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09 March, 2012

Sexuality, Identity, and Category Construction: Wrap Up

And so, after weeks of revision, I launch another set of essays into the void.

I feel and think that this specific batch of essays deserves a bit of a disclaimer, and a TL:DR.

Too long? Didn't read? Let me summarize:

You know the things that one might think, as a child and as a privileged adult, are natural categories -- like not only gender but also sex? They are not. At best, they're heuristics. The labels that we use to describe difference? Sometimes, even those labels used by marginalized groups are handed down by the majority; and, even when they aren't, there is no perfect lexicon of difference. Only people who've been marginalized have any right to decide how to name themselves. (Here's a fun etymological story: "autonomy".) I am not a visible member of many marginalized groups -- Easy Rider aside, I did not die when I went to Texas with long hair; and, despite our being the bogeyman in slippery slope arguments about same sex marriage, nobody seems to be hunting down polyamorous people -- so I feel quite awkward writing to this issue, but I think that it's hugely important. So, I wrote anyway. Before I wrote, guess what I did? I did some research, I listened, and I asked, "What are people who are more affected by these problems than I saying?" Often, they're waving their banners high, especially in public conversations ... thus the frequency of my coda that, unless a label applies to you, you don't get to say who gets to use it.

Second: what would happen if we were to really push through on the idea of diversity and pluralism? What would happen if we were, as a society, to put our shoulders to the wheel and say, "Ok, autonomy will actually be our guiding principle, and the one norm we'll enforce will be to place value on acceptance and self-education about disadvantaged groups ... until no child has to grow up feeling worthless"? Would, as cultural conservatives argue, the fundamental structure of society as we know it really collapse?

Yes. It would. And that would be a victory.

Here's a pretty sweet article about International Women's Day, representations of diversity, and activism.

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