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A Transgender Analysis of Mario Mieli's Towards a Gay Communism

By Dorian Rose

Picture of queer Italian philosopher and activist Mario Mieli,  main reference of Dorian Rose's dissertation "A Transgender Analysis of Mario Mieli's Towards a Gay Communism"

INTRODUCTION

This dissertation is firstly an analysis of Mieli’s critique: specifically, his Marxist and Freudian theories, and his critique of gay liberation in contemporary society. It is, secondly, a transgender analysis of this critique – leaving our last few chapters, from ‘Women and Gay Masculinity’ to ‘Towards a Trans* Liberation’ with gradually climbing trans* specific critical and cultural theory. Our transgender narration will come intermittently throughout the areas where we relay Mieli’s theory, alongside other criticisms or annotations specific to queer and feminist analysis. For example, in Mieli’s transsexuality we find ‘gaps’ or ‘faults’ such as the reinforcing of cisnormative ideologies, and/or an ignorance or ‘overlooking’ of women and trans* people in general. In order to conclude with our chapter on trans* liberation, we must discuss the potential shortcomings of Mieli’s transsexuality by analysing Mieli’s Towards in as much detail as this dissertation may achieve.

 

Both Freud and Marx form a great basis of Mieli’s analysis, though his overt references to Marx are less prevalent. One might assume that, therefore, Marx is an afterthought: however, Mieli’s use of Marx presents itself as subtextual, requiring textual comparison – as Marx wrote very little about revolutionary theory and more on the analysis of capitalism, Mieli’s own Towards a Gay Communism reflects a queer parallel to Marxist theory. We will speak upon only a few of Mieli’s psychoanalytic conceptual analyses, such as educastration, transsexuality, subsumption, and how these relate to the liberation of the homosexual self-consciousness (alongside the unconscious). Mieli affords a great deal of Towards for an analysis of the origins of heteronormative society – both to cite the first instance of homophobia and to see its spread, but also to bring about a self-consciousness (autocoscienza) for gay liberation in a heteronormative society where self-consciousness is controlled by capitalist apparatus. We must therefore cover Mieli’s chapter on the history of homosexuality, though we must do so through a critical rather than historic lens. Mieli’s historical analysis is partially a relaying of facts that go on to make up his analysis – understandably, due to the need to lay out a basis for this analysis. For example, Mieli understands the importance of looking back through history to establish self-consciousness (autocoscienza, one integral area of his theory that we will touch upon), and – according to Evan C. Williams – in detecting capital’s subsumption (another key area we shall analyse) of every aspect of our lives.[1] In looking back, a person may understand ways in which they have been taught to alienate themselves – and in doing so they may visualise the methods by which the heteronormative patriarchy re-/op-presses them: thus, recognising their subsumption both throughout history, their present and future, and establishing an understanding of such through informed self-consciousness. Ultimately Mieli wishes for homosexuals to analyse the past, as then they will be able to look upon themselves in a way that is unclouded by the heteronormativity and educastration under which they have been oppressed.[2] In reflection of this, we will discuss the fascist-nationalist relationship to history, the queer relationship to history, and whether history is overall useful in queer liberation.

 

We may define the divide between real and formal domination here, so that we may discuss it in the rest of the dissertation. In much the same way as with Mieli’s historical analysis, the importance of Mieli’s Marxist analysis lies not in his rewording of Marx, but in his applications of Marx – for example, in the use of formal and real domination, in his examination of the commodity, and the impact of sublimation on the unconscious of the worker. Evan Calder Williams, in his Foreword to the 2018 edition of Towards, emphasises Mieli’s use of Marx’s real and formal domination. Briefly, we will define what these terms are. Real domination defines the labour of workers as incorporated into the surplus of capital: their workplaces are both commodified and produce or uphold commodities, governmental institutions and operations being no exception – replacing the human with the Capitalist ideal.[3] Formal domination then defines the labour of workers as merely related to commodities: their workplaces are not commodified in and of themselves, but the products of the workers’ labour are – humans are not replaced, but coerced by the Capitalist ideal.[4] The formal/real distinction is a key aspect of Mieli’s theory of assimilation/sublimation towards Capitalism – due to the relationship of the state to its citizens, and thereby the relationship between the homosexual under the heteronormative state. Williams states that for Mieli, analysis cannot ‘be entirely explained within this framework,’ of sublimation and historical analysis, as ‘homosexuality is in excess of real domination.’[5] Homosexuality is somehow outside of capitalist domination and therefore ‘bears a unique insight into the structures of capital’s real domination.’[6] Mieli acknowledges that this dialectic set out may be an ‘absurd absolutisation of contingent historical values’ as well as an ‘hypostasis of opinions’ that ‘absolutise’ capitalism ‘in an ahistorical manner,’[7] after all, heterosexuality is not ‘eternosexuality’.[8] Mieli writes that the deconstruction of capitalism through anti-capitalist exploration is a ‘secondary result’ of analysis – the primary result being the (re)discovery of our ‘nature’.[9] Towards our historical analysis, Mieli here refers to autocoscienza and to subsumption. Once we are able to understand the ways in which ‘capitalist science’[10] oppresses us, much like understanding history and its heteronormative appropriation, we have made some form of improvement in freeing ourselves from our repressed desires – therefore (re)discovering our potential freedom from oppression, in sexuality, and in human relations.

 

[1] Evan Calder Williams, ‘Translator’s Preface’, in Towards a Gay Communism: Elements of a Homosexual Critique, by Mario Mieli, trans. by David Fernbach and Evan Calder Williams (London: Pluto Press, 2018) pp. xxv-xxxv, (p. xxxiii).

[2] Mario Mieli, Towards a Gay Communism: Elements of a Homosexual Critique, trans. by David Fernbach and Evan Calder Williams (London: Pluto Press, 2018), p. 107.

[3] Williams, op. cit., pp. xxxi-xxxii.

[4] Ibid., pp. xxx-xxxi.

[5] Ibid., p. xxxiii.

[6] Williams, op. cit., p. xxxiv.

[7] Mieli, op. cit., p. 101.

[8] Williams, op. cit., p. xxxiv.

[9] Mieli, op. cit., p. 106.

[10] Ibid.

HISTORICAL ANALYSIS

To progress through Mieli’s anti-fascist historical analysis, we must retell Mieli’s ‘tracing’ of homophobia through history.

 

Mieli states the ‘first’ instance of homosexual damnation as enacted by an Hebrew society.[1] He cites Leviticus 18, 22,[2] adding that the damnation of homosexuality was likely to have been added in 6th Century BC due to a nationalistic pride, wherein priests wished to conserve traditions and to condemn the practices of Hebrew ‘cults’ such as those who worshipped Ashtoreth and Baal.[3] He then mentions the Christian adoption of these values, a mode by which many societies have adopted homophobic tendencies.[4] Mieli also highlights instances in history that idealise homosexuality as a ‘sacred’ or ‘moral’ act,[5] though they are often written in history as some form of paganism, i.e. where the homosexual act is either sacred or a representation of the Other – the importance of their remembrance reflects a potential freedom within sexual confines. After covering some very well-known areas of queer history, he lands around the mid-19th Century – the trial of Oscar Wilde, Magnus Hirschfeld, and the Mattachine Society. According to Mieli, the drive to normalise homosexuality was then rejuvenated ‘in 1969 with the Gay Liberation Front in the United States,’ where both groups and individuals reignited the international fight for recognition of gay rights.[6] Here, we see that importance is put to the ceaselessness of queer liberationist movements, echoing the idea that a regime or society may cull any contemporary queer life or freedom – yet, somehow, queer life finds its way through the cracks of heteronormative society.

 

On one troublesome hand, areas of Mieli’s history reflect a pop-history style of historical research – if by pop-history, we are referring to that form of popular history that often lacks accuracy due to its general audience, where drawbacks are created in attempting to deliver a short historical analysis of thousands of years: which is certainly Mieli’s case. This issue of accuracy upsets the potential for Mieli’s autocoscienza – namely that of, if the homosexual is to be liberated through understanding historic instances of oppression (how and why they happened), liberation is put at risk where an historic misunderstanding occurs. If the oppressed individual ‘mistakes’, for example, that the origin of the word ‘faggot’ was homophobic,[7] or that the Scientific Humanitarian Committee (Mieli cites as established in 1897, where Laura Miles cites as 1896) was the first homosexual organisation,[8],[9] the individual is under Mieli’s popular historical re-telling – and perhaps at risk of alienating themselves from a potentially inclusive instance.

 

On the other – less troublesome – hand, Mieli puts more importance to the history of fascist and homophobic institutions such as Nazi Germany and the USSR in the early 20th Century.[10] Mieli’s analysis of the homosexual taboo through history instantiates the later, modern instances of homophobia that Mieli aims to critique in society today. Mieli’s analysis of the heteronormative control of the unconscious can be seen in the thread of history, via the theories of Marx and Freud. Through establishing an historical setting, Mieli ties religious nationalism to 20th Century state fascist regimes – chiefly Nazi Germany, and Stalinist Russia – and concludes that state fascism is responsible for the disappearance and suppression of liberationist movements in the mid to late 19th to early 20th century.[11] Mieli emphasises that before these fascist states rose to power, both experienced a ‘growth’ of scientific, legal, and social understanding/acceptance: the suppression and destruction of which forced these states and their citizens into newfound, heteronormative confusion. This supports the following proposal: that fascist ‘conservation’ of ‘tradition’ in the nationalist state is in fact a reaction to ‘change’, more precisely a destruction/repression of it. They do not conserve any tradition at all – they react to something that already exists, most blatantly because conservation of human social tradition contradicts the fascist destruction of human life (including human history, archival material, and so on).

 

In this historical analysis, one could suggest that Mieli overlooks the importance in the relationship of the queer[12] to history – the theory of history and its individual relations may be just as important as the telling of history itself, yet Mieli focuses here on analysing the relationship of the heteronormative to the queer, instead of the relationship of the queer to the heteronormative. This is an important distinction to make, as the first focuses on explaining the relationship of homosexuals from a heteronormative viewpoint, and the latter focuses on explaining the relationship of homosexuals from a queer viewpoint. We find this in his historical analysis for two reasons:

 

(1) because Mieli refers specifically to coloniser cisgender male homosexuals, where his trans-sexuality and call for liberation is supposed to be on an intersectional basis, his ‘looking back’ to the roots of homophobia ignores a great deal of trans-/inter-sectional issues, and – in this sense – uncovers a great issue with his ‘transsexual’ revolution (which we will discuss throughout this dissertation), and;

 

(2) because Mieli speaks towards heteronormativity, not ultimately by using queerness as a voice, but by utilising a heteronormative one: he explains homosexual oppression by way of movements (A.K.A. of ‘who speaks loud enough’, in these instances always the homosexual with the most patriarchal power), rather than by analysing what is not apparent in history by way of analysing the mythologisation and speaking-for those queer people without the power of movement.

 

What does not appear in history is not only what is oppressed (oppressed to speak, to exist, to occupy space in records, etc.), but also an active silencing of history by oppressors. The fact that there are records written by the cisgender, male, homosexual coloniser does not prove their freedom ­– but to focus on these records is certainly proof of an historian’s misunderstanding in the processes of history. Mieli proves that heteronormativity and fascism often go hand in hand but, despite other areas where he speaks of gay feminist revolution, he neglects to mention the role of the woman throughout history – an area that is so integrally important in his recognition of the woman itself. Ultimately, in focusing on the thread of homophobia throughout history, Mieli reaches no queer liberatory conclusion.

 

For transgender individuals, an historical archive was created by both cisgender and transgender figures (of many backgrounds) in reaction to accusations of sodomy – to explain the ‘naturality’ of their sex/gender to a cisnormative audience. For example, Hirschfeld’s institute was a place for treatment, research, and even a safe haven – the first two made possible by archival material, and the latter by scientific credulity (and therefore, by archival material, an historic ‘naturality’ is ‘found’).[13] In transgender studies, the archive has been described as a place for transgender people to discover themselves and to recognise that they are not abnormal[14] – but for some scholars, such as Dan Irving, the archive (insofar as it is normative) poses great risk to the future of transgender liberation, as we will discuss in our last chapter.[15] Once ‘transgender’ is established in category, the ‘transgender’ must then always fall inside the confines of that category to be regarded in much of today’s society. Due to the confines of cisnormativity upon which political and legal systems are built, the attempt to categorise transgender people falls into a needless trap of categorising the cisnormatively uncategorisable. As we see with Marin le Marcis, for example, the reactionary cisnormative archive ‘naturalised’ his state of being and pardoned le Marcis from the accusation of sodomy and allowed him to be rebaptised as a man.[16] In this case one could suppose that the archive ‘aided’ le Marcis. However, if it were not for the archive that attributed le Marcis with sodomy and genital abnormality, le Marcis would not have required the reactionary archive in the first place. The archive transgender studies has created for le Marcis is a reaction to further abnormalisation, and this dissertation partakes in this furthering of archiving and analysis. Mieli does not ignore the issue of categorisation – he complains that liberal gays who conform to heteronormative societal categories of ‘normality’ cause great harm to gays who cannot, or do not wish to, conform to these categories.[17] Along transgender terms, contemporary trans studies scholar, Nordmarken, notes this issue in cisnormativity – the difference between ‘the binary trans paradigm vs. the queer trans paradigm’.[18] The former, insofar as it reinforces the gender binary, grants binary trans people freedoms whilst othering queer trans people (those who do not fit into binary gendered categories). To reaffirm a previous point – we cannot fault Mieli for his own archive of cismalehomosexual Othering, but it is important nonetheless to criticise his focus on the historical narrative of cismalehomocolonisers with the idea that it aids intersectional revolution. Thus, the archive is always in a process of categorisation. It may ‘naturalise’ the ‘unnatural’ whilst also forcing the ‘unnatural’ into a categorisation, in order for the ‘already natural’ to come to terms with it – it is certainly true that, when fascist states destroy archives, they are destroying the evidence of ‘naturality’ and ‘treatment’ that so many transgender people (of the past, present, and future) rely on to justify and engage with themselves and others.

 

Though an archive might bring about understanding of oneself or others, in establishing this understanding, or this translation, we must not neglect the analysis of what this ‘archive’ (history) is constructed of. When constructing a transgender archive for cisgender audiences, for example, the archive cannot be translated if it does not have the pre-set terms or conditions to construct it: the archive does not communicate itself to the cisgender audience if it does not recognise the terminologies of cisgender language – there must be some form of pre-existence within reasonable translation, where we are referring ourselves to pre-existing cisgender categories, such as ‘transsexual’ à ‘transgender’, or ‘sexual invert’ à ‘transsexual’. A propos, we may have the archive established for the self (transgender), and we may have the archive established for others (cisgender). The problem arises that a transgender person cannot create terms from their own experience – for others, these terms are created ‘out of thin air’ – for example, many people take offence to the invention of neo-pronouns such as ‘xe/xim’. These pronouns are, of course, not actually produced ‘out of thin air’: they are reliant upon and materialised by the existence of pre-existing pronouns. We see this same even for cisnormative society to accept a person using the pronouns opposite to those assigned at birth – Mieli refers to an openly trans woman as ‘he/she’[19] – pronouns that do not argue against the gender binary. A person’s existence is and always will be an existence of explanation – that is, if the person or the people around them wish to apply themselves to explanation at all.

 

Many established transgender archives, created by contemporary trans historians, do not in fact rely on the word ‘transgender’ (for example) when attempting to establish these archives. They look towards the way a person lives, whatever issues arose in their life if they were presented by cisnormative condemnation, and label them ‘transgender’ or ‘gender non-normative’, or something such. In Transhistorical, LaFleur et al. pose the idea that the ‘lack’ of trans history is due to a general lack of understanding surrounding gender.[20] They give the example of Deborah Sampson, who ‘was first claimed as a feminist, then as a lesbian, and then as a trans person,’[21] – yet, again, we may not assume their transness even if it seems to make sense according to our translations of Sampson’s existence. Of course, a great deal of debate can be (must be, and has been) undertaken here – whether this is counterproductive to human liberation, whether it is offensive for the historic figure, whether we can actually use the term ‘transgender’ for a society that may have seen gender in a different way, and so on. We might question the validity of these historians’ views when they are not echoing the purposes of history in regard to ideological anonymity. The idea of ‘looking back’ then, with what some academics have named a ‘transgender turn’, is merely to look: in the most hypothetical way possible – to hypothesise about transgenerational traumas and our relation to one another. Both as an effort to prevent this from happening in the future, as many state historical analysis to be, and as an effort to rid ourselves of the Othering that we endure today – to establish ourselves in the face of an historico-logical void, in a world where such a void determines one’s illegality.

 

Of course, the point of the archive, the point of ‘looking back’, is to translate existence to someone – including yourself, in this case, where Mieli wishes to raise self-consciousness and to dismantle the heteronormative patriarchy. Mieli proposes that we would not be able to see ourselves in the past so readily if it were not for the explanations of others: but to what extent do we truly need to see ourselves in the past – to what extent does the past aid us in our liberation today? As we have established, an archive of the past can often help us out of oppressive situations, but then get us into new ones. Perhaps it is time for us to look away from history in favour of contemporary justification through our own means.

 

It is important to analyse the historical idea of what is ‘transgender’. For example, how ‘transgender’ can be defined from different points of view, different ideologies, epochs, and fetishisations.  That is to say, in order to establish a ‘Towards a Transgender Communism’ we must similarly analyse the history of the ‘transgender’ label alongside its predecessors. If we do not, we will be unable to establish why ‘transgender’ and ‘cisgender’ are inadequate categories since they do not currently aid a person’s translation of their experiences into labels. We must, therefore, establish the arguments of how ‘transgender’ is not a negation of ‘cisgender’ – we must discuss the historical application of gender, and how dialectics surrounding gender have impacted both individuals and groups of people.

 

[1] Ivi, p. 61.

[2] Ivi, p. 62.

[3] Ivi, p. 63.

[4] Ivi, p. 64.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ivi, p. 2.

[7] Ivi, p. 71.

[8] Ivi, p. 1.

[9] Social groups such as Rebecca and Her Daughters, the White Boys, and the Lady Skimmington group – amongst countless others – can be dated before this, Mieli does not specify what he means by ‘homosexual organisation.’ See Laura Miles, for a short introduction to trans history. (Laura Miles, Transgender Resistance: Socialism and the Fight for Trans Liberation (London: Bookmarks, 2020) pp. 66-72).

[10] Mieli, op. cit., p. 86.

[11] Ibid.

[12] ‘Queer’ as an umbrella term for non-normative or Other, specifically here in reference to sexuality and transgender people.

[13] For a general introduction on Hirschfeld, see: Laura Miles, Transgender Resistance: Socialism and the Fight for Trans Liberation (London: Bookmarks, 2020) pp. 75-77,

[14] Blake Gutt, ‘Medieval Trans Lives in Anamorphosis: Looking Back and Seeing Differently (Pregnant Men and Backward Birth)’, Medieval Feminist Forum, 55.1 (2019), 174–206 (p. 188).

[15] Dan Irving, ‘Against the Grain: Teaching Transgender Human Rights’, Sexualities, 16.3-4 (2013), 319–35 (p. 327).

[16] Emil-Dorian McHale, 'How do Foucault's Lectures on Abnormality Further 'Abnormalise' Marin le Marcis, or 'Hermaphrodites'? (essay, University of Leeds, 2022), p. 1.

[17] Mieli, op. cit., p. 221.

[18] Sonny Nordmarken, ‘Queering Gendering: Trans Epistemologies and the Disruption and Production of Gender Accomplishment Practices’, Feminist Studies, 45.1 (2019), 36–66 (p. 45).

[19] Mieli, op. cit., p. 8.

[20] Greta LaFleur, Masha Raskolnikov, and Anna Klosowska, ‘The Benefits of Being Trans Historical’, in Trans Historical: Gender Plurality Before the Modern, pp. 1–23 (p. 14).

[21] Ivi., p. 3.

Intro
His Anal

SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT

Mieli’s analysis and use of Freudian theory is integral to his establishment of queer liberation – but only insofar as Freud proves the hypocrisy of contemporary heteronormativity. By focusing on Freudian and psychoanalytic theory, Mieli establishes the idea that heterosexuality is a suppressed homosexuality: or better yet, a suppressed transsexuality, a concept with profound depth deserving its own chapter. Mieli touches upon (homo)sexual development, heterosexual formation as an imposition of heterosexuality, autoeroticism in patriarchy, and sexual formation as an imposition of masculinity. He relies upon Freud’s sexual development model to establish theories in the sexual development of heterosexuality, from a homosexual viewpoint. In a word, Freud’s model of ‘normal’ sexual development begins with a basis of autosexuality (sexuality towards the self), developing then to homosexuality, and then to heterosexuality. Freud believes that the sexuality of all infants is constituted by perversions, a sort of perverse polymorphism (Mieli gives the examples: ‘sadism, masochism, coprophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, homosexuality, etc.’).[1] However, Freud’s attempts to establish a specific model of homosexual development are somewhat more disconnected. As a result, Freud never truly attaches himself to one model of homosexual development over the other, but merely tries to explain individual instances after they have been laid out to him by his patients. For Mieli, this insecurity, alongside the ‘natural’, ‘perverted’ nature of an infant’s ‘sexuality’, supports the idea that the ‘normal’ (heterosexual) development (autosexual à heterosexual), ‘is in no way a “natural” evolution’.[2]  As to why ‘the majority of people are straight, and only relatively few gay,’ Mieli sees reason only in ‘social oppression’, where that ‘relative few’ somehow creep through the barriers of heteronormativity. He finds an enigma in precisely why homosexual people are able to traverse these barriers.[3] In response to Freud’s attempt to explain homosexual development, Mieli concludes thus: the result of the child’s identification and desires is both (1) to do with a seemingly natural ‘weight’ to one or the other (homo- or heterosexuality), and (2) with educastration or other social influences.[4] The child, whether they are homo- or heterosexual, is affected by some form of natural predisposition to a sexuality, as well as the influence of social processes or interactions.

 

Mieli presents three of Freud’s homosexual development methods. In one hypothesis, the homosexual man reacts to a ‘betrayal’ of the mother by ‘renouncing’ all female desire-objects in his life – whereas the homosexual woman ‘renounces’ all male desire-objects.[5] In another hypothesis, Freud ‘sees jealousy among heterosexual adults as a veiled expression of homoerotic desire.’ Yet among children, psychoanalysis sees jealousy as to one parent and desire towards the other – the jealousy being towards the parent that ‘steals’ the desired parent from the child.[6] In yet another hypothesis, Freud states that the homosexual male child develops an oral fixation from the breast of the mother to the penis of his desire-objects.[7] In the last hypothesis Mieli presents, Freud categorises the homosexual child obsession over their mother – when coming to puberty they became their mother, in order to give the same form of ‘love and care as he has experienced from’ her.[8] The first hypothesis for Mieli is not entirely wrong: a homosexual child may indeed ‘feel betrayed’ by their parent that does not bear their same genitalia, but such does not run for all homosexuals,[9] and one could add that an heterosexual (latent homosexual or not) may certainly have the same reaction.

 

Insofar as sexual development is a process, no person truly has a ‘natural’ (one might prefer to use the term innate, as development may of course be natural) heterosexuality: they are not born with it if it must indeed develop but are confined and/or developed into it by educastration. Educastration will either result in hetero- or homosexuality, either way having repressed their hetero or homoerotic ‘tendencies’. Of course, heterosexuality and homosexuality are not the only categories of sexuality in existence – but Mieli puts this aside. This process of educastration does not fully rid the individual of their homosexuality, however. Referring to Georg Groddeck, Mieli explains that ‘no heterosexual really represses all his homoerotic desires, even if he believes himself to have done so’.[10] Here, Mieli makes the distinction that most people have not repressed their homo or heterosexuality, but it is latent within them[11] – whether this be entirely or partially within the unconscious or not, every individual is therefore decidedly not homo- or heterosexual: they are, in fact, transsexual. We may bring this debate towards (trans)gender studies: that, through an appeal to ‘nature’, the gender binary assumes an innate gender (and/or sex) which therefore offers a basis of normativity and abnormalisation. We may note that, where the sexual development question is concerned, the development of a person’s gender is unconcerned.

 

It may be best to understand Mieli’s ‘Freudian-derivative’ concepts such as educastration, latent homosexuality, and heteronormative neuroticism before we delve further into the analysis of heteronormativity. As Mieli argues that there is inherent homosexuality within heteronormativity, he also argues that we are all actually inherent transsexuals. We are not (as we categorise ourselves, or find ourselves categorised), bisexual, homosexual, or heterosexual – instead, these categories are symptoms of the need to react towards one’s sexual and gendered complexity: whether this be because of fear, educastration, sublimation, or any number of social processes. Educastration reflects ‘the contingent and mutilated historical forms which society makes into something absolute […] the estrangement of the human being from itself.’[12] The educastrated child grows into an ‘heterosexual adult, erotically mutilated but conforming to the Norm.’[13] We cannot determine from this sentence what ‘mutilated’ these ‘historical forms’, nor what established these ‘historical forms’, but we may infer what Mieli means by following the rest of the text. In particular, Mieli states that educastration is where ‘repressive society and dominant morality’ criticise and dismantle the ‘abnormal’ areas in sexual development – pointing out that ‘more or less all infantile sexual impulses are considered “perverse,” including heterosexual ones, the child having no right to erotic enjoyment,’ though he does not go into any further conversation on this particular area.[14] We may infer that educastration, repressive society, and dominant morality ‘mutilate’ the child’s potential to explore their sexuality: thus bringing about a more dangerous, volatile, or reactionary sexuality that is hinged upon the negation of a healthy development. Here we can see the link between alienation and educastration, as educastration describes the process of removing humanity from man, so too does Marx’s alienation.  Torre defines Mieli’s educastration in much more gendered terms: as ‘erotic mutilation,’ wherein a man is ‘a disavowed woman who remains bound up in shame.’[15] As aforementioned, educastration echoes Marx’s concept of alienation, and is important to our analysis of Mieli because it establishes blame onto the interaction of history and society.

 

Sexual development is instead a reflection of educastration – the imposition of heterosexuality onto a child – which under heteronormative society is first imposed via the mere existence of the heterosexual family. Educastration, for Mieli, can be seen in many areas of parenthood – no matter how small these influences may seem. The heterosexual family ‘forces the child, through a sense of guilt, to abandon the satisfaction of his auto- and homoerotic desires, obliging him to identify with a mutilated monosexual (heterosexual) model. For example, Mieli writes that the father and mother position themselves as heterosexual towards their children of the same sex, which teaches the children that homosexuality is taboo, and that homosexuality is related to effeminacy or masculinity respective to the child’s assigned gender.[16] The father shows the male child less affection than the female child, and the mother shows the female child less affection than the male child. Furthermore, educastration and the imposition of heterosexuality may come from the transference of ‘masculinity’ from the father to the son – in which the father ‘has already suffered educastration, so that the son can only identify with him at the price of his own mutilation.’[17] Mieli refers to this ‘mutilation’ of the son as a morphing into the ‘artificial’ son that can identify with the father, so that he may endure ‘the dangers of this world’.[18] In fact, Mieli proposes that the male never truly moves past the autoerotic stage. Taking notes from Freud’s ‘The Ego and the Id’, Mieli writes that the boy represses ‘erotic desire’ for the father, which in homosexual repression may turn to narcissistic love – the homosexual male therefore ‘sets himself up as the sole “homosexual object,”’[19] thus imposing his ‘autoeroticism on women in heterosexual relations.’ Whilst the boy moulds ‘himself’ (by the will of the patriarchy) into a version of his own father, as an educastrated patriarch he comes to love himself as he did his own father. This self-loving version of masculinity that is grown projects the repressed self onto love-objects, women or otherwise, and Mieli believes that this is why men love ‘women in such a sadly inadequate way.’[20] This autoerotic projection onto women increases the likelihood of rejection from women, as the latent homosexual man truly desires his own company and projects ‘the femininity that he has negated’ within himself.[21] The boy comes to reject his own femininity, his own transsexuality, and project it onto his sister, mother, and ‘feminine’ figures in his life. He is taught to shame it, to alienate it from himself, to refuse the woman in himself, and resultant misogyny and jealousy thrives.[22] In projecting his own femininity onto woman, he has alienated himself from his own femininity.[23]

 

Some issues that we might find with Mieli’s proposal here are: (1) the mother’s traditional (enforced) role as the affectionate parent and the father’s traditional role as the absent parent, (2) the ‘other’ traditional fatherly role being the person who spoils the child, as the mother must traditionally ensure the children’s health and safety (therefore being the strict, and resultantly ‘absent’ parent), (3) the fact that the mother must perform all duties that the father does not, and not (traditionally) the other way around. On all of these points, we see an imbalance in the proposal that both parents are equal in their ‘heterosexual positioning’ towards their children. For (1), it may be the case that the mother’s affectionate efforts are marred by the expectation of them from society and from her family. For (2), we find that ‘affection’ may be awarded to the parent with the ability to shirk the duty to ensure their children’s health. For (3), the mother is required to enact any projection of ‘femininity’ from her male ‘counterpart’ in her role as ‘mother’ to their children. This imbalance, in all cases, is towards the Patriarch – the one who holds the social and personal ability to shirk parental duty. The argument one makes here, in response to Mieli’s proposal that the parent acts heterosexual towards their children of the ‘opposite’ sex, is that the basis of the proposal is tipped towards the Patriarch. For the woman (as example), she is not therefore merely positioning herself as heterosexual towards her female children – she is neglecting her role as mother, as the one who shows affection through several forms of looking after the children. For the man, he is teaching the male children to be ‘masculine’ and to refuse to show affection to other men. Ergo, due to the father’s own educastrated mind, the mother must (essentially) ensure the survival of her own children. Mieli acknowledges that through the repression of the feminine the boy grows up to enforce women into maternity, and the ‘homosexual’ factor of this relationship – but only through the perspective of the son, and through what appears to be an assumption that the mother is maternal in herself (and not working a job, for example).[24] He further, utilising Freud, establishes the maternal relationship as sexual (stroking, kissing, etc.) – and as Freud himself does, accuses the mother of using the boy as a sexual substitute for the father.[25] One may wish to ask Mieli why there is no differentiation between sexual acts and parental affection – a proposal here being that Mieli sees sexuality and affection through a patriarchal lens, an educastrated lens perhaps, where one cannot be affectionate without intending such affection to be sexual.

 

For the homosexual woman, Mieli sees the homosexual relationship between a daughter and her mother as the most important relationship to have – and that the Oedipal relation of the daughter to the father is far too easily explained away as a sadistic one, and as a reaction to the neglect of the mother.[26] Mieli mentions Alcune Femministe Milanesi’s proposal that daughters are often between both parents in hatred, the disappointment a daughter has in her mother for her complacency with the patriarchy (her being-possessed by the father), as well as a hatred for the father for possessing the mother.[27] In this sense, the daughter relates to neither binary genders within her parents: she is forced to develop her own sexuality without relation to her familial relations. Mieli does not appear to cover this potential area of transsexuality, but he does attempt to find a structure of congenital transsexuality within the Oedipal complex.[28] Regarding the Oedipus complex as a struggle wherein a ‘normal’ (heterosexual) vs. ‘abnormal’ (homosexual) outcome is derived, Mieli utilises Freud’s proposal that there is a ‘bisexuality originally in children,’[29] in proposing that homosexuality ‘threatens’ the Oedipus complex. Homosexuality proposes an existence without reproduction, where the ‘Mother vs. Father relation’, their roles and their genitalia do not exist – at least, not insofar as the Oedipus complex determines. [30] Again, Mieli does not cover the daughter’s situation, wherein a child may indeed see roles and genitalia and yet threaten the Oedipal relation in spite of this. Perhaps the daughter, too, proposes an existence without reproduction – if by reproduction, we mean that the ‘Mother vs. Father relation’ is discarded for the child. However, in either case (‘homosexual’ or feminist), reproduction may still exist: roles and genitalia may still exist, and we may find things much more complicated, and much less to do with ‘homosexuality’ as a category, than Mieli sets out.

 

Educastration, if applied to transgender analysis, may be put to work on analysis of the ‘mutilated’ body as a ‘gendered’ body – as a gender (or sex) is applied to a child, they are then put under the educastrating gaze. ‘Mutilated’ is an uncomfortable word to use, not least because cisnormative science has a long (continuous) history of mutilation,[31] but also due to its implication that the gendered person (trans* or not) is somehow ‘wrong’. If gender is ‘mutilation’, the person who is comfortable with their gender, its transitive nature, or anything such is somehow assumed to be ‘wrong’. The ‘mutilation’ here is more likely to be the obsession with ‘correct’ gender, or ‘rigid’ gender, much like Mieli’s discussion on ‘neurotic’ hetero- and homosexuality. To propose that gender is ‘mutilative’ is to support cisnormativity’s abnormalisation of a potentially harmful gender. Moving on, the gender-educastrated body would represent the mode in which one is assigned a gender at birth: for Mieli, the homosexual must disidentify with imposed heteronormativity, but for the transgender person, we must disidentify with cisnormativity and our assigned gender at birth.

 

It is certainly obvious that educastration does not always succeed.[32] Utilising Freud’s idea that the child identifies with the mother (therefore becoming her), Mieli proposes that homosexual people escape repression in early childhood: their same-sex parent awards them love, and therefore the child does not have to assume the identity same-sex parent to achieve love in the future. However, the child still understands an ‘abnormality’ in their homosexuality, achieving a fear of relations with the ‘opposite sex’ as they are told their ‘inadequate’ and incapable of fulfilling their role in heterosexual relations.[33] Towards the heteronormative idea that homosexuals are afraid of ‘the mystery of the other sex’, Mieli proposes that we may also see heterosexuals as afraid of their ‘same sex’ due to the restrictions of heteronormative society.[34] He goes on to state that this would still be problematic, and in response we must rid ourselves of the belief in normal versus abnormal hetero/homosexuality.[35] In spite of this, heteronormativity continues to oppress sexual freedom, creating a pathological heterosexuality.[36] Therefore, to remove heteronormativity from the development of a child’s sexuality would be to allow homosexuals to ‘rediscover’ their bisexuality.[37] Re-discover, as the lack of homo- or hetero- sexuality would not have been taken if heteronormativity did not exist.

 

Similarly, to remove cisnormativity from the development of humans would be to allow trans* people to reclaim self-recognition. However, one would prefer to go a step further, as to remove cisnormativity still proposes an imposition of gender onto those who wish to be devoid of such. Trans* normative values, if they exist, may still propose gendernormativity wherein people must identify with some form of gender. Of course, the multiplicity of genders and non-genders within trans* circles is indefinite, but we still fall into a society wherein one must choose to be actively non-gendered (even if this choice is ‘no, I do not want a gender’): therefore, one is always in reaction to gender, much in the same way that the homosexual is always in reaction to heterosexuality.

 

[1] Mieli, op. cit., p. 4.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ivi, p. 42.

[4] Ivi, p. 50.

[5] Ivi, p. 43.

[6] Ivi, p. 49.

[7] Ivi, p. 44. Freud, ‘Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood,’ Standard Edition, Vol. 11 (London: Vintage, 2001), p. 99.

[8] Ivi, p. 45. Freud, ‘Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego,’ Standard Edition, Vol. 18 (London: Vintage, 2001), p. 108.

[9] Ivi, p. 44. Freud, ‘Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy,’ Standard Edition, Vol. 10 (London: Vintage, 2001), p. 109.

[10] Ivi, p. 5.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ivi, p. 12.

[13] Ivi, p. 4.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Elena D. Torre, ‘Transessualita Italian-Style or Mario Mieli's Practice of Love’, Transgender Studies Quarterly, 4.3 (2017), 556–76 (p. 565).

[16] Mieli, op. cit., p. 14.

[17] Ivi, p. 13.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ivi, p. 14.

[20] Ivi, p. 15.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ivi., p. 13.

[23] Ivi., p. 17.

[24] Ivi., p. 16.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ivi, p. 52.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ivi, p. 48.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ivi., p. 53.

[31] The mutilation of the trans* and/or intersex body to ‘fit’ into cisnormative categories, with no regard to the permission of the individual, for one example.

[32] Ivi, p. 5.

[33] Ivi, pp. 50-51.

[34] Ivi, p. 26.

[35] Ivi, p. 27.

[36] Ivi, p. 28.

[37] Ivi, p. 51.

Sex Dev

ABNORMALISATION

Mieli writes on the abnormalisation of homosexuality within parent-child relationships, societal ideologies, and within the psychoanalytic field itself. Whilst Mieli critiques the homophobic interaction of ‘mainstream psychiatry’ with non-normative sexualities,[1] when it comes to Freudian ideas (of repression, the unconscious, and the universal potential for homosexual desire) Mieli endeavours to utilise psychoanalysis for the aforementioned liberation of homosexuality. He believes that heterosexual society engages purely within its hatred of its own homosexual repression,[2] and that we may deconstruct heteronormativity by turning its abnormalising gaze upon itself.

 

Mieli criticises the abnormalising viewpoint of psychoanalysis: that homosexuality is a response to heterosexuality, as an inversion of heterosexuality, instead of a normalising viewpoint: that heterosexuality and homosexuality are equally normal, as determinations of each other.[3] Inversion implies that there is something to be inverted from, and so we must explore where that predetermination of normal sexuality comes from. There is no preconceptual sexuality other than sexuality itself – whether this sexuality itself be named ‘transsexuality’, ‘bisexuality’, or whatever else. As we have already stated, Mieli appreciates Freud for not concretely casting homosexuality as the ‘aberration’ many other psychoanalysts do.[4] For instance, in ‘Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria’ Freud insists that there is much to say ‘about the infantile germs of perversion […] and about our predisposition towards bisexuality,’[5] or in ‘The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman’ where Freud can be quoted in saying, ‘in all of us, throughout life, the libido normally oscillates between male and female objects,’[6] among a great many other potential quotations of note. Nonetheless, Mieli critiques Freud for overlooking the reasons for which society ‘transform[ed] so radically its attitude towards homosexuality.’[7] Secondly, Mieli compares Freud with a few other heteronormative psychoanalysts, such as Ferenczi, who refuse to deny that there may be some form of congenital homosexuality despite believing that homosexuality is pathological.

 

Simply put, Freud lightly critiqued the idea that heterosexuality is not perverted – a criticism that Mieli develops through an analytic section of Towards, notwithstanding the abnormalisations within Freud at large. Mieli’s criticisms question Freud’s inactivity, his refusal to say anything specific in denying heteronormativity. In particular, when Freud states that he does not use perversion to mean immoral, he nonetheless names homosexuality as a perversion whereas heterosexuality is not – heterosexuality is merely a default sexuality, wherein perverted sexualities lie.[8] Referencing Freud’s ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’, Mieli explains that heterosexuality is only considered the ‘non-perverted’, moral outcome from childhood due to ‘repressive society and dominant morality.’[9] Heterosexuality is the only normal form of sexuality, and he emphasises: ‘only genital heterosexuality at that.’[10] Rather than aid homosexual liberation, psychoanalysis has ‘fomented illusions’ and ‘reinforced the prevailing ideology’ of heteronormativity – appointing all homosexuals as incorrectly formed, to have faltered through key stages in childhood.[11] Furthermore, Freud lacks any interest in discussing the ‘specific causes and mechanisms of’ the transformation into being homosexual, and if Freud believed that homosexuality is congenital – ‘there is clearly no sense in exploring its genesis.’ We must instead seek out the reasons for the repression of homosexuality in those who do not express it.[12] Mieli highlights the importance of understanding the relationship between subjects and their objects of desire as a whole – not merely towards homosexual relationships. He suggests that we perform an ‘all-round aetiological research,’ wherein we may find the reasons for homosexual persecution.[13] For Mieli, homosexuality is a repressed universality, and manifest homosexuals are somehow able to avoid this repression. We must therefore move on to discuss how Mieli iterates Freudian concepts. Analysis of the categorisation and typification of homosexuality/ies by psychoanalysis makes up a large part of Towards. Mieli utilises these categorisations to build on potential self-consciousness, or in understanding the validity of homosexuality, and so on.

 

One area of categorisation within homosexuality is the idea of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ homosexuality. This typification may be understood as reflecting traditional binary gender roles in heterosexual society,[14] onto the homosexual relationship, where there is thought to be a lack. There is also the definition of types of homosexuality through age,[15] through sexual interaction (whether you lick the anus, the clitoris, the penis; whether you suck on the penis with a part of your mouth or your whole mouth; whether you penetrate the introitus, the anus, the mouth (and with what); et cetera),[16] and through level of emotional connection.[17] There is also the concept of ‘emergency’ homosexuality, where people ‘resort’ to homosexuality due to there being no persons of the opposite sex in the vicinity – of course, for Mieli this is a form of latent homosexuality.[18] These and other categorisations, for some psychoanalysts such as Tullio Bazzi, determine whether you are a real homosexual or a pseudo-homosexual. According to Mieli, citing Bazzi’s ‘L’omosessualita e la psicoterapia’, a pseudo-homosexual  is a ‘masculine’ man who lusts for a ‘feminine’ man.[19] A real homosexual on the other hand is a ‘feminine’ man who lusts for a ‘masculine’ man – the positioning of the feminine being important, as when the ‘masculine’ man lusts for the ‘feminine’ man with a ‘feminine’ body, the relationship becomes impossible (because then surely the ‘masculine’ man would merely lust for a ‘woman’).[20] Mieli points out that this makes it impossible for there to be any real homosexual relationship, since the only real homosexual here is the female man,[21] a man who is not a man, who is therefore a woman or a non-binary gendered person. Mieli proposes that all men, therefore, are pseudo-homosexuals, as ‘the type of homosexual situation they define as “true” homosexuality is that which most closely resembles heterosexuality.’[22] The heterosexual man, a ‘masculine’ man, lusts for a ‘feminine’ figure. Mieli’s own definition of homosexuality is when ‘people of the same sex’ interact with ‘any kind of desire, act or relation’, taking care to include those who only occasionally or involuntarily interact in this way.[23] The problem with defining sexualities through terms of ‘the nature of the overt sexual relations,’ is that contemporary persons cannot necessarily understand this nature – owing to the heteronormative repression of sexuality.[24]

 

Not only do we here see a more complicated but nonetheless rigid layout of gender roles, we also see an application of ‘perversion’ to performances of gender – or in the very least, gendered performances. After all, one cannot choose which gender one is performing when one is sexually interacting in a cisheteronormative society, as Mieli states here, gender (and therefore sexuality) is enforced upon the person performing. Wherein cisnormativity situates itself as ‘normal’, devoid of ‘perversion’, and trans* people as ‘abnormal’ and ‘perverted’, we see a similar pattern. Cis gender, as we have already discussed, is regarded as the default gender – but we must not neglect that even within this normativity, there are ‘perversions’ of a sort: ‘tomboys’, ‘butch’ lesbians, ‘effeminate’ men, and so on. In fact, one might point out that there is always a ‘perversion’ in being cisgender (much as Freud states about heterosexuality): one is cisgender first, then some form of ‘different’ second – as consequence of one’s peculiarities in being cisgender, i.e., even the ‘masculine’ cisgender man is therefore a masculine man, rather than merely a man (though this is a simplification). The transgender person, therefore, is similar to the homosexual insofar as their being transgender is the perversion in consequence to cisnormativity. The transgender person is regarded as already ‘perverted’ for existing, forbidden to become any more ‘perverted’ in their gender – the transgender woman cannot be ‘masculine’, the transgender man cannot be ‘feminine’ – and it is important to note that, hence, we see a struggle to recognise non-binary trans* people, such as genderfluid, agender, and non-binary people.

 

Heteronormative society, Mieli states, suffers from ‘taboo sickness’, ‘neurosis’, or ‘paranoia’. In other words, heteronormative society is obsessed with the difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Where heterosexuality recreates itself as ‘not homosexual’, its ‘not homosexuality’ being reproduced in its educastrated generations.[25] It creates the fear of a person’s unconscious sexual desires that, for Mieli, are latent in all of us, homosexual or not.[26] Mieli adds that homosexual ‘neurosis’, as psychoanalysts such as Ferenczi call homosexuality, is purely a response to societal homophobia (or heterosexual ‘neurosis’), in which the homosexual is forced to repress themselves.[27] Mieli states that for Ferenczi to accept this, he would first need to accept the possibility of a happy homosexual.[28] The idea that homosexuality is ‘neurotic’, for Mieli, can be rebutted thus: instead of imagining one or the other, homosexuals or heterosexuals, ‘neurotic’ or ‘normal’, we can imagine the ‘neurotic’ as a person who is obsessed with their sexuality. The heterosexual that is obsessed with being heterosexual is, consciously or not, a ‘closet queen’ (a latent homosexual), and therefore sexually neurotic.[29] As psychoanalysts have repeatedly found homosexuality cannot be ‘cured’ by conversion therapy, the ‘cure’ for both the ‘neurotic’ hetero and homosexual is self-acceptance. Mieli suggests that ‘we homosexuals don’t suffer from “inversion” but from the social persecution perpetrated against us,’[30]  that ‘you can’t be cured of a disease that you haven’t got.’[31] It is the imposition of illness that is the illness itself, and if heteronormativity decides that homosexuality is a pathological illness, so too is heterosexuality. Indeed, the transgender person does not suffer from being transgender, but from living in a cisnormative society. The transgender person cannot be cured of their suffering, if that suffering is assumed to be being-transgender: they can only be cured of cisnormativity. The assumption that the cisgender person cannot suffer under the same area of oppression – under gender roles, dysphoria, and the alienation of gender exploration – may be a simplification of cis- and trans- gender itself.

 

In a heteronormative, ‘neurotic’ society, heterosexuality finds purpose in the damnation of homosexuality – for example, the response of the heteronormative individual to homosexuals may be ‘do not feel guilty that you’re different,’ or something such. Mieli, on this imposition that homosexuals must feel guilty as if their sexuality must impose guilt, writes that ‘they are blamed [guilt-tripped] by society,’ it does not come from within – as these heteronormative people believe.[32] This links back to the guilt complex stirred in the child as they are forced into educastration: Mieli continues, ‘many gays indulge in the fantasy of having the father system forgive sins that they have not in fact committed.’[33] Ultimately, we find that this guilt complex leads homosexual individuals to accept their abnormalisation in society if it will grant them society’s tolerance of their existence, society’s tolerance of their sins,[34] the acceptance of which we refer to as assimilation.  For the transgender individual, the guilt of being ‘different’ (of being transgender) is much the same: the guilt is presented as being ‘natural’ to the transgender person’s existence, despite any guilt that may arise being from cisnormative society. In much the same way as with homosexual guilt, we find once again that the guilt complex leads transgender individuals to not only accept but spread transphobia/abnormalisations amongst their own communities. We may see such effects in online transgender (transphobic) figures, such as Kalvin Garrah,[35] or in much less problematic but nonetheless harmful Othering tweets from celebrity academics such as Natalie Wynn, also known as ContraPoints.[36] The actions of these trans* figures are not to be analysed here, but the reaction within the trans* community must be: the acceptance of Kalvin Garrah’s trans* guilt-inducing rhetoric, and the Othering ‘jokes’ of Natalie Wynn made at the expense of other trans* people, indicate a need amongst individuals of the trans* community to accept abnormalisation (or perhaps they are merely used to it) in order to be able to enjoy a space that is supposed to be safe.

 

We see educastration’s Freudian basis in its necessary interaction with the unconscious, the development through childhood, and its conceptual need to be analysed through some form of psychoanalytic lens. Within application to Marx, we may develop educastration through its interaction from the educastrated individual to their material circumstances in production, and in real domination. Wherein the real domination of ‘the capitalist spectacle represents the maximum estrangement reached by the human species in the stage of its prehistory,’[37] the assimilation of homosexuality into capitalist circles (via laws, rights, advertisements, and so on) engages homosexuals into their own estrangement. Homosexuals, when ‘protected’ under capitalism – Mieli specifies under the real domination of capitalism (‘with its real domination, capital seeks to take possession of even the unconscious,’ the unconscious being here the capitalist control of where a homosexual recognises ‘protection’)[38] – they are so ‘protected’ only on the basis of consumerism, specifically on the homosexual’s ability to participate in their real domination. By this latter point, we mean that the homosexual must participate in the appropriation of their own desires, materialities and immaterialities. Capital profits off of our unconscious by both creating it and profiting from its creation.[39] Educastration performs a part in real domination, insofar as educastration ‘mutilates’ the worker’s unconscious, in perpetuating a support for real domination – most certainly in relations of sexual production (where educastration ensures the suffering of the family under heteronormativity), in denying self-consciousness (as the person is forced to conform in development), and in developing generations of abnormalising discourse. Of course, educastration and real domination go somewhat hand-in-hand, they support each other in their roles upon the individual and society at large. However, Mieli specifies the real domination of capital – where educastration, albeit influenced by and an influencer of capital, relies upon more socio-cultural factors. Real domination is a category that is built-upon the relationship between institutions and people, where educastration is a term to describe the relationship between heteronormativity (an idea: influenced by institutions, cultures, histories, etc.) and the individual.

 

For instance, where Mieli states that ‘gay movements have developed in countries where capital has reached the stage of real domination,’[40] Mieli is specifying the significance of autocoscienza under the sublimation of real domination – hence why, ‘with its real domination, capital seeks to take possession of even the unconscious.’[41] With reference to our previous definition of real domination, this would mean that gay movements have developed in countries where (un)conscious lives, desires, and dreams of queer people are controlled by capital. Real domination takes ‘possession of the unconscious’ through those precise processes that define this domination as real rather than formal. This would mean that homosexuals are not just under ‘economic marginalization (poorly paid or lacking jobs) and deprivation of an adequate material standard of living,’[42] but are also under the state’s domination of their (un)conscious: whether that consciousness be ‘the nature of one’s being in the world,’[43] or one’s relationship to it, the state then appropriates that which is able to determine one’s self-consciousness (autocoscienza). Where this self-consciousness is at risk, the dominated individual’s consciousness has no power over ‘its very object,’ (itself, the individual’s consciousness), they cannot ‘change [their] very reality,’ or consider themselves ‘to belong to the ranks of the proletariat,’ [44] or the oppressed as a whole. If the state subsumes homosexuals under real domination, the homosexual is unable to consider itself as an individual in struggle or oppression – as real domination encourages or conditions the homosexual’s (un)conscious towards the belief that they are accepted, that they are not oppressed, and that assimilation into the state is the only option for liberation. In response, we must ‘forge instruments’ of our own to dissociate ourselves from capitalism: for example, Mieli specifies that of queer theory.[45] One of these instruments is ‘an intersubjective project conscious’ created by gays and projected onto ‘the whole of humanity,’[46] in which we must ‘reinterpret everything from our own vantage point,’ to strengthen ourselves and our instruments.[47] Tying into Mieli’s history, we find that an homosexual reconstruction of history is one such instrument, alongside understanding real domination, educastration, transsexuality, and so on. As we have noted, it is important to highlight this distinction as it emphasises Mieli’s theory of homosexual liberation – that we must raise self-consciousness by deconstructing the capitalist control of homosexual life (materialities, potentialities, desires, dreams, and so on). Real domination of the homosexual is the replacement of their formal non-normativity with a real (replaced) non-normativity.

 

[1] Ivi, p. 2.

[2] Ivi, p. 3.

[3] Ivi, p. 20.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Sigmund Freud, The Freud Reader, ed. by Peter Gay, (London: Vintage, 1995), p. 233.

[6] Mieli, op. cit., p. 3.

[7] Ivi, p. 21.

[8] Ivi, p. 24.

[9] Ivi, 4.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ivi, p. 25.

[12] Ivi, p. 45.

[13] Ivi, p. 39

[14] Ivi, p. 25.

[15] Ivi, p. 28.

[16] Ivi, p. 29.

[17] Ivi, p. 30.

[18] Ivi, p. 33.

[19] Ivi, p. 30.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ivi, p. 31.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ivi, p. 32.

[24] Ivi, p. 33.

[25] Ivi, p. 65.

[26] Ivi, p. 66.

[27] Ivi, p. 24.

[28] Ivi, p. 25.

[29] Ivi, p. 33.

[30] Ivi, p. 39.

[31] Ivi, p. 34.

[32] Ivi, p. 91.

[33] Ivi, pp. 94-5.

[34] Ivi, p. 85.

[35] A ‘famous’ transgender YouTube figure who spread hateful rhetoric online against their own community, causing many younger transgender viewers to explore this same hatred – amongst themselves and towards others – in reflection of an ‘ideal’ way to be transgender.

[36] Another famous YouTuber who delves into critical theory and political/philosophical topics: she has published some alienating tweets towards non-binary and non-normative trans* people, though apologising every time.

[37] Mieli, op. cit., p. 58.

[38] Ivi, p. 107.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ivi, p. 1.

[41] Ivi, p. 107.

[42] R. L. Platero, ‘Redistribution and Recognition in Spanish Transgender Laws’, Politics and Governance, 8.3 (2020), 253–65 (p. 255).

[43] Murray Smith, ‘Consciousness’, in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film (London: Routledge, 2012), ed. by Paisley Livingstone and Carl Plantinga, pp. 39-51 (p. 42).

[44] Slavoj Zizek, How to Read Lacan (London: Granta Books, 2006), p. 17.

[45] Ivi, p. 107.

[46] Ivi, p. 108.

[47] Ibid.

Abs

WOMEN AND GAY MASCULINITY

We would be remiss to ignore the several areas of comparison between women and homosexual men featured in Towards, certainly in our attempt of transgender analysis: Mieli silently bridges a gap between gender as materiality, and gender as performance or social imposition. This gap is unfortunately leaped over, as the two are equated and lack discourse that may be of integral importance to Mieli’s end-goal of transsexual liberation.  

 

For example, Mieli asserts that homosexual men are closer to women than heterosexual men, because they are situated in relation to sexual desires and oppressions – ‘he knows what it means to be treated as a convenient hole, a sexual object on which the male […] inflicts a mediocre, neurotic and egoistic desire. Many gay men, moreover, understand what it is to go around dressed “as a woman.”’[1] One obvious difference in this last point that Mieli presents is that gay men may dress ‘as a woman’ for different reasons than trans* women, trans* men, and cisgender women – though there is never one uniform reason for any group. In general, Mieli’s gay man dresses as a woman to liberate his feminine side: whether in protest or in expression. Trans* men may dress ‘as a woman’ due to cisnormative oppression, to express themselves, because they are not ready to socially transition, because they cannot afford other clothes, and so on. Trans* women may dress ‘as a woman’ to express their gender, whether this be because they must do so to ‘fit in’ to cisnormative society or not – it may of course be not to express their gender (if they do not find their gender in ‘women’s clothes’) – among a great, perhaps endless, list of reasons to dress ‘as a woman’. Once again, the listed reasons a person might ‘dress as a woman’ are generalisations. However, we must not forget one important area of analysis: what does it mean to ‘go around dressed “as a woman”’? Of course, one cannot dress ‘as a woman’ – one is either a woman or not (though even this may be debated – as one can be a non-binary woman for example, if one appreciates the term ‘woman’ but also ‘non-binary’ – trans* gender is by no means a simple category), and there is no costume that one may don to be ‘as woman’ without meaning to Other women. To ‘understand what it is to go around dressed “as a woman,”’ is to imply that gay men, too, ‘dress’ as women, just as women do. Mieli misses out at least one key factor here: not all women dress ‘as women’, and indeed it may be impossible for a woman to dress ‘as a woman’ unless she donned some form of not-woman[2] to then wear, on top, ‘woman’.

 

Furthermore, we find the same issues in Mieli’s Marxist analysis. To reiterate, real domination of capital appropriates areas of homosexual recreational activity: Mieli specifies, the fashion industry, and ‘bars, clubs, hotels, discos, saunas, cinemas, and pornography.’[3] As psychoanalytic theorist Laura Mulvey writes, the capitalist spectacle now engages in human estrangement through its ‘haunt[ing of] the culture of consumption […] advanced capitalism consolidates its world power through the entertainment and communications industries.’[4] Mieli gives example that the fashion industry – insofar as it is an appropriation of homosexual labour and culture – is an appropriation of the (male) homosexual desire for masculinity. He further proposes that the woman-object, the fashion model, wherein she is decorated and performs fashion, is both ‘a commodity designed for heterosexual fantasy,’ and ‘the creation of male homosexual aesthetic fantasy,’ and therefore a characterisation of male homosexuality.[5] She is a ‘phallus disguised as a woman,’ as she is ‘characterised by a stiffness of form (erect breasts, firm and protruding buttocks), whereas women generally tend more than men to a softness of form.[6] Interestingly, Mieli does not directly state that this example showcases the appropriation of feminine bodies within the fashion industry. It is disconcerting that Mieli appears to attribute general aesthetics to sexualities – if you enjoy the ‘erect’ breasts represented in a picture of a woman, then you enjoy the phallus. Of course, we should note that this application of the feminine body, depicted in such a way (if it is a way at all), is not necessarily true – here, Mieli applies a generalisation of the desires of women, projecting the word stiff to breasts and buttocks, and seemingly implies that to enjoy softness is to disregard erect breasts and protruding buttocks.

 

As Torre points out, and as we find in much of Towards, the definitive educastrated subject seems only to be inclusive of cisgender men. Educastration, therefore, along with many of Mieli’s other concepts, echoes a patriarchal focal-point – the ignorance of how cisgender women and transgender people experience heteronormativity (et cetera) reflects badly on Mieli’s call for  feminist revolution: a few pages (pp. 200-207) of Towards are dedicated to discussing women and feminism, though other areas are scattered through the book, the statement: ‘”stop making love with men, let women make love with one another, and with us!” That is our gay proposal to women,’[7] echoes once again the patriarchal psychoanalytic/revolutionary demand for women to fit themselves into the patriarchal revolutionary context, though the word ‘proposal’ certainly gives more space than a demand (it is supposed to be a suggestion, rather than an insistence), the rest of the sentence represents an occupying of space: ‘stop making love with men’, a demand that separates people (not merely women) from their ability to recognise their own oppression and autonomy within their relationships, though this is perhaps less important than the next point where Mieli states – ‘that is our gay proposal to women’, once again separating gay from women, as if one cannot be both a woman and gay. One of the most dangerous short-falls of Mieli’s theory is their idea that transsexual liberation ‘can only follow from the work of the women’s movement and the complete liberation of homoeroticism.’[8] Torre argues that this ‘reflected the emergence of a revolutionary consciousness that carried the potential to make manifest everybody’s own deep transsexual being.’[9] However, one could argue that this promotes the idea that non-normative people are subordinate (in power or in need) to others, rather than the opposite – that we work together to fight for our liberation. In fact, this idea of ‘women’s liberation’ as required before transsexual liberation perhaps stems from Mieli’s ease to idealise ‘transsexual’ or ‘homosexual’ as male-oriented, and within this white male-oriented: after all, the work of non-heterosexual, non-cisgender BIPOC women (for example) is often neglected from any form of white queer/trans analysis. We see the erasure of LGBTQIA+ women and otherwise non-cisgender(male) people throughout Towards, yet Mieli attempts to create space for women within his work. For example, Mieli also mentions ‘cultural clitoridectomy’, a term coined by Carla Lonzi, in her essay Sputiamo su Hegel (Let’s Spit on Hegel/We Spit on Hegel). It describes the erasure of feminine sexual freedom. Mieli links Lonzi’s cultural clitoridectomy with educastration, regarding cultural clitoridectomy as the ‘repression of gay desire,’[10] as he equates Lonzi’s clitoridectomy with his musings on repression of masculine homosexuality.

 

[1] Ivi, p. 47.

[2] For example, she may wear ‘misogyny’: she must alienate women before ‘dressing as a woman’.

[3] Mieli, op. cit., p. 93.

[4] Laura Mulvey, Fetishism and Curiosity (London: British Film Institute Publishing, 1996), p. 1.

[5] Mieli, op. cit., p. 58.

[6] Ivi, p. 59.

[7] Ivi, p. 206.

[8] Ivi, p. 38

[9] Torre, op. cit., pp. 570-571.

[10] Ivi., p. 561.

Women and Gays

TRANSSEXUALITY

We will now discuss how Mieli justifies transsexuality as a revolutionary concept that would drive us away from heteronormativity, from educastration, and from capitalist domination. As we have discussed, transessualità, or transsexuality, refers to the trans-sexual potential of sexual desire and societal understanding.

 

During his introduction of the book, Mieli defines transsexuality as the ‘original and deep hermaphroditism of each individual,’[1] as well as ‘our potential erotic availability.’[2] Therefore, within transsexuality Mieli does not only refer to the liberation of desire, but also the hindrances of sexual difference. The ‘erotic tendencies’ and non-binary gender (Mieli calls this ‘hermaphrodism’) that which we were educastrated from birth, as we are all latent homo- or heterosexuals respective of our current sexuality.[3] Transsexuality situates itself in relation to the repression of desire, and in relation to autocoscienza (consciousness-raising, or self-consciousness). In a word, our queerness is repressed – or for the man, our femininity is repressed. It should be mentioned that Mieli uses the term sex (sesso) to refer both to sex and gender. Mieli’s transsexuality, as we will discuss, maintains a deep connection with the consideration of gender.

 

Mieli believes heterosexual men must incite an internal dialectic, a ‘recognition of the woman in themselves’ (riconoscimento della donna in se), and therefore recognise their innate transsexuality – instead of projecting that ‘woman’ onto their objects of desire and negating the woman that is already there. It is for this reason that ‘woman is not recognised as an autonomous being, but comes to be historically defined entirely in relation to the male.’[4] Despite this, Mieli proposes, a homosexual man who appreciates his mother is more likely to reject the heterosexual male objectification of women,[5] due to the aforementioned idea that homosexual men may relate to the ‘woman’ on the basis of their own alienation. It is not necessarily true that the ‘recognition of the woman in the (cis male) self’ equates to the recognition of cisgender men as cisgender women, and so on. It is, rather, that the heteropatriarchy enforces a normativity unto the individual – and this ‘woman in the self’ represents the oppressed/repressed part of the man that is typified as ‘effeminate’. ‘Recognition of the woman itself’ may also be translated to ‘the recognition of the woman herself’, which may be understood as critiquing the heteropatriarchy for objectifying and mistreating women, people assigned female at birth, feminine people, and so on.

 

One issue with Mieli’s transsexuality is that, within this concept, we do not find the negation of gender/sex/sexuality, but the implication that we are all trans-sexual: able to desire both men and women. The term transsexual may be used to describe the innate different sexual differences of people, as transsexual implies the validity of the polarities of sexualities/sexes – to transition between things is to move from one point to another, and transsexual may mistake the facticity of whatever categorises the polarities on either side of this trans-sexuality. This conversation is of a very different area than if we were to be discussing transsexuality/transgender as it is defined outside of Mieli, as we would not be discussing the validity of already lived experiences (genders, sexes, sexualities) – Mieli’s transsexual does not rely on already lived experiences, but on potentialities. Despite this, Mieli acknowledges that transsexual was a term already in use by trans* people to describe their transitioning sex/gender.[6] The contemporary use of the word ‘transgender’ refers generally to a person whose gender is not the same as the gender they were assigned at birth. Verloo and van der Vleuten state that ‘transsexual’, under the umbrella term of ‘transgender’, specifies ‘a person who was assigned [a gender at birth] and underwent medical treatment such as gender confirmation surgery and/or hormonal therapy.’[7] Verloo and van der Vleuten impose this definition of ‘transsexual’ where many may find it offensive, but just as many may find it liberatory.

 

In some instances, Mieli uses the word bisexual to refer to people who are sexually attracted towards men and women.[8] Mieli also uses the term original bisexuality to refer to intersex people.[9] We see that Mieli believes that bisexuality assumes the validity of the existence of homosexual and heterosexual categorisations,[10] whereupon we must look towards transsexuality to avoid such absolute categorisation. Mieli explains that the separation of sexualities is based on the idea that sexuality is not fluid, and at the same time, on the idea that heterosexuality is normal and homosexuality abnormal,[11] where homosexuality acts as a category consistently in reaction towards heterosexuality. It is heteronormativity that dictates what homosexuality is, and therefore heteronormativity exists as a category based on its own negation – if heterosexuality is everything that homosexuality is not, and homosexuality is everything that heterosexuality is not, and heterosexuality dictates what homosexuality is, and heterosexuality dictates what heterosexuality is, where homosexuality does neither: under heteronormativity, homosexuality is merely another form of heterosexuality.

 

In the second use of bisexual, the comparison of original bisexuality as intersex, Mieli quotes Daniel Paul Schreber. Mieli sees evidence of our original bisexuality in the ‘underdeveloped’ form of the ‘male nipple’ and the ‘female clitoris’.[12] It should be noted that no form of being is necessarily ‘underdeveloped’. Where Mieli names the clitoris as ‘underdeveloped’, he assumes that it does not perform a ‘developed’ function of its derivative part – assumedly the penis – rather than assuming that the clitoris performs whatever role it takes upon the body of its user. Interestingly, Mieli appears to make the same mistake that he criticises within the distinction of sexualities – that mistake being the assumption of binaries, or more specifically of the exploitation of people in production. The ‘male nipple’ is assumed to be ‘underdeveloped’ due to its size, purpose, and so on. Similarly the ‘female clitoris’ is assumed to be ‘underdeveloped’ for the same, or at least alike, reasons. A transgender reasoning would deny the use of ‘male’ or ‘female’ (a person may be male and have ‘female’ nipples, if we were to be cisnormative in wording), and if Mieli truly did wish to speak of intersex bodies – he would have to accept the fact that there is no sex applicable to either of these organs. Here still, Mieli’s reasoning proposes a belief in binary sexes. Original bisexuality refers not to transessualità – its ‘polymorphism’ and limitless expression – but to a monomorphic, uniform bisexuality in which there is only one way to have a ‘male nipple’ or a ‘female clitoris’: both being the opposite of their singular counterparts (the ‘female nipple’ and the ‘male penis’). It would not suffice to reject Mieli’s mistake on the basis that transgender people exist (that a person may transition, ergo there is such a thing as the ‘male to female nipple’, and we must make an exception in language), nor would it suffice to reject his mistake because intersex people exist (that due to the existence of intersex people, we must make an exception in language and so on) – though this is certainly true. One would rather propose that, once again, the body functions for its own form – there is no such thing as an ‘underdeveloped’ organ.

 

Interestingly, Mieli does not recognise genitalia nor the body as a gendered form – though this does not cancel out the sexual form. In one area, Mieli states that ‘manifest transsexuals’ (what we would generally call transgender, and so on – not the transsexual proposed in his theory) adhere themselves to a binary ‘gender opposite to their genital definition.’[13] He points out that this transition is sometimes affected by the struggle to be non-binary in a binary-gendered world, pushed to either physically transition or psychologically transition along the terms of the gender binary.[14] For ‘manifest transsexuals’, the attempt by society to enforce gender binaries based on genitalia merely enforces the need to transition.[15] In another area, Mieli states that the anus is not the same as the vagina (echoing Guy Hocquenghem)  – that, when one equates the two, ‘homosexuality is thus defined by its lack [of a vagina] and assumed to signify hatred of woman, who is the only sexual object.’ In other words, if one proposes that the vagina and the anus are the same, homosexual cisgender male relationships merely replace the woman as sexual object – the anus becoming a vaginal substitute – and the assumption is made that the male homosexual abhors women.[16] We may see an assumption that homosexuality is a cis-male exclusive endeavour (a default, as we have discussed a problem in Towards) within this distinction between the vagina and the anus – though the distinction could be made less exclusive with more inclusive thought. To the modern transgender reader, this might present itself as a concept that is hard to understand – in a trans categorisation of gender, the vagina has very little to do with a person’s gender or sexuality, it merely depends upon the gender of the sexual partner. Of course, the idea that the anus is distinct from the vagina on the basis that the vagina is a vagina because it ovulates and so on, would be a common ‘misunderstanding’ on the basis of biology. Despite this criticism, it is important to recognise Mieli’s point (though it may be somewhat subtextual) – that a woman is reduced to her vagina, and if she were to have anal sex with anyone, then her sexual partner is somehow gay, hates women, or that she herself is not a woman (at least not in the proper sense, where she performs her duty to have vaginal sex).

 

We see further binarism in Mieli’s idea that genitalia signifies the ‘predominance’ of sex in a person, rather than an eradication of ‘the “opposite” sexual presence.’[17] Binarism is present still here – despite Mieli stating ‘opposite’ sex with quotation, rather than solely in his own words – as to recognise a potential ‘predominance’ of sex is to believe that there is a sex capable of predominating over another in the first place. Rather, we would look towards explaining ‘sex’ as a phenomenon of unlimited forms, where there is no ‘predominance’ other than the predominance of the entire form of the person. We may see this same argument in Mieli’s musings on ‘homosexuality as hermaphrodism’, an idea developed in Freud’s Three Essays, where Freud derives homosexuality from a theory that we have developed from an ‘atrophied’ original bisexuality of the human species.[18] Mieli criticises this idea, stating that we cannot suppose that heterosexuality is ‘a self-evident fact,’[19] in other words – this theory assumes the ‘unisexuality’ (normative sexuality) as heterosexuality, where homosexuality is a remainder of evolutionary history. One must return to the prior point, that we may see binarism in Mieli’s predominance of sex. The belief that we may develop a predominance of sex requires that we develop this predominance against the non-dominant sex within us, to whatever amount this may be. We cannot suppose that sexual difference is a self-evident fact, though this may confound a binary audience, or anyone who believes binarism to be helpful in some way. This binarism of sex may be just as astonishing to gender theorists. The existence of sex need not be predominant and subsidiary, but merely its own sex, with its own form and characteristics – not separated from the sex’s owner, as sex is often seen as separate from any and all forms of social or human interaction.  We may see the same point made, where Mieli defines bisexuality ‘as a compromise […] if by bisexuality is meant the sum of heterosexuality and homosexuality,’[20] a revolutionary homosexual will not accept themselves as heterosexual in any part – for their relationship with the opposite sex is ‘tainted’ by heteronormative structures. [21] Of course, the same thing can be said for the ‘revolutionary homosexual’, whose sexuality is built as a reaction to the heteronormative society – for good reason, yes, but would this not be still called a compromise? In the very least, to impose the idea that being bisexual is a compromise in a heteronormative world is to assume the existence of ‘levels of homosexuality’, it is to assume and reinforce what Mieli has already, himself, deconstructed as problematic. Therefore no revolutionary gay would identify as bisexual even if he was attracted to women. In comparison, if by sex we meant the sum of woman and man (and with a dominance of one over the other, in fact), we would be envisaging all who have a sex as existing in consequence of woman and man – just as the bisexual exists in consequence of hetero- and homosexuality. What purpose does this serve other than to ‘compromise’ against a cisnormative system? Perhaps Mieli compromises within cisnormativity here, wherein he defines sex in the same way that he defines bisexual.

 

Mieli proposes that the only likeness homosexuality and transsexuality have is the fact that they are both ‘congenital in everyone,’ and that they are both actually transsexuality.[22] Mieli uses example of masculine ‘effeminacy’ to explain that ‘manifest heterosexuality’ can be ‘often accompanied by clear expressions of physical hermaphrodism’ – whereas homosexuality has no ‘direct correspondence’ to what have historically been named ‘morphological and hormonal disturbances’.[23] To deconstruct Mieli’s formulated argument here, we have to discuss why he sees direct correspondence of physical hermaphrodism in heterosexuality, but not in homosexuality. He puts this down to Dreyfus’ theory that ‘effeminacy’ is caused by an androgen-oestrogen hormonal imbalance.[24] Why Mieli adheres this to the heterosexual man, but not the homosexual man, is unclear – he concludes the next page by stating that ‘neither manifest homosexuality nor heterosexuality […] correspond to any specific mental, somatic, or hormonal characteristics,’[25] a conclusion which fundamentally disagrees with his adherence of heteromale ‘effeminacy’ as hormonal imbalance. This area of confusion is one example within many, where Mieli attempts to establish one point whilst seemingly recreating the normativity he critiques. We may recall our criticism of the term ‘underdeveloped’, in a very similar sense.

 

We have laid out some areas wherein the body, culture, and the unconscious are appropriated by capital for Mieli: the culture of cisgender homosexuals, procreation (particularly for women), and the exploitation and marginalisation of homosexuals via socio-economic means. We have expanded upon this, that the woman’s body is appropriated via the fashion industry alongside the ‘male’ homosexual culture. Furthering our analysis of the appropriation of bodies, we analysed Freud: where the child’s potential, their future and right to their own development, is appropriated by heteronormative society – what may be called educastration, a concept that bases itself on Freudian theory and is developed by Marxist theory. This last chapter on transsexuality has aimed to establish Mieli’s solution to heteronormativity, his wish for humanity to eradicate homo- and heterosexuality as categories, and the transgender response to the establishment of transsexuality as response to binary sexuality. We will now establish our own response to cisnormativity, though such will touch only upon the areas we have covered in this dissertation.

 

[1] Ivi, p. 6.

[2] Ivi, pp. xxxvi-xxxviii

[3] Ivi, p. 6.

[4] Ivi, p. 15.

[5] Ivi, p. 47.

[6] Ivi, p. 7.

[7] Mieke Verloo and Anna van der Vleuten, ‘Trans Politics: Current Challenges and Contestations Regarding Bodies, Recognition, and Trans Organising’, Politics and Governance, 8.3 (2020), 223–30 (p. 225).

[8] Ivi, p. 26.

[9] Ivi, P. 6.

[10] Ivi, p. 55.

[11] For one instance of this argument, see: ivi, pp. 55-6.

[12] Ivi, p. 6.

[13] Ivi, p. 8.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Torre, op. cit., pp. 567-70.

[17] Ivi, p. 8.

[18] Ivi, p. 9.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ivi, p. 56.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ivi, p. 10.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ivi, p. 22.

Trans

TOWARDS A TRANS* LIBERATION

A transgender analysis derived from Towards is certainly available, albeit complicated and difficult to translate without extensive criticisms or clarifications. For example, where Mieli believes that everyone is transsexual, ‘forced to identify with a specific monosexual role, masculine or feminine,’[1] we must first deconstruct the cisnormative binary present in his writing before moving to utilise his work for our own theory. Perhaps it is only due to Mieli’s binary-gendered theory that we are able to criticise what was once a gay communist manifesto, a homosexual critique of heteronormativity, and we may have Mieli to thank for our transgender critique of cisnormativity. We must forget, however, the implications of the self-destructive categorisations within our criticisms. Mieli’s ‘gay liberation’ spoke over a diverse, alienated group of non-heterosexual people – and so, we must ask ourselves ‘what would a trans* liberation mean for us’? We may look towards fellow transgender studies theorists to help us in establishing some meaning.

 

First and foremost, we must discuss the fact that the liberation of homosexuals does not come from the tolerance or protection of them in society.[2] To be ‘tolerated’ by the capitalist state reflects nothing compared to the goal of ‘normality’ – where there is nothing to tolerate, because homosexuals are not seen as different. Further, to be ‘protected’ by the state reflects nothing compared to not needing that protection because there is nothing to protect homosexuals from – again, upon the same reasons, we must seek normalisation. Toleration and protection relies upon one first proposition: that those that need to be tolerated and protected are ‘different’.[3] The relationship between protection and aggression, for Mieli, is very clear – they are the same thing. By this he means that the state must be aggressive before it protects and ensures the subject’s complicity in this protection, and from there the state may convince the subject to become a consumer of its goods (of its protections, of its ideas, and so on). This weakens the reason for the homosexual to protest for their rights of safety and self-determination,[4] and plays off of the guilt complex, the educastration, that oppressive society perpetuates – it ‘provides footholds for the guilty feeling of those who are content merely to be tolerated.’[5] Furthermore, assimilation and the acceptance of rigid sexualities, of binary genders and so on, ensures that we will situate human categories in relation to each other: whichever one is historically normative, useful for capital, and so on. Dan Irving, transgender scholar, explains that ‘legal freedoms and protections are earned by individuals who can demonstrate their value’ in a capitalist economy.[6] They further state that even these ‘legal freedoms and protections’ do not necessarily protect anyone – they are merely ‘symbolic’,[7] leaving an institution, authority, or a population to determine whether they wish to adhere themselves to this symbolic protection or not. As Judith Butler states, ‘the economy that claims to include the feminine as the subordinate term in a binary opposition of masculine/feminine excludes the feminine, produces the feminine as that which must be excluded for that economy to operate.’[8] Certainly, the ‘economy’ is expanded not only within capital, but also within social economy – the value of a gender, of a sexuality, of a body or a mind. We may translate Marx’s labour-value here, with some liberties: gender-value, sexuality-value, and so on. For many transgender studies scholars, liberation cannot be found without a complete restructuring of society. [9] Nordmarken rather wishes to ask ‘how do gender minorities disrupt gender attribution?’[10] We may say one thing in response: is disruption enough to avoid an assimilation into society? A society wherein Mieli’s homosexual struggle for transsexual liberation has been discarded into history, where we are told that homophobia calls home (and yet it is rampant today)? Have we not seen the gay liberation movement disrupt heteronormative society, and do we not see a worrying rise in acceptance of assimilation: in the contentment to be appropriated by corporations at pride, in the contentment to allow the suffering of our trans*, disabled, intersex, young, racialised, and continuously Othered peers? Nordmarken indeed wishes for a restructuring of society, but a disruption is perhaps not the way forwards – perhaps, instead, it is a destruction: or in the very least, a deconstruction.

 

For Mieli, the distinction between the revolutionary homosexual and the integrationist homosexual is an important one. The revolutionary homosexual recognises that the protection and tolerance of homosexuality by the state is not an admittance to safety or self-determination.[11] As aforementioned, the tolerance of the state does not stop the spread of ‘gay = abnormal,’ protection must come at the cost of the homosexual’s labour (and not for them as a homosexual before they are productive), and the protection of the state is by no means an intrinsic part of the state – laws may be repealed, constitutional rights overturned, and so on. The ‘labour’ that the homosexual is required to do must be elaborated upon to avoid misunderstanding: (1) the homosexual must perform themselves with immaculate ability, they must buy good clothes, good hygiene products, etc. (2) they must keep up with the gentrification of their ‘ghettos’, as they are now regarded as ‘natural’ their neighbourhoods and entertainment venues are welcoming rich people who seek out the gay niche for their own enjoyment, since it is no longer taboo, (3) the homosexual must contribute monetary value to the state/society, for if they do not their ‘heterosexual-specific’ health needs are not covered by the protection of the state (look at the amount of gay people who lost their lives during the AIDS crisis due to the state and doctors refusing to treat them, when heterosexuals were admitted to hospital, and so on), (4) if the homosexual does not qualify for higher waged jobs (not passing a background check due to prior drug use to cope with the heteronormative trauma of society, or not being admitted to University due to a school record, etc.) then they are forced to live and work in a homophobic area because they cannot afford to move away. There are a plethora of scenarios and reasons for which the so-called protections of the state do not level-out the lifestyles between normative people and non-normative people.

 

We must debate the categorisation of ‘trans*’ or ‘gay’ liberation, of even the ‘revolutionary/integrationist’ distinction, however. If we cannot justify the umbrella term for ‘revolutionary’, ‘integrationist’, and so on – what at all is to bring forth our liberation, what is the intersectional revolution at all?

 

On the one hand, Kean writes that to be ‘queer’ is not a form of identity, but a political stance: a queer person is ‘anti-assimilationist and subversive,’ believing in a politics ‘where all marginalized or oppressed people come together in order to fight against all dominant norms and oppressive systems.’[12] ‘Trans*’ is perhaps not the right term to use when speaking of trans* liberation itself: if by trans* liberation we mean to describe precisely what Kean puts forwards as ‘queer’, perhaps the right term would be ‘queer revolution,’ coupled with ‘trans* liberation,’ and the liberation of ‘all marginalized or oppressed people,’ which is also known as intersectional revolution. In reflection, to title this conclusive chapter as ‘towards a trans* liberation,’ is perhaps to risk an enforced ‘shared’ liberation: in other words, to risk instilling a ‘shared identity [that] leads to exclusion and a false sense of universality.’ [13] That is to say – the ‘transgender’ community does not exist: it is a cultural ‘construction’, (re)ified into acknowledgement due to the diverse communities and individuals that interact with its construct. We see the same issue in Mieli’s Towards a Gay Communism, where ‘homosexual’ liberation appears to only refer to ciswhitehomosexual men – despite the fact that we may learn from the issues we have presented, we may also find ourselves speaking over (or for) people within a lack of proper categorisation and understanding of non-cisnormative lives. If it is true that ‘recognition politics tend to promote a differentiation of social groups that reinforces identity politics,’ [14]  then we must either cease the attempt to be recognised or fight for a form of recognition that eradicates any potential difference. However, as Dan Irving suggests, human rights are ‘paradoxical’, that ‘to achieve rights, vulnerable populations must render themselves intelligible through cultivating normative identities.’[15] Wherein we ‘cultivate normative identities,’ we further abnormalise ‘non-normative identities’ that, for example, are not only alienated on the basis of their gender but on their culture, nationality, and so on: Vivianne Namaste suggests, for example, that a ‘francophone’ person may not be ‘adequately represented within a legal framework that depends on anglophone concepts.’[16] Mieli acknowledges this problem of abnormalisation within Towards, and yet appears to abnormalise gay women and transgender people, among others. One area of Towards that is perhaps of great help, however, is Mieli’s response to abnormalisation: that it is not our abnormality for which we should strive in order to find ourselves, but in deconstructing and recognising the abnormal in the normative – therefore, non-normative discourse avoids imposing shame on itself whilst understanding the innate (ab)normality in all beings. Mieli’s response here is important, as many transgender theorists have found trans* liberation in abnormality: though seeking pride in being different, rather than the innate (ab)normality within all things – this being far from an adequate categorisation of said transgender theorist’s work, however. For example, we may find that the idea that trans* liberation may be found in being uncategorisable (being ‘inhuman’, ‘monstruous’, and so on) is far from an unpopular one in trans* studies. [17] Towards Mieli’s Gay Communism, the application of mono-categorisation (we are all transsexual) escapes this abnormalisation. Perhaps we might find liberation, or aid towards it, in an amalgamation of the two theories: we are all (in)human, after all – to be under one category may be also to be uncategorisable. On the other hand, to rely on a categorisation of humanity (whether it is the negation of humanity or not), is still merely a reaction to imposed determinations. In reflection, we may find liberation in negating the uncategorisable – even in ‘inhumanity,’ we are categorisable – whether this be by negating the ability to categorise, or by negating categorisation itself. We saw the same conversation in our chapter on historical analysis, reflecting upon the archives’ uses, purposes, and definitions.

 

On the other hand, Jay Prosser questions the willingness of transgender theorists in believing the ‘imaginariness of material reality’ rather than in ‘the material reality of the imaginary’. A statement wherein we cannot but find ourselves upon another dilemma, Prosser continues:

 

‘That the transsexual’s trajectory centers on reconfiguring the body reveals that it is the ability to feel the bodily ego in conjunction and conformity with the material body parts that matters in a transsexual context; and that sex is perceived as something that must be changed underlines its very un-phantasmatic status.’ [18]

 

Here we may infer that Prosser argues thus: both the transsexual’s body and their (Lacanian) ego being transitive proposes that sex is material. Simply put, Prosser proposes that to change something is to accept it as a materiality – to change your genitalia (and your gender) is to accept them as existing. Zairong Xiang introduces Gayle Salamon’s response that Prosser has situated sex within the Real (the Lacanian ‘Real’, not to be confused with the ‘real’, as the ‘Real’ represents objective reality – to be obtuse). [19] In implying that transitioning evidences gender as Real, Salamon rewrites Prosser’s argument: instead of the implication that gender/sex is not a construct, we find that sex/gender is entirely incomprehensible – after all, it is situated in the Real.

 

Ultimately, the liberation of 2SLGBTQIA+ people may both appear to be outside and inside of material categorisation: we must both move away from discussing ‘“ecologies of embodied difference”’, [20] and yet also acknowledge the bases and forms of such ‘differences’ – whilst simultaneously discussing whether we trans* people may even speak of each other in cisnormative society.[21] We cannot necessarily find liberatory disruption in ‘counter-identification’, for example wherein we produce more and more labels:[22] ‘counter-identification’ has worked more towards assimilation rather than towards liberation. Identification appears, regardless of its impact, to ultimately be into oppressive structures – perhaps, liberation lies in being unassimilable’, to dismantle whatever superstructural system we are under that appears (or rather, does not appear at all) to be un-dismantlable. All of this, the entire dissertation, highlights the need for us to deconstruct the bases of liberatory, critical, and transgender studies: we appear to have already found the limits of bodied discourses, wherein we must discard the ‘event horizon’ embodied in normative and dualistic material-/ideal-isations. From Mieli’s discourse on gay liberation, focused as it is on Freud and on a recount of history, we see a great difference between one area of analysis and another – from Mieli to Salamon, despite connecting to psychoanalysts such as Freud and Lacan, discourse on self-recognition, on autocoscienza, on gender and sexuality, takes many forms.

 

[1] Ivi, p. 8.

[2] Ivi, p. 93.

[3] Ivi, p. 94.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ivi, p. 95.

[6] Irving, op. cit., p. 327.

[7] Ivi., p. 328.

[8] Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 10.

[9] Nordmarken, op. cit., p. 39.

[10] Ivi, p. 41.

[11] Mieli, op. cit., p. 94.

[12] Eli Kean, ‘Locating Transgender Within the Language of Queer in Teacher Education’, Multicultural Perspectives, 22.2 (2020), 57–67 (p. 64).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Platero, op. cit., p. 254.

[15] Irving, op. cit., p. 320.

[16] Platero, op. cit., p. 254.

[17] Irving, op. cit., p. 330.

[18] Zairong Xiang, ‘Transdualism: Toward a Materio-Discursive Embodiment’, Transgender Studies Quarterly, 5.3 (2018), 425–42 (pp. 437 – 438).

[19] Ibid.

[20] Pedro J. DiPietro, ‘Of Huachaferia, Asi, and M'e Mati: Decolonising Transing Methodologies’, Transgender Studies Quarterly, 3.1-2 (2016), 65–73 (p. 65).

[21] Platero, op. cit., p. 254.

[22] Nordmarken, op. cit., p. 46.

Towardsa Trans

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Biblio
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