Over the past few weeks, I have been conducting non-stop research for my thesis prospectus and I came across a really interesting article on AIDS Activism and Feminist Theory by Katie King. Although the article does not fall under the purview of my project topic, I felt impelled to draft a brief intervention, namely because I’ve been feeling starved for work on the intersections of feminist and queer theory.

I remember a time at Hamilton College when Chandra Mohanty insisted that AIDS is a feminist issue. She proceeded to advise the class that in order for us, as feminists, to begin to understand the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we must think trasnationally and translocally in the same moment. For Katie King, AIDS activism presents potential shifts in feminist theory. King notes that “feminist as theoretical agents are both accountable to and shaped by these shifts that are radically altering transnational locations of power.” What King refers to as “global gay formations and local homosexualities” and their subsequent connections with HIV/AIDS that presents an apparatus for “the construction of political identities.” These identities are engendered within the postmodern cultural conditions that are currently enveloping our world through commerce and globalization. Yet, within this context, a process of glocalizing is also occurring through the hybridization of sexual identities with local and western sexualities at it core.

In October 2004, I attend a symposium entitled Homosexualities, HIV/AIDS and Hivos in Amsterdam. One of the main purposes of this symposium was to discuss possible strategies for creating new alliances with queer and feminist theorists on addressing HIV/AIDS. On this particular day, no new strategies were created, but certainly new epistemic networks were formed. One possible reason that no strategies were created that day is because within our postmodern cultural conditions, strategies stabilize identities, create new binaries, and in turn are counterproductive. King notes that “in such activist engagements and political realliances, overlapping AIDS activisms [must] challenge the simple binaries and the misleading charges of essentialism that academics use to process, categorize, and taxononomize political identities, struggles, and literatures and to manage political alliances in U.S. feminism. Is King suggesting that we return and rearticulate identity politics? King asserts that the global gay formations and local homosexualities are in fact creating three direct consequences for feminist theory. The first is “a new appreciation for ‘cultural feminism,’ which [she] claims is the proper name for our apparatus for the production of feminist culture: a sometimes essentialist and sometimes anti-essentialist synthesis of identity politics and sex-racial productions of feminist and gay culture.” Many believe that identity politics is a failed political project, but I am not so quick to disregard its accomplishments. The second is the destabilization categories to re-define HIV/AIDS. Is this best accomplished through a return to consciousness-raising groups, cultural analysis, or art theoretical agitprop activism? The third consequence King mentions “comes new visibilities created by such activism…that suggest directions for gay/lesbian/feminist/gender studies in a global gay formations and local homosexualities.” But, would Barbara Kruger’s appropriation art of a hand grasping the words, “I am out therefore I am” translate or transliterate transnationally and translocally?

In order for us as feminists to understand HIV/AIDS as a feminist cause, we must reevaluate several issues. First, we must recall the fundamentals of our struggle. The global gay movement first theorized sexism as the root cause of homophobia. This exhibits a fundamental alliance that can be reestablished between queer and feminist theorists. We must understand the layering of identities, and evaluate whether performative politics of identity are applicable to HIV/AIDS activism. We must, as Mohanty advised, think both transnationally and translocally, while also considering the borderlands. Finally, we must, as Sandoval proposes envision a democratization of oppression to engender an “identity politics…mapping across classes, sexualities, religions, nationalities, and ethnicities.”

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South Africa

February 29, 2008

I am absolutely appalled by these students’ actions.  They should be fucking expelled from university.

And why has this not received more press in the United States? Probably because students have committed similar or worse racist actions in this country. I don’t even know what to say.

Sex or Gender & Histories

February 28, 2008

Last night I was thinking about gender and history–and yes, I think about these things at home. This was prompted by a promo for an upcoming episode of Taboo on National Geographic. The focus of the episode will be on Sexual Identity, and while the program was quite interesting (its a rerun), I remember being disturbed by the their constant shift between the terms: sex and gender. While there is already amazing scholarship on this subject, I want to offer a succinct intervention.

Why gender as an analytic alternative to sex? Sex is a biological construct that relies upon reproductive capacity as a foundation for sexual difference. It creates a mutually exclusive binary structure that render as in invisible other histories that exist outside of this dualism. A number of “third-wave” and French feminists dispute the biological-natural status the distinction imputes to sex, arguing instead that both sex and gender are culturally constructed and structurally complicit. I am not yet familiar enough with this stance, but I do believe that it certainly warrants mentioning.

But at this moment I still understand sex as an analytic concept is subject to ahistorical forces which do not portray the altering circumstances of our social condition(s). Study of historical records reveal that the social conditions constructed vis-à-vis sexual difference—gender—has lead to hierarchy, inequalities and a number of other inequitable circumstances.
Gender offers a contextual variable that shapes to address social conditions.Through integrating gender as historically specific analytic concept, we can broaden historiography to include gendered personal and systematic experiences as equally valid as conventional means of recording history. Historical analysis is particularly useful to feminists who aim to develop a gender-based foundation to their social critique. Gender provides specifity to activist projects. Considering these advantages, we can easily see the relationship between gender and history is not an exclusive hierarchical setup, rather it is the feminist alternative, a mutually inclusive symbiotic partnership that will allow us to finally broaden our intellectual scope to fully understand our social conditions.

What do you think?

During a housewarming this past Saturday night (23 Febuary 2008), amidst great music and a flowing bar of drinks, I had a fabulous political conversation with three of the most brilliant people I have ever met. And Joaquin, Angelica, Jamila and I were definitely not talking about the upcoming presidential election–at the nexus of our conversation was simply how fucked up binaries can be. During the conversation I concluded that even the discourse we employ when speaking about politics can completely reinforce an mutually oppressive binary apparatus.

Example: Dialogue. We often think this term can lead toward progressive ends, but even within (di)alogue we can see the construction of a binary developing. Di is a greek numerical prefix meaning two or double. We hear of monologues and dialogues, but what about triologues or multilogues. Are our progressive (queer, feminist, womanist) politics flawed from its foundations?

In order to move beyond binaries, we should begin with considering the condition of binaries. Within an oppositional binary system, two items are juxtaposed with each other in a hegemonic cold war. One item aims to surmount the other…and in turn gains social value while the other is subjected to demonization. In this process, other items are (purposely) alienated from this system. This is best exemplified our hegemonic gender binary.

I cannot help but consider at this point, what is the purpose of gender. As it now stands, we are socially programmed to recognize two genders: male and female. Like every other binary structure, it is discursive and hegemonic in nature. Derrida (I love Derrida!) explores this discursive relationship that exists within our construction of social definitions. At the foundation of the definition of an object, we consider its meaning through juxtaposition with the object’s polar opposite. This process is exclusive and does not consider the conditions of other objects that live within this system. This is why I cannot identify as male. In the gender binary, male is valued over female. I cannot agree with this system. In this gender binary, male/female is the only acceptable structure. This rejects the existence of trans, gender-queer, two-spirited, and intersexed people. I cannot agree with this alienation. Binaries produce borderlands.

The borderlands are filled with knowledge and histories…but when will we finally open our minds to open the borderlands into conversation?

Ottinger

Volver

February 26, 2008

Running, running, running in Brooklyn
pack of cigarettes in my hand
I stumble
side to side
the last glass of wine hits me
I’m free
ready to kiki on the corner
sustenance meets me there

Vice

I am compelled to return from the obscure.

This past year has been shit–but it’s going to fertilize the flowers. And in their blooms, colors of my memories shall sobrevivir.

I miss my grandmothers. They were my histories. I yearn again to feel my father’s laughter upon my ears. He was my heart.

This is the time to return–like a refugee from the war on terror, I’m here: kicking and screaming.

Let’s start this shit.

Nascent

June 25, 2007

La Verdad

I find myself returning to the past in hopes of finding the future me. I dream of the present wishing to move beyond my circumstances. This is where I commence, trying to locate my beginnings.

Yo… Yo he experimentado la mayoría de mi vida en los borderlands.
Desde nacimiento, me introdujeron a un terreno extranjero.
Un terreno constantemente luchando contra mis historias.
Todo que es white, male, heterosexual y upper-class debe ser desear-todo era primitive.
¿En vista de esta situación perniciosa,
cómo encuentro
la voz
para transportar mis experiencias?
Travel has transformed my consciousness.
I travel not out of convenience or luxury—I travel simply.
I have lived in parks and palaces.
I have sustained myself on stale bread and sour wine.

I find myself returning to the past in hopes of finding the future me. I dream of the present wishing to move beyond my circumstances.
Together shape the present Pablo.
Time and water divide them
Yet, they rendez-vous in my being.
I jump over the horizon
and transverse waves of clouds with memories of years ago.
 Shift