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I’m generally very critical of what I kind of see as the market fetishization of the individual and of individualization. Peter called me out the other night, though, on my tendency to also validate the importance of individual identity. In many ways it’s very important to my picture of social justice and of movement building. I’m kind of in serious conflict about this now.

On the one hand, I think the fact that the market has co-opted our radical individuality into an advertising tool is very screwed up. I am nervous about the way we are sold individualization — whether it be in the form of the newest gadgets for your mobile phone that are highly customizable, or in the form of being sold privileges — like gay marriage. (I’m mostly here talking about the simple fact that the marriage question diverts attention away from segments of society — and who fall under the queer umbrella — who are so far underserved that marriage isn’t even on the radar. I’m also concerned about the argument for gay marriage that says that gay people are affluent and therefore will spend a lot of money on their weddings if they can get married. Blargh!)

The fact of the matter is, being an individual in this sense has been taken from us. It’s now being used to sell us stuff and thereby keep us complacent.

On the other hand, I detect a problem with abandoning this kind of attention to individual identity. I don’t think that it’s necessary to completely ridding ourselves of these ideas — maybe of the rhetoric. After all, I am continually frustrated by the impossibility of addressing historical injustice if we don’t consider identity. Further, how do we have a conversation about power if we don’t think about the lived experiences of individual people?

So, ultimately: is there a balance between the acknowledgment of individual identity and lived experience and the ability to flout the control structures of late capitalism?

This might not actually make any sense. I welcome your input on the matter. I think this is a pretty big problem!


Tonight the wonderful Eileen Myles appeared at Just Buffalo. I went, with a number of friends, and was summarily blown away. I think what I’m starting to realize now is that Eileen really put my head back on my shoulders again, and gave me a little slap around even. I realized on the car ride home that she’s the first person I’ve encountered at this point, in Buffalo, who’s talked about the issues that have been giving me such trouble my whole life. Amplified by coming here, where I am more or less on my own for the first time. I haven’t even fully articulated yet what those issues are, but to hear her read and talk was like a slap in the face. The good kind.

I am still unraveling what that means.

I am afraid that my isolation has gotten the better of me. I miss a community of trans friends I could bounce ideas around with, be honest with, and stand behind.

I am drafting an email to the DMS graduate students about a Transgender Day of Remembrance event. Because the TDoR event on this campus is sponsored by an institutional organization. And because we should all care about each other.

And, I’m tired of the anxious closet.

I told Olivier I think I make some faculty members very anxious. I’ve been having this discussion with a number of people and maybe the anxiety is because they are not sure how to address me, and thus not sure how to address themselves to me, that maybe they see in me an identity-politics powder keg. Why am I lying about these things? Why am I omitting something I’ve fought so hard for? Why am I not clawing out toeholds again, here, so I can be okay?

I think Eileen Myles shook me out of this three-month slumber. By saying the things she said, or just existing maybe. Or making me anxious too.

I feel fierce but isolated. I feel supported, but alone. I am at the top of my fucking game and nobody knows it but me.

I’ve been struggling the past week or so with this short piece that I’ve been working on for a book.  I just can’t seem to write anything that comes out making any sense — or doesn’t sound totally grandiose and weird.  I really just want to write a few pages about where love belongs in the academy, and the role of forgiveness in learning — not just about social identity but about everything.  Maybe I’m trying to tell too complex a story.  This is a function of my reflection on the past few years, the fact that living in this town means the past knows where I sleep at night and can come bother me at all hours of the day.  I’d really like to spend some time away, take a vacation from myself.  It’s not to be.  Some parts of me wish there were more people here for me to be around, some parts really want to be alone with the task of reconstituting the most insane four years of my life so far in ways that make sense and are completely translatable into a series of vignettes and anecdotes.

Writing is, at the moment, being alone.  I am trying to write about the schism in my experience at Michigan between being a philosophy major and being a dialogue practitioner — the kinds of inconsistencies that I began to detect in my junior year and weren’t resolved until this past semester.  I am trying to write about how dialogic pedagogy doesn’t need to be reserved just for social justice education, and how what I learned about being an educator at Michigan is going to apply not just to my continuing education but also to my life.

I think that part of the reason radical pedagogy really resonated with me was because I had been feeling pretty alienated by a lot of things that go on at the university at large.  I disliked being asked to check my identity at the door, even though leaving behind “identity” didn’t mean that I wasn’t expected to answer prying questions about who (what?) I am/was/will be.  I was irked by the refusal to recognize the weight of human experiences and identities in society in the formulation of philosophical disciplines, especially ethics.  While I imagine it would be easy to chalk up a good deal of this to the fact I’ve been working in a heavily analytic department, but I notice it in other places, too.  On the other hand, I found anything that smacked of “applied philosophy” to be uninteresting and kind of petty.

What’s interesting is that in the past year I’ve been shown or been figuring out ways to use radical pedagogical models to teach subjects other than social justice education.  Working with Jennifer this past semester was kind of revelatory in this way — I discovered that the principles still held in her classroom.  Her transparency about her goals, plans, and pedagogical choices was refreshing.  I felt invested-in, challenged, and also supported and affirmed in ways that I generally don’t associate with academic coursework.  She’s also been very supportive of my own linking of my subject to a kind of Freirean praxis.  Maybe I am off on the right track.

On the other hand I’ve always been troubled by the lack of intellectual rigor in a lot of social justice education.  I think that intellectual rigor is really important to me not just because of my academic background but because I have always thought that way.  (I have been cleaning out my old bedroom at my mom’s house and reading some of my early philosophical writing and, damn, boi knows how to construct an argument.)  I dislike engaging with people who are unwilling to engage on the minimum level of not changing the premises of their argument spontaneously, fallacious lines of argument frustrate me to no end.  I resent skepticism about people who are well-educated, well-spoken, and well-read.  I don’t see why we can’t enjoy both rigor and love in our academic and social justice work.  This is another thing that I saw in action in Jennifer’s class.  For a while I didn’t think it was possible, but under the right circumstances it really allows people to flourish.

What I’m trying to write about is the path to an inclusive, supportive, but intellectually and personally challenging classroom.  I don’t think it is by any means easy, but I do think it’s possible.  Incredibly, there are people out there doing this kind of work already, but I don’t think they get the credit they deserve at all.  I also really want to write about how important it is to change the game in this way.  This is about institutional diversity at the broadest but also the most personal level.

I guess I didn’t realize until now how alienating I found a lot of the experiences I had my freshman and even my sophomore years at Michigan.  Not just in the typical ways, like campus housing and having to explain myself to faculty, but also in the sense that so many things didn’t make any sense to me, and I wasn’t allowed to work those things out.  I didn’t find out until years later why they didn’t make sense and I’m kind of angry — or maybe disappointed — about the whole situation.  It’s a lot of stuff for two or three pages, but I can’t seem to get past framing this in terms of education being an act of love.

I feel like I’ve been fighting a lot of fights recently.  I’m a little burned out.  I need to take a step back and take care of myself instead of taking care of things external to me.  I am tired of being a public figure.  (My stamina and will to be public is not very strong.)

To that end, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what self-care really means for me.  I’m not sure.  I haven’t ever been very good at taking care of myself.  I tend to distance myself from my own needs and focus on those of others.  It’s a survival mechanism, I guess.  The shrink thinks it’s because growing up I was always the one lone “adult” in a house full of emotionally underdeveloped people.  Maybe so, but I see it happen a lot in people I know who are very intelligent, get easily excited about ideas, and are very committed to their work.  They run themselves ragged taking care of other people and the issues other people bring to the table, and the only ones who lose out are the individuals themselves.

Even when I’ve started thinking about taking more time for myself, I’ve committed to more in March than I really know what to do with.  I guess April will be my month.  I’m going to go visit Buffalo 26-28 March and cement my decision (the big non-secret is, I’ve already confirmed my acceptance offer).  I don’t really know what else to do to take care of myself.  Maybe this is why I’m stalling on the third issue of the zine — I’m intimidated by the idea of telling other people how I take care of myself, because on reflection it really isn’t that much.

I get tired of getting angry and being well-spoken about it.

It really breaks my heart when people who are full of good intentions as well as great passions and well-placed hopes for the future are simply not logistically gifted. In many of the progressive circles I’ve run in, this is just a fact of life. It doesn’t seem odd, as a result, that there are many perfectly reasonable people who pick on far-left progressives indiscriminately. I suppose I don’t blame them.

A common sentiment in IGR is: it’s social justice work. Shrug.

One place where this came up in agonizing clarity was during my work with the Farmington Hills School District on their youth dialogue program. While everyone I worked with was good-intentioned and passionate, I felt like we ran into stumbling blocks at every step. These included logistical problems (When are the high school students supposed to have dialogues? Which groups will be paired with which? What time are we supposed to leave Ann Arbor?) as well as somewhat more esoteric issues (Why haven’t we talked about gender, gender identity, and gender expression? How come we aren’t talking about White Flight and the role of race in the formation of metropolitan Detroit?). Sure, it was a pilot program, but it was also reaffirming of the view that progressives have poor planning skills.

I’m guilty of it too, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a trend that needs to be examined.

If we want to affect change, I think we need to make a change. Seriously.

Sometimes I think that just the act of writing might be helpful to creative process.  I haven’t been writing lately because I haven’t felt like I have anything to say.  I’ve been doing a lot of processing of information internally but maybe it would help to write out loud.

In exciting other news, we’re (and by “we” I mean a few other members of my postcolonial critical theory class) starting a radical book club, of which I am (apparently) the de facto leader.  If anybody’s interested, we’re going to start meeting on the first Tuesday of every month beginning in March at 8 pm at Cafe Ambrosia.  (That makes our first meeting March 3, for those of you playing along at home.)  This month’s book is The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon.  Radical books, radical readers.  At the very least the company should be good and the book is great.

It’s this kind of thing that I think has been keeping me from writing — I do a lot more talking out loud about what I think lately.  Not to mention the fact that waiting for graduate schools to get back to me just makes everything I do feel like I’m spinning my wheels in a muddy ditch.  Which is to say that all that I get is covered in mud and an overheated engine.

What does matter, though, is I’m getting things done, working on projects, and figuring out what to do with my life.  In lieu of going completely crazy about my grad school applications I’ve been trying to figure out what I’d do if I didn’t get in anywhere (or decide not to go anywhere I get in, for a number of reasons).  Plan #1 is move to San Francisco, get a job bartending, and start an experimental publishing house on my own — meaning figure out a way to harness the internet to publish poetry and experimental fiction, rather than just publish poetry and experimental fiction on the internet.

I suppose that another reason I feel like I’m spinning my wheels is that it looks like my chest reconstruction might have to be pushed back, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Funding might be hard to come by, and I’m waiting to find out what I’m doing next year to pursue finding a loan to finance it — something that seems like a better and better idea.  Because I’ve applied to a pile of two-year programs  (most of which involve moving) I don’t think it’s conceivable that, if I don’t do it this summer, I’ll do it for another two years at least.  Depending on what kind of loans I’m going to have to take out for my master’s, I can and will take the money out as a loan to get the surgery done.  I’m sure my mom will co-sign and I’m sure I can get the couple thousand I’ll need.  If I don’t get it done this summer I’ll explode.

Of course, if I don’t, that means I’ll have more time to enjoy my last summer here.  I’ve started playing music with a couple guys and we’re thinking about trying to get together a tour over the summer — which is something else that would be fun and interesting to pursue in lieu of going to graduate school.  And nobody said I had to move to start an experimental publishing house.

I suppose I just don’t like not knowing this much about the future.  Luckily, I don’t think I’m alone — plenty of others who are graduating with me this year feel the same way, stuck in one place, and that place is neither here nor there.  And it’s not like I’d be completely unproductive if I took some time off.  (Maybe I’d finally get this goddamn ARG off the ground…)


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