this, that, and the Other

identity, alterity, and everything in between

Month: April, 2012

Updates and “advice for a new you”

Hello one and all. Sorry for being mildly absent (aren’t we all?), but I am in the process of some serious editing before sending off poems to journals and magazines and the like. Also in the process of looking for an apartment among other things. Other things include: stressful conversations, money issues, mild car issues, coming out as queer/fluid/bisexual/WHATEVER/Just-josh to the fam, birthdays, weddings, and other things that actually seem like excuses now that I type them all out. Anyway one of the poems I am editing I thought I would share with you, the reading world. I wrote it in the midst of all the above mentioned things while also reading some Heather Christle, Judith Butler, Julia Serano, Suzanne Buffam, Ish Klein, among others. So I give it to you from this context and wash my hands of this context. Cheers and love.

advice for a new you

 

you were sorry

in a personal way. a

description of things like settling

rain, a description of umbrellas. don’t

tell me about the sky or the origin

of things. the light is what we

left behind. backdrop to

shadow. tomorrow the glorious will

come, spend its night, whisper

of dawn and the kingdom

that is in your breast. you have half

of everything already, the

rest: alarm. to find that inner

beauty they tell you about,

first bury yourself, wait

three days, then

make new friends

 

Towards a Drag Christianity

Garbo ‘got in drag’ whenever she took some heavy glamour part, whenever she melted in or out of a man’s arms, whenever she simply let that heavenly-flexed neck… bear the weight of her thrown-back head… How resplendent seems the art of acting! It is all impersonation, whether the sex underneath is true or not.—Parker Tyler, “The Garbo Image” quoted in Esther Newton, Mother Camp

Over the past few days I have been asked a number of times what “kind of christian” I am. This is a curious phrase—the demand for a label, the religious truth of the subject, that will reveal itself by confession. Suffice to say my answer has taken a few forms depending on context but which has consisted of intentionally tense phrases like “secular/materialist christian,” “believing atheist,” or “reformed neo-pagan.” These titles of course are intentionally camp-y. They exemplify how “I” try to do the whole christian thing: as drag.

Drag—as espoused by Esther Newton, Judith Butler, and others—presents us with a duel confrontation. On the one hand, it presents us with an exterior woman who is *really* a man, and yet also presents us an exterior man who is *really* a woman. Drag, as pastiche, reveals simultaneously the absurdities of interior/exterior, male/female, essence/accident, and subject/object binaries. In Gender Trouble Butler notoriously shows how drag functions as a subversive act to reveal the constructedness of gender. Drag, for Butler, just as much as any engendered position, is a strategy, a posture which both situates the subject as well as produces the subject. The difference between a “man in drag” and a “woman” is precisely the normalized and compulsory practices which sanction and produce the woman as natural. Thus drag works as a means of not only subverting naturalized socially sanctioned positions but co-extensively produces a new position.

The key thing is this happens only by taking up the very languages and practices of the social. Butler is highly skeptical of any discourse which appeals to an origin *before* a parasitic or extrinsic power that corrupts some pure essence (like some feminisms which appeal to a matriarchal/matrilineal pre-patriarchy). Like Derrida, Butler finds no “before the Law”—any origin is produced retroactively by the Law’s conditions and prohibitions. If all we have are the terms of the Law, how do we escape (the “we” it produces)? Just because we only have the terms of the Law doesn’t mean we can’t use those terms in new and creative ways to undermine the very systems of power and oppression that the Law implements itself. This is, in short, how Gender Trouble seeks to show performatively subversive acts, like drag, can re-distribute power-relations and normative constructions of engendered subjectivity, opening up new possibilities of relation.

Likewise, asking questions about what christianity was “before the Law” (I think here of questions concerning a historical Adam and Eve, historical resurrection, literal second coming and resurrection, fulfillment of prophecy, eschatological literalism, etc)  are nonsensical and irrelevant regarding what christianity *does* and what type of christian subject it produces. Likewise, alternative positions which attempt to circumnavigate christian discourse (I’m looking at you new atheism) often uncritically accept and replicate the terms and cultural practices of christianity. I think a large problem with this is the tacit assumption that christianity is a system of beliefs—something subjects choose—rather than a historical object that conditions, positions, distributes, etc, its subjects. If we assume the latter though then we can see how christianity, as a structuring and organizing and productive machine itself needs subversion and critique.

Now subversive acts that reveal the artificiality of christian belief or practice needn’t happen by someone who identifies *as* christian, but merely by positioning oneself as a speaking christian subject (just as the “man in drag” accepts given gender categories). It is by speaking from this position, by using components of the discourse, its objects of construction, that one reveals christianity’s composition. Just as drag shows the artificiality of interior/exterior through its performance, so acts of drag christianity disrupt this very notion of an inside/outside of “a” christian community (saved/damned, orthodox/heretic, sacred/secular etc). Instances of drag christianity include textual manipulations (William Blake), liturgical subversions (HIV-positive men lying down in protest within notoriously homophobic churches), cultural parody (Life of Brian jumps to mind), among other options. The point isn’t whether an individual subject is within or without the christian discourse/practice but how these various ordering of bodies are rearranged to reveal new possible (and hopefully less oppressive) relations by questioning that very relationship. Just as the “man in drag” accepts the terms of normative gender relations and compulsory heterosexuality in order to reveal the discourse’s contingency, so too drag christianity accepts doctrines and practices in order to invent new practices and recodify its subjects.

VIDEO SURPRISE

SO. I made a video. I hope you like it. I read some old poems and a new poem and chat too much but I was feeling chatty. I also started talking too soon. ENJOY.

BTDUBBS: I realize I said something weird about tallow coming from milk fat WHEN WE ALL KNOW it’s rendered beef fat. MY BAD. It also was and still is in some places used in feed. So like, cows are eating cow fat. Gross, I know.