The People Who Are Not Even Really People

The reading for this week was a welcome breath of fresh air.  We’re all at that point in the semester when we need to take a breath and remember that we’re human beings, not machines of academic excellence.  After finishing this selection of essays, I’d really like to borrow the book from you, Sean!  I already have a book you lent me, however, sitting on my coffee table amidst a sea of texts I’m perusing right now for my courses and my thesis.  Ah, there aren’t enough hours in a day.

Glave speaks of “how we name ourselves or are named by those who have the power to do so” (6-7), which speaks to the way in which are feel cornered and made to label or “name” ourselves.  In Alice in Wonderland, the doped up caterpillar insistently asks Alice, “Who are you?”  She must identify herself so that others, in a land where she has no social contract (much the same way gays and lesbians may feel in the Caribbean, or anywhere for that matter), can reference her and understand her, thus mastering or owning her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexuality frightens people because it is fluid rather than static.  Many who recognize this refuse to identify as either “feminine” or “masculine” or to choose one particular orientation to describe their erotic and romantic feelings towards others and themselves.  It is difficult to “name” a person who claims to be bisexual or transgendered, and we fear that we may never understand or “own” them.  Even just the prefixes “bi” and “trans” (“two” and “across”) incite confusion because they confront and challenge our own understandings of sex and relationships, which undermines our confidence as fully formed adults.

I do appreciate that Glave defines his subject positioning and his situatedness regarding “gay and lesbian” literature.  Again, like gender, I tend to find that sexuality is also a social construct, but also far from a static element in our lives.  Why do we hear so much about women divorcing and becoming lesbians?  Does this imply that sexual orientation is a conscious choice?  Yes, sometimes, I feel it is.  Glave explains that a particular writer who explores lesbian eroticism did not wish to associate her image or her work with this text, and he is clear that he finds this “sad,” and I wholeheartedly agree.  I do have misgivings about identifying with any orientation because I see it as limiting, and more for the use of others wishing to understand or “place” me than for my own satisfaction or identification.  Part of my senior thesis at Alvernia focused on lesbian sexuality in poetry, and I would feel immensely proud if my work, at any point, appeared in a “gay and lesbian” anthology.

Early in the semester, we discussed appropriating the word “faggot,” and it was suggested that this can’t be done–but isn’t this just what Faizal Deen accomplishes through his poetry?  I mean, the first poem we see is called “Young Faggot.”  Deen writes that “Faggotry scatters the love wherever it dances” (line 27), which, I think, paints a positive portrait of “faggotry”:  this word which carries such chains is, here, synonymous with love and acceptance, dancing naked with joy–what could be more liberating and metaphorical?  While the tone in this poem seems to shift a bit (which leaves me a bit disoriented), Deen has certainly exercised a power over words.

I enjoy this image and feeling of “spilling out / Of your jeans” (lines 2-3).  The clubs or “discos” offer freedom, liberation…abandon your inhibitions, laugh at them even, but don’t simply undress; you must spill out of your clothing, shedding those layers like you mean it!  Line eight mentions “the coffins of ocean.”  Doesn’t this wonderful imagery seem like an example of conflicting ideas?  We’ve established by now in this course that the ocean is a place of origins, yet we have coffins of ocean.  I’m a big fan of reading poetry to see how it makes me feel, rather than extracting social or political messages from its verses.  While I can’t make logical sense of this image, Deen’s ideas definitely affect me bodily.

Glave drops Oya’s name in his beautiful essay on the merging of the oppositional binary of male and female.  I think what his piece illustrates fullest is that the masculine and feminine merge, and we’re sometimes unable to differentiate the two.  Anyone who’s been reading my blogs consistently will identify my adoration for the Goddess as well as goddess images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note the swirling images which resemble miniature storms, making up Oya’s body, her robes, her presence.  These shapes represent chaos and change; Oya enters in Glave’s essay because she is here to incite growth and development within the sphere of gender and sexuality.  She is somber, looking to the distance and pointing, as if instructing the natural world to bend to her will, because she is the world, after all.  Lightning flashes behind her as she stands in command of you, me, and everything.

On page 181, I came across this passage and melted–I’m not sure how else to describe the way I seem to interact with poetry and poetic wording/descriptions such as this one:  [I]f your breasts end in red berries and your penis is green and attractive to hummingbirds and your uterus delivers raucous dolphins unto the world twice or even three times per year, or even if you merely wish to hold the hand of the person, a person, whom you love or desire and that person is the same gender as oonu, oonu had best watch yu backside inna Jamaica.

The transition between English and a Jamaican dialect is smooth (not to mention fun to read!)  This imagery is startling, spiritual, and intense.  Blue breasts which contain fruit, and a fruitful uterus which produces dolphins in record time are both indicative of a world whose creatures are all interconnected, brothers and sisters in every respect.  This animal is also appropriate here because the dolphins is one of the only known species, besides humans, to have sex purely for pleasure rather than for reproductive purposes (which also connects to the reproductive argument surrounding homosexual sex, sexuality, and relationships).  Not only this, but researchers have also recognized gay and lesbian dolphins!  A green penis (part of the natural world?) which is so sweet that it attracts hummingbirds also exemplifies this concept.  The point is this:  hold someone’s hand.  Pretty simple and innocent.  Love is not about gender, but rather about holding the hand of the one you desire or adore.  The dolphin, a creature of the feminized sea, enters the scene to tell us that s/he is our sibling, and this is unmistakable if we simply listen to our mother:  the waters in which the dolphin lives.

Glave writes it is “clear to you how they [Jamaicans in this context, but really, people everywhere] would prefer that your son become a thief rather than a faggot” (183-184).  We’ve read a few similar sentiments in Dr. Bleach’s “Intro to English Studies” course this semester.  It seems that we don’t want sons who read (or paint or dance or laugh for that matter) because the study of English and literature are considered so feminized.  You have to be gay if you’re a man who likes to read and then reflect upon it, no?  I can recall a former friend of mine telling me years ago, as she held her infant son in her arms, that she’d rather he turn out to be gay than bring home a black girl, as a heterosexual man.  Obviously, in her small world, both possibilities seemed quite bleak.  What about hoping that he’s happy while holding someone’s hand?  I wish now that I could have offered to her, “Maybe he’ll have blue breasts and a green penis used to nourish hummingbirds!”  Maybe he will be she, or both.

Glave mentions on page 184 “the people who are not even really people” in reference to gays, lesbians, really anyone identifying as queer (which would include me, as a tattooed feminist who doesn’t own a razor).  Unfortunately, this is the most accurate way to phrase the situation.  Gays, lesbians, those who align themselves with the term “queer,” transsexuals, the confused, the questioning, the bitter and the outraged:  you are considered by many to be less that fully formed human beings.  Those who may fall or fit into any of these categories are reduced to animals, beasts, creatures which have been mutated or deformed so that recognition is rendered impossible.  What we need to recognize, however, is that we’re all the dolphin, born out of masculine and feminine energies.  Duh!

Why didn’t you think of that, ya turkey?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glave writes, “And so the child longs to move unscathed through open public space with his/her red-berried blue breasts but must eventually do battle to be permitted full and unmolested possession of them, at least in this world in which we live” (185).  This touches on the personal with me because I do believe there’s a disconnect between the self and the body, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.  We “other” ourselves every day due to commercialism, consumerism, and capitalism, and we have no clue this is even taking place!  Outside of poco theory, this battle Glave speaks of has much to do with reclaiming our origins, our most primitive desires, and refusing to issue an apology.  But how is this done?  Within the realm of this course, I would argue that to truly possess what rightfully and undeniably belongs to us, we must make visible our red-berried breasts, examine them, touch them, and reconcile ourselves to the fact that we’re all children, in a sense, learning as we pass through.

Glave also discusses the “occupying” of our own bodies (185); I don’t believe we do this, at least not in America.  Rather, our bodies possess us, and they have become projects.  This is what’s so sad in a sort of comical way, about death; our unfinished projects must be put on hold indefinitely when death so rudely interrupts.  We adorn ourselves with symbols of status without truly wearing these garments or other objects.  We respect and idolize others because they are beautiful, while dismissing or outright rejecting the inconvenient fact that they may be destructive, deceitful, ignorant, and in fact ugly.  I’m sure Jordan can attest to this in the way that we consume food and drink mindlessly, uncaringly, welcoming toxins and processed materials into our systems.  There is a myriad of ways in which we have abandoned our bodies:  sexually, nutritionally, emotionally…and for what?  Convenience, “attractiveness” (people in general, I think, have a fucked up idea of what this word means), and self-confidence (the product of self-delusion).  Consider how difficult this endeavor is when we throw homosexuality into the mix.

I’m in love with this guy’s prose!:  “[G]reat lavender-furred lions have begun to crawl up out of the sea in search of the coconuts that alone will slake their yawning thirst” (187).  What can we say about this?  Is this unlikely image utilized to portray the idea of the “other” arriving from the waters of birth?  Yes, I think so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In his endnotes, Glave points out that even the transsexual woman, recognized fully as a woman (because how else can we recognize people?  partially?), suffers the burden of femaleness (holler to Tambu!).  I’ve found that some gay men playfully (or seriously?) express the wish to be women.  This is good; it’s healthy to be curious about the entity that is gender and body.  What I’d like to point out, though, is that homosexual men still maintain male privilege.  As heteronormative as I’d like to be (hypothetically), I will always be considered (or not considered at all?) inferior to man.

I’m glad we explored a unit on queer literature; although it’s part of my chosen discipline, I haven’t been exposed to much of it in an academic setting.  These essays are touching and beautifully written, especially Saint’s narrative of self-discovery.  He tells us that he was very young when he realized that he was attracted to men.  The concept of the gay child is debatable, and I read an article about it in Bust not long ago.  The fact is that we do have gay children, and we must nurture their happiness rather than queering or othering them further at such a vulnerable stage as childhood.

Advertisements

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Sean says:

    I left this long and elaborate response, and it didn’t post.
    I’ll make it short this time, but not really!

    Sexuality as a choice, now that’s interesting. I agree, but disagree. It’s an unnatural choice forced upon us by social constructions of how gender is attached to each or either sex. I was forced to either hide or admit who I was as gay. What the hell is gay anyway! I like men, and have always been sexually attracted to them. Why is it we must be forced to identify as a certain sexuality, choose our own sexual preference. IT ISN’T A NATURAL choice, it’s part of our genetic makeup. We as humans love sex, and who we do it with, or like to do it with, is a natural part of our genetics, and the fluids sloshing around in our brains. I read this book once called Hooked, it’s all about sex and teenagers. When we touch people fluids are secreted in our brains that create key connections to our psychological thoughts. When you have sex with someone, those fluids are released. So in essence our sexual relations are a product of the functions that are going on in our brain. CRAZYY! Even something as little as a touch, a touch can start these chain reactions. I know a little off topic, but I like to think sexuality is a creation of these bodily functions.

    I see why you say sexuality is a choice, but like I said it’s an unnatural one. An unarbitrary one. The more I realize it the more I see that our world is overly genderized–I know not even a word but it fits. From the moment we’re born colors are assigned to us according to our sex which in turn is associated with our genders. Blue for boys because it’s masculine, pink for girls because it’s feminine. And yellow is gender neutral?!!! WTF is the difference. In animal world it’s always the males who are bright and colorful. Male cardinals are red and flashy, females are a natural brown. Even male seahorses give birth to their children! WE as humans have it seriously fucked up.
    Did you notice a switch in Glave’s narrative dialect? He switches it up to an almost dub/creole type rap. He’s writing against a variety of Jamaican rappers who have violently rapped against homosexuals. One even said that all homosexuals should die by a machete to the head. Disgusting! I love Glave and if it weren’t for him this anthology of literature wouldn’t exist. So cool!

  2. Jenny, it seems like we have similar interests, though you write more eloquently on the issue than I did. The “naming” tendency is one that I find so continually interesting. If we can name something we can control it, own it, put it in a little mental box and tape down the sides. The colonial tendency to name seems especially persistent in sexuality, which takes us conceptually from colonial history to the neo-imperial reality of the digital age. How wizened are the moderns with their binarizations and name-calling, really? Sexuality, so basic to our humanity, seems so far from our conceptual common ground.

    1. Sean says:

      I agree Jordan, sexuality is so basic to our human nature. BUT then is our sexuality a product of our need to procreate and populate the world? OR is it a product of our need to be physically intimate with other human beings? I think this division between the purpose of sexuality/sex is what creates the problems we associate with sexuality. Religion dictates that sex should be for the purpose of procreation, thus homosexuality and or other forms of non-procreating sex is wrong. People who engage in “casual” sex, often sleeping with many different people, are considered social sluts. Why? They are more in tune to their own sexualities than most of us. Why is there such a taboo placed on our own sexualities? I think once we get rid of these social stigmas, we might actually have a natural understanding of sexuality that is so inherrent in our human bodies.

  3. Sean says:

    Touche on the whole appropriating the word “faggot.” I personally don’t agree, or find it empowering. But hey, to each his own. I’ll still never use it as a slogan for gay pride/power.

  4. lotusgurl says:

    Thanks, Jordan! I think we do see things similarly, which is why we have so many awesome conversations at work. Naming is definitely a tendency in colonialism/poco–the naming of something or someone (thingification!) seems parallel to owning or enslaving them, no?

    Sean, by “genderized” do you mean gendered? Yes, the world is very much gendered. And I think that sexual orientation is only sometimes a choice, i.e. my point about gay children versus the divorced woman who has “washed her hands” of men and is now a lesbian.

    You said twice that sexuality is an unnatural choice–what do you mean by this? By “unarbitrary” you mean that it’s a choice born from thoughtful reflection and experience rather than impulse? I’m not sure what you mean when you say that sexuality is forced on us by social constructions–do you mean that gender is? I tend to see our sexual experiences as deeply personal while our gender is a social performance as Dr. C. reminded us last week. Yes, it feels quite unnatural to be a “closeted” homosexual, I’d imagine, but I’m still struggling with this idea that if and when sexuality is a choice, it’s an unnatural choice. The parallel between “arbitrary” and “natural” is throwing me off! Does it take much thought to figure out who we find sexually desirable? Hint: the answer is no!

    I get your frustration over identification, which is why I sort of “opt out” of such a “packaging” complete with “taping down the sides” as Jordan put it.

    1. Sean says:

      It is arbitrary because we are forced to create, or identify, as a certain sexuality. AND yes, I thought very long and hard growing up about my own sexuality, only because I was forced to. I was confused between what I thought was “wrong” and “right” and what felt natural. People always ask, well how do you know your gay? Have you really thought about what it means to be gay? Are you sure this is what you want? What the hell does it fucking matter, what I think, it’s about how I feel sexually right? Try telling your body it’s unnatural when you get a hard on over a guy. TO even have to think like that IS unnatural. So yes for me growing up my sexuality took alot of thought, more than it should have. Our sexualities are normal impulses. Society dictates what is socially acceptable, thus, one who is socially different, has to think about the “choice” which really shouldn’t be a choice.

      Kids when they are young give no thought to sexuality, race, and gender. Think about what would happen if they were left to naturally grow without social influence. There would be no unnatural thoughts about sexuality, it would just be. Race wouldn’t exist, would it? And gender would be non-existent as well.

      So yes, it is unarbitrary for sexuality to be coined as “gay”, “straight”, and so on…..TO have to choose between one or the other is arbitrary, especially when your body knows what it naturally wants. AND yes I meant gendered, I was having a brain fart! Maye this can clear up some of what I said?

      1. Sean says:

        Sexuality on it’s own is natural–we know what we want.
        Sexualtiy when its fucked up by humans is arbitrary–having to choose between what is acceptable and what isn’t.

  5. clutzclemens says:

    I agree about the subject position discussion, and I admit that I was a little annoyed with myself when I was surprised to read that some writers didn’t identify with the label and therefore did not want to be included in the anthology. Why I would think sexuality could be essentialized? It shows that we all have a ways to go. I, too, found the readings this week to be so human, something that we sometimes aren’t allowed to acknowledge. If I can add a book to your list, I would add Boo’s National Book Award winner. If you want to read something so human it hurts, you should pick it up. I thank Sean for getting me to think about this unit and a line of study within poco that I know very little about.

  6. cturn215 says:

    Jenny,

    First of all: Brule’s Rules! Ya turkey!

    Ahem…

    I loved Glave’s text, his connection between the hermaphrodite body and nature. Fluidity of gender is indeed “natural”. I think it’s telling that gender/sexual hybridity–by which I mean bisexuality and transgenderism, as well as homosexuality, is in many ways more natural to society than to the hybridity between anglo/ethnic culture. Only one form of hybridity is the consequence of colonialism…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s