must get back out to work for the man. It is as if antinormativity and the anti-social turn never happened. Coming out today, writes Stephanie D. Clare, is not about social transformation but about normalisation. Social transformation instead harks back to the era of womens/civil/gay liberation, marking my body as very aged.

THE ROMANTIC NOTION OF COLLECTIVISM AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME

Addressing failure is hard. First there is the shame, guilt, loss of self, destruction, despondency, depression, anxiety. Its like the end of the world. Suicidal ideation. Read the books on euthanasia, how to end it all when the pain gets too much, to keep a sliver of a sense of control when all around is just destruction, desertion, abandonment. Such abandonment issues all rushed, flooded endlessly into the frontal lobes, through the entire nervous system, demobilising as planned.

The literature, the history, all explain the only way to change is through collective action. But they fail to take into account the impossibility of collectivisation across difference. Well they don’t fail to take this into account at all, but they also don’t provide any answers for the all the differences and structurally impossible obstacles that get in the way of such a romantic vision. Is this vision really just a romantic notion of the past now? A truth that once worked and so has been so thoroughly disintegrated by late all engulfing capitalism so as to never take any purchase ever again? How is it that it is always only the most privileged who get to build the romance of collectivism (a rhetorical question nonetheless)? Because the rest are too traumatised? And the shapes of traumatised collectivism, those brief nano seconds when they mange to bubble up through the piles of shite and vomit are so solidly coerced back towards the sustaining structures of the oppressors, they get us to build for them again and again, to rebuild their world that wants us freaks dead. Appropriate, infiltrate, take, use for the constant reassertion of normativity. Support those who struggle for normativity. Our efforts are always re-routed back to this. This is collective work in this late neoliberal time. Yes, you are aloud to congregate, to come together, but only to repair enough to get back out to work, to repair those cracked and broken from the demand of absolute productivity, to repair the damage inflicted by a system that would rather you dead so that you can all go back out to keep building that system that wants to kill you.

Stephanie D. Clare; “Finally, She’s Accepted Herself!”: Coming Out in Neoliberal Times. Social Text 1 June 2017; 35 (2 (131)): 17–38. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-3820533

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