Monday, May 28, 2012

From this, the 4th part of an exchange between Simon Reynolds and Greil Marcus, all of which is worth reading:

"SR: I actually think the message of "Born This Way" is inadvertently reactionary. Obviously there's a political necessity for the "this is how God/Nature made me" argument to be made; I can see that, as a strategy and as rhetoric, it makes really good sense. But it's actually more radical to say, "actually, I wasn't born this way, I'm choosing to be this way, as an act of will." Which actually resonates more with pop history too, because pop is all about people reinventing themselves, choosing to be more glamorous or weirder or more deviant than they actually are.

GM: It's a shibboleth. It's what we're supposed to believe, regardless of what we do believe, or what doubts we might have. It's a good way to stop thinking. Any argument like that.

SR: Pop is about going against Nature, defying fate, making your own destiny."

I think it's this that has always struck me as retrogressive as the typical lefty argument for LBGT rights- the argument that "Yes, you see. They're just like the rest of us." Part of what has always seemed exciting about queer culture (Burroughs, dance music, new queer cinema, Genet, et al.) has been its outsiderness, its ability to not be chained to the mainstream and thus create new movements from this peculiar vantage of non-acceptance. Some of this comes, of course, from the "double-life" aspect of being in the closet and is interminably bound to being denied certain privileges that heteronormativity allows, but the American political struggle seems to at some point have been hijacked by a lobby aiming for assimilation- dependence not independence. Perhaps this is a result of corporations having taken the lead in gay-friendly initiatives, marketing, "diversity" programs, et al. Draping themselves in the rainbow flag, these businesses’ real aim is to colonize all mental space, to create a sphere wherein "diversity" means as little risk as possible and otherness can be crushed at its moment of detachment. It's not so much the otherness that Capital fears as the detachment. . Every single lifestyle has a long tail waiting to wag it. Every color, creed, orientation, or gender wears the same personality to their job interview.

There's an implication in the idea that gays are "born this way" that they've arrived with this stain through no fault of their own and therefore deserve to be treated no different than anyone with any other kind of congenital abnormality. The idea that any one might "choose" to be gay, given the circumstances of the hardship faced and the displeasure of not being included amongst the fantastic world us heteros have been running, is so bizarre and “unnatural” that it’s even a consideration. To defer from this inclusion is to defer from the essentialist myth of our own progress as one species under the unifying grip of Control. After all, we're making progress by legalizing gay marriage, right? Now gays can be exactly the same as the rest of us. And when every kind of difference congeals into a singular bloodstream to host onto the same parasites, that's progress, right?