Confused? You ain't seen nuthin' yet!

Confused? You ain't seen nuthin' yet!

In his poem Marmion, Sir Walter Scott famously commented on lying as follows: 'Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.'   It seems that this line was never more apposite than when it comes to the plastic politics of contemporary sexual identity.

I noted last week that an extra 'q' had been added to the now familiar LGBTQ initials.  I had gained that gem of knowledge by browsing the freshman packet of Georgetown University (Georgetown is, as the late Richard John Neuhaus enjoyed pointing out, a Jesuit institution).  Well, a keen eyed reader of Ref21 has spotted that Millersville University, while (with an admirable concern for conciseness) eliding the two 'q's, has still managed to add a few extra letters to the existing five: LGBTQIA.  The 'I' and 'A' stand for intersex, and allies/androgynous/asexual.   Now I want to be as sensitive as I can (hey, you know me.....) but I confess that I have not the foggiest idea what 'intersex' means (is it possibly something to do with trains?) and am only slightly more competent to parse allies, androgynous and asexual.  Nevertheless, hats off to Millersville for at least pushing the nomenclature of sexual politics further in the direction of genomic levels of complexity.

But complexity comes with a price.  And here are a few questions that indicate that price.

1. Is the movement now excluding people with limited memory capacity?  So many letters; so many particularities.  At some point, those who have difficulty remembering their own wedding/civil partnership/open air bonding/mutual-polyvalent-commitment-ceremony anniversary are going to lose track of what all the letters represent.

2. I notice that Millersville has a President's Commission on the Status of Women.  Is it rude to ask how this commission defines 'women'?  Is it that tired old reactionary view that women are those who have a certain chromosomal make-up and particular anatomy?  Is it the rather crude view of the benighted lover in the Miller's Tale that 'wel he wiste a womman hath no berde'?  Or is it the idea anybody who says they self-identify as a woman is a woman, beard possession notwithstanding?   If it is the first, then the LGBTQIA would seem to have its work cut out by being placed in an immediately adversarial relationship to said commission.  You cannot argue that gender identity is biologically determined and also a matter of self-identification.  And if it is the last, the commission on women would seem somewhat redundant on the grounds that all plastic identities seem more than covered by the emerging identity politics genome and that 'woman' as a political category is really of no use at all.

3. All of these groups seem to assume that there is at least an underlying, if unspoken, definition of 'human.'  I wonder what that definition is?   A fair reading of Millersville identity politics seems to indicate that rabbits, toadstools and ping-pong balls are excluded from these community groups.  But why? This would seem to me to be a bit of a power play on behalf of the political establishment.

What a tangled web indeed.  Yet I leave the final words to that other great British poet, Ray molesworth_reasonably_small.jpgDavies.  Seems only appropriate in a world where identity is as plastic as can be, where this presents itself as the kind and winsome way forward, and where truth is all but gone (emphasis mine):

A man lives at the corner of the street,
And his neighbours think he's helpful and he's sweet,
'Cause he never swears and he always shakes you by the hand,
But no one knows he really is a plastic man.

He's got a plastic wife who wears a plastic mac,
(Yeah, he's plastic man)
And his children wanna be plastic like their dad,
(Yeah, he's plastic man)
He's got a phony smile that makes you think he understands,
But no one ever gets the truth from plastic man (plastic man)