As an occasional trans-sartorial sapphist gender-fucker, I know more than many that – in the words of my colleague Carol Hanisch, the “political is personal”, and the personal should be kept that way. My identity as a male-dressing transegender feminist woman who chooses sex with femininist women is not one which I am happy to be appropriated by the mainstream hegemononic. My gender-neutral, though not neutered, male physiognomy is an accident of a eugenic-ordained biological process not of my own making and hence its political positioning is what is more important than the mundane physics of where it is placed. The choice of the word ‘ordained’ is perhaps apt, since the patriarchal Judeo-Christian religious establishment – historically – is most guilty in this regard, in instilling the guilt and shame driving homeogenics and giving it the veneer of ‘nature’. The constant reminders of their constructed sexual morality are potent, the public conscience managed by a thousand pricks.
But as delightful as it is to explore this issue among ourselves, I fear I must not allow us to digress too far, for a more serious – though related – issue is at hand and requires analysis, however our prior discussion will not be wasted in a correct analysis, as I’m certain we shall see.
The issue, comrades and friends, is a snide and deceitful item of propaganda in a right-wing imperialist organ known as The American Thinker, the self-negating title giving all the insight we need into its nouveau-colonialist perspectives. The remark I wish to draw attention to is this:
A delegation of American LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) academics was invited by gay groups to visit Palestine in January 2012. It included Katherine Franke, Professor of Law at Columbia University, Pauline Park, a prominent figure in gay organizations, and Jasbir Puar, a Professor at Rutgers.
The photos posted by a member of the delegation shows that the itinerary was carefully planned to present a negative picture of Israel and its “oppression” of Palestinians. The open statement and petition circulated by some of the delegation demanded that gays and their allies should oppose Israel’s practice of pinkwashing by all means including an international BDS movement. The delegation found that Israel’s pinkwashing was a “well-funded, cynical publicity campaign” to market a purportedly gay-friendly Israel so as to distract attention from its “devastating human rights abuses” against Palestinians.
Interestingly, two incidents in the report on this trip have received little attention. One is that the members of the delegation were told not to reveal their gay identity to their Muslim host families who would be uncomfortable with hosting openly gay people. The other is the extraordinary admission by Palestinian gays that the Palestinian LGBT community could not come out openly.
There is only a rhetorical point to be had insofar as there is, among the more reactionary elements of my community, an unprogressive negativity attached to “the closet”.
“The closet” is only “a bad thing” when viewed in one limited context. It has to be seen, mirrored against the illusion of “openness” created by so-called “open” societies” in western “democracies” where the normative behaviour is to “express” the composite ego/id ’self’ against a backdrop of “the other”. In the melee, the hetero-normative society requires a balancing “hidden” or “opaque” world against which to reflect “normality”. This other is expressed through supposed deviances, be they sexual (homosexual), political (communist) or racial (mulatto).
In contexts of non-imperialist, non-colonial, non-western hegemonic terms, “the closet” can be seen as liberating.
It frees the individual from the specific expectational meta-traits which define – often unwanted – identities and positions vis-a-vis a stratified social hierarchy For similar reasons, the Islamic hijab is championed by non-western, second-world feminists while a seeming anathema to the ego-driven West, which place the parochial before the collective in a way quite alien to older non-capitalist cultures. Like the grrl power hijab, or the balaclava (in anarchist symbolism, for example), or the masks of jesters who spoke truth to power, the “closet” is a tool of liberation, revealing opportunities for more nuanced and deeper political and social interactions than the proto-mnemonic ‘open’ society allows.
Western music is characterised by the screech of the violin, organised into symbolic class hierarchies: first violin, second violin and then the massed aggression of “the string section”. In contrast the music of the East – the ‘other’ – is led by the sitar, a sympathetic collective of played and drone strings: strings which are content to sound only in sympathy with the needs of the melody and in harmony with its sister-strings. They sigh, contented, even though they are not plucked.
This is our present role in history my LGBTTQQINAS-S comrades: to vibrate sympathetically with the cries of the oppressed.
Remaining sexually undeclared (and thus hidden from cynical Imperialist – and in this case Zionist - appropriation) is therefore in no way anal-
ogous to the shame-induced non-declaration of sexuality required by the heterocentricity of the dominant Western culture which disinvites radical change. It is a reclamation of the closet. As we now reply to jeers of “queer” with a proud “Yes, that’s my name. I’m QUEER, what of it?”, so we have taken possession of the closet and declared loudly and proudly: “yes, this is my closet. This is my personal coming out for staying in! What of it!”.
I began by recalling Carol Hanisch’s suggestion that “the political is personal”. Now more than ever it is required of the progressive to simply retort to the reactionary appropriation of identity with the simple insistent observation: It’s political. Its personal. You cannot ask it. I will not tell it.