chapter  20
17 Pages

Imitation and Gender Insubordination

At first I considered writing a different sort of essay, one with a philosophical tone: the “being” of being homosexual. The prospect of being anything, even for pay, has always produced in me a certain anxiety, for “to be” gay, “to be” les­ bian seems to be more than a simple injunction to become who or what I already am. And in no way does it settle the anxiety for me to say that this is “part” of what I am. To write or speak as a lesbian appears a paradoxical appearance of this “I,” one which feels neither true nor false. For it is a production, usually in response to a request, to come out or write in the name of an identity which, once produced, sometimes functions as a politically efficacious phantasm. I’m not at ease with “lesbian theories, gay theories,” for as I’ve argued elsewhere,4 identity categories tend to be instruments of regulatory regimes, whether as the normalizing categories of oppressive structures or as the rallying points for a liberatory contestation of that very oppression. This is not to say that I will not appear at political occasions under the sign of lesbian, but that I would like to have it permanently unclear what precisely that sign signifies. So it is unclear how it is that I can contribute to this book and appear under its title, for it announces a set of terms that I propose to contest. One risk I take is to be recolo­

nized by the sign under which I write, and so it is this risk that I seek to thematize. To propose that the invocation of identity is always a risk does not imply that resistance to it is always or only symptomatic of a self-inflicted homophobia. Indeed, a Foucaultian perspective might argue that the affirmation of “homosex­ uality” is itself an extension of a homophobic discourse. And yet “discourse,” he writes on the same page, “can be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy.”5