At All Times, It Isn’t There

One of the most interesting things about inhabiting multiple minority identities is that my understanding of what is true or false changes quite often. This is not a result of confusion but rather, the result of the constant realization that everything we learn is equally true and false. The way knowledge is collected and learned is reliant on systematic categorization. It is inherently easier for human beings to see the world as a series of binary opposites, and much of how we experience life is filtered through this expectation. But my life experience tells me otherwise. The best way for me to convey this idea, that everything is both true and false, I must speak on how I experience gender, as it an excellent example the necessary systematic binary opposite (male/female).

It is not difficult to see how reliant our world is on this binary; our policies, our architecture and our personal relationships are based on it. So when an individual, or group of people challenges this system, the very foundation of our society, economics and psychology are called into question and is at risk of being dismantled. It is thus, “dangerous” to be the linchpin in this deconstruction and I happen to be one of those pesky people who inhabit space in what Derrida refers to as an “Eccentric Circle”. Within his arguments on deconstruction, Derrida tells us that the very condition of deconstruction is already at work within the system to be deconstructed and in fact, it may already be at work – not in the center, but in an “eccentric center” – participating in the construction of what it, at the same time threatens to deconstruct. Derrida’s focus of deconstruction was on speech, writing and semiology, but the ideas behind post-structuralism can be applied to anything we relate to, whether its through text or visual signs.

In the book Structuralism and Post-Structuralism for Beginners (I am a beginner, forgive me), author Donald Palmer breaks down Derrida’s central argument on deconstruction – shattering structuralism’s reliance on binary opposites to define language, communication, systems and human relationships. “…speech and writing have the same essential features – that is – there is no CONCEPT of writing that essentially distinguishes itself from speaking. Both are SIGNS. Both depend on their REPEATABILITY for their usefulness. Both are RELATIONAL, which means that in the case of both speech and writing there is never an ORIGINAL PRESENCE; there is in both cases a PARTIAL PRESENCE and a PARTIAL ABSENCE.” (130)

In my case, both male and female are SIGNS that are dependent on each others difference to make meaning of each other. This makes them RELATIONAL to each other, as male has no meaning with out it’s opposite counterpart female, and vice versa. What is interesting here is the acknowledgement of a partial presence AND partial absence that rings most true. I identify as gendequeer: someone who inhabits both male and female sensibilities/qualities or none of either. This inhabitation can shift often and at any time. This is the “Eccentric Circle” and this existence is also a “potentiality”.

Giorgio Agamben wrote about a concept of Potentiality, in which he attempts to go beyond the binary. “Agamben specifies a mode of existence of potentiality: potentiality is the “existence of a non-Being, a presence of an absence,” that is to say, a form of privation (179). Potentiality is an existence of a non-Being because to say that something has potential implies that this potentiality exists but that, at the same time, it does not exist as an actual thing.” (Paul Nadal, This mode of existence, is what I referred to earlier in experiencing life not as a series of true or false ideas, but as true and false ideas. Within this space of the true and the false is the potentiality – the presence of absence, and the absence of presence.

To be genderqueer or androgynous, or to transition from one binary opposite to another, one must inhabit a liminal space at some point, or in Agamben’s opinion, at all times. It is in the space where all reality is suspended, assumptions are questioned and crushed and weight of “the binary” is constantly pushed against you. It is here that the idea of “perpetual becoming” exists, because I will never arrive to N end point. My body, my presentation and my thoughts will never plateau, as I deconstruct gender on a daily basis. This “Eccentric Circle” is the “perpetual becoming”, a “potentiality”.

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