(Photograph by Joel Peter Witkin)
The following is a translation of a text by Beatriz Preciado that originally appeared in the french newspaper Libération (21/11/2014) and was written on the occasion of a debate on courage organised by the festival Mode d’emploi, that took place in Lyon, france, from the 17th to the 30th of November.
When I received this invitation to speak of the courage of being me, my ego purred immediately as if it was offered a page of publicity in which it would be simultaneously the object and the consumer. I had already perceived myself decorated with a medal, heroic… and then the memory of the subalterns came on to me cancelling all indulgence.
You grant me today the privilege of evoking “my” courage of being me after you made me bear the burden of exclusion and shame throughout my childhood. You have just offered me this privilege as if you were handing a small glass to a patient suffering from cirrhosis, negating all my fundamental rights, in the name of nature and the nation, confiscating all my cells and my organs for your delirious political management. You grant me this courage as if you were sparing some coins in a casino for a gambling addict, continuing to refuse to call me with a masculine name, or to grant my name non-feminine adjectives, simply because I have neither the necessary documents nor the beard.
You gather us together here like a group of slaves who have come to know how to stretch their chains, but who always remain more or less cooperative, who have obtained their diplomas and have accepted to speak the language of the masters: we are here, in front of you, all of us, bodies assigned women at birth, Catherine Millet, Cécile Guibert, Hélène Cixous, sluts, bisexuals, women with a rough voice, Algerians, Jews, the typified, the mannish, Spanish. But when will you be fed up with sitting in front of our “courage” as if it were entertainment? When will you be fed up of boring yourselves with differentiation to become yourselves?
You attribute courage to me, I imagine, because I was a militant beside the whores, the AIDS patients and the handicapped, I spoke in my books of my sexual experiences with dildos and with prostheses, I narrated my relation to testosterone. This is my entire world. This is my life and I live it not with courage, but with enthusiasm and with jubilation. But you know nothing of my joy. You prefer to complain to me and to grant me more courage because in the politico-sexual regime, in the pharmacopornographic capitalism that reigns, negating sexual difference would be the equivalent of denying the incarnation of Christ in the Middle Ages. You grant me a good deal of courage because before genetic theorems and administrative papers, to negate sexual difference today is akin to spitting in the face of the king in the 15th century.
And you tell me: “Speak to us of the courage of being you”, like the Inquisition trial judges told Giordano Bruno for eight years: ‘Speak to us of heliocentrism, of the impossibility of the Holy Trinity”, while preparing the wood to make a big fire. Effectively, like Giordano Bruno, and even if I already see the flames, I think that a small shift will not suffice. Everything will have to be messed up with. To burst the semantic field and the pragmatic domain. To come out of the collective dream of the truth of sex, in the same way we had to let go of the idea that the Sun turns around the Earth. To speak of sex, of gender and of sexuality, one must begin with an act of epistemological rupture, a categorical disavowal, a crack in the conceptual pillar enabling the beginnings of a cognitive emancipation: one must completely abandon the language of sexual difference and of sexual identity (even the language of strategic identity, as Spivak would have it, or of nomadic identity as Rosi Braidotti would have it). Sex and sexuality are not the essential property of the subject, but rather the product of various social and discursive technologies, of the political practices managing truth and life. It is the product of your courage. There are no sexes and no sexualities, but uses of the body that are either recognized as natural or sanctioned as deviant. And it is pointless to bring out your last transcendental card: maternity as the essential difference. Maternity is but one possible use of the body, among others, and it is not a guarantee of sexual difference or of femininity.
Keep this courage then for yourselves. For your marriages and your divorces, your deceptions and your lies, your families, your maternity, your children and grandchildren. Keep the courage that is required to maintain the norm. The cold-blooded loan of your bodies to the incessant process of regulated repetition. Courage, like violence and silence, like force and order, is on your side. On the contrary, I assert today the legendary lack of courage of Virginia Woolf and Klaus Mann, of Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich, of Angela Davis and Fred Moten, of Kathy Acker and Annie Sprinkle, of June Jordan and Pedro Lemebel, of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Gregg Bordowitz, of Guillaume Dustan and Amelia Baggs, of Judith Butler and Dean Spade.
But because I love you, my brave equals, I wish for you a lack of courage; it’s your turn. I wish for you to no longer have the force to repeat the norm, to no longer have the energy to fabricate identity, to lose faith in what your papers say about you. And once you have lost all courage, drained with joy, I wish for you that you invent another mode of use for your bodies. It is because I love you that I desire you weak and despicable. Because it is through fragility that the revolution operates.
An excellent video with Beatriz Preciado, for spanish television …