Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Something like the man in the Moliere play who was shocked but pleased to discover that he was speaking “prose” without even knowing it or trying to do it, I discover that I’ve been exploring “queer theory” at least part of the time.  Not just peculiar or odd, but a category invented fairly recently so as to think about the atypical.  Formally defined.  Mostly sexual.

“Queer focuses on "mismatches" between sex, gender and desire. Queer has been associated most prominently with bisexual, lesbian and gay subjects, but analytic framework also includes such topics as cross-dressing, intersex (physically both sexes), gender ambiguity and gender-corrective surgery. [I notice pedophilia is not mentioned, though in other queer places there are discussions of paraphilias, like glove fetishes. Silence means a third-rail: touch it and you're dead.]

Gay was mobilized as a specifically political counter to that binaried and hierarchised sexual categorization which classifies homosexuality as a deviation from a privileged and naturalized heterosexuality. Queer marks both a continuity and a break with previous gay liberationist and lesbian feminist models.”

“Queer theorists challenged the validity and consistency of heteronormative discourse, and focused to a large degree on non-heteronormative sexualities and sexual practices.”  And NOT hierarchical.

Heteronormative, but maybe 12% or so are not.  We just didn't know until DNA.

So most of this thought is about escaping the social categories of male over here and female over there and perverse in the middle.  One is supposed to pair off (not triple off) with the opposite sex wherein the man is two inches taller, two years older, and has two more degrees than the woman.  It’s a given that gender identity is more than coitus in the interest of fertility, though most non-thinkers don’t seem to figure that out.  They are so hypnotized by what goes where that they can’t think of any other issues.  Like desire in all its colors and all its specificity.

Mary Strachan and Bob Scriver,  1962

So let me throw in a few loops of the rope:  I fell madly in love with a man twice my age or almost.  I was 21 and he was 47.  Was it a kind of late onset pedophilia?  Which one was the trophy?  Or was he a daddy, though I sometimes bathed him like a child?

Desire was enough for a decade, but it was not the only boundary crossing.  We were differently educated -- not the subject, the "Method" -- literally.  We were in a reservation world where things were dominated by the two races and their uncomfortable mixes.  Sex was in there someplace.  He became highly successful, praised, courted, and Gulliver-style confined by a host of small obligations and deadlines.  All the while he gave me protection, guidance, instruction and validation that made me stronger and freer, more desirous of freedom.  We were doomed.  Queer?

“Queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence. 'Queer' then, demarcates not a positivity but a positionality vis-à-vis the normative.”   WHAT normative?  On a rez in the Sixties?  The norm was a choice between hunkering down and uproar.  And suddenly -- fame -- there was a huge discrepancy in economic viability:  he could buy a ranch.  I barely had enough for gas to drive back to my mother’s house in Portland.  I hocked my engagement ring, the one my mother-in-law obsessed about for fear the diamond would get lost out of it.  That upset him, but he wrote the letter of recommendation that got me the animal control job.

The next non-normative was that we remained attached, much to the disgust of the fourth wife.  He had had female intimates before me which conventionally should have ended with marriage, but they didn’t.  So that was his norm.  His first wife followed the conventional pattern -- animosity and remarriage.  His second wife had broken off finally, but her sister and brother were more bonded to him than ever.  Atypical.  The rez people observed this.  Whites said, “These artist people have their own rules.”  Indians said, “All white people are crazy.”  My family knew nothing about it -- a good thing.

Though we were differently educated, both of us were in the arts:  Bob, music; myself, theatre.  That helped give us a little extra room.  I was taking OTC pills called “Scope” as though they were aspirin.  Probably most of the effect was placebo, but when I googled them just now, the pills turned out to be scopolamine, a member of the same family as powerful mushrooms.  Maybe I could have gotten into more serious drugs except that real wickedness always eludes me.  THAT's queer.  Near the end I took Bob’s Nembutal one night which scared everyone and the doc gave me Benzodiazipam (Valium) which just put me to sleep -- very nice.  That was the extent of my drug experiments in a time when many around me were hooked.  (Oh, I forgot.  When I was supposed to be losing weight, the doc gave me speed.  I never renewed the prescription.  I was speedy enough already.)

I wrote lists of what I took to be facts, using green ink and block printing in spiral notebooks.  Green ink is supposed to be a sign of something.  I suppose block printing is as well.  Then I went back through the list and challenged each assertion by flipping it over.    Edifying.  Painful.  An auto-therapy.

Recently we’ve learned about epigenomics, environmental impacts, the constant evolving of the brain’s structures, and mosaic genetics, which means that not all the cells in one body have the same DNA.  There may be bits of an infant that was carried years earlier, there may be bits of a twin that never developed, and some might have come through something like transfusions.  Many of us are chimeras and never suspected it.  Might have felt it.

Kylo-Patrick R. Hart

I’ve just been quoted by a cultural critic:  Kylo-Patrick R. Hart wrote “Queer Males in Contemporary Cinema: Becoming Visible.”   He is chair of the Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media at Texas Christian University. This book follows two streams: explicitly gay movies and movies that are moving and tender, but the gay subtext is unstated.  If you aren’t looking for it, you might not know it’s there, but you may feel it and respond to it, subliminally.  (Oh, there’s another one of those words!  Don't we EVER know what we're doing?)

Troy Garity and Lee Pace

Hart quoted a review I wrote of “Soldier’s Girl,” posted Sept. 19, 2011.  I like what I wrote well enough to quote it a bit:

Gender binaries have become so troublesome that social philosophers have begun to reflect on them.  When I say “trouble,” I mean murder.  People are murdered because they don’t fit our notions of gender binaries.  I’m pondering “Soldier’s Girl,” which is a movie version of a real event in which a soldier was bludgeoned to death as he slept -- by his fellow soldier, his dorm mate.  The killer administered capital punishment for loving a person who crossed the binary division -- not just a cross dresser but a transsexual person in the process of going from male to female.  Post-surgery, the relationship would no longer have been 'homosexual.' ”

Leggo words, assembled from particles, are unfortunate predeterminers.  “Homosexual” is as misleading as “atheist.”  Both are stuck together from pre-existing concepts and both over-control the discussions.  It is possible to be homosexual while being strongly “male” and possible to be deeply religious while not believing in God (theism).”  Morality should not be based on word particles.

This is what Hart quoted:   “Pole-in-the-hole is not all there is to sex.  REAL intercourse in the sense of physical intimacy is skin and brain: a million little physical, mental and emotional transactions of sensation that enmesh and bond and console.  Otherwise, it’s friction followed by a sneeze.”

The filmography in this book is very useful.  I’m adding some of it to my Netflix queue, but I’ve already seen a dozen of the 35 films, some of which are classic.  (“Red River,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” “From Here to Eternity,” "Boys Don't Cry.")  We all love these boys -- you know the ones I mean.  Even the ones who aren't male.

John Wayne and young Montgomery Clift

Slightly older Montgomery Clift

James Dean

Hilary Swank

1 comment:

Mary Strachan Scriver said...


I forgot to append this. It's one of the places where I started. The author was living in Missoula. The Dunes was the object of study for a M/L prof (Ron Engel) who wrote a book about them. I was his grad student assistant who read research about the Dunes and wrote summaries for him.