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Last Night I Saw ‘Cock’

Last night I saw ‘Cock’ and it made me think.

True, that’s what often happens to me on Friday nights.

 Only this time ‘Cock’ was a play at The Theatre Centre.

It was funny as hell.

But the play made me think about identity politics and of course what is wrong with the world and why we are all going to hell in a hand-basket.

            The play ‘Cock’ sends the message that sexual identity politics are (is?) not important. It doesn’t matter whether people are gay or straight. People fall in love with a human being, not a gender, and everyone is truly multi-(or omni) sexual.

            I have lots of problems with this; basically because it’s not true.

            But more important -- the ideas in ‘Cock’ are part of a new trend that presently flowers fiercely both inside and outside of academia:  the ‘Anti Identity Politics Movement’. These days it’s very hip to be against identity politics -- and very old fashioned to speak about straight vs. gay, or male vs. female. The trans movement and the bisexual movement send the same ultra-universal, ultra-inclusive message. If you identify as male or female, straight or gay, you are simply boxing yourself into an oppressive corner. Labels punish people. So why not live in a world without labels? In an ideal world, there would be no need for such exclusive categories such as gender, and there would be no sexual categories. We would be free to love whomever we pleased.

            This new anti-identity trend has put the feminist and queer communities in a unique dilemma. I know women today who still speak proudly of the special experience of being born into a woman’s body in a patriarchal culture. These women are now being told by some trans-activists that for women to talk of themselves proudly as Cisgender women (i.e. women born with vaginas and assigned as female at birth) is oppressive.

Hm. What ever happened to women’s lib? To feminism?  I guess that’s over.

            And Gay Liberation is, of course, necessarily over too.  

            But what’s ironic about this new ‘Anti Identity Politics Movement’ is that it promulgates the same mistaken ideas that were the foundation for Gay Liberation. You see the founders of Gay Liberation did not predict that the happy result of their policies would be a totally ‘gay world’ (all right-wing hate literature to the contrary). What early gay-libbers desired was a world without sexual identity categories where everyone loved whom they wished and sexual identity did not matter.

            Suffice it to say, that after nearly forty-five years of gay liberation and nearly fifty years of feminism in North America, we do not live in a genderless world, or a world without sexuality categories.

            But my big question is this: was this utopia ever possible? And is it even desirable?

            For all these future fantasies are based on a very human delusion – that people everywhere are all, basically the same.

            In our global, tolerant world, (which is of course also rife with hate and religious fundamentalism) we like to pretend that everyone is the same. But this deluded utopian vision simply helps us avoid the very thing we are all afraid of, that deep down we are all fundamentally different.

            It is this human ‘difference’ that is one of the most frightening things about being alive. Yes we might all be very shocked with how our neighbours -- and even some of our friends -- think, feel and act, deep down in their ‘private lives’  (to quote Noel Coward). But the challenge for humanity is to somehow not only be tolerant, but to learn -- from the vast differences that threaten to separate us on a daily basis.

            I do not wish to deny that there is much hate directed at trans people and bisexuals,  and that the hate is unfair and it should stop. But the answer isn’t to yearn for a genderless, ‘sexuality-less’ world.

            The answer is not that we are all the same, but that we must somehow come to terms with how we are all so frighteningly different.