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None of the Above, Please: Navigating the Continuum of Coercion June 17, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Queer politics.
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Ah, queerness, that magical property with the power to inspire murderous rage from total strangers. A hostile encounter this morning has me contemplating the layers of violence that permeate contemporary society. As I locked my bike downtown, I thought I heard a nearby man on a bench say something like the following: “Somebody better kill that faggot or I’m going to do it.” Doubting my ears but curious, I cast a few glances and lingered longer by the bicycle than I might have otherwise. The dude in question appeared agitated and continued saying words I couldn’t quite hear clearly enough to understand. At one point ey rose and hurled eir bright green soda bottle at a trashcan with a great shout. I didn’t think much of eir behavior as I walked over to where I was going – anger and insults constitute a common feature of Albuquerque streets – but ey followed me muttering what sounded like additional homophobic slurs. As I turn around, ey threatened to cut my throat while brandishing an open three-or-four-inch folding knife.

“Get away,” ey insisted.

“What’s your problem?” I asked, retreating into the front patio of my destination.

“That’s Central,” an onlooker at one of the tables offered as a explanation, giving a wry laugh and shrug of the shoulders.

The man I had so offended by my appearance/existence happily disappeared after driving me from eir sight. Though disturbing, eir demand for my absence isn’t categorically different from the myriad forms of spatial exclusion backed by bodily harm we all walk through on a daily basis. While liberal hegemony demonizes such allegedly irrational coercion and naturalizes the supposedly sensible violence of the state, I reject that assessment. As horrible as such harassment and intimidation feels, it has its comparative pluses. In contrast with the bosses who own nearly everything and dictate our lives from cradle to grave, my antagonist claimed a mere few dozen meters of sidewalk. Ey displayed more willingness to kill or seriously inure me than cops customarily do – this may well have been posturing – but would have posed less of a challenge had I opted to fight. It’s hard to beat the police; they’ve got lots of guns.

Liberalism erects arbitrary assaults from the hateful and rational domination by the government as our only possibilities. In addition to opposing this binary as false dilemma, I question the traditional description of the latter as obviously superior to the former. Infuriated bigots ask for the less that the state does. Recognizing horror of grievous wounds – which thugs, cops, and soldiers alike inflict – I wouldn’t eagerly choose safe captivity over dangerous freedom. The new friend I met today simply wanted me to fuck off for being intolerably queer; modern power seeks to fashion my entire being according to its whims, to render me docile and productive. As in Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, reflection causes totalizing projects of social control – however sanitized of gross violence – to emerge as equally abominable as the brutal but less ambitious supremacy exercised by kings and tyrants.

I long for an end to homophobic/transphobic terror without supporting the state’s stranglehold over my body and spirit. If that means taking counterviolence into our own hands as Bash Back! does, so be it. Yet I dream of alternative self-defense networks that eschew aggressive and stereotypically masculine bravado along with hierarchy.

Postscript to would-be assailants: I’ll hold no grudge if your attack proves fatal and I lose consciousness immediately or at least rapidly. Death? Sure. Agony? No thanks.

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