Surgery and Sterile Futures

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Trans surgery in Canada involves years of waiting lists, consultations, and institutional scrutiny. What makes this process especially difficult is that there is currently only one clinic in the country that is able to offer official services, i.e. ones that are covered by first-payer insurance and thus accessible to the vast majority of trans people. This very short essay outlines what I would call the eerie nature of this process, the way in which bodies are rendered uncanny and disjointed by gatekeeping and forced visibility.

For me, the sheer impregnability of the system creates a sense of foreshortened future and bodily dread. Because trans people are a tiny minority of the population, our bodies are the subject of a great deal of state scrutiny, especially because our physicians do not have any direct sympathy with our situation. Despite all of our visibility as oddities or freaks, however, our bodies are not well understood and medical procedures and treatments for us are heavily restricted and, in the case of estrogen-based hormone therapy, administered with tools designed for cis people first.

So surgery for me, despite the fact that I want it and need it for my mental health, is attached to so much baggage and bizarro-world bureaucracy that it takes on a horrific aspect. The abject uncanniness of wading through so many forms, so many appointments, so many opportunities for any spiteful physician to deny me access to care, creates a warped sense of how attainable surgery even is. And because of past trauma around my body and because of depression, my sense of the future has been dramatically compressed. The future is so uncertain that, under the lens of depression and the eerie oracular and suicidal feelings that I have, I am utterly convinced that my body will be destroyed either in surgery or well before. I am tutored by despair, possessed of a sense of grim finality.

Of course, my intellect assures me that many other people have gone through the process and come through happier than they were before. Of course this does not make me change my mind about wanting surgery. This is still my choice and I still dream about it. Even though I’m aware that surgery is not necessary for all trans people and rejecting surgery would not put my lack of gender in doubt, there is a sterility and hopelessness that dogs me throughout, an eerie desert where future possibilities either lie dormant or cannot be trusted because of persistent mirages.

I suppose there is no way through the desert except through it. And with luck I will participate in abolishing the system that creates such dread and unease. For the sake of trans people now, the gates have to fall and the bureaucracy must be abolished, along with all other impediments to real bodily freedom.

Out Like a Lamb: Day 6: Gender? Who Has One? Me? Why?

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Whenever I talk about my relationship to womanhood, I am splintering. While I have embraced my identity as a woman, and believe that womanhood is in some sense deeply intertwined with how I experience the world, there are thorny questions still unresolved. Before I dive too deeply into the reasons why this might be the case, let us talk about why gender exists and where it comes from. Has it always been there, sleeping in our house like a resident, did it slip in unbeknownst to us, or did it steal the house from under our feet?

The way gender works has a lot in common with how naming works, at least in a modern North American setting. And it might be easier to comprehend gender through an analogy with naming, so I’ll begin there before moving into more treacherous and confusing territory. Why do we have names? Well, names have different uses for different people. For most of European history, most people didn’t really have surnames, and would have been named different things throughout their lives, adopting, earning, and dropping names as they aged. Your name was often tied to where you lived or who your father was, and in a highly localized context that was all that mattered because everyone knew each other personally.

You could say “Teresa from the red house” and everyone you met on a day-to-day basis would know exactly who you meant. Now, when the taxman comes knocking on your door to do an assessment or collect what’s due, that kind of naming system just isn’t very convenient. What if Teresa moves into a green house, or a famine forces her to move to a neighbouring region? At that point, if her tax records were all put down as “Teresa from the red house at such-and-such corner” the tax agency would have no way of tracking that person except by asking around and doing all kinds of research that aren’t good for the state’s bottom line.

So the state starts giving everyone surnames and fixes your name in stone. Eventually, you are just given a name at birth, registered with a certificate, and that’s who you are barring some kind of legal intervention. The authorities, in order to govern you, have to know who you are regardless of where you live. Curiously, or not-so-curiously, birth certificates contain another precious bit of information that’s crucial for trans and cis people alike. That would, of course, be a gender marker. M or F, typically. (This is why renaming ourselves, for trans people, is so vital, and way of not just of shaking off our old gender but of choosing who we want to be in a broader sense!)

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Every human being born under the eyes of some official––whether a doctor or someone else acting in that role––gets categorized according to their gender. This act is, ultimately, one that is designed to sort people into recognizable populations that can be governed. In this case, gender is a system that’s intimately tied into what we can call “sex,” or the “physical” aspects of being gendered. No one has any say in their gender when they’re born. Your name is put on a form and, until you have legal agency, you must comply at least somewhat with that designation. A designation that was put in place purely on the basis of what kind of reproductive organs doctors and parents think that you have. Vulvas are for girls, penises for boys, roughly speaking. Even putting aside that there are a huge number of people who don’t have physiologies that work so “neatly”––namely intersex people––when we understand that gendering and sexing at birth are coercive, customary practices aimed primarily at regulating bodies and what they can/can’t do, making people superficially “easier” to manage, and that even now many people revolt against this system and have questioned it, we have to realize that it has no heart, no essence.

And as for those who are unlucky enough to either be assigned or choose womanhood or a nonbinary identity, the results are a higher chance of being marginalized, being paid less, saddled with extra work in the home, etc. etc. So our destinies are projected outward for us, at least partly, at birth. You can read the genitals of an infant child like the stars of the astrologer. What do these constellations of body parts tell us? It tells us what kinds of clothing “she” will wear, what kinds of jobs “he” will be encouraged to enter into. And on and on and on. It’s a con, one that’s all the more effective for being, to my view at least, absurd from a humane and ecological point of view.

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Gender, in other words, is something that, at the outset at least, happens to you. It’s only later, after being raised as a girl or boy, with your future already mapped for you despite you being, you know, a child, that you begin to inhabit this role more consciously. Many people reject this gendering process at a young age, while others only recognize that gender has happened to them later. I inhabited a particular role for almost two decades before shaking it off and realizing that I had no attachments to it that weren’t black and toxic. Like a poison, I vomited up all the bile and sick of “manhood.”It is simply incompatible with my being.

I believe that this con, this system of labeling and divining as if by magic the futures of children based on our genitals, is fundamentally destructive. And yet I still embrace womanhood as my safe haven. This is a contradiction I am of course aware of and uncomfortable with. My nonbinary friends and comrades have another nettlesome problem to deal with, searching for forms of being that escape the usual binary ways of thinking about men and women. So I hold my gender gingerly, aware that my life can twist and change in many ways. The future is still uncertain. I do know, however, that gender as a system, as a way of regulating people’s bodies and their behaviour, has to go. Even men, though especially those who are not men and those whose gender is marked with racial discriminations or class oppression (gender is always a colonial system as well as a regulatory one), suffer under it. I can’t untangle all of this confusion right now, but I hope that my own life can be a source of hope for other young people who see the con for what it is. Despite all my failings, I want to be a light others can share in.

The next three days of posts will be:

March 17: Reflections on how I’m treated by and seen by classmates, professors, and university administration.

March 18: The bizarro world that is how I’m seen by the state and how I navigate situations where I need official ID, etc.

March 19: A happy post about my pride in being myself and in being in community with others like me.

A Hundred Thousand Names: 50 Reasons to Come Out as Trans

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The transgender subject may derive the following benefits from disclosing their personal identity:

  1. Living an authentic and whole life
  2. Reducing the stress of hiding
  3. Being more productive at work
  4. Developing closer, more genuine relationships with colleagues, customers, and clients
  5. Being known for who we really are
  6. Having open friendships with other transgender people
  7. Becoming a role model for others
  8. Being more true to yourself
  9. Unloading the burden
  10. Living as you want to live
  11. Meeting other likeminded people
  12. Helping other trans people
  13. Feeling at ease with yourself
  14. Breaking down stereotypes
  15. Being a positive role model
  16. Being more productive at work
  17. Live openly
  18. Be honest with yourself
  19. Be closer to friends, colleagues, clients, and customers
  20. Alleviate the stress of the closet
  21. Change the misconceptions about whole, authentic individuals who live openly and are positive role models breaking down stereotypes about other trans individuals.
  22. Change your relationships
  23. Change your relatives
  24. Change permanently, full with friends becoming people
  25. Innate gradually alleviating community life



  26. Change an individual’s mind through a personal, whole, authentic, stress-free relationship that allows you to live at ease while feeling better and more confident in personal relationships with clients at work
  27. Get more attention from your parents
  28. Coming with old friends
  29. Others living closer
  30. Educating stress in individuals
  31. Develop able individuals with colleagues
  32. Possible of benefits openly in ways
  33. Simply meeting, hiding, sparkling
  34. Looking people in the eye with confidence
  35. Being a fetish category on the internet being open and whole about it.
  36. Unloading authentic fetish porn about people who live just like you
  37. Associate with clients at your place of work with confidence
  38. Show up to work on time without stress
  39. Befriend people who have whole lives
  40. Living and feeling more common
  41. Building changed populations after gender identities
  42. Liberal friends can feel better about their country
  43. Boss can feel better about his company
  44. Befriend other people who live the way you want to live
  45. It’s too difficult to hide any longer
  46. Spend the majority of your waking life as a whole person
  47. Timely living in the unbounded process of waking life
  48. Your health problems will be the health problems of a whole and authentic person building self-esteem in their waking life
  49. Unbounded euphoria, awakening
  50. Becoming an honest community closet model

Consider all applicable risks to your health, security, employment, self-respect, friendships, reputation, lifespan, pets, avatars, deities, and fragile egos before coming out.

This list brought to you, with some of my personal, authentic editorial changes, by:

Human Rights Campaign Visibility Guide

Human Rights Campaign Guide to Coming Out in the Workplace as Trans

Case Western University

LGBT Youth Scotland


In a hostile terrain, let’s just say a land where transmisogyny is custom and in many cases law, trans women/we are by default subterranean creatures. Our absence is presumed. When we make ourselves visible, or are made visible, we are swept into little niches where capitalism can process and rationalize our “irregularity.” If we remember that capitalism is a system  This happens both to us as a complex mass as well as to individuals. In one breath we can all be dismissed as irrational, perverse, unholy, unfit, having the worst qualities of “both” genders. But so many of us, doubly and triply for racialized women, are also an exotic menu item on porn sites, our bodies broken down and itemized for easy consumption. It seems like our visibility is at its most understandable to capitalism in those spaces, all of our autonomous bodies subordinate to the feast of flesh and gold.

Of course, our visibility––we give out awards for that!––is valuable for us. When we flash our true colours, we signal to comrades and friends. But, like sticking your head above a trench line, we make ourselves a target for enemies, busybodies, and just plain assholes. If all of us came out at the same time, given the same world we live in now, would we fulfill the liberal dream? Would we be able transcend the law that tsk-tsks Stay Quiet and with the next breath asks to See What’s Under Your Dress? Like all dreams, that one is bound to evaporate. Even the very existence of trans people, of trans women, is a historical process native to a particular space. Gender nonconformity expresses itself under a hundred thousand names across the world, many of them crushed under the heels of imperialist distortions. Coming out is not a cure-all, or even possible or appropriate for everyone, and the mantras about authenticity, role models, and fixing our relatives and friends should be replaced with commitments to destroying the basis of our oppression.

No matter how visible or “well-represented” we might be, it will always be in the context of a burning world until we overthrow it and build another one.

A Hundred Thousand Names: Introduction

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Pleased to meet you. We all want to get out of the heat, so it’s no surprise that you turned up eventually. Not you in particular, but everyone looking for a little less sunshine. Everyone with too many scars on their eyes. Good news, there’s a lot less light in the closet, and it’s better that way. Each corner enclosed and signed over to the imagination. But if you lived in it for as long as I did, every perch and crevice is so familiar even those astronomical darknesses (the ones you can’t see without a telescope) can’t obscure them. Their outlines are enough to suggest all the familiar swords to fall on, all those invitations to suicide you slipped between the pages of your favourite book. Keeping your page, keeping time by the little numbers on the envelopes.

In Kafka there’s a man who turns into a monstrous insect. A true disaster, mostly because his job is in sales and his family is a knot of vipers. I sympathize with him: from his point of view, everything is the same. But his family lost everything they cared about: his steady job, his social status, his pasty normality. Insult to injury: they’re left with a bothersome insect who’s like their old stooge absent all the things they could exploit. It’s like he died but left a corpse with six legs and a tendency to skitter about the ceiling casting eerie shadows. No longer able to buy or sell anything––a true monster.

Meanwhile being in the closet and coming out is less like Gregor Samsa’s rude awakening and more like the slow, crushing gestation of the cicada. You spend years, even decades invisibly tucked under the dirt, waiting and twitching with the agony of expectations. As if your birth was stretched thin and flat, an event more tectonic than biological. You realize, maybe a long way into your entombed larval stage, that you have to say something quick when you finally emerge. But what? Many people’s first instinct will be to try to push you back in the ground, to bury you and be done with it. Best to brush up on flattery. No one wants a whiner, and any whiners are probably going to be nothing but a husk of skin sooner or later. No matter what, though, you sadly realize as you prod at the last film of dirt hiding you from the hateful sunlight, no matter what, you will be a fearful thing. So if you’re going to be a monster, you might as well be a real terror.

***

I suppose this will be considered “burying the lede,” but the reality is that I’ve been going through the process of coming out. Given my affection for and interest in monsters, dusty gods, demons, and all the haunted parts of the world, I consider the company of insects an honourable place to be. Plus, I have to admit, it’s hard to be dry and scholarly when discussing matters close to the heart. If I had to tell the doctor about the piece of grandma’s vase lodged in my aorta and needed a muse, I would probably reach for Blake before Spinoza or Lenin.

Coming out as a trans person combines all the terrors of showing your art in public and submitting yourself to a full-body scan at the airport. For someone to take that (sometimes literally) fatal step in today’s capitalist world, it must have some value, or else no one would ever do it. Even when I look at my own life, the closest and most comprehensible example I have, I still ask myself why I put a giant target on my back. Ultimately, like any human act, coming out is incomprehensible if considered as an individual act separate from the whole social reality of which it is a part.

Despite my failure to sort through these issues in the short time since I’ve come out, I’ve decided to write about the process of coming out and the place of trans people––at least this trans person––in class struggle. Not class struggle in the stereotyped sense, which recognizes the male white industrial working class while forgetting the ways in which class is shaped and placed by gender, nation, age, ability, and sexuality. I mean class struggle in the sense of how the increasing majority of humanity fights for our survival against: exploitation, repression, war, entropy, the systemic murder-suicide impulses of capitalism.

A Hundred Thousand Names will be an inward-looking essay, but looking inward is another way of seeing a single, reflective shard of the complex social whole. My aim is to try to make sense of my experiences and struggles as the experiences and struggles of an individual always caught up in the experiences and struggles of trans people (and in particular trans women) as a whole. We must all work tirelessly for trans liberation not as an abstract identity group but as a political, conscious force working for the destruction of all exploitation. How? Maybe I’ll be able to begin to sort that out in these pieces.

To come out is to come out into a burning world.

I’ll catch you next Saturday.

I have a hundred thousand names. One of them is “communist.”

***

Coda.

Trans liberation is liberation of trans workers, nationally oppressed trans people, racialized trans people, trans people with disabilities, old and young trans people, trans people who come out and those who don’t. The freedom of each one is the freedom of all, and vice versa.

Chizuko Ueno: Nationalism and Gender

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Nationalism and Gender in many ways pivots around one event. The author, Chizuko Ueno, was attending a conference in Beijing on global women’s issues. When her time came to speak she argued that feminism needed to transcend national borders and forsake any investment in the state or nationalism. A Korean feminist, Kim Pu-Ja, responded passionately to the contrary:

“‘My country’s borders were invaded by soldiers from your country. You should not be so quick to say that we should forget national borders. Stating that feminism has nothing to do with nationalism is surely no different from the ethnocentric thinking of Western feminism.'”¹

Ueno’s basic political position in the book, as well as in her speech, is that when feminism is tied to the politics of the nation-state, the inevitable result is that women are misled into trying to fit themselves into “male” roles and moulds. This is because national and class politics have been historically and, she would argue, logically, determined by patriarchal values and viewpoints. An autonomous women’s movement, therefore, cannot be supportive of nationalist politics. The goal is rather to transcend the state, to operate outside of its boundaries and define feminist politics as gender solidarity regardless of nation.

Much of her argument is developed in dialogue with Japanese history, in particular women’s and gender history on the left and “liberal” positivist history on the right. On the far end of the right spectrum are the patriotic or “orthodox” textbook advocates in Japan who want to whitewash away Japan’s war history and promote a reactionary adherence to a (they hope) rearmed Japanese imperial state. Ueno dismisses these rightwing voices fairly briefly in a couple chapters, while engaging with them here and there in a dismissive fashion.

Her main dispute is with respectable academic history rather than the conservative revisionists. On the methodological level, she argues against the privileging of written documents over oral testimony, pointing out that the problems of selectivity and personal bias are applicable to written documents as well, including state or bureaucratic sources. Informing this conclusion is her position on history’s status as a field. Rather than a simple recounting of past events, she sees history as a reconstruction of these events in the present, inevitably serving present concerns and political goals. Interpretation and bias are inherent in the historical composition process. Moreover, she asserts that different groups of people can inhabit separate realities. Japanese soldiers and American citizens, for instance, have views of the nuclear attacks on Japan in 1945 that she would deem them irreconcilable.

Most of the analysis in the book centres around the issue of “comfort women,” i.e. the conscription of women for sexual use by Japanese soldiers during the Asia-Pacific War (WWII in Eurocentric terms). Korean women, in particular, were used as sexual slaves by the Japanese military. Ueno describes this system of sexual servitude in a multitude of ways, but her basic description is that of the “threefold crime.” The actual enslavement of women is the first part, the suppression and silencing of victims’ accounts with shame is the second, and attempts to impose historical denial on textbooks and official accounts––in effect, discrediting those who have had the courage to come forward and name their suffering––is the third. Far from a vestige of the past, the “comfort women” issue is an open wound  that demonstrates the politicization of history and its relevance to present state policy and feminist debates.

These debates notably include questions of nationalism. For instance, Ueno recounts numerous “feminists” who capitulated or even actively embraced Japanese fascism, even lobbying the government to include women in the imperialist war machine. Ideals of motherhood were also mobilized; since women could not be deified soldiers dying for their country, they were simply displaced by one. Others involved in the women’s movement celebrated the entry of women into “home front” work in munitions plants and other state jobs. After all, despite the fact that the Japanese state refused to outright integrate women into the armed forces for the most part, women were taken out of the home and participating in the labour force. She effectively demonstrates the problems of a feminist politics in thrall to the imperialist state, and it bears more than a bit of a resemblance to the mainstream feminist movement in the USA that agitates for women’s participation in combat and the invasion of foreign countries to “save” their “primitive” women from racialized male oppression.

Beyond this, she takes into account what she calls “reflexive” feminist history that tries to reclaim women’s agency in historical events. For instance, just as prominent members of the women’s movement in Japan were incorporated into fascist politics, ordinary women in Japan bore some responsibility for supporting the war on the home front. On the other hand, she mentions how the idea that every citizen in Japan shared equal responsibility can equally be used for regressive ends, as in the case of pardoning the Japanese emperor since he had no “special role” in Japan’s aggression. Everyone is responsible, no one is responsible. Additionally, she notes, attempts to proclaim women’s agency in historical accounts can distort or exaggerate the real power dynamics of the situation, acting as though women might be to some degree immune from the motivations of circumstance or common sense. For instance, Ueno questions those who are too quick to render judgment of the women who vocally supported Japanese imperialism, recognizing the force of convention and questioning whether those who are making judgments in hindsight overestimate people’s ability to escape their historical position.

I would praise the majority of this book as being both revelatory for someone like me who is not yet knowledgeable about Japanese women’s and gender history as well as astute in its discussion of historical methodology. Unfortunately, the book loses me more and more as Ueno outlines what could be called her positive programme. Her argument, in brief, is that the state exists as the only body legally able to impose its will with violence. Citizen-to-citizen violence (defined as male and public, the violence of “civil society”) is criminalized owing to the disarmament of the population under capitalism. Meanwhile, private/domestic violence––mostly against women––has similarly been above/below the reach of the law in society. This is particularly so because of the way the marital relationship is essentially one of property and usage rights, whether sexual, monetary, or otherwise.

Thus both above and below civil society violence reigns unrestricted by law. Because of her pacifist position, rejecting all violence including self-defence, she defines feminism as the ideology for the protection of the weak rather than one of aspiring for women’s power or liberation. Not only nationalism but all what she calls striving for maleness should be anathema, and she believes that class-centred politics oppress women just as much as state/national politics, while rejecting the possibility of just wars or the justice of national liberation struggles/violent class struggle.

Differences in political line are one thing, but I have some actual logic difficulties with her conclusions for feminist politics. They seem to at least border on incoherence or the non-dialectical sort of contradiction where two irreconcilable things are held to be true at the same time.

“Feminism is not an idea that advocates that women should be powerful on a par with men, an idea I call a ‘catching-up strategy,’ but should be an idea that respects the dignity of minorities just as they are. I may be no match for a man in terms of muscular strength. I may not be able to make it through life single-handedly. But why simply because of this should I be forced to obey somebody else? It is feminism that has argued for this kind of respect for the weak. That being so, my answer is that there is only one possible solution for feminism and that is to aim in the direction of criminalizing all kinds of violence [emphasis added], regardless of whether is public or private. It goes without saying, that this also includes the criminalization of war.”²

This final paragraph concludes the book and leaves me scratching my head at its implications. On the first point about “catching up,” it is admirable that Ueno has criticized the notion that physical strength is all that counts and that women can be “strong” without being physically adept. She mentions, for example, women with disabilities who cannot play the “catching up” game. At the same time her statement here, in conjunction with her broader positive arguments, leans toward the fetishization of weakness and minoritarianism, fixating on the problem of violence while curiously letting the problem of power slip out unnoticed. Respect and protection of the weak––again, an important value, and any progressive movement where stronger members did not protect those who could not protect themselves would not be worth much. And yet weakness is worth nothing on its own, and cannot be counted a virtue.

Earlier, she also refuses the idea that the distinction between friends and enemies is valuable, refusing all recourse to violence in any situation whatsoever. And yet, she states that she wants to criminalize the use of all violence. The obvious question to raise is: on whose authority and with whose power would one enforce this idea? If war were made criminal within a legal framework––Ueno earlier questioned the efficacy of state legal frameworks in determining ethics, and rightly so––who would enforce such a provision? She rejects the idea of UN peacekeeping as another cover for war, but her specific use of the term criminalize implies the existence of some kind of apparatus for separating just and unjust acts, and empowered with the ability to forcibly disarm those who do not abide by the laws. In other words, Ueno’s feminist propositions appear to imply the prolonging, even the permanence, of state machinery. It’s utter nonsense, idealistic and moralistic in the extreme, taking the apparent high ground with only token consideration for its practical implications even in an ideal situation.

Were I inclined to be charitable, I could point out that there could be translation difficulties, and that the word criminalize was simply an incorrect or misleading choice of words. And yet what word could substitute to reconcile these vagaries and logical problems? To forbid? To abolish? To defeat? To undo? All of these restatements, though they do not carry the legalistic and statist connotations of criminalize, still beg the question of power. If the weak are to remain weak on principle, refusing to liberate themselves by any and all means necessary, what is to prevent them from simply being trampled forever and ever, amen? Ueno unintentionally demonstrates the inherent weakness of the pacifist position, which is that it achieves a moral bliss at the cost of embracing a politics of theatre and self-destruction, assuming the best of one’s adversaries and positioning all political contradictions as “differences” that can be negotiated and won through reasoning rather. Despite Ueno’s critical attitude towards human rights regimes, “modernity,” and state boundaries, her programme implies a kind of superstate authority imbued with an almost supernatural sense of justice and the ability to nonviolently prevent all violence. And her only response to this is that history teaches us that any time we legitimate violence it will be abused. And so we shall have it gone at the snap of a finger!

Notes:

1. Kim Pu-Ja quoted in Chizuko Ueno, Nationalism and Gender, trans. Beverly Yamamoto (Trans Pacific Press, Melbourne 2004), 143.

2. Ibid, 178.

Political and Personal Partnerships

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Happy birthday to Lenin as well! All we’re missing is the cat.

I was recently finishing up Lumpen: The Autobiography of Ed Mead and was impressed by the amount of time Mead dedicates to matters of love and partnership. Given how much of his life was spent in revolutionary activity, I found this somewhat unexpected. People would be picking up this book to learn about his militant exploits, not descriptions of his lovers and friendships, after all. Still, it led me to think more carefully about the topic of how to handle personal partnerships when you claim to pursue revolutionary politics. Given that I have more than three years of experience with my current partner (and comrade blogger!), I felt it fitting to record my reflections.

Relationships are Never Worth Preserving for Their Own Sake

This is a play on the idea that the Marxist party––or any political form or relation––is not worth valuing in itself. Rather, it’s a tool, an apparatus that has a particular purpose and needs to be embedded in its organic base. A partnership between two people is a means of providing mutual support, emotional and often sexual fulfillment, and an environment where all members can grow and change in a healthy way. Love is the point, not one exact form that needs to be protected like a sacred object. This can cause huge problems for people who stay together far longer than they should or see their partners in a fixed way and can’t accommodate personal evolution. Relationships should be treated seriously, just like political work, but always with the correct goal in mind: mutual support and fulfillment of each person. Fervent attachment to the idea of a relationship can lead to abuses and hurts far worse than mere separation. Not to say that separation isn’t also incredibly damaging in many cases, but even the latter is often made more arduous simply because each person was attached to one particular form of a relationship rather than, truly, to the loved ones in all their complexity.

The Ownership Model Produces Jealousy and Venom

The bourgeois nuclear family has countless ardent defenders. These suburban paladins will ascribe all kinds of magical fetishistic powers to the Victorian family, and to them I say humbug. Call me the Wedding Scrooge if you must, but the reality is that classical marriage is founded on a property relationship: the woman becomes the object of exchange, transferred from her father’s family to that of her husband. Western marriage rituals are all rooted in this financial reality, not to mention the fact that marriage usually happens within your own class and serves to solidify your economic position. Our white dresses and cakes and mirror balls conceal the slick tentacles of corruption and mixed motives. I don’t mean to demean marriage itself––I’m married and don’t mind it much––but it’s important to recognize that the entire legal apparatus around marriage is constructed because it is a property relationship, one built for lawyers, jewellers, and life insurance agents as much as the loving partners. Every love marriage in capitalism is afflicted by money relations, which saddens me profoundly.

A fetish for ownership and possession also rests at the root of a lot of jealousy and dishonesty within relationships. I personally struggle with feelings of professional envy, especially when my partner is able to take advantage of opportunities that I don’t have. At the same time, I recognize that jealousy and resentment are antithetical to a loving bond, not to mention the politically correct way to treat a fellow traveller with whom you are also in love. As Spinoza emphasized, feelings of resentment and schadenfreude are symptoms of minds that are sickened by what he called sad affects, products of our irrational imagination. Putting down your partner because you feel envious or distressed just diminishes yourself––it puts you at a distance from one of your greatest allies and probably hurts your health as much as your heart. Partners often stand hand in hand to flourish together, but at times their paths diverge and they have to allow their significant others to grow. This relates back to point 1. The central point is: you don’t own your partner, their time, or their other relationships. Honesty and open criticism are your friends, not secrecy and turning narc on one another.

Sharing Politics: Criticism, Struggle and Unity

Though I would never demand that my partner mirror my exact politics––that would be neither possible nor healthy––I do believe that it’s important for partnerships to rest on a foundation of shared values and interests. Because of that, it’s difficult to imagine myself in a relationship with a liberal or, god forbid, a reactionary. Desire works its designs in strange and ambiguous ways, but a lasting and healthy partnership is probably impossible across a cavernous political gap. A partnership, after all, has to be an environment that ensures that each member doesn’t have to waste their energy suppressing themselves or fighting with their significant other.

At the moment, my notion of an ideal relationship between two subjects who are just as political as they are amorous is that they are able to debate and struggle with each other without losing a common foundation of respect and principles. Engaging the other member of the partnership, criticizing them when necessary, and being willing to receive open criticism, are all crucial for staving off the spectre of secrecy, gossip, and backbiting. In political discussions with my partner, although I often take a teaching role because of my slightly more advanced comprehension of political ideology, I have to be aware that her own experiences and knowledge are likely to surpass mine in certain areas, and to be humble before her on such questions. Nothing ever works out perfectly, but the fact that we have a strong friendship and good communication in general enables our little talks to be more productive and meaningful than they otherwise might be.

Conclusion

I’m quite young and do not have the iron-tested experience of many people I know. Still, I think I’ve had a long enough time to reflect and am attentive enough to offer some insight into those reflections. Just as no political party or work of art will be pure, so the relationship is constantly incomplete and imperfect, always pushing its member s towards new heights of solidarity. I’m quite thankful to my partner for the time we’ve had together, and strongly believe we’ll have our best times in the future.