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It has been written in several places none of which I am inclined to go looking for right this very minute but it should not be hard to find them if you yourself were to go look that we who suspect we are and/or have been classified by someone with the power to so classify people as being on the autism spectrum often feel that we were set down somehow on this planet from some other so strange do the people here seem to us and although I have felt this way for almost as long as I can remember having the imagination to worry about such things as alien parents or my own sketchy origins it is not at all clear to me that this feeling or suspicion or general impression of having been misplaced comes from any single cause because I can think of so many reasons why my particular alleged time and place of birth may have been a misfire on the part of whatever demiurges oversee from where our sense of "self" emerges.

I was told when I was little that I did not look like anyone else in the family even though a little later in life everyone who met us all said that we kids looked like dad and my mom looked all alone or at the very least surrounded by my father's image without anyone looking exactly like her to look back at her and I do not really know whom to believe. Certain circumstances have led to my looking here in my middle years like one of my mother's brothers and unfortunately for her one whom she has good reason to feel less than charitable towards but even so she did used to say I reminded her of him and usually in the same breath she would emphatically express how weird she thought this brother of hers was and so perhaps one can imagine how that struck me having already known that my genetic lottery had resulted in someone barely recognizable as family well as time has passed I have had a harder and harder time of imagining where my place might be in the family of humanity itself or at least those parts of it with which I have come into contact so often seem like such distant cousins that I feel more kinship with those mammals who for the most part have not yet lost their fur in the way that most people have and this might explain my desire since I was very little to be able to grow not only a beard but to sprout hair on my chest and belly and even on my back despite the general consensus of my contemporaries that back hair is disgusting. And yet they stroke their cats daily. Which is it?


At first it looked very unlikely that I would turn out in any wayhirsute but I have been pleasantly surprised in the response of most of my body's follicles to this hormone I inject weekly that is said to be responsible for something called my "masculinization."

I am fairly certain that I have already mentioned the degree to which I feel as though I have not hit manhood straight on in any sort of recognizable way other than outward appearances which to those who see me are unambiguously male if their reactions to me are any indication for instance I can no longer elbow my way to the foot of the stage if I arrive to see a band a little too late to just walk up and stake out my spot or that is if I try to do so I get more stink-eye for it than I used to but I still will sometimes try it anyway if only because I do not feel that I have seen a performer live unless I get to shake their hand in whatever way they may be offering it to the crowd I seem to need that physical connection to be able to understand that there is someone else in the room with me although admittedly I am also very selective in who I will let touch me but rock stars almost always are allowed.

Here is the thing though about how my gendered life has unfolded and the unrelenting either/or narratives that I seem to find no matter where I look either to my own cultural roots or someone else's and although I do realize that most narratives that I read in my language have been filtered to varying degrees by my own culture which seems happy enough to insist upon two mutually exclusive and anatomically determined gender categories and this model tends to run through everything and not only because the other European languages I read give every nameable thing a gender but also because the founding myths from which we seem to think our culture has arisen and from which we seem to assume all human cultures must have arisen almost all of them almost every single one that has been made available to me to read about in one of the three languages I claim to know offer two distinct choices for determining where one's place is in relation to even the entire universe and neither of them even though they think themselves all-inclusive neither of them bear any resemblance to how my own sense of gendered self has unfolded over time.

This might not seem such a big deal especially since as a culture we are supposed to be post-mythological and thus completely rational in our methods for situating ourselves in relation to all that is but I find that to be distinctly false that is I find that we are as soaked through with mythological beliefs about gender and what it means not only for men and women but for children and animals and planets and various cosmic harmonies we are as steeped in it as we ever were even when we think we are being scientifically objective. Nothing seems more obvious or as naked a fact in our culture than so-called sexual dimorphism but the truth is this dimorphism is itself a myth and always has been even before we were able to take advantage of biotechnology to change our general gendered conformations from as they continue to stress one side to the other.

That this terribly obvious fact excludes my own body and my own sense of who I am leaves me in a peculiar type of poverty that is relatively obscure because it is not the sort of poverty that most who have experienced a poverty of some sort have experienced and even less the sort of poverty that most of the people I meet imagine as a possible way of living for either themselves or anyone else. Nearly every narrative I read that has anything at all to do with how humans make sense of themselves in relation to their environment no matter which humans or which environments will manage at some point to refer the whole of life's meaning to one of two choices for sexual and/or gendered being and those two choices are supposed to be all that is possible and yet here I am not inhabiting either of them and in some very acute way I am aware of having been made impossible by the simple assumptions that nearly everyone I meet or read or talk to makes about sex and/or gender.

Being impossible as an instance of human life might be said to leave me with opportunities wide open and to a certain extent it does but it also renders me unrecognizable by the majority of cultural theorists and since everyone in a culture follows some theory or other or several related to it I have no alibi with which to justify my own identity when face to face with pretty much anyone I meet in life or in books or in the media or in any of the thousands of way we have devised to meet each other. No fall-back position means that I generally am expected to argue my way into comprehensibility every time the question of my gender arises and especially my gender over time. Because I do not feel as some of those who might be categorized with me do which is to say I do not feel like I was always male even though I identified with boys as early as I can remember but as a child I was very impressionable and believed nearly everything that anyone with any authority said about their life or my life or life in general and so at a young age I came to understand that even if I did not like it I was a girl and I spent some years imagining myself as some sort of female and although it might be true that I ultimately failed to come up with any gendered position that was legibly female I nonetheless identified as something like female even while I resisted any attempt to contextualize my life as something "feminine."

This might seem self-contradictory but it only is so if one insists on there being exactly two genders whose signs are anatomical and obvious and between which there is never a possibility of crossing. But what is more poignant in my own case is that I rarely run across any sort of founding assumption related to gendered humanity that takes my particular trajectory through gendered identities into account and I mean that in the strongest sense possible in that there is no account that would include me as an asset of any sort or at least they are very few and far between.

And so I am not possible. To the extent that I follow Zen Buddhism this might not be such a problem but to the extent that I also seek and often in vain for some sense of belonging with other people it makes the possibility of belonging quite unfathomable and incoherent and illegible. Examples of me do not exist as far as most narratives available to me are concerned neither in history nor in prehistory or even supposedly in biology or geneaology. If I take no role in the reproduction of the species I am a marginal being as far as anthropology archaeology and philosophy are concerned as well as religious practices and social expectations. In this I am not alone of course but my particular gender position renders my infertility peculiar in the extreme and rarely rehabilitated in some other possibly sublimated sense unless by my own efforts which are not only unaided but often vehemently opposed.

Thus I keep looking. I know that there exist people like me both now and in other times and places and I know that our voices have not been as a rule recorded or if recorded the record itself has not been deemed of wide enough value to recapitulate or reproduce or otherwise make continuous with the culture in which I find myself or as the case may be do not find myself even though it seems apparent that someone like I am someplace like here. Those narratives that do exist that suggest that gender is not confined to two divinely ordained and mutually exclusive categories tend to be fragmented and often written down with obvious moral outrage or ridicule or both. Given that I am a scholar of a sort I could pursue this line of research and perhaps I will eventually find it necessary to do so because I am not finding what I need in the places known as general knowledge. It is not my intention to be a queer theorist but it may be that in order to exist as a theorist I simply cannot be otherwise the question though remains whether or not queer theory need remain a specialization or if it can be seen as a political and philosophical intervention that has consequences reaching well beyond arcane genres of thought.

For instance I am still studying with less and less enthusiasm the Neolithic Revolution in Asia and Europe and even moving on a few thousand years to the clash between Rome and the barbarians and thence on to residual medieval paganism in Europe looking for something that explains our rapacity for one but also looking for signs of resistance to Christianization and monotheism and possibly some obscure motives also underwrite my efforts something like an impossible search for origins and whatever unconscious desires drive such a search and everywhere I look everyone seems concerned with male and female roles in this or that social context and whatever origins I might be searching for vanish all over again with each repetition of Christianized determinates of behavior and capacities intimately bound up as they are with the question of whether one is born male or female as though it were possible to know such a thing right away without asking the subject of whom it will be proclaimed an attribute.

Archaeologists rarely challenge their own gendered assumptions and even when they do the aim is usually to recuperate feminine narratives which project is necessary and useful but still tangential to what I find myself missing in most reconstructions of this or that culture. I am not an archaeologist although I could say that I have been studying some of the rhetoric of archaeology in particular the rhetoric of neolithic archaeology and so I have some sort of platform from which to perform an intervention if necessary but given what I have read so far there is very little already written to stand on if one is aware of more than the two customary genders attributed to cultures about which we really know very little beyond what we make up based on how we would like things to have been.

It is interesting for instance the degree to which prehistoric cultures in Europe and the Mediterranean appear to be "pre-capitalist" which of course they only are because we think that something like progress is being made from one economic development to the next. This is somewhat to stray from my point but it is every bit as much predetermined by the context in which modern archaeological theories are written as are conclusions about gender which is to say we have no reason to believe anyone who finds foreshadows of modernity cropping up ten thousand years ago.

Which is not to say that history does not have a long reach. It has a long reach but the cause and effect chain is not exactly as we imagine it and nothing proceeds in a straight line nor even in two neatly bifurcated lines.


This entry was composed @Dreamwidth.
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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
daisydumont
Feb. 13th, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
the title of this makes me think of neil young, but that's a superficial reaction. as to the substance, i found this interesting to read, but as usual i have little to chip in. the thought of considering oneself impossible makes me feel jittery, though. you know enough about me to get that i'm not fully comfortable with my own classification and consider myself anomalous in a way i can't define. (i'm lonely, e.g., but i can't imagine inflicting my messy psyche, especially the psychosexual part, on anyone else ever again.)

well, that was muddy. mostly i wanted to be here and say hello, i read your post! i'm a bear of so little brain at times.
eriktrips
Feb. 13th, 2011 11:42 pm (UTC)
It makes me feel jittery too! And sometimes sort of depressed or even despondent even if at other times it is all postmodernly exciting and avant garde or something. Finding almost no place in the stories that have been told thus far about European culture and cultures upon which we have inflicted ourselves is lonely for sure. And although I hear that there are people whose desires include the psychosexually improbable I have my own issues that get in the way of any desire to pursue that sort of relationship.

Looking for the clan that would have me with more enthusiasm than mere toleration implies is tiring. I suspect you might be familiar with the problem in your own improbable ways.

I very much doubt you are a bear of little brain. If you had subjected yourself to grad school I am confident that you could spew as well as any of us. It isn't about brains but about habit and compulsion. Writing a dissertation taught me that it takes at least 10,000 words even to bring together the barest sketch of what one is trying to say. Finishing it made it easier for me to find the ones I sometimes need is all. And perhaps removed the shame that might keep more prudent souls from trying to publish everything. :)
daisydumont
Feb. 14th, 2011 01:07 am (UTC)
>Looking for the clan that would have me with more enthusiasm than mere toleration implies is tiring. I suspect you might be familiar with the problem in your own improbable ways.

yes, i am, now that you phrase it this way. i can't imagine anyone i could try to explain it to who'd find it at all something to get into. if you know what i mean. (i like that about my "improbable ways." *s*)

i've likely already told you about how, had i continued in italian in 1973, i'd have wound up doing some kind of research into italian literature. just from seeing how academia operated, though, i knew myself for no scholar at all, in any way. they don't give advanced degrees to dabblers who just like pronouncing words. ;)
eriktrips
Feb. 14th, 2011 01:16 am (UTC)
they don't give advanced degrees to dabblers who just like pronouncing words.


Don't be so sure! In Rhetoric you could have cobbled something together relating desire and pleasure in articulation and made it perfectly respectable, if not downright groundbreaking! The trick is to determine what you can obsess about long enough to write something on it and then find a way to give it a research-oriented spin. Some programs are better for this sort of thing than others. Rhetoric was a "define your own field" department, which is why I applied: I couldn't have made up my mind in a more traditional discipline. :)
xx40
Feb. 14th, 2011 11:54 am (UTC)
*sigh* i want to grow a beard as well
i don't look a thing like my parents

...i think there are genders not yet discovered.
nothing crazy...

have you read slaughterhouse five?
he talks
about
how many different people
are needed
for childbirth...
not just two.
eriktrips
Feb. 14th, 2011 02:18 pm (UTC)
I haven't read Slaughterhouse Five but now I am going to go looking for it. And I agree that there are genders that Western culture knows nothing about and so there are probably quite a few people who feel much the same way I do and the miracle of the internet allows me sometimes to find some of them which is so much better than the way things used to be. But I still feel like it is up to us to make things up from scratch.

Maybe I should write epic poetry instead of autobiographical prose? I wonder what would happen if I tried that.

Do you have any prospects for growing that beard? On T or planning to be? I did not think I would get much of one because my dad and brother have very little facial hair but I seem to be a throwback to my maternal uncles who are relatively hairy. You never know what will happen.
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