another baedan piece, identity in crisis.
the following, and Patriarchy, Civilization, And The Origins Of Gender
Dysphoria Means Total Destroy (2011)
The last three weeks, every stranger I have come across has misgendered me, whether I’m femming it up or not. In the mirrored elevator doors at work my face looks tired, angular in all the wrong ways. With some unease, I recognize my dad in my reflection. Both my spiro and estro pills ran out today, and I’m flipping out. They’re probably going to arrive Monday, but they might have gotten lost in untracked airmail and what the fuck am I going to do if I’ve got to spend another Benjamin and wait three weeks more? I want to scream. I’m filled with steam. I’m warding off the desire to hit myself, and so I start daydreaming in my gray cubicle. I see a hijacked airliner turn and head directly towards my desk. I’m staring it down, making ridiculous arm gestures, calling it in like some sort of kamikaze air controller. There’s a loud flash, I disappear, and everything burns.
Being so qualitative, dysphoria is difficult to pin down exactly. A decent definition would be something like “intense unease in regards to (one’s) gender,” where gender is understood to include the entirety of sex, gender, and anatomy (since none exist outside of the discourses within which they are produced and they are all intimately interrelated). There is a tension, typically formulated as a contradiction between sex and gender, or between what one is, what one desires, and what one is not. Yet, a move away from positivity might help sidestep implicitly essentialist language while potentially opening up some new lines of thought.
Despair and hopelessness marks the quality of dysphoria, burning the border between the world and impossibility deep into me, making its omnipresence unbearably visible. Many other types of despair carry with it the seed of a hope that something possible (however unlikely) could fix the situation one despairs within: the cancer might go away, this ugly breakup could always turn around and spontaneously become a deep and lasting love, I might win the lottery so I can stop being in crushing debt, Obama might bring meaning to my life. Dysphoria carries with it no such thing. While there are despairs that do not carry this hope, the intensity, duration, and scope of gender dysphoria suggests that it is worth analyzing.
This conflict between actual and impossible does not exist in a vacuum, but exists precisely because of the naming-constructing-creating that is this world. The world creates its own impossibilities by its incessant productive categorization, as nothing fits its own definition. Everything is perpetually scratching at the walls, blindly, without any purpose. The intolerability that surrounds everything is also a graininess in everything. The border reveals itself as not one but two, a pair of overlapping shadows. The impossible existing and the longed-for nonexistent intersect here. While this graininess exists everywhere, dysphoria marks where this graininess comes into conflict with gender, and by extension the world and our constitution as subjects. Beyond not fitting the category we were assigned (I am not-this), it is our continually failing to be (I am not-that). This is where the rhetoric of the liberal transfeminist fails. I wasn’t born this way, and I can’t ever be either. Not-this would imply that dysphoria has a similarity with despair, sharing the commonality of something else one could hope for. The not-that both stands in for and precludes that hope.
It is important to recognize that I am not talking about individuals, beliefs, choices, or actions here, but of a conflict that takes place between graininess and the world within gender and manifesting itself through gender. There is no revolutionary identity here, only an irreconcilable conflict against and through identity. This despair and this hatred is the result. Subsequently, identity-based attacks upon gender will not be able to collapse gender. My taking hormones or getting surgery or whatever is simply my performing the conflict by the lines of power that run through me. It does not follow that these things constitute an attack upon gender itself, although it may stimulate it to evolve in order to maintain its existence. Through and against are distinguished by where (and thus how) the conflict takes place. These overlapping circles – the impossible existing and the nonexistent – produce one another endlessly, composing the topography of the world. I’ve gone over why the existing is impossible, but the status of nonexistent might be less obvious. The nonexistent is not something that can be acquired, but exists as the shadows and holes produced by the structuring of the world. It is not a way out. Yet, in the very foundation of this world lies its weakness, by the very fact of its own creating. Not-this, not-that: negation at its heart. Nothing, the very same as the graininess that gives rise to the conflict. Nothing because it lacks categories, because it is the emptiness that overflows every name given to it. It cannot be put to work, it is always breaking down. It cannot be rendered tame, but it will explode in revolt. It exists in the spaces between the things, and in the heart of every thing. It can never be contained. This Nothing attempts to destroy everything in its path.
Looking at the negative responses dysphoria presents, I think a course of action against gender emerges. Where dysphoria drives us towards destruction and away from interacting with gender on its own terms, we see something (or rather, Nothing) that dissolves, attacks, demolishes. This might often appear as destruction of the self or directed against the self such as suicide, drug (ab)use, self-harm, but also can appear as any other outwards action where I, unstable and miserable, unravel everything around me. These all are fundamentally an undoing, action which threatens the very existence of structure. Misgendering is an instance of this structure imposing itself, spurring this conflict into even greater violence within me. The violence visited upon trans bodies is also an undoing of the conflict, although it works in attempt to stamp out this Nothing. Every action we could take that interacts with gender directly will at best be ineffective, every effort to impose gender upon us is met by increased resistance, and all that is left is destroy. Only Nothing can destroy gender.
To elaborate and clarify: this world is typified by the operations of productive power, creating two overlapping shadows. At once, there is the existing, a direct result of power’s creation. As a simultaneous corollary, the nonexistent appears as produced holes, gaps, shadows, a mirage of what could be but contradicting themselves fundamentally. Both the existent and the nonexistent are impossible, empty. Their existence is both enabled and plagued by a graininess that cannot be contained by either but which production finds itself needing. Gender exists as an aspect of the power that creates the world, and while the obvious manifestations of gender can be separated from other aspects of power, its root is this power.
Dysphoria is situated in the space where the existent and the nonexistent overlap – that is, in the world – and is typified by antagonism and fundamental negation. On the one hand, it is a negation of the existent (not-this) and desirous of the nonexistent (not-that) in the modes of which it is capable. Where dysphoria can be softened by interacting with gender and attempting to bring the existent closer to the nonexistent, this will not affect power or the reproduction of the world. Where dysphoria becomes feral and lusts for dissolution becomes the exit from this world to a place that does not yet exist. To destroy gender, we must be willing to destroy the world it exists within. After all, there’s no hope anyway… why not?
the anti-social turn from baedan 1 (i suggest reading through up to queers gone wild, if someone wants to propose more of the article, then let us know…)
please feel free to add things in the comments here.
i was just reminded that there has been some real thought by anarchists i never hear about (or rarely) on psychology.
so future readings could be otto gross
THE DEVIL UNDERNEATH THE COUCH: THE SECRET STORY OF JUNG’S TWIN BROTHER – Gottfried Heuer
“I have only mixed with anarchists and declare myself to be an anarchist,” Otto Gross said in 1913. “I am a psychoanalyst and from my experience I have gained the insight that the existing order … is a bad one. … And since I want everything changed, I am an anarchist” (Berze/Stelzer 1999, p.24)”. He was the first psychoanalyst to link analysis with radical politics and wrote: “The psychology of the unconscious is the philosophy of the revolution” (Gross 1913c). So, when Coline Covington recently wrote, “Analysis is essentially a tool for revolution (Covington 2001, p.331)”, she was just echoing something that Gross said nearly 90 years before. He was not just a psycho-analyst – he was a psycho-anarchist and thus stands for the subversive potential of analysis – which earned him the epithet of the “devil underneath the couch” (Raulff 1993).
Although Gross played a pivotal role in the birth of what today we are calling modernity, with wide-ranging influences in psychoanalysis, psychiatry, philosophy, radical politics, sociology, literature, and ethics, he has remained virtually unknown to this day. Already in 1921, less than a year after Gross’ death, the Austrian writer Anton Kuh wrote of him as, ‘a man known only to very few by name – apart from a handful of psychiatrists and secret policemen – and among those few only to those who plucked his feathers to adorn their own posteriors’ (Kuh 1921, pp.16-7). Today, still, most analysts have never heard of Otto Gross, or their knowledge is confined to, ‘Isn’t that the one who became schizophrenic?’ To a large extent this is the result of an analytic historiography which Erich Fromm has rightly called “Stalinistic” (Fromm 1957, p.133): dissidents become non-persons and vanish from the records. This practice of purging history makes the story of Otto Gross a secret one: it was hoped that we would never know.
Yet Adam Philips recently said: “There is no future for psychoanalysis if it doesn’t want to look in other places for regeneration, and particularly if it doesn’t look to the places it wants to exclude. By its own logic, that’s where the life is, that’s where the action is” (Philips 1997, p.164).
Psychoanalysis was created as a tool to create a better future by turning from the present to the past. It is a “looking backwards to the future” (Handy 2002). What was repressed, powerfully returns, and thus the past gets continually created anew. History has exactly the same function on the collective level. The historian Edmund Jacobitti calls it “composing useful pasts – history as contemporary politics” (Jacobitti 2000). Mindful of this, let me take you “where the action is” – to look at the repressed aspect of analytic history that is Otto Gross.
Of course, his story was not always a secret one. There was a time, in the first decade of the last century, when the greatest minds in psychoanalysis were full of the highest praise for Otto Gross. In 1908 Freud wrote to Jung, “You are really the only one capable of making an original contribution; except perhaps O.Gross” (Freud/Jung 1974, p.126). A few months later, after Gross had been in an analysis with Jung that at times became what we would today call a mutual analysis, Jung replied to Freud, “In Gross I discovered many aspects of my own nature, so that he often seemed like my twin brother” (ibid., p. 156). Thomas Kirsch (Kirsch 2000) in his recent study of “The Jungians” does not mention Gross, although, in view of these feelings expressed by Jung, Gross might well be called the first Jungian. The writer Emil Szittya (1886-1964) even went as far as calling Gross “a friend of Dr. Freud and the intellectual father of Professor Jung” (Szittya n.d., p.211). As late as 1986 the eminent scholar of psychoanalysis Johannes Cremerius wrote about the C.G.Jung of 1909, ‘He is still completely and entirely the pupil of Otto Gross’ (Cremerius 1986, p. 20). So we might as well call Jung an early Grossian. In 1910 Ferenczi wrote to Freud about Gross, “There is no doubt that among those who have followed you up to now he is the most significant” (Freud/Ferenczi 1993, p.154). Ernest Jones in his autobiography wrote: Gross “was my first instructor in the technique of psychoanalysis” (Jones, 1990, p.173) and he called him “the nearest approach to the romantic ideal of a genius I have ever met” (ibid.).
OVERCOMING THE CULTURAL CRISIS – Otto Gross
The psychology of the unconscious is the philosophy of revolution: i.e., this is what it is destined to become because it ferments insurrection within the psyche, and liberates individuality from the bonds of its own unconscious. It is destined to make us inwardly capable of freedom, destined to prepare the ground for the revolution.
The incomparable revaluation of all values, with which the imminent future will be filled, begins in this present time with Nietzsche’s thinking about the depths of the soul and with Freud’s discovery of the so-called psychoanalytic technique. This latter is a practical method which for the first time makes it possible to liberate the unconscious for empirical knowledge: i.e., for us it has now become possible to know ourselves. With this a new ethic is born, which will rest upon the moral imperative to seek real knowledge about oneself and one’s fellow men.
What is so overpowering in this new obligation to appreciate the truth is that until today we have known nothing of the question that matters incomparably above all others – the question of what is intrinsic, essential in our own being, our inner life, our self and that of our fellow human beings; we have never even been in position to inquire about these things. What we are learning to know is that, as we are today, each one of us possesses and recognises as his own only a fraction of the totality embraced by his psychic personality.
In every psyche without exception the unity of the functioning whole, the unity of consciousness, is torn in two, an unconscious has split itself off and maintains its existence by keeping itself apart from the guidance and control of consciousness, apart from any kind of self-observation, especially that directed at itself.
I must assume that knowledge of the Freudian method and its important results is already widespread. Since Freud we understand all that is inappropriate and inadequate in our mental life to be the results of inner experiences whose emotional content excited intense conflict in us. At the time of those experiences – especially in early childhood – the conflict seemed insoluble, and they were excluded from the continuity of the inner life as it is known to the conscious ego. Since then they have continued to motivate us from the unconscious in an uncontrollably destructive and oppositional way. I believe that what is really decisive for the occurrence of repression is to be found in the inner conflict … rather than in relation to the sexual impulse. Sexuality is the universal motive for the infinite number of internal conflicts, though not in itself but as the object of a sexual morality which stands in insoluble conflict with everything that is of value and belongs to willing and reality.
It appears that at the deepest level the real nature of these conflicts may always be traced back to one comprehensive principle, to the conflict between that which belongs to oneself and that which belongs to the other, between that which is innately individual and that which has been suggested to us, i.e., that which is educated or otherwise forced into us.
This conflict of individuality with an authority that has penetrated into our own innermost self belongs more to the period of childhood than to any other time.
The tragedy is correspondingly greater as a person’s individuality is more richly endowed, is stronger in its own particular nature. The earlier and the more intensely that the capacity to withstand suggestion and interference begins its protective function, the earlier and the more intensely will the self-divisive conflict be deepened and exacerbated. The only natures to be spared are those in whom the predisposition towards individuality is so weakly developed and is so little capable of resistance that under the pressure of suggestion from social surroundings, and the influence of education, it succumbs, in a manner of speaking, to atrophy and disappears altogether – natures whose guiding motives are at last composed entirely of alien, handed-down standards of evaluation and habits of reaction. In such second-rate characters a certain apparent health can sustain itself, i.e., a peaceful and harmonious functioning of the whole of the soul or, more accurately, of what remains of the soul. On the other hand, each individual who stands in any way higher than this normal contemporary state of things is not, in existing, conditions, in a position to escape pathogenic conflict and to attain his individual healthi.e., the full harmonious development of the highest possibilities of his innate individual character.
It is understood from all this that such characters hitherto, no matter in what outward form they manifest themselves – whether they are opposed to laws and morality, or lead us positively beyond the average, or collapse internally and become ill – have been perceived with either disgust, veneration or pity as disturbing exceptions whom people try to eliminate. It will come to be understood that, already today, there exists the demand to approve these people as the healthy, the warriors, the progressives, and to learn from and through them.
Not one of the revolutions in recorded history has succeeded in establishing freedom for individuality. They all fell flat, each time as precursors of a new bourgeoisie, they ended in a hurried desire to conform to general norms. They have collapsed because the revolutionary of yesterday carried authority within himself. Only now can it be recognized that the root of all authority lies in the family, that the combination of sexuality and authority, as it shows itself in the patriarchal family still prevailing today, claps every individuality in chains.
The times of crisis in advanced cultures have so far always been attended by complaints about the loosening of the ties of marriage and family life … but people could never hear in this “immoral tendency” the life affirming ethical crying out of humanity for redemption. Everything went to wrack and ruin, and the problem of emancipation from original sin, from the enslavement of women for the sake of their children, remained unsolved.
The revolutionary of today, who, armed with the psychology of the unconscious has a vision of a free, happy future for the relationship between the sexes, fights against the most primal form of rape, against the father and against father right. The coming revolution is the revolution for mother right.* It does not matter under what outward form and by what means it comes about.
(From Die Aktion, April 1913, reprinted in Anarchism…, vol.1 p281, Robert Graham.)
[* A NOTE ON “MOTHER-RIGHT COMMUNISM”
Otto Gross claimed that the rape that established patriarchy was the true ‘original sin’ and “that the entire structure of civilisation since the destruction of the primitive communistic mother right order is false.” He also argued that “the real liberation of woman, the dissolution of the father right family by socialising the care of motherhood, is in the vital interests of every member of society, granting him the highest freedom” (Springer in Hueur, Sexual Revolutions, p118; Peter Davies, Myth Matriarchy and Modernity, p254-6).
Gross’ poor record at parenting his own children rather discredits his opinions on childcare. But he certainly took the issue seriously at an intellectual level. Indeed, the last paragraph of his last article includes the statement: “The mission: to make individual cells of the social body an object of agitation and sabotage. To initiate a fight against the principle of the family, that is, against the prevailing family of the Father Right, on behalf of the Communist Mother Right” (P.Pietikainen, Alchemist of Human Nature, p91).
Gross derived these ideas from Johann Bachofen, the 19th century historian, who had written that: “The end of the development of the state resembles the beginning of human existence. The original equality finally returns. The maternal element opens and closes the cycle of everything human” (August Bebel, Woman under Socialism, Ch.8).
Inspired by Marx, Engels was also very interested in Bachofen’s ideas, as well as those of Lewis Henry Morgan, claiming that: “The rediscovery of the original mother-right gens as the stage preliminary to the father-right gens of the civilised peoples has the same significance for the history of primitive society as Darwin’s theory of evolution has for biology, and Marx’s theory of surplus value for political economy” (The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, p35). Marxists such as Bloch, Benjamin and Reich continued this interest in Bachofen, and Erich Fromm wrote about the “materialist-democratic character of matriarchal societies” (The Crisis of Psychoanalysis, p149). However, as the threat of social revolution continued into the 1930s, the anthropological establishment wanted to discredit all such ideas. Bronislaw Malinowski made his thoughts clear when he said:
“A whole school of anthropologists, from Bachofen on, have maintained that the maternal clan was the primitive domestic institution. … In my opinion, as you know, this is entirely incorrect. But an idea like that, once it is taken seriously and applied to modern conditions, becomes positively dangerous. I believe that the most disruptive element in the modern revolutionary tendencies is the idea that parenthood can be made collective. If once we came to the point of doing away with the individual family as the pivotal element of our society, we should be faced with a social catastrophe compared with which the political upheaval of the French revolution and the economic changes of Bolshevism are insignificant. The question, therefore, as to whether group motherhood is an institution which ever existed, whether it is an arrangement which is compatible with human nature and social order, is of considerable practical interest” (N.Allen, Early Human Kinship, p70).
In recent years, however, anthropological and genetic studies of African hunter-gatherers indicate that early human society may well have been both matrilocal and matrilineal (Allen, p80-2, 186; Sarah Hrdy, Mothers and Others). Furthermore, in many simple hunter-gatherer communities, childcare is more collective, and women have more power, than in agricultural societies. So, perhaps, Bachofen, Morgan, Marx, Engels and Gross were more right than the anthropological establishment of the 20th century.
Of course, it still remains to be seen whether Gross’ prediction of a “revolution for mother right”, or Marx’s, not dissimilar, prediction of capitalism’s “fatal crisis [leading to] … the return of modern society to a higher form of the most archaic type”, will be fulfilled in the 21st century (MECW vol.24, p357, 350).]
other readings could be from On An(archy) and Schizoanalysis, and/or break out from the crystal palace.
we agreed to do a month of readings on gender, perhaps seguing into identity of other sorts…
we will be starting with gender nihilism. (link worked, then stopped working, now works again! thanks yi-yi!)
later readings to be determined, but will probably at some point include zerzan’s Patriarchy, Civilization, And The Origins Of Gender
story from anews on an action in greece
on anews this brought up (most oddly) questions of “indiscriminate” consequences and classism. thoughts?
the part about controversies and disagreements at the bottom of
the wikipedia entry for critical race theory
if people already have the charles mills article “but what are you really?”, then you could revisit that, although probably that won’t be the reading… (it’s a bit long), it’s just really interesting.
the following is from CRT:an intro
What do critical race theorists believe? Probably not every
member would subscribe to every tenet set out in this book,
but many would agree on the following propositions. First,
that racism is ordinary, not aberrational—“normal science,”
the usual way society does business, the common, everyday
experience of most people of color in this country. Second,
most would agree that our system of white-over-color ascendancy
serves important purposes, both psychic and material.
The first feature, ordinariness, means that racism is difficult
to cure or address. Color-blind, or “formal,” conceptions of
equality, expressed in rules that insist only on treatment that
is the same across the board, can thus remedy only the most
blatant forms of discrimination, such as mortgage redlining
or the refusal to hire a black Ph.D. rather than a white high
school dropout, that do stand out and attract our attention.
The second feature, sometimes called “interest convergence”
or material determinism, adds a further dimension. Because
racism advances the interests of both white elites (materially)
and working-class people (psychically), large segments of society have little incentive to eradicate it. Consider, for example,
Derrick Bell’s shocking proposal (discussed in a later
chapter) that Brown v. Board of Education—considered a
great triumph of civil rights litigation—may have resulted
more from the self-interest of elite whites than a desire to
A third theme of critical race theory, the “social construction”
thesis, holds that race and races are products of social
thought and relations. Not objective, inherent, or fixed, they
correspond to no biological or genetic reality; rather, races
are categories that society invents, manipulates, or retires
when convenient. People with common origins share certain
physical traits, of course, such as skin color, physique, and
hair texture. But these constitute only an extremely small
portion of their genetic endowment, are dwarfed by that
which we have in common, and have little or nothing to do
with distinctly human, higher-order traits, such as personality,
intelligence, and moral behavior. That society frequently
chooses to ignore these scientific facts, creates races, and endows them with pseudo-permanent characteristics is of great interest to critical race theory.
Another, somewhat more recent, development concerns
differential racialization and its many consequences. Critical
writers in law, as well as social science, have drawn attention
to the ways the dominant society racializes different minority
groups at different times, in response to shifting needs
such as the labor market. At one period, for example, society
may have had little use for blacks, but much need for
Mexican or Japanese agricultural workers. At another time,
the Japanese, including citizens of long standing, may have
been in intense disfavor and removed to war relocation
camps, while society cultivated other groups of color for jobs
in war industry or as cannon fodder on the front. Popular
images and stereotypes of various minority groups shift over
time, as well. In one era, a group of color may be depicted as
happy-go-lucky, simpleminded, and content to serve white
folks. A little later, when conditions change, that very same
group may appear in cartoons, movies, and other cultural
scripts as menacing, brutish, and out of control, requiring
close monitoring and repression.
Closely related to differential racialization—the idea that
each race has its own origins and ever evolving history—is
the notion of intersectionality and anti-essentialism. No person has a single, easily stated, unitary identity. A white feminist
may be Jewish, or working-class, or a single mother. An
African American activist may be gay or lesbian. A Latino
may be a Democrat, a Republican, or even a black—perhaps
because that person’s family hails from the Caribbean. An
Asian may be a recently arrived Hmong of rural background
and unfamiliar with mercantile life, or a fourth-generation
Chinese with a father who is a university professor and a
mother who operates a business. Everyone has potentially
conflicting, overlapping identities, loyalties, and allegiances.
A final element concerns the notion of a unique voice of
color. Coexisting in somewhat uneasy tension with anti-essentialism, the voice-of-color thesis holds that because of
their different histories and experiences with oppression,
black, Indian, Asian, and Latino/a writers and thinkers may
be able to communicate to their white counterparts matters
that the whites are unlikely to know. Minority status, in
other words, brings with it a presumed competence to speak
about race and racism. The ““legal storytelling” movement
urges black and brown writers to recount their experiences
with racism and the legal system and to apply their own
unique perspectives to assess law’s master narratives.
things even this cursory reading brings up–
1. what does it mean that the most cutting edge theory on race is coming from a group of lawyers?
2. obviously the solutions for lawyers are not going to be ours, but what responses could anarchists have to these different thoughts on what race means/implies in the us?
3. intersectionality is a term that has taken off amongst identity adherents. the concept was intended to be a challenge to essentialism, but seems not to have been at all. what do people think about that? have you had experiences with this term in particular?
and… a random but very interesting chapter from Seeing Through Race: Idolatry