~ Queer College of Art
As the previous two texts we selected for this project by Helen Hester and Patricia Reed offered insight into the more academically challenging themes of contemporary queer and feminist projects, we wanted the fourth text to be a work that can be accessed at multiple entry points. We have chosen Paul B. Preciado’s “letter from a trans man to the old sexual regime.” (2018), which we will aim break down by deconstructing the text into four sections: current context of gender conditions; what is necro-political masculinity and femininity; how gender/sex power regimes continue to infiltrate us; and queer’s categorical rejection of heteronormative aesthetics and desires.
Current Context of Gender Conditions
In the first section of the text Preciado lays the foreground for the current necro-political conditions that infiltrate gender and his/their position amongst these regimes of power. S/he do not find themselves in any one permanent or fixed gender position. Instead using the metaphor that amongst the social construction of “masculinity” and “femininity” lays a Berlin gender wall, in which they see themselves as a smuggler crossing over between the two divided worlds hir rejects.
“This will be a 1000-year war- the longest of all wars, given that it will affect the politics of reproduction and processes through which a human body is socially constituted as a sovereign subject. It will actually be the most important of all wars because what is at stake is neither territory nor city, but the body, pleasure, and life.”1
What is current necro-political masculinity and femininity?
As we have seen in Preciado’s previous work, s/he takes a firm gender abolitionist approach. A central theme of hir work consists in laying the ground work for an emancipatory queer transfeminism, that rejects current regimes of power. Hir sees masculinity as the historical ability to inflict death, enforced through the Monarchy, government and landowners. While the historical context of femininity has been the ability to reproduce; the commodification of a body in order to continue the population.
“Reading Max Weber with Judith Butler, we could say that masculinity is to society what the State is to the nation: the holder and legitimate user of violence. This violence is expressed socially in the form of domination, economically in the form of privileges, and sexually in the form of aggression and rape. Conversely, female sovereignty is the regime bound up with women’s capacity to give birth. Women are sexually and socially subordinate.”2
How gender and sex regimes of power continue to infiltrate us?
Gender and sexuality is naturalised historically through institutions of power, which today predetermine the normative, effectively taking away our subjectivity. This power infiltrates on a macro-political level reinforced over hundreds of years. Necro-political heteronormativitity manifests in desire, that continues the division between women and men, based on relationship between a governor and the governed.
“This practice of government does not take the form of a law, but of an unwritten norm, a translation of gestures and codes whose effect is to establish within the practice of sexuality a partition between what can and cannot be done.”
“This form of sexual servitude is based on an aesthetics of section, a stylisation of desire, and an historically constructed and coded domination which eroticises the difference of power and perpetuates it.”3
Queer’s categorical rejection of heteronormative aesthetics and desires.
The paper concludes with Preciado highlighting one possible pathway to overcome current gender and sexuality regimes of power manifested in heteronormativity. S/he calls for queer, trans and feminist communities to replace heteronormative desire and aesthetics. Instead hacking, evolving and creating new frameworks that replace the focal characteristics of heteronormativity that s/he describes as dominance and violence.
“But we realise, these days, that the libidinal transformation is as important as the epistemological one: desire must be transformed. We must learn how to desire sexual freedom.”
“There is no sexuality without a shadowy side. But the shadowy side (inequality and violence) does not have to predominate and predetermine all sexuality.”4
Here Preciado comes to a crucial part of the paper, if these heteronormative desires of power, violence, control, restriction and ownership that s/he defines are the core characteristics of necro-political masculinity and femininity, the question then arises: how can today’s queer feminist communities that do not align with the dominant regimes of power that constitute heteronormativity, effectively navigate the changes in desire? Or is it that we create new models of gender and sexuality by looking instead to butch-dyke and BDSM aesthetics, by being the queer, female, person of color or differently abled subject that refuses to be reduced to a body, to the object of someone else’s desire, to an emotion? We understand the importance of rejecting dominant traits of heteronormative aesthetics and desire, but would like to draw attention to the importance of not imposing a categorical restriction of who/what queer feminist subjects can and cannot desire. We must undergo a process of change in our desires without the isolation, restriction and essentialism of members of our beloved queer family.
In this insightful paper we see Preciado highlight a central theme to hir work, that although queer communities are defined by a multiplicity of traits and identities our agency lays in the constant creation of aesthetics and desire. This creation formulating the direct rejection of the dominant codes of heteronormativity.
1. Preciado, 2018.
Click through to text ︎