Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Authenticity and Sustainability, a Workshop


Transgender/Queer Workshop

A workshop on transgender/queer and sustainability is about living a life that is authentic and sustainable.  It is about living life openly and honestly with all its bumps and bruises.  As a person who identifies and Black, Female and Transgender my life's question is, "how do I live life authentically and openly and as such sustainable and still live a productive life within the limitations imposed?"  I frame my question in a context of limitations which lead to various modes of oppression.  How do live an authentic life in the midst of racism, sexism, patriarchy, people who are more ambitious about status than their calling of God, etc.  This is challenging indeed even as I look for employment.  That said, this workshop/discussion emerges out of my reflections and conversations on my experience of making a way out of at times no way.  It is during these times that I question, “What is sustainability?”  This is another important question for the one beginning to transition gender in particular but also other constructs that seek to define life.  Sustainability is a word that can mean a lot to different things to people such economics, emotional, physical, mental, etc.  It is sustainability of self, your community and in a large but interconnected sense the world.  I want to suggest here that a voice in the conversation on sustainability should be the transgender/queer voice.  Why do I say this, well,  at least for me, transition or the violation of established gender norms is predicated on personal sustainability.  But then I found that my need to sustainability was also connected to the earth herself and her processes.  

The two primary questions, "how do I live life authentically and openly and as such sustainable and still live a productive life within the limitations imposed?" and “What is sustainability?”are addressed in Chapter 5 of Imagination in the Face of Oppression which has been included in this post. 

So that is why we have a workshop/discussion on this topic.  The resources which will initially inform a discussion on sustainability will be your ideas of sustainability, Joanna Macy’s book, back to life, Eaarth written by Bill Mckibben.
“Coming Back to Life, Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World.[1]
 I call heaven and earth to record this day to your account, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, there choose life, that both you and your seed shall live.              (Deut.3:19) [2]

Statement: 
Without critical reflection, if we desire the things and values of our oppression we soon become the oppressor.  Those of us who are gradually experiencing a new sense of authenticity and with this a new sense of power and presence must adapt a more reflective tone of who we are.  If we fail to adopt this reflective tone we will soon do what we have been taught by our oppression.  I suggest here then that transformation, i.e., a gradual sustainable shift of desire grounded in a new consciousness becomes a necessary and compelling call of a love supreme.

Developing a transgender/queer voice that can speak to sustainability

There are three tiers of questions that can frame a workshop/discussion.

First tier questions that frame the discussion
1.       What tools/resources do you use to sustain you?
2.       What tools/resources do you use to sustain your family, community, etc. those people in your life.  Should sustainment of family, community, etc. people our responsibility?
3.       What tools/resources do you use or recommend regarding sustainment of mother earth?

Second tier questions which frame the discussion
1.       How can we, as a trans/queer group reimagine our life?
2.       How can we, as a trans/queer group reimagine our community?
3.       How can we, as a trans/queer group reimagine life here on mother earth?

Third Tier questions which frame the discussion
1.       How do we take hold of a paradigm shift?
2.       What are the implications?
3.       Hope?



Locating the Divine Transgender Feminine and the Sacred Black Masculine
Within A Queer Postcolonial Architecture

There was always something wrong with how I was invented and meant to fit in the world.  Whether this was because I constantly misread my part or because of some deep flaw in my being I could not tell for most of my early life.  Sometimes I was intransigent, and proud of it.  At other times I seemed to myself nearly devoid of any character at all, timid, uncertain, without will.  Yet the overriding sensation I had was of always being out of place.[3] (Edward Said)

At one point in Wole Soyinka’s novel The Interpreters the African American Homosexual Joe Golder, who incidentally also happens to be an historian on Africa, attempts to discuss indigenous homosexuality with Nigerian journalist Sagoe:  “Do you think I know nothing of your Emirs and their little boys?   You forget history is my subject.  And what about the exclusive coteries in Lagos?  Sagoe gesture(s) in defeat.  “You seem better informed than I am.  But f you don’t mind let me persist in my delusion.  (Soyinka, 199)

The construction of the colonial subject in discourse, and the exercise of colonial power through discourse, demands an articulation of forms of difference – racial and sexual.  Such an articulation becomes crucial if it is held that the body is always simultaneously (if conflictually) inscribed in both the economy of pleasure and desire and the economy of discourse, domination and power.[4]  Homi Bhaba

Who we are gender-variant are, like all human beings, complex and unique.  We are straight, gay, and bisexual, cross-dressers, preoperative and non-operative and intersexuals of many types, drag queens and kings; female and male illusionists; androgynous persons and other gender outlaws of various kinds.  Society considers us to be nonconformists, cultural rebels who somehow manage to transcend, transgress, alter, blur, or confuse the usual categories of gender.
To the exasperation of gender traditionalist, we remain human beings who are created in the image of God, which make us intrinsically valuable and eternally loved by our creator. We are indeed as the psalmist wrote, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Ps. 239:14)[5]

Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Vanessa Sheridan, Transgender Journey’s
Queer Postcolonial Architecture is described as an interface of theological, social, cultural, societal, economic and historical considerations.  It is intersectional, a fluid space of profound liberation grounded in the very real space of infinity.  Queer Postcolonial Architecture presents a frame or apparatus to reclaim the images, longings and visions of an incarnated humanity from the vestiges of white supremacy and the various modes of colonization.  Arising from a hermeneutic of the oppressed, it engages a different knowledge complex.  As such it seeks to locate the Divine Transgender Feminine and the Sacred Black Masculine as a fluid, ambiguous, non-exploitive spectrum of the infinite.   Queer Postcolonial Architecture is invitational in its identity complex and infinite in its capacity to hold the sacred holiness embodied in the divine incarnation. 
My thoughts on Queer Postcolonial Architecture are inspired by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Vanessa Sheridan’s book entitled “Transgender Journeys and the chapter entitled Reclaimiing Our Territory, Mapping Our Pathway”.[6]  
As the title suggests, the work is about reclaiming and remapping our territory.  It is about “resignifying gender”[7]  from modes and notions of displacement, reconstruction,  and delusion referenced in Said, Bhaba and, Gaurav Desai within an architecture of capitalization and profit to an inclusive fluid architecture reflective of an imagination motivated by love and the art of queer hospitality.   It is a matter of spirit and soul, the mystical transformation of God and humanity and their intent.  
Sitting on a San Francisco BART train in the midst of hundreds of people of various identities, i.e. genders, sexualities, nationalities, ethnicities etc. I am mindful of the delicate balance of identity, and the significant weight experienced by some people, considered in this thesis as social constructions, to maintain the fallacy of some type of gender stabilization for the sake of a cohesive society codified by some as a sacred biblical imperative.   
As a matter of cultural and historical concern, I ask “how long can this weight be maintained before it becomes unbearable?”   Encountering this question I have become mindful of a shifting, and merging, and moving of civilizations, like tectonic plates, creating new and different terrains of ontological presence.  Cracks, fissures and fault lines become queer fluid spaces of a steadfast hope as the “other” presents the cusp of an unfolding, fluid narrative of mother earth.   The “other” then, through their critical difference possesses agency to bring awareness to the unconscious, and this even to the soul of the human condition. 
As such, I suggest here that gender fluidity, as a representation of the other, is aligned with mother earth, her fluidity, and her fluid expressions and as such is in a state of solidarity and oneness.  Not being at odds or in competition with mother earth the one who is gender fluid can be an agent of holistic presence, an appeal of mother earth, this is in contrast to living as an appeal of economic systems constructed to be at odds and exploitive of the earth imagined in binary economic thoughts and concepts, echoes of an oppressive interpretation of Genesis 1:27-31 by certain sects of Christianity.
As a process, Queer Postcolonial Architecture is a turning to a discourse on sustainability and away from exploitation based systems, of which gender and sexuality are an integral part, with their interlocking oppressions to an environment that is earth centric and liberative.  This thought arises from the writings of Joanna Macy and her book “Coming Back to Life, Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World.[8]
 I call heaven and earth to record this day to your account, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, there choose life, that both you and your seed shall live.              (Deut.3:19) [9]

From a queer postcolonial liberation perspective Macy’s book is an active witness of what she terms a “Great Turning.”[10]  It is considered a choice for life.   For Macy, “To choose life means to build a life-sustaining society.[11]  Simply put it is a choice for a sustainable world versus an unsustainable world, a turning away from the industrial growth society to one that is in sync with the earth, a returning to the roots of human existence.   It is recognition that the soul has needs beyond the consumerist oriented notions of satisfaction.  
Reflecting on Macy’s Great Turning I am mindful of Simone Weil’s book entitled “Needs of the Soul.”  Up out of the mire the question emerges, “what does the soul need in the midst of a great turning?   I think this question critical as a new paradigm comes to maturity.  Needs of the soul present an unconditional reality bringing forth obligations which emerge with particular ethical dimensions.   With Weil’s Needs of the Soul in mind the intent of the Great Turning focuses on a calling to a different ontological cognizance that embraces the human and mother earth as a miracle[12], a creation emerging from the infinite.  
What I mean is that there is a new consciousness on the horizon which reconnects the people with mother earth.  Calling people to experience themselves and mother earth as a miracle not out of some conjured self centered delusional capitalist profit construct but as the present intimacy of the infinite, and this beyond notions of sectarian sacredness.  There is an emerging voice grounded in a different cognizance representative of a queer postcolonial spiritual and intellectual quest, this quest engendering a different imagination of ontological presence.   
The experience then of the divine black transgender feminine and the sacred black masculine, interpreted here as a non conformist entity, become an intimate expression of that Great Turning as it deconstructs the binary gender regime and as a consequence a particular believe system that abuses mother earth and her offspring.  The Great Turning then presents a question of sustainability.  “Is our present state of human affairs sustainable?”  The whole of this project is grounded in this one important quest, to find and do what is sustainable.  This question is posed seemingly on a daily basis as each day there are reports of more and more people coming out of the binary regime challenging traditional gender religious and political discourse. 
Transitions don’t occur because of some senseless selfish notion of privilege but of survival, even of sustainability.  This quest becomes the passion, even the Christ of life, that life is defined as a discourse on sustainability.    There is a realization that sustainability should negotiate practical concerns as it is the practical and in some sense the logical that must be revered yet I suggest that notions of the practical should be, no, they must be recalibrated so as to be in concert with life affirming and life giving structures, and in this sense sustainable. 
This is a challenging call for communities whose notions of sustainability are narrowly defined as structures of privilege and power.   Sustainability is communal; it is about the whole of humanity and not one particular privileged population of people. Sustainability must be the new ground of politics, religion and the corporate community.   Beloved each day is a call for sustainability as society copes with a broken education system, rising suicide rates, drug abuse, ethical concerns and challenges, and issues of life and death.  All of these discussions revolve around the issues and concerns of sustainability.   Discussions of gender, sexuality, marriage equality are mere distractions from a very real discussion of sustainability. 
Sustainability is the foundational discourse of Queer Postcolonial architecture and as such it becomes a discourse in authenticity.  Authenticity and its various dynamics including healing ultimately culminate in notions of sustainability.  


[1] Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown.  Coming Back to Life, Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (Gabriola, BC:  New Society Publishers, 1998)
[2] Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown.  Coming Back to Life, Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (Gabriola, BC:  New Society Publishers, 1998)
[3] Edward Said.  Out of Place:  A Memoir (New York:  Random, 2000) 3.
[4] Homi Bhabha.  The Locations of Culture (New York, NY:  Routledge, 1994), p. 96.
[5] Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Vanessa Sheridan.  Transgender Journeys (Cleveland, OH:  Pilgrim Press, 2003) 89
[6] Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Vanessa Sheridan.  Transgender Journeys (Cleveland, OH:  Pilgrim Press, 2003) 89.
[7] Kwok Pui-lan.  Postcolonial Imagination & Feminist Theology (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2005) 128.
[8] Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown.  Coming Back to Life, Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (Gabriola, BC:  New Society Publishers, 1998)
[9] Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown.  Coming Back to Life, Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (Gabriola, BC:  New Society Publishers, 1998)
[10] Ibid., p. 16.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown.  Coming Back to Life, Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (Gabriola, BC:  New Society Publishers, 1998) p.57.