In praise of a riot: The Stonewall Inn insurrection, 1969

(The Battle of Stonewall, Sandow Birk)

(In memory of all of the gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans, queens, sex workers and hustlers, blacks, hispanics, whites, employed and unemployed, who resisted on the 28th of June of 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, New York City, against the police of racist, heterosexual, zenophobic Capital) 

… for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:9

… gay liberation does not just mean reforms.  It means a revolutionary change in our whole society.

Gay Liberation Front, Manifesto

There is no intrinsically radical/revolutionary sexuality.  And there is no sexuality which is not invested by dispositions and apparatuses of control.  Thus sexual transgression is inherently ambiguous: rebellious in its violation of norms, of the “heterosexual matrix” (Judith Butler), or of “hegemonic masculinities/femininities (Raewyn Connell), it nevertheless speaks no truth (there is no sexual truth – Michel Foucault).  Sexuality exists in the liminal space-time of strategies and techniques of capture, of appropriation, that produce truth, bodies, subjectivities.  To then avow/live a radical sexuality is always but a moment in the games of power through which sexualities may simultaneously erupt as well as be channelled and disciplined.

Sexuality must be seen as one more complex of social relations, constantly made and re-made, in parallel and overlapping with other social relations: family, economy, politics, etc. Essentially contested territory, the ways then in which it is expressed, harnessed, used, are eminently political questions, and therefore equally, “radical sexuality” is complicit with notions of radicalness and revolution.

To speak of a capitalist or anti-capitalist, progressive or reactionary, right wing or left wing sexuality tells us little, for none of these designations carry with them a fixed, unambiguous reference.  Indeed, they my obfuscate more than they illuminate, for underlying them lives the illusion of sexual sovereignties that can decide their oppression or liberation on a field of battle circumscribed by a politics of State control or conquest.

Guy Hocquenghem, writing in the early 1970s, spoke of “screwball homosexuality” as one haunted by the prohibition of its desire, a desire however constructed in the heterosexual ocean that engulfs it.  The affirmation then of such a desire actually contributes to produce its opposite, and simultaneously then turn against the “homosexual” by offering only the possibility of a sexual desire contrasted with that of heterosexual sexuality.  In this manner, desire is cut off from any revolutionary project and pleasure is divorced from any form of confrontation with existing, oppressive social relations.  Put simply, there is no challenge to heterosexuality, phallocracy, by its simple inversion.  It lies rather, following Hocquenghem, in the playful profanation of all sexual and political identities.  Revolution then is not the consequence of “struggles, defeats and victories”.  It is rather “a canvas, spreading, in movement, with a loose weave.  Is it too serious an affair to be placed in the hands of players?  Let us not forget that one of the rules of the ridiculous game of capitalism is to stop the revolution from being a game, to make sure that it never grows opposed to docile reality, that it never goes against obeying this so called reality.” (Guy Hocquenghem, The Screwball Asses, 31)

This is a politics of finitude, of death and love; not the love of romantic or institutional possession, not love as “timelessly” bound subjectivities, but love as the desire to desire, in the which the self, the sexual self, is sacrificed for the “festivity of bodies”. (The Screwball Asses, 5)  This is a sexual revolution  not of pride, but one in which we act as vulnerable, weak, disadvantaged bodies; where we are all sexual minorities, touched and touching each other, creating thereby greater and greater spaces of free forms of life.

The Stonewall Uprising documentary …

This entry was posted in Commentary and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.