What is more intimate than a secret?
DC Queer Studies Symposium
April 25, 2014
:: My body is visible. Confident. High femme. ::
What if gender had the blues? By this I mean, what if gender was affected the social life that we know is responsible for the development of the blues as an art form? As much as we bring attention to the conditions of Black folks on the basis of race in the blues, (we talk about a blues people having blues bodies) what of the conditions of being gendered Black folk?
I am being a bit facetious here. Of course gender was affected. Of course gender was affected. There are songs about love—songs that tell us something about the differently gendered conditions of the lives of Black men and women. There are even blues that tell us something about the conditions of romantic love between women and women, men and men. Some blues even hint at other genders.
Here, I take up the blues as an aesthetic practice and gender itself as something that has the blues. I do so by focusing on the erotic in the blues aesthetic.
In the blues, worrying the line means to highlight a phrase by changing its pitch, breaking it up—maybe even hollering through it. To worry the line is to operate within a frame of fixed structures: notes, phrases, and rhythms to take up a universe of meanings. These meanings circle around the structure. The song continues. Meaning is amplified.
BINDING is a metaphor for an aesthetic practice of loving. It takes up the core concept of Audre Lorde’s erotic and love as a navigating force in this practice of the erotic. Love, as in Irigaray’s formation of “I love to you,” or Sandoval’s, “subjectivity [that] can become freed from ideology as it binds and ties reality,” also operates as a politic of self-shaping and self-definition in the context of lesbian gender. A politic that is altogether erotic, altogether aesthetic in its circling round and round the body of the lover. The act itself is a process of shaping bodies into something closer to truth. At each turn, both are changed. These changes are gendered. The change is yet another kind of intimacy.
I begin the book with a excerpt of a lecture I have been developing on Queer Femininity in the Blues Aesthetic:
So now, it is about time that I present my thoughts on exactly what this gender thing is, why WOAmn is so important to thinking through gender and how I am doing it here. WOAmn is a signpost of the function of the sexual, the erotic in our lives. WOAmn is an archetype, a practice, a goal (not particularly inevitable, not always attained but certainly learned). WOAmn is a manifestation of the erotic as an aesthetic practice. An aesthetic practice that has to, like the blues, do a lot of work, as she too is rooted in her own survival. Survival of her body, harmony of her mind, and keeping of her spirit.
What I want to say now, I cannot say in this way without it turning into nothing. So from here on, let everything be just between us.
:: play videos with intermittent text ::
When I say that I love you, I mean that I am caught in the rapture of our dance, that I adore who I am with you. The way that I feel myself touching you. How you allow me to make me with you and our adoration of this making. At every turn of this dance, I am succumbing to centrifuge and there is a core at which we may meet. My twirling—the way I pull my fingers through the length of my locs, the careful touch of my own skin in the morning (whether you are watching or not) how my thumb nestles in the tuck of my waist is a note in the song I sing of desire. You may hear it.
(Cixous, Davis, Lorde)
:: Read from the final poem, Gravity. ::
"The thing that split apart the marble/ which blew up the stars, drew them close to each other, dancing in violent heat..."