I know a lot of trannies are sad or pissed off that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act isn't going to pass with them included. I'm a tranny. I'm pissed off, too. But no legislation has ever been able to deal with the root of the problem: You can't handle the impact of desire on a culture through the use of power politics or identity politics. No legislation can ever change how people feel about the chaos of desire.
At best, and even in it's most complete form, ENDA would have mostly protected people who cleaned up well enough to get a job in the first place: straight-looking people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual. These are folks who mostly define themselves by their desires. Well, there's a whole lot of other people whose lives are defined by their desires who would never be helped by ENDA. Harmless people. Nice people. People whose relationship to desire breaks the law nonetheless. LGBT doesn't even begin to include all of those folks. There's a whole lot of other letters that need protection from discrimination. You could start with these:
Q for Queer
S for Sadomasochists
G for Genderqueer
Q for Questioning
S for Sex Workers
K for Kinky
A for Allies
S for Swingers
P for Pornographers
A for Asexual
S for Sex Educators
P for Polyamorists
A for Adult Entertainers
I for Intersex
E for anyone Else who just plain likes sex
Even if ENDA passed in i's full version, none of these people would be included. And they certainly wouldn't be included in the version of ENDA offered by the terrified, well-intentioned, only somewhat cowardly, only somewhat bigoted Representative Barney Frank and his allies. But that's okay. The bill was originally designed on behalf of people whose sexual orientation alone could get them fired. That's okay if you believe that sexual orientation is based solely on the gender of your partner -- which it's not. A woman could be heterosexual, but that doesn't mean she'd fuck anyone with a penis. There are lots of factors that go into defining the nature of our desire -- factors we ignore in our McDonald's version of sexual orientation: this way or that way.
Besides, how could you fit all those letters onto one banner anyway? Instead of LGBT... you'd have something like LGBTQQAAASSSSIGKPPE, and that's a hell of a thing to fit into a sound byte. You can't even make an anagram for it, because of the two Q's with no U's. Nope, it's just LGBT. Even then, the B and the T are virtually invisible and only along for the ride. What we've really got is L&G, a movement of straight-acting, straight-appearing lesbians and gay men who want more rights for themselves, and damn everyone else whose identity depends upon their relationship to desire.
The bonds that tie together power, desire, and identity just aren't going to be dealt with on any long-range basis by power politics alone. Here's how it works: there are three primary motivating forces in everyone's life: identity, desire and power.
o Identity is how you define yourself, who you are, who you're aiming to be, and how you want to be seen and treated by a given culture or subculture.
o Power is whatever it is you need to get done -- what you freely choose to get done -- in your life: like feeding, clothing and sheltering yourself and your family. Power is the ability to get something done.
o Desire is what you want. Desire is the wanting itself, what you long for. Everything I say about desire here works for more than simply sexual desire, but since this essay is about the impact of sexual desire on our civilization, I'm going to stick with that.
The relationship of identity, power and desire is fascinating: they don't come apart from each other. They're each motivating forces in life that are linked to the other two motivating forces in life. If you were to draw that graphically, it might look like this:
We all of us go through our days, juggling these three motivating aspects of our life. If we've got the opportunity to increase any one of these factors, the other two increase accordingly. Similarly, if any of our identity, desire, or power are attacked and made less, then the other two factors shrink accordingly. That's the way it seems to work.
What's extremely interesting -- and relevant to the ENDA debate -- is the point at which all three of these factors overlap. Optimally, they all overlap at something called "the human spirit," or "God," or "higher power," or whatever it is you believe is a true, untainted and noble force in the world. Overlapping at that kind of point of commonality alone, we'd all of us be able to go through life defining our own identities, desires, and powers. More importantly, we'd respect the identities, powers, and desires of others. But that's not how it works in real life. In real life, there's something that over-rides the human spirit as a governing force for our identities, desires, and power. The graphic representation of the relationship of identity, desire, and power looks more like this:
Yep, gender sits squarely on the nexus of identity, desire, and power and dictates who we can be, who and how we can love, and how much power we've got in the world -- all based on our genders.
But it doesn't stop there. On any day, an even more realistic picture of life's motivating forces in relationship to any given culture looks like this:
You know the group I'd like to belong to? I'd give anything to be of service to a coalition of people who are fighting on behalf of each and every one of those cultural factors that impact our identities, desires, and powers. These aspects of life exist in today's culture -- naturally or socially constructed, it doesn't matter so much why they exist. They just do. And they're just as stuck to each other at the nexus of identity, desire, and power as Br'er Rabbit was to the tar baby: gender, race, class, age, looks, health status, ability, religion, and sexuality. They're all stuck to each other, and the only way to pull them apart is to form a coalition of people who work on behalf of liberation in each of these areas of life. There's never been a coalition like that in the world before. Ever.
Each of these factors of life is currently impacting negatively the quality of life of the majority of people in the world. The vast majority of people everywhere have some kind of fucked-up life because of either gender, race, class, age, looks, health status, ability, religion, or sexuality. The irony is that none of these factors is in itself a bad or demanding aspect of life.
What's gender? It's an identity, or the expression of an identity. We all do that. Gender can be biological, psychological, sociological, theological or a combination of all of the above. So what? It's when you say with authority that there's only two genders, and a narrow band of expressing each, that the problems with gender begins. When you've got a binary, the two sides are going to fight. Well, the binary of man/woman is false. There have always been lots of genders within humanity. There still are. Me, I'm not a man or a woman. So-the-fuck-what? The freedom to self-identify and express the gender of your choice can be both empowering and fun. And there's no saying you can't change it if you don't like it. So what if people do that -- even on a daily basis? What's mean to anyone about doing that?
Race... the inherited most beautiful physical traits of our ancestors? And the most beloved and useful aspects of their culture? And the feeling of family or tribe that we get when we're with people who look like us? What's bad about that? That's a lovely feeling. I get that when I hang out with Jews. We're a race pretty much everywhere but in North America, where we're an ethnicity.
Class... not so easy to see that one's value to a culture. But people do live in different ways. They enjoy doing different things. People who love to work with their hands tend to enjoy being with one another. People who've been through years of higher education tend to enjoy each other's company. As long as each of those areas of life was accessible to every single person in the world, what the fuck is wrong with a class system in a culture? If it's economy you're worried about, that's capitalism's fault. Not class by itself. Class becomes deadly when you add capitalism and authoritarian hierarchies to a bully culture. Class -- by itself -- simply allows us to work and live in a lifestyle we like, along with other folks like us. Look, whatever you've heard about communism or socialism, Lenin and Marx weren't stupid men with evil motives. Somehow, it should be possible for everyone to do what they love to do, live how they love to live with people just like themselves. And everyone would be paid roughly the same amount for doing just that.
A person's age, the way they look, how healthy they are and what are their physical and mental capacities? Not to conflate them, but please... tell me what's bad about any of those things? Age, looks, health status, and ability are only bad when you add a bully mentality and a culture whose prime directive is "Be like us. Be just like us, or we'll make your life bad enough that you'll want to kill yourself. And if that doesn't work, we'll kill you ourselves."
Religion? It's not bad at all. It's no reason to get mad at each other. Religion alone is no justification for the murder, torture, or mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of people, or even just one person or family who lives down the block from you. Religions are the reason that most of us are still alive, for goodness sake! The vast majority of people in this world are aching to know the meaning of life and death, the reason for suffering, the solution to people being so mean to each other. Religion is that way we all search for the answers to things like that. Some people do that through faith in science, art, mathematics, sociology. Some people have faith in one or another or many deities. It's only when you add, "We're the chosen people and everyone else sucks and goes to hell, and we're going to force everyone to agree with us," that religion becomes truly dangerous.
Lastly, sexuality. HEY, IT'S FUN ISN'T IT?!?!! It's only when you add force and violence and rules about who gets to love whom and in what ways and under what conditions and then you have the power to enforce that -- that's when sexuality makes someone, or some group of people, a target.
All these otherwise benign factors of our lives converge on the nexus of our identities, desires, and powers. And they converge there in their meanest, and most authoritarian aspects. So, we're not juggling our own identities, powers, and desires any more -- we're juggling everything each one of those oppressive systems tells us must be our identity, our desire, and our power. This is nothing new, it's been going on since the dawn of civilization in one form or another.
Over the past five or 10 thousand years, we've developed a politic of power to deal with that, and keep those oppressive systems in check in order to make life more bearable for the members of the human race. The politics of power is what we've got in national elections, dictatorships, monarchies, corporate structures, and Robert's Rules of Order, among other forms of government. It's all been the politics of power.
Then some two hundred odd years ago, a noble experiment began: The United States of America. It was a whole new way to deal with all the authoritarian hierarchical systems of oppression that impact our identities, desires, and power. You could come to the USA, and you could live the life you wanted to live. Woo-hoo! No, really. What a lovely thing that's been.
But the USA is an indirect democracy. That means, we don't directly determine who's going to be the boss of all of us, we vote for people who vote for people who vote for people who run the country. That's how it works, and it worked for a lot of guys who looked like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and that whole crew. If you didn't look like them or act like them, you needed to band yourself into a group defined by an identity that could push its way in to a seat at their table.
And that's how identity politics came to the fore in the USA. You had to be a bona fide member of a sanctioned identity in order to be heard. Not a bad thing, as long as you qualified for that sanctioned identity. It's clumsy, and we'll hopefully figure out a better way to do things, but in theory there's nothing wrong with identity politics. But neither the politics of power nor the politics of identity have ever been able to deal effectively with desire. And that's why ENDA will fail in the long run, as will any other legislation put in place to deal with the impact of desire on a culture. It's time to develop and put in place a politic of desire. What the fuck would that look like??
Desire is ungovernable, wild, unpredictable, unstoppable, and irresistible. Most religious and philosophical systems would agree that desire alone is the cause of any downfall we might experience as individuals, or as nations, or as a race of beings. And it's true. Unbridled, unconscious desire can kill you and everyone else around you. But so can unbridled, unconscious power. So can unbridled, unconscious identity. The fact that we've got a politic of power and a politic of identity often masks their poisonous effect on humanity in general.
So what would a politic of desire look like? I think it would look like great sex. Yep, it would be safe, sane, consensual, loving, and respectful. A politic of desire would be really hot, and really fun. One of the goals of a politic of desire would be to restore to each and every human being their own self-respect and self trust. And once you've done that, then no one has to rely on any systemic authoritarian hierarchy to tell them what they've got to do about their identities, desires, or power.
As a race, we must acknowledge conscious desire that's not mean to anyone. We must acknowledge conscious desire as a motivating force in all of our lives. We need a politic of desire that makes that clear to people. Don't get me wrong. A politic of desire will corrupt as easily as has the politics of power and the politics of identity. That's what happens. But maybe if we simply begin to practice conscious desire, and the conscious respect of the desire of others, we'd begin to balance the motivational factors of earthly human life long enough to get back to the human spirit. Wouldn't that be a hoot?
So... yeah, the ENDA debacle sucks. But it'd be a Band Aid at best. And it's really heartening and encouraging to see how many people came to the defense of us trannies. Now, can we begin to work on the root issues? I'm interested in your feedback.