On thin ice
Dans l'épreuve quotidienne qui est la nôtre, la révolte joue le même rôle que le «cogito» dans l'ordre de la pensée: elle est la première évidence. Mais cette évidence tire l'individu de sa solitude. Elle est un lieu commun qui fonde sur tous les hommes la première valeur, je me révolte, donc nous sommes. – Albert Camus
During Pride month I saw many discussions on Twitter regarding the pertinence of the ace spectrum in the celebration or even within the LGBTIQA+ community; most of them concluded that the ace umbrella was not part of it, while the “benevolent” ones joked with the idea that asexuals were okay but “on thin ice.” What lies beneath that idea? That the ace spectrum is not enough, that it lacks transgression and that the sexual/sensual experiences of the people identified under it are not something to be proud of.
What these sorts of thoughts reveal is not the reality of the ace community, but the base over which part of the LGBTIQA+ community creates their logic of thinking. If asexuals are incomplete, they are whole, which means that there’s a determinate way of being LGBTIQA+. Any determinations imply a rigid codification, therefore, a specific framework of rules that must be followed to belong to some community. Those who seclude the ace umbrella from the spaces of sexual/sensual dissidence may not be aware that they are reproducing the very same mechanisms of subjectivation of the sex/gender system known as Patriarchy: a dictum over the intelligibility of the sexual/sensual experiences. In other words, the determination and validation of certain experiences/practices in order to recognize someone as a subject (Butler, J., 2007 , pp. 19-20).
This mechanism of subjectivation not only validates the possibilities of the sensitivity of the bodies in order to recognize them as subjects, but creates the illusion of identity as something closed and determined until its own reification. But, to talk about identity is to talk about “the other”: when the critics of the ace pride assume themselves as rightful gatekeepers of the LGBTIQA+ community, they do not only turn rigid that fragile shell of initials, but also turn the ace umbrella into a closed and inflexible antagonist that is nothing but a pure imaginary representation created by their own logic of subjectivation.
Back in 1993, Ernesto Laclau was surprised that “ideology” was one of the main topics in the Marxist debate, but at the same time, it was a concept with a vague and problematic definition. So, he proceeded to localize and analyze the two most accepted definitions:
The ideology understood as social totality.
The ideology as false consciousness.
The first definition implies that the ideology is a fixation of meaning of itself in a relational system. In other words, the ideology presents itself as a “center” in the base-superstructure relation, so it becomes the founding totality of society. If this is admitted, the ideology turns into the underlying principle to understand the social order that explains the essence of the social processes beyond any empirical variation. The ideology understood as this is the (re)producer of a specific structural order, the essence over which the society is founded and maintained.
But Laclau replies to this with the idea of the “excess of meaning.” The idea of “society” as a unitary and intelligible object that founds by itself all of its processes as impossible because every social identity has a relational character. This means that every identity is inserted in a system or a play of differences.
The second definition only makes sense if we assume that the identity of the social agent can be fixed and therefore “true.” The trouble with this becomes present when a scale of purity is established and a certain group starts to decide what and who is true and therefore, part of the collective identity (Laclau, E., 1993, pp. 103-106).
Why do I recover this? Because the implied criticism towards what is a social identity can be related to the ace pride discussion. The LGBTIQA+ community is not a unitary and intelligible object closed to the always expanding specter of sexual/sensual dissident experiences. If some people of the community are closing the doors to “new” groups of dissidents because they do not fit to the standards of what’s understood as “LGBTIQA+,” it is a symptom of the hostility of certain spaces which fractions this community by the logics of the sex/gender system. In other words, it means that those places are losing the capacity to create difference in order to repeat the same instruments of exclusion.
Those gatekeepers have assumed a fixed identity of their “protected object” and thus a “true” way of being LGBTIQ+. They believe that an identity can be closed down and crystalized, ignoring that what they “protect” represents just the opposite: the scream of existence of the otherness. There are not scales or patterns of being LGBTIQ+, but dissidence. Those who fight for the right to exist in an oversexualized heteropatriarchy in order to destroy it have a place in the community.
There is not an ontological privilege that comes from being named first, in any case. If the “first” sexual/sensual dissidences deserve something from the “new ones,” it’s gratitude, since it was their initial struggle to reclaim their existence which was the spark that envisioned that horizon of a new world that inspired all the people who didn’t fit into “normalcy”. But that doesn’t mean that all these rising identities are new, they have always been around, just weren’t named. Those initial proud voices naming themselves were the inspiration to express other repressed experiences. Besides that, in the specific case of asexuality, a scheme of opposition between it and the rest of the signifiers that express sexual attraction is just a misconception. The identification with the ace spectrum is not in opposition: there are plenty of ace people that are gay, lesbian, bi, etc.
If the LGBTIQ+ collective is losing its critical emancipatory potential, then the “new” identities will have to create new spaces of combat. Maybe, they are right, we are on thin ice, but why should it be negative? If that means that the collectivity that we are creating accepts itself as a contingent, fragile, open, fragmentary, and rhizomatic container then that’s another reason to be proud. We must embrace ourselves as collective subjects that understand ourselves as a “deictic sociality” (Mignolo, W, 1996). In other words: an unstable balance that in its own contradiction understands that it is a kaleidoscope of positions; a melting pot of “ser de/ estar en” (To come from/to be in), many different experiences conditioned by our origins and histories of life, but united by the (a)sexual dissidence.
Butler, J., 2007 . El género en disputa. El feminismo y la subversión de la identidad. Barcelona: Paidós. pp. 19-20.
Laclau, E., 1993. “La imposibilidad de la sociedad”, en Nuevas reflexiones sobre la revolución de nuestro tiempo, pp. 103-106.
Mignolo, W, 1996. "Are Subaltern Studies Postmodernist or Postcolonial? The Politics and Sensibilities of Geo-culturallocations,” draft.