Decolonize ALL The Things

The UNsettling reflections of a Decolonial Scientist in a Constant State of Rage

Under Construction: Decolonizing Queer Masculinity(ies) Part II – Depatriarchalizing The Body

February 7, 2015
Shay-Akil

Under-construction

Introduction

I have decided to turn my initial blog post “Under Construction: Decolonized Queer Masculinity(ies)” into a series where I deconstruct colonial notions of gender, sexuality, sex category, & the many intersections with other identities & systems of domination.  In my first blog post in this series I discussed unhinging my identity from patriarchal notions of gender & situating myself within my queer masculinity.  In this blog post I want to discuss what that is like when it comes to decolonizing my own eyes & the ways in which I view, theorize, & engage with my own body.

My Standpoint

There has been a lot of scholarship produced on concepts of the body, how the Western world came to develop its mechanical sense of the human body and dictate the ways in which we interact, design medicine, and define normality.  As a biological/physical anthropologist, I have studied the human body and pathology through human osteology, biology, & anatomy for the last 6 years as a undergrad and graduate student.  My own standpoint as a scholar puts me in a very particular position because even though I have taken comparative primate anatomy, forensic anthropological osteology, bioarchaeology, dental anthropology, paleopathology and human gross anatomy I have taken just as many humanities and social science courses on the human body and its social, political, and economic meanings.  Due to my own field specialties, I have come to notice & challenge notions of normality across Western medicine and pop culture.  The ways in which citizens in the U.S. engage with things as simple as food, fitness products, and concepts of health are all very particular hegemonic calculations that deem specific bodies worthy and devalue others.

The reality is, as I move forward in attempts to decolonize & depatriarchalize the ways in which I view and understand myself, I also need to unhinge my own understandings of my body from naturalism/biological determinism.  Naturalism/Biological determinism states that everything that we are is determined by our biological and hence genetic components.  This ideal engages in reducing us to slaves to our own genes and biology, which makes it easy for eugenicists to argue that intelligence, inferiority, and many social characteristics are all innate and that the current hegemonies we see in the world are all a consequence of the natural order of things, social darwinism.  All of the things we are taught to see as natural (& therefore innate) are socially, politically, & economically constructed.

My Blackness, my genderqueer masculinity, & my bisexuality all shake the notions of normality at their core.  I can not rely on hegemonic notions of humanity as defined by modern society.  I have come to realize that an intersectional & dialectical approach must be taken to constructing a decolonized self.  This means I will take the critical and contextual knowledge that I am aware of from pre-colonial African/Black & Indigenous societies and the knowledge of Black radical traditions to contribute to a conception of “self” that seeks to break outside of the barriers of imperialist white supremacist racist cishetpatriarchal ableist capitalism.

This is built out of my own understandings of Black Humanism & a direct engagement with anti-colonial scholarship and other forms of Black radicalism.  The revolutionary theory & praxis behind anti-colonial political philosophies dare to progressively value Black lives in a world that functions & profits off of the social, political, economic, & physical deaths of Black bodies. We are an end within ourselves, not a means to someone else’s end.  This is an act of revolt.  This is anti-colonial insurgency.  I look to the hope of imagining a different world where every part of myself, all of my intersections, are equitably valued as human within the multiverses of possibilities ahead.

Decolonizing My Sense of Self

tumblr_n7dm2mhKa11qbzqq1o3_250I say this because my genderqueerness challenged my socialized shaming of my own body.  Society teaches us to shame very particular types of bodies, specifically those that fall within the “female biological sex“.  So when I came out to myself, I had to confront this shaming of myself head on, in a way I was never prepared to do before.  As a Black queer masculine bi Trans person, I had to find new non-hegemonic ways to understand and connect with my own body.  I found that I could not rely on cishetpatriarchal conceptions of my own body just like I couldn’t rely on these systems to understand my gender or sexuality.

The white supremacist body functions off of conceptions of normality that pit the definition of humanity as whiteness and Blackness as the ultimate dehumanized other.  Just like I can not rely on white Euro-American beauty standards to see my own beauty, I cannot rely on cishetpatriarchy.  The lens is broken.  & by lens I mean perspective.  What we have been taught has all been a lie.  Which means we look forward to constructing ideologies that value the multiple streams of our existence instead of relying on the last 500 years of devaluation & dehumanization that we know so well.

The fact is what cishetpatriarchy teaches us about gender, sexuality, & humanity is complete BS.  None of us are the simple sum of genes, cause that’s not even how genetics & human biology works.  So the first steps to this decolonization process mirror that of unhinging race, racial identity, & racism from biological determinism.  Because at the end of the day, that’s not what the fu*k it is!  Biological determinism/naturalism cannot be the crux upon which we define any notion of humanity, whether it be race, gender, ability, class, etc..  We have to challenge ourselves to think beyond that.  Undo & unlearn naturalism & normativity.

The Day to Day Genderqueered Body

I have seen & read many pieces of scholarship on the topic of seeing power in the bodies of women, specifically sexual power.  But what I find lacking in that is what about the day to day, what about the moments that aren’t sexual?  What about the erotic that isn’t sexual (shout out to the Audre (THE) Lorde)?  Every time I read articles, books, & blog posts that spoke back at patriarchy’s shaming of cishet women’s bodies I kept thinking: what about the disabled bodies, what about the asexual bodies, what about trans bodies, what about gender non-binary (NB) bodies? Naturalism is misogynoir & inherently transphobic, biphobic, homophobic & trying to manipulate it to force the integration of queer bodies is not liberation.  So why not start conversations about the power of possibility within the multiverseness of gender & sexuality?

Before coming out to myself as a genderqueer trans masculine bi person, I would get up in the morning & engage in perpetual gender & sexuality wars till I went to bed, coupled along with warring against white supremacy, ableism, & capitalism.  What I do now when I get up in the morning is first acknowledge my body as multiversal which means:

I AM BLACK, I AM GENDERQUEER TRANS MASCULINE, I AM POOR, I AM BI, THEREFORE I AM HUMAN.

I do not want to make room for anyone to challenge who I am.  This is personal, this is survival, this is political.

“My political obligations? I am a Black woman … in world that defines human as white and male for starters. Everything I do including survival is political.” – Audre Lorde

I have seen many conversations that denote that before we are *insert identity*, we are human.  I would like to vehemently challenge that notion. My Blackness, my genderqueerness, my trans-ness, my bi-ness, & my many other parts of being are ALL HUMAN. There is no “before” those, there is no “after”.  I just am.  This approach to my gender & my body has helped me deal with navigating this world as an other.  Instead of seeing myself as battling normality at every front I see something else: I am the loophole they never prepared for, I am an insurgent reminder that everything they told you was a lie, I am the deconstruction of normativity.

Looking In The Mirror: “But Do You REALLY FU*KS WITCHU?”

As a genderqueer trans masculine person its been important for me to contend with the many components of myself that feel gendered and those that do not feel gendered.  So when I look at my hips, my chest, my lips, my eyes, or any part of my body; I have challenged myself to not see them as innately gendered parts.  This means when I look at my chest or even my genitals…its not about biological sex or definitive of gender.  This notion of ridding myself of that foundational part of cishetpatriarchy is nested in my centering of my politic & concepts of multiversal humanity on that of Black trans & NBG lives. Why? Because when we center our politic with those suffering the most under hegemony, we are helping free everyone.  As a NBG person, any sense of identifying my body as biological sex results in a painful maladaptment to a problematic hegemony.  I can’t do it, every time I try, I suffer.  So this means I have to be okay with being the intersectional outsider figure.  Even though the society I live in doesn’t fu*k with me, I have to be okay with me, I have to be more than okay with me.  I have to undo the hegemonic hatred of myself that I was taught.  We frequently talk about self love while forgetting to unlearn hating ourselves, unlearning shaming that tells us that “SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH ME, “I” AM WRONG”.  Brilliant writer @BlackAmazon speaks about this in a revolutionary way that challenges readers to ask themselves “Do you fu*k witchu?” “Do you fu*k with your own truth(s)?” “Heavily?”

Depatriarchalizing the Body

The first steps for me to decolonizing my queer masculinity(ies) is nested in undoing naturalism & unlearning the shaming of my body.  As a genderqueer trans masculine bi Black person, it is easy for me to fall into the trap of hegemonic femininity, denoting some inherent weakness to feminine characteristics or qualities of self.  My first shot at destroying that is destroying the hegemonic binary that says that femininity is equated with weakness & masculinity with strength. Cause, that’s not what the fu*k it is.  Humanity is more complicated than the binaries this society has taught us were normal & natural.  Humanity is beyond binaries.  This is my first step to embracing all of my elements of my GNC self, those that are masculine, feminine, questioning, & part of the unknown deep-space of gender.  Decolonization, revolution is a process.  My queer masculinity(ies) is under construction.  So when somebody asks about who I AM, I will intersectionally reply: “I am normativity undone, I am the colonizer’s worst nightmare/Yo soy el deshecho normatividad, soy la peor pesadilla de los colonizadores“.

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