Monday, November 8, 2010
Many times throughout this essay-- I read glimpses of beautiful poetry. Eli Clare is a poet and an essayist--and in his writing, he does an extraordinary job in conveying information to a wide audience. The excerpt, "Stones in my pockets, Stones in my Heart," was thought provoking.
Eli disrupted our normal thinking patterns in the way he wrote of the potential causes of his homosexuality and transgender identity. The purpose of this article was to question and challenge our current understanding of what causes homosexuality and transgender identity.
Clare allows the reader to have a glimpse of his life from childhood to a short while past college. From a very young age, Eli shares that he never felt like a girl nor a boy. Clare looks back to his childhood--recounting a question to his mother; he asks his mother, “Am I feminine?” (What a question to ask when you are a young child). He states that even in his childhood he did not relate to the female gender--stating he never felt comfortable in skirts, or heels, or make-up.
There are strict rules in our society when it comes to femininity and masculinity... The idea of what gender should be, should look like, should act like is derived from our society's social and cultural values. But what happens if you do not fit into these two categories? I think we know all too well what happens if you do not fit into the categories of masculine or feminine--society others you--you become denoted as 'queer;' you are cast outside of the norm. Clare remarks about how confining and harmful the gender binary is in this country. The social construction of the gender binary has been a recurring theme in queer theory. As defined by GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary (Alyson), (Joan Nestle, Clair Howell Co-Editors) 2002, Gender binary "is the classification of sex and gender into two distinct and separate forms of masculine and feminine. The term describes the system in which a society divides people into male and female gender roles, gender identities, and gender attributes."
Several times throughout the article Eli talks about how his body was stolen or taken from him. He discloses that he was raped several times by his father-- and his mother stated she was unaware. Clare disrupts our understanding and current thought patterns by addressing his sexual abuse and neglect and connecting this to his homosexuality and transgender identity. Eli makes a statement by contemplating this connection.
A quote from the bottom paragraph of page 126,
Eli asks about his father...
“How did his gendered abuse reinforce my sense of not being a girl? How did his non-abusive treatment of me as an almost son interact with the ways in which fists and penis and knives told me in no uncertain terms that I was a girl? ... and later “How did my mother’s willful ignorance of the hurt he inflicted on me influence what I absorbed about femininity and masculinity?”
I was personally uncomfortable by this connection--confused as to why he would make such a connection. After some thought and consideration, I realized Eli does not confirm that the sexual abuse and neglect he endured was a cause of his homosexuality or transgender identity.
Eli states matter-of-factly that he does not know and will never be sure if the abuse or neglect he was exposed to in life caused him to be transgender or homosexual.
This brings us back full circle to the nature-vs-nurture argument. In this article, Eli Clare challenges the idea that the cause of homosexuality is biological--that it is naturally innate within an individual. Clare dismantles the notion that homosexuality or other ‘queer’ sexualities are acceptable as long as they stem from a biological source.
There are many sights and articles online that discuss potential causes of homosexuality and transgendered identity. Doctors have conducted studies of research to try and find a 'potential' cause of homosexuality--but there has been no solid cause found. The nature vs. nurture controversy continues. For a person that is unfamiliar with the nature vs. nurture argument concerning homosexuality, a good article may be found at this link. http://gayrights.change.org/blog/view/nature_vs_nurture_debates_over_sexuality
In the second paragraph on page 128, Clare discusses the ways in which certain people are carving out new ways in being or acting their specific identity--or carving their way for a new identity. There was a quote that really got my attention. A transgendered woman said to Eli about the public, “You don’t have pronouns yet for us.” When I read this, something stirred within me. I felt that this quote was powerful--even though it is placing the emphasis on you--the greater public--or ‘the people that decide.’ I felt the quote was empowering because this woman was marginalized, yet here she was still living and existing without the necessary pronouns, without the affirmation or approval from others. Did anyone else read this quote differently?
Clare spent a lot of time discussing children--and how they are socially controlled from a very young age by adults for the purpose to teach children the power dynamics within society. Clare states, “What better way than to drill the lessons of who is dominant and who is subordinate into the bodies of children.”
Clare states, that his father’s act of violence taught him what it meant be female--(less strong), to be a child, (lacking power and authority), to live in my particular body (disabled), and those lessons served the larger power structure hierarchy well.”
Do you think we also have all had our bodies stolen in some way--either by the media which elicits false images, or stereotypes, or violence or abuse whether physical or emotional...? Do you think the gender binary is the main thief of our bodies?
Clare states that his body was reclaimed when he came out as a dyke--that he felt more at peace and comfortable with his inner being. He states on the bottom of 133 that his coming out wasn’t about discovering sexual desire as much as it was about dealing with gender identity. He says he discovered a definition to be a woman that was large enough for him to be comfortable for many years.
Eli Clare is an activist for many causes including issues of disability and LGBTQ issues. Eli is an activist for many marginalized groups and frequently teaches and organizes presentations that discuss race, disability, and gender. In the article, however, Clare states that there have always been an assortment of genders among the disabled. In conclusion, Clare states that the process of unraveling one's inner self is difficult and the path to a reclaimed body is not without its challenges.
Eli Clare's blog may be found at this link. http://eliclare.com/blog
Posted by arrow5733 at 6:43 PM