terre thaemlitz writings

"Becoming Minority" Guest Lecture #6
On Guattari and Deleuze's concept of "becoming-minor" vs. "becoming minority"
World premiere of the video "Rosary Novena for Gender Transitioning"

- Terre Thaemlitz

Transcript of Guest Lecture #6 in the "Becoming Minority" lecture series at the Rietveld Academie of Art, Amsterdam, December 2, 2009. First published on comatonse.com (Japan: Comatonse Recordings, December 8, 2009).


Student designed flyer by Martin Falck and Sara Kaaman.

Hello, my name is Terre Thaemlitz. As you know, this lecture is foreplay to the week long symposium, "Becoming Minority," coming up in March 2010. And as you also know, the theme for this symposium, "becoming minority," is a reference to Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze's concept of "becoming-minor" (with a hyphen), which they developed in their books Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature in 1975, and Mille Plateaux in 1980. I prefer to call them "Guatarri and Deleuze" rather than the usual "Deleuze and Guattari," by the way, if only because there seems to be some cultic power play going on when people put Deleuze first, similar to how people rarely say "Engels and Marx." And in the same way Engels and Marx's joint writings are often only discussed in relation to Marx, a lot of people refer to Guattari and Deleuze's joint writings with just the name Deleuze. For me, both of these discredits seem to display an unlearning of some message about power the authors wished to tell us.

If you follow electronic music, some of you may also know that between 1997 and 2003 I released several CD's through a now defunct German record label called Mille Plateaux, which was inspired by Guattari and Deleuze's book of the same name... at least in intent, if not always in business praxis. Despite my connection to the Mille Plateaux record label, and being invited to speak as part of this lecture series, I have to confess I am not particularly a fan of Guattari and Deleuze, or much French Male philosophy, particularly that rooted in literary criticism. For example, I never found Derrida very helpful, either. I admit French literary critics are very adept at naming things - "deconstruction," what an amazing term - but the surrounding analyses always strike me as overly self-contained and self-justified, which is perhaps symptomatic of it's contextual emergence from French culture itself, I'm not sure. Maybe the only notable exception for me is Faucault, whose writings I found useful in my younger days. In any case - or perhaps because that is the case - here I am, hired to... well, my job description says I am to "take up the notion of Becoming Minority and to bend it in a thought-provoking direction so that the students will be challenged to engage with its potential."

Since this is an Art academy, perhaps you should also know that I hate Art. And I especially hate Art schools. These walls instantly make a phrase like "becoming-animal" (with a hyphen) sound like a bad sculpture studio assignment. I wasted four years of my life studying visual art at a school in New York called the Cooper Union, which inadvertently educated me about all the discrimination and hypocrisy underlying the gallery and museum systems to a point where I wanted nothing to do with them. After graduation I was unable to find employment in any field related to my studies, and spent the next five years doing secretarial and accounting work at a medical university. My only connection to the Arts during my employment there was that the hospital associated with the university managed to finally kill Andy Warhol, who died as the result of medical error. In my free time I eventually started a small record label called Comatonse Recordings which never took off, but never quite disappeared either. It's ironic that, due to the critical way I approach my work in the music industry (as well as the economic collapse of that industry in the late 90's which created an influx of unemployed audio producers into the field of Sound Art), I now occasionally find myself working in Art museums, galleries, universities - but I have a reluctant and dissatisfied relationship to these jobs, in the way most people in any line of work dislike their jobs. And I feel this reluctance is critical.

The Arts, like music, is one of those fields of employment where we are supposed to feel lucky and privileged to be "doing what we want." Socially, it is often not considered a "real job" - I am sure many of you are already experiencing this from family and friends, being told the impracticality of attending Art school. The ideological processes behind this denial of what we do as "labor," both by others and ourselves, is an interest of mine and I generally try to make the business relations underlying my projects as transparent as possible. This is not out of any interest in "advancing" the Arts or music industries, but rather because the ideological workings of these industries - how incredibly strong processes of alienation from labor exist within these markets despite over a century of radical critique - makes them Petri dishes for observing all the ideological fungus and economic rot of our post-Industrial Capitalist era. So when the majority of you graduate and fail to find employment in your chosen fields - or for the lucky few, when that slow trickle of work like that I have experienced dries up - don't beat yourselves up for having a lack of "talent" or "vision," but take a hard look at the marketplace which constructed your unwarranted faith in those monikers: "talent," "vision." People who study Art are no different from people who study law but end up working in human resources or accounting - or teaching, or academic administration, or planning web flow for a corporation. And as discouraging as that may seem at the moment, the fact that you are simply part of a labor pool is actually the most comforting advice I can give you. So try to keep in mind that there is a real labor-based connection between what goes on here, and those Art and media marketplaces you hope to work for, but probably won't, or only in tangential ways. Maybe I can tie this back to Guattari and Deleuze by saying this is about "deterritorializing" our labor as "trained artists" from dominant ideologies which refuse to acknowledge it as "labor," and instead naturalize it as a "creative act." And perhaps one practical application of their concept of "becoming-minor" (with a hyphen) could be this step of "becoming-labor" (with a hyphen).

This is probably a good time to distinguish between the hyphenated "becoming-minor" with the un-hyphenated two-word phrase "becoming minority," since they sound similar but are really quite different. And maybe this has already been covered a million times by your professors or previous speakers, but just in case... The term "minority" traditionally refers to the smaller part of a group, or less than half of the people in a given society, and along with the term "majority," has an image of being rooted in numbers. In terms of social advocacy and civil rights, we're all familiar with the term "Minority groups." But Guattari and Deleuze point out the numbers don't add up, and in reality the "majority" is less about numbers than about domination and power. For example, there are actually more women than men in the world, but under patriarchy women constitute a minority. If you further pinpoint those most privileged in a society - such as the Western habit of prioritizing White, Heterosexual Men - the number of people in that "majority" becomes smaller and smaller. Within this context, Minority groups, then, are groups of people wishing to share in dominant power - this is the Humanist model of rights legislation. Minority identities, such as Lesbian or Gay, emerge from the power dynamics of domination, attempting to escape oppression by being accepted as part of dominant society. And, in the same way that domination by the "majority" is naturalized to the point where we forget a Democratic majority is not a numerical majority at all, these other Minority identities are also discussed in naturalizing terms which conceal the ways they are interwoven with dominant power structures, born within the "majoritarian State Machine," rather than existing on the outside trying to get in.

Think of how over the past few hundred years we have gone from the idea of sodomy and sexual deviance as "evil acts" the Devil could tempt anyone into doing - man or woman, adult or child - to these late-Victorian concepts of hetero- and homosexual identities as things we are "born with," something coming from DNA. It's all a very elaborate rationalization of the fact that, as animals, we like to touch warm, wet places. After centuries of seeing sex as impure, Heterosexuality is the ultimate naturalization of culturally sanctioned sex acts. Think of how the Nazi's used this naturalization of sexual identities to justify the extermination of homosexuals as a means of purifying society. And think of how Lesbians and Gays now use similar naturalist arguments to justify our deserving "rights," our deserving to share in dominant power, not out of choice or openness around sexuality, but simply because, "We can't help it." As Minority communities, we declare of our own "free will" that we have no choice in the matter. I mean, who would choose to be Gay, right? Would anyone choose to be Transgendered? Can you imagine someone choosing to be black? Are you implying anyone would choose to be a woman? ...Well, at what point, and in relation to which "bodies," do those questions at the root of humanist legislature start to sound ridiculous and insulting to those they claim to protect? On the one hand, we are encouraged to feel pride in who we are, yet the terms of that pride are completely derogatory and patronizing. It's not "real pride" associated with empowerment, but a kind of parental pat on the head to the black-sheep child, "Oh, you're not so bad... be proud of who you are, my little weak one." This is only about deferring bias, not resolving it, and it will have repercussions because it always fails to address the fundamental dynamics of domination we claim we wish to resist. In fact, most people don't wish to resist power, but simply to partake in the act of domination. Once this domination becomes naturalized, and we are accustomed to it, then we cease to consider it as a form of violence. Like these days people seem to think it's no big deal to be Lesbian or Gay, it's on the TV or whatever, but in fact discrimination continues, being disowned from families continues, being fired from jobs continues, being verbally harassed continues, being physically beaten continues... The social arrival of Lesbians and Gays as "natural" - our naturalization as a species - has, in effect, made us culturally numb to a large percentage of ongoing Homophobic violence. You see, Humanism loops back around to kick us in the ass from behind.

So Guattari senses all this social trouble brewing, and suggests that rather than focusing on sharing power, we need to go through a process of "deterritorialization," or to force an ideological de-occupation of ourselves from those things which dominate us. "Becoming-minor" (with a hyphen), then, is about a process of considering our tensions with the majority - our own subjugation to social and political domination - in terms other than traditional identity politics and "Minority groups." For example, when thinking about gender discrimination, the concept of "becoming-minor" (with a hyphen) converges with "becoming-woman" (with a hyphen) - something Guattari says everyone has to do, even women. If we do enough hyphenated "becoming-" in greater and greater detail, zooming into social relations under a microscope until we are "becoming-molecular" (with a hyphen), "becoming-imperceptible" (with a hyphen), we finally arrive at the possibility of "becoming-revolutionary" (with a hyphen).

As you can see, this idea of "becoming-minor" (with a hyphen), and by extension "becoming-minority" (with a hyphen), is radically different from the unhyphenated title of this lecture series, "Becoming Minority," which in the absence of a hyphen pre-emptively erases the graphical key to reading the distinction Guattari proposed. (In French, it is hyphenated as "devenir-mineur.") Whereas "becoming-minor" (with a hyphen) is about moving beyond Minority groups, the unhyphenated "Becoming Minority" would refer to something like that process of becoming Lesbian or Gay I mentioned earlier. However, clearly the organizers at your school wish to ally themselves with Guattari's concept, saying on the academy website that they wish to take on his idea (quote), "slightly simplified, as 'Becoming Minority.' Still in line with Deleuze's and Guattari's [sic.] initial concept Studium Generale proposes 'Becoming Minority' [without a hyphen] as one of the becomings one is affected by when avoiding 'becoming-fascist'" (hyphenated, unquote). But their starting point for teaching you about "becoming-minor" (with a hyphen) is a complete inversion of the lesson at hand, substituting that which Guattari wished to describe ("becoming-minor" [with a hyphen]) with that which he wished us to deterritorialize - the concept of "Minority" itself. Why would they do this? Did your faculty not get it? Is it a typo? I doubt it. Is it just a patronizing oversimplification because they think you are too young, dumb, or unexposed to certain fundamental ideas? Perhaps. Or, within this subject of trying to avoid "becoming-fascist" (with a hyphen) is it possibly about something more?

Is it possible that within a culture, and an era, in which Europe is moving to the Right - "becoming Europe" (without a hyphen); places like Italy in a very real sense "becoming fascist" (without a hyphen) - when Minority groups are continually under attack, and anti-discrimination legislation is increasingly portrayed in the dominant media as "reverse discrimination" and "favoritism," that by introducing Guattari's rejection of the "minority" too recklessly might mean his anti-fascist arguments could be misappropriated and misused as yet one more means of dismantling civil rights movements? Can you see how Guattari's post-Minority language could be misinterpreted by conservative students as anti-Minority, giving them more language to justify their desire to exclude minorities; or more precisely, to preserve certain dominations? Can you see how this could bring accusations of the Rietveld Academie being anti-Minority? We're not talking about word games anymore, but the workings of propaganda, which we are all involved in through our association with representational media. I think it is out of this danger, or fear, of having students who have not yet been exposed to theories of "de-naturalization" simply walk away with a message that the concept of "Minority groups" are problematic without clearly positioning the discussion of "minorities" as simply one aspect of the larger problems of majoritarian domination, that your school chose the title "Becoming Minority" (with no hyphen), despite its total inversion of Guattari's ideas, and despite it's total erasure of the subtractive signifier of de-territorialization: the hyphen as minus sign. In doing this, they chose the safer, more pluralist, more digestible liberal path... I assume hoping to complicate all of this during the upcoming week-long seminar.

...Or it could have just been a typo, I don't know. I noticed the emails announcing these various lectures increasingly dropped the hyphenations, which could either be about design issues, or some escalation of misdirecting ideology.

In any case, people say all of this "deterritorialization" stuff Guattari talks about is indicative of our moving into what has come to be called the "post-Human" era, calling into question the Humanist notion that "people are people" as an erasure of cultural differences. The very idea that we are "all the same inside" is, in fact, a kind of "becoming-fascist" (with a hyphen); taken to the extreme, it becomes a naturalization of the impossibility for difference. As someone personally interested in showing the limitations of identities and identity politics, and as someone who has never once felt "represented" by legislative processes surrounding identities, I think this kind of resistance to Humanism proposed by Guattari is socially important. However, as a feminist and Transgendered person I can also see how this history of French Male literary philosophy - in declaring the erasure of the human, the "Death of the Author," etc. - is problematic when it happens just as women and other gendered people, as well as people of other ethnicities, etc., begin declaring our arrival as "human," as "authors," as "artists," as any of these things which Western patriarchy naturalizes as simply part of "being human," but which have never included so many of us. It's a bit too convenient for dominant academia to suddenly say we're too late, in effect creating a new silence around historically excluded discussions. This is what the struggle for post-colonial studies programs in the 80's and 90's was all about. The post-colonialists were pointing out that the processes through which our relationships to Western cultural domination become naturalized are radically different depending upon race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality; and the ethical imperative underlying Guattari's decision to "become-minor" (with a hyphen) is reflective of a Western, White, male ethic which fails to see it's own power base. The luxury of being able to "become-minor" (with a hyphen) is perhaps similar to the luxury underlying traditional academic White Feminism, which People of Color and other genders have identified over the past few decades, triggering that academic shift from "Women's Studies" to "Gender Studies." You see, as contemporary philosophy is erasing the concept of "Minority" there are all of these people in society struggling to "Become Minority" (with no hyphen, like the title of this lecture series), and from this perspective something such as Guattari's post-Human approach to erasing the concept of "minority" can seem just as oppressive as Dominant Culture's attempts to erase minorities.

For me, both "becoming-minority" (with a hyphen) and "becoming minority" (without a hyphen) can be dangerous positions. In my mind, any "becoming-" implies a notion of arrival, of being. As acts of deconstruction, they arrive at different constructions. And I see all acts of definition or arrival or construction as inherently linked to processes of homogenization, grouping, identification and classification, which are therefore automatically interlinked with enclosure, limitation, territorialization, and "becoming-fascist." Guattari's notion of finally "becoming-revolutionary," of finally becoming anything even if in a really vague Zen-like cloud of a thousand indistinct plateaus (and those French guys are always somehow into Zen, which is super-fascist), is a teleological (or, linear) process. It implies a historical trajectory - and we know how important notions of historical trajectory are to fascists, right? "Becoming-" implies a new mechanical process, a new means for results, a new cultural machine. It falls back into the traps of domination, albeit in a very sublime and delicate way. This is uninteresting for me, and why I told you in the beginning I am not particularly a fan of Guattari.

My dissatisfaction with "becoming-" is a part of my interest in non-essentialist Transgenderism, which is about calling gender relations into question rather than arriving at a concrete model of gender, whether it be "female," "male," or "third-gender." However, while refusing to believe in the intrinsic nature of gender identities, I simultaneously reject the notion that we can transcend cultural mores, or exist as something "new" or "original." "Otherness" becomes just another form of "authenticity," and "authentic identity" - what society allows or denies us to be - is at the root of domination and oppression. But even within Transgendered communities, there are elaborate hierarchies in which we find ourselves self-ranked and categorized. Perhaps I should explain what I mean when I say "Transgendered," since most people instantly think of Transsexuals, or people who have physically altered their bodies through the ingestion of hormones, surgical procedures, etc. "Transgendered" is actually the larger umbrella category that includes all types of gender transgression, from the previously mentioned Transsexuals, to Drag Queens/Kings and Cross Dressers, to Intersexed persons born with ambiguous or multiple sex organs. And although we are culturally grouped under one umbrella, there are actually many radical differences in social and political views. For example, most Intersexed people despise the medical establishment for experimenting on their bodies, often surgically altering people without consent during infancy; meanwhile, most Transsexuals embrace the medical industry and surgery as their means for self-actualization.

Within Transgendered hierarchies, post-op Transsexuals generally place themselves on top of the Transgendered power structure, looking down on Drag Queens/Kings as wanna-be's or unactualized messes. For example, it has been common for Transsexual friends to pressure me to take hormones, dismissing my resistance to medical transitioning as a sign of my immaturity, and that in a few years I will "come around." If we go back to the notion of Zen, many post-op Transsexuals see themselves as having climbed the steps of self-realization, becoming Buddhas as it were. On the other hand, medically altered Interesexed people are often idolized as Buddhas torn from the sky - portrayed as beings ripped from their gender ambiguity and sutured into female or male bodies by the doctors' hands. ...Perhaps you can see in these metaphors how Zen is about social power and hierarchy.

So there is a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding within Transgendered communities. For me, all of this chaos and dischord is one of the appeals of Transgenderism as a completely self-destroying identity. The deeper you get into gender diversity, the more impossible it is to "become" anything. It is about concepts of the body as inherently in motion, changing, transitioning, and even in the case of Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) never quite arriving at that naturalized state of "woman" or "man." It's not uncommon for a straight man, upon learning his female lover was born with a penis, to respond with hysterical violence at the realization of having felt or done something "Gay." Transgendered bodies are always suspect, to others and oneself; and by extension of our relationships to others under the combined domination of a two-gender male/female system and a two-sexuality straight/Gay system, the identities of all bodies we come in contact with also become suspect.

Of course, for the majority of Transgendered people this is a major cause of grief and suffering. Our fear of disclosure is real and justified. If Guattari was obsessed with deterritorialization, we might say dominant Transgendered lifestyles and ideologies aimed at assimilation and "passing" are obsessed with territorialization, obsessed with naturalization, obsessed with social and legal acceptance as a "natural man" or "natural woman." It is about transforming oneself into something totally banal, which is incredibly difficult. Few ever achieve that target banality, and the gap between where one physically "started" and how far one has "come" in transitional processes involves a lot of radical transgression - physically and emotionally dangerous transgression - all in an attempt to reach a point of "safety." And like most people, we're psychologically fueled by a sweetly romantic desire to simply fit in with that which has excluded us. For me, this is really hard-core. Emotionally difficult to accept. In some ways, maybe the relationships between transgendered communities and dominant cultures are like those of children who continue aspiring to please their abusive parents, if only in the hope of avoiding another drunken beating.

Guattari spoke of two types of deterritorialization - absolute and relative. (Absolute deterritorialization is related to that rather lofty, Zen-like concept of "becoming-revolution" that I complained about earlier.) But as for "relative deterritorialization," which is generally accompanied by an act of "reterritorialization," I can't think of a better example of this process than the act of gender transitioning from female-to-male or male-to-female, in which people deterritorialize themselves from one dominant gender identity only to reterritorialize themselves in relation to its dichotic other. Rejecting one gender construct by embracing another - both of which are oppressive. And I think it is through the example of gender transitioning that we can see how Guattari's notion of "relative deterritorialization and reterritorialization" always carries with it a desire for power - either to share in existing structures of domination, or to dominate those structures with new power systems. Gender transitioning is clearly about social acceptance through existing dominant representational systems, and in that way it reflects a desire to share in existing structures of domination. Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) is a radical rejection of gender that ironically results in a pathological reconciliation with dominant gender models - and I say "pathological" because these surgeries are usually only performed after submitting oneself to clinical examination, and accepting a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder, regardless of whether one truly feels one has such a disorder. It is a diagnosis which technically and legally extricates "personal choice" from our acts of transitioning. It is our domination - as individuals and a society - by the notion we have no other choice but to transition. In thinking about "becoming minority" (without a hyphen), many Transgendered Minority groups are largely organizing out of a desire for our own erasure as Minority groups through naturalized assimilation. While it's true that members of many Minority groups submit themselves to the surgeon's knife in attempts at assimilation - from nose jobs to breast augmentation to Asian double eyelid blepharoplasty - transgendered communities seem to be the most systematically invested in the contradiction of advocating for acceptance as "who we are" while simultaneously obsessing on reconstituting ourselves in the image of that which dominates us. In gender transitioning you can clearly trace both the Guattarian concept of "becoming-minor" (with a hyphen) - or rather, I should say already "being-minor" (with a hyphen) - through the quest to mentally and physically "become" something other than the gender initially dictated upon us; as well as the conventional, identitarian concept of "becoming minority" (with no hyphen) through the desire to re-assimilate with dominant culture as female or male.

With all of this in mind, I would like to show you an excerpt from a new audio-visual project I have been working on entitled, Soulnessless. The overall theme of Soulnessless is a critical look at the functions of soul, spirituality and religion in the music marketplace. This segment you'll see today is called, "Rosary Novena for Gender Transitioning," which draws parallels between spiritual deprogramming and gender deprogramming, only to have the essentialisms underlying Sexual Reassignment Surgery result in a new cult of authenticity around gender identity. Perhaps you could think about it in relation to the conundrums of both "becoming-minor" (with a hyphen) and "becoming minority" (with no hyphen).

20 Minutes

    Video Transcript
    Soulnessless Part I: Rosary Novena for Gender Transitioning

    From 1997-2000, I lived in Oakland, California. Although I did not own a radio receiver, the wires in my studio acted as an antenna, filling the line noise with religious broadcasts from a local public-access radio station.

    Some might call them messages from God.

    I called them fucking annoying.

    I hate religion. I hate all religions. Without exception. Yours too. I hate spirituality. I hate all spiritual ways of life. I hate all spiritual thinking. That includes secular spiritualism, agnosticism, superstition, astrology, fortune telling, blood type character readings, homeopathy, crystal power, angels, people who rationalize their belief in the inane with the phrase "nobody really knows what happens after they die," and people who believe Buddhists never started a war.

    I have never encountered a form of spirituality that did not involve the reification of individual and communal ignorance. Spirituality placates our incomprehension of the material with tales of forces possessing the knowledge we consider missing in ourselves, often personified as omnipotent beings. I pity the gods, born of shame over our collective stupidity, their powers enslaved to answering whatever inane questions we throw at the universe. Faith in the gods is inseparable from our fear of confusion, our simultaneous fear of noise and silence, our juvenile demand for order where there is none. Yet in all the gods' supposed greatness, no "God's Plan" has ever delivered more than a given culture's status quo, with all of its miseries and inequities.

    I understand faith's appeal as a means of empowering oneself, particularly among those hoping to escape poverty and violence. I understand that many religious groups provide vital social services, many of which are not provided by local governments. I understand how inadequate social services can create disdain for political process, and give appeal to notions of social order that transcend our material failures. But the quest for 'supra-social' solutions to 'social' problems obfuscates the material processes through which faith-based institutions are formed and operate, seriously complicating - if not thoroughly compromising - processes of social and institutional reform. Faith-based organizing antithetically seeks to alter the material while ideologically negating it via the supernatural... which is why so many religions anticipate salvation through the gods' apocalyptic destruction of the material world. In its anti-materiality, faith-based organizing is inherently anti-social. And positing faith as "a solution for today's world" overlooks centuries of hellish religious domination prior to the relatively new phenomenon of the (never really very) secular state. Religion is not an alternative. It is precedent. It is tradition. It is our collective shit piled miles deep over aeons.

    I do not say these things as an "intellectual" dismissing "believers." To the contrary, I speak as someone raised as a Roman Catholic by parents with deep religious roots, my father having been a celibate Brother for 19 years prior to marrying my mother, who kept company with the nun teachers of her youth until their deaths. I was born in an area dominated by Catholic and Jewish faiths. We then moved to a town dominated by anti-Catholic Evangelical Christians, it being the global headquarters of the Assembly of God church. The antagonisms between the faiths I was exposed to, as well as the hatred nestled in their teachings of "God's love" (homophobia, sexism, racism, etc.), led me to disbelief by age 13. At age 14, I avoided the sacrament of Catholic Confirmation by telling my parents I needed more time to develop a worthy faith, which was a lie since I knew I never wanted to be confirmed, but my parents would not respect my judgment in the matter. At age 16, my father announced he "would not be tricked again" and I was confirmed unwillingly after being forced through weeks of nonsensical training. In a last minute act of resistance I attended the ceremony wearing a florescent green sweater and a spiky modified-mohawk, which managed to stop the arch bishop from physically laying his hands on my head during the confirmational blessing. In a last minute act of resistance I attended the ceremony in a florescent green sweater and a spiky modified-mohawk, which managed to stop the arch bishop from physically laying his hands on my head during the confirmational blessing. I would like to think his confused, hovering hands having never touched my body means I technically remain unconfirmed.

    Beyond struggles with Judeo-Christian communities, as a young adult in New York I helped deprogram loved ones who were members of religious cults including Mahikari and others. And since moving to Japan, one of the world's least religious societies, I still find myself helping loved ones overcome their fear of ghosts. So when I speak against religion and spirituality, I do so not as a person with the rare luxury of a secular upbringing, but as a person who has struggled to overcome one's own spiritual programming, and who sees others struggling to do the same. I assure you, any harshness to my words rests in defensive panic, not arbitrary aggression. I do not stand proudly before you. I am laying prostrate, an anti-Holy Roller speaking in tongues, trying to catch my breath for one more kick and "Fuck you!" against the endless trample of faiths and superstitions framing my existence in this world from birth to death. I concede the inescapability of religious and spiritual dogma to one degree or another in all corners of life - from extremist religious militarism to the seemingly harmless transcendental pretenses of "soul music," ambient, new age, classical, pop, rock, folk, house... No matter how much I wish for the eradication of spiritual thinking, I have no faith in the possibility of an atheist society or godless world. I am truly without faith. In a media marketplace that demands soulness, I can only offer soulnessless.

    Because verbalizing disbelief places one in danger of losing family, friends, employment, and social networks, perhaps I should assume that apologist stance familiar to all nonbelievers. A limited inquiry into the influences of Catholicism in my own life would be a safer topic to discuss here, since anything less subjective could be labeled culturally insensitive, bad karma, anti-Semitic, demanding fatwah, or any number of other curses bestowed upon outsiders. I wish to limit the potential for such curses because I have already endured acts of verbal and physical violence at the hands of Christians, and suspect that fanatical followers of the other great religions of the world are no less capable of the same.

    So I begin the traumatic task of recalling my upbringing under Catholicism, not as a faith I rejected, but as an educational system that laid my very foundations. As someone who believes the effects of childhood conditioning continue influencing us into old age, I may assume my current anti-religious values have been guided by metaphors and symbols burned into my mind through a youth of tantric repetition, ceremony and indoctrination. I scan shadowy, long repressed memories for signs of how my spiritual upbringing educated me into its own rejection. I seek omens of transgenderism and queerness.

    From the discomfort of self reflection the Virgin Mother comes, patrona of my apologist analysis. For centuries, cults of the Virgin Mother have served as matriarchal counterpoints to patriarchy in Catholic cultures. I recall my own grandmothers - both single Catholic mothers in an era when Catholic mothers simply were not single - calling upon Mary for strength. But I am not interested in espousing Mary's "feminist potential," which strikes me as severely limited and conditional. There is something else about her... a different gender issue at play passed down for generations in Holy Mystery, guiding me here and now to out the Holy Queen as transgendered.

    Her first appearance on my "GENDAR" (the transgendered equivalent of "GAYDAR") came in the form of a 14cm wooden phallus sitting on my mother's shelf. It was a gift from her lifelong mentor and friend Sister L. from the progressive Wisconsin-based Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis. Sister L. had educated and cared for my mother since elementary school, and was still around with soft kisses during my childhood. (May they both forgive me for annunciating what they left unspoken.) For this rather nicely sized phallus undergoes a metamorphosis, opening with labia-like doors to disclose an elongated statuette of the Virgin Mother, phallic in a Giocomettian sense, her head appearing from a clitoral hood, with a vaginal slit running down the front of her gown.

    While Westerners might easily recognize and discuss such sexual overtones in, say, a statue from Africa, a good Catholic remains willingly blind to that which she worships - replicating but never speaking the meaning of symbols passed down over hundreds of years. The vaginal gothic arch, the church as womb, the eucharist as pseudo-sexual cannibalism ("Just what part of his body did I eat?")... all to be meditated upon silently, yet deemed blasphemous to speak aloud by the gnostic-descendant, celibate church leaders who spread the myth of the virgin birth after a power coup around 400 AD. Their story of a woman who asexually procreates a person of opposite gender - a son whose only human genome is that of his mother - is a tale of individual gender transformation. Much as the Holy Trinity is three in one, Mary and Jesus are two in one. They are not "of the same human body" in the sense that you and I are of the same bodies as our mothers and fathers. On a biological level they are the same body. The Madonna holding the infant Jesus - the best images of which are always melancholic - becomes a "before and after" picture of Female-to-Male transitioning: a feminine figure having given birth to her own masculine form. Conversely, the Pieta is a scene of Male-to-Female transitioning, with the female Mary gazing down upon her abandoned male carcass. Once these spells are spoken, they become undeniable. But the ultimate proof of these absurdities comes from my maternal grandmother, whose name was none other than... Maria.

    Holy Mary, mother of Geri, grandmother of Terre...

    In 1985, at age 16, I spent the summer living with her. It was the summer when I first began cross-dressing in public. A former seamstress, Grandma Mary helped me piece together odd outfits by modifying old slips and skirts taken from her attic. It was an unusual summer - the peak of our closeness in an often not so close relationship - which we laughed about years later on her deathbed. One day as autumn neared, she brought a box down from her attic and handed it to me. "Don't ever show this to your mother. Don't even breathe a word... Just take it out of my house." Mary forgive me, I have never spoken to anyone about this until now... I pray 25 years of secrecy is enough. Inside, wrapped in cross-stitched portraits of Our Lady, was a wax figurine of the Madonna and child with a highly unusual feature...

    [Image of figuring - Madonna has phallus.]

    Novena Prayer (For Nine Days)

    Hail, O Lady of Gender Transitioning, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, my hope!
    To Thee do I send up my sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
    O Holy Mother, in this age when feminine napkins are sold by South Korean transgendered celebrity Harisu, as Your imitators we beseech Thee for humility.
    Forgive her envy of menstruation as that which she is "jealous of and wishes to do as a woman," and forgive my envy of sexual reassignment surgery as that which I am jealous of and wish to do as a "man."
    Bless me, as You have blessed her, in granting faithful imitation and homage to Thine sacred womb, to give birth to my gender opposite.
    Bless me with Thine beauty and grace.
    Bless me with the heavenly riches necessary to complete such a transformation.
    May the financial success of this audio project serve as the sacred seed of my own menstruation, an idillic flow like that seen in tampon commercials, a holy blue flow reflecting the plasticity of gender transitioning, draping my legs like Your blessed blue robe, that I may follow in Thine image.
    O Lady of Gender Transitioning, pray for this sinner now and at the hour of my death, and receive me in my resurrection. This I humbly pray in Your name. Amen.


    [Sung to medical footage of vaginoplasty operation.]

    On that resurrection morning
    When all dead in Christ shall rise
    I'll have a new body (Praise the Lord)
    I'll have a new life
    Won't it be so bright and fair
    When we meet our loved ones there
    I'll have a new body (Praise the Lord)
    I'll have a new life

    I'll have a new home of love eternal
    Where the redeemed of God will stand
    There'll be no more sorrow (No more pain)
    There'll be no more strife
    Raised in the likeness of my savior
    Ready to live in paradise
    I'll have a new body (Praise the Lord)
    I'll have a new life

    When ol' Gabriel blows his trumpet
    And we walk the streets of gold
    I'll have a new body (Praise the Lord)
    I'll have a new life
    No more pain, worry, sorrow
    In this wicked world of sin
    I'll have a new body (Praise the Lord)
    I'll have a new life

    I'll have a new home of love eternal
    Where the redeemed of God will stand
    There'll be no more sorrow (No more pain)
    There'll be no more strife
    Raised in the likeness of my savior
    Ready to live in paradise
    I'll have a new body (Praise the Lord)
    I'll have a new life

    Oh dear brother are you livin'
    For that day when Christ shall come
    I'll have a new body (Praise the Lord)
    I'll have a new life
    Graves all burstin'
    Saints a' shoutin'
    Heavenly beauty all around
    I'll have a new body (Praise the Lord)
    I'll have a new life

    - End Video Transcript -

My proposal to you, in identifying these various problems with both the "minor" and "minorities," is not to think about deterritorialization or reterritorialization, but overterritorialization. By "overterritorialization" I mean simultaneously engaging in contradictory social identities; forsaking pride for an open investigation of shame and hypocrisy; inviting confusion in our own life and the lives of those around us; and not only thinking of social alliances in terms of cooperation, but to actively engage in non-cooperation as a means of socialization. I am not talking about mere twists of thought, mind games or punkish attitudes, but actually altering one's behaviors in ways that mean assuming risks. Risks of estrangement, risks of losing connections to family, connections to employment, connections to friends, connections to community, connections to country, connections to religion, connections to these organs of domination. While it may sound like I am talking about stepping outside the infamous "majoritarian State Machine," or some kind of transcendental social withdrawal, I am actually talking about placing oneself in a position of not only feeling the ways in which we have come to naturalize our domination, but feeling the inescapability of the social in unnatural ways. For example, I call myself Transgendered, but I am equally critical of the functions of gender identities within Transgendered communities and dominant culture. I often talk about the closet and secrecy as the primary condition of Transgenderism, and despite my own visibility as a Transgendered public figure of sorts, I am still most often dressed in men's clothing and succumb to the pressures of the closet. And there are also inverse closets. For example, in a cultural context such as this that extends me more credibility when wearing a dress, how might you hear my words differently if I stood before you born with a penis, Transgendered identified, and dressed as a man? Simiarly, with my sexuality, I identify as pansexually Queer, and if pressured I would always say I am Gay rather than Straight since a youth of constant fag bashing left me completely alienated from Heterosexual identification, yet a key effect of that violence at the hands of males was a hatred of men that precludes any interest in male-to-male encounters, so most all of my "Queer" relationships have been with women, the opposite of my documented gender as male. How does this apparent contradiction complicate my relationships with Queers and non-Queers? How does my criticality of Straight, Lesbian and Gay cultures place my private and public relationships at risk? I am openly opposed to all marriages, whether they are between people of the same or opposite genders, yet I am married - in my third marriage, actually, which is also the legal basis for my immigration to Japan. How do the sum of all of these interpersonal, cultural and political contradictions result in both stabilities and instabilities, not only for myself but those around me?

I am talking about not taking a passive or victimized position in relation to the violence of cultural domination, but to personally assume responsibility for one's participation in and perpetuation of that violence, especially if it involves cultural mandates that go against one's own sense of morality or ethics. We all must do things we disdane. Things that make us sick. To be numb to the violence one directly and indirectly enacts on others is the ultimate sign of one's cooptation by those systems of violence. Dreams, hope, happiness, improvement - all of these things which indicate a vector of social growth or mobility; things which indicate the desire to achieve a given power or status - become suspect as motivators. Allowing oneself to be "dreamless" is critical to denaturalizing our desires for attaining things in society, since desires naturalize the social relations around those things. For example, one cliché around which many people build their dreams is the American Dream of owning a house... the notion that "everyone would like to own their own home." How does the mass acceptance of this "dream" naturalize not only a consumer relationship to the real estate industry, but, more insidiously, a relationship to a culturally specific notion of the family as a social unit around which the "home" as architecture is designed?

When thinking about social problems, I always avoid hypothesizing futures or "solutions," since those concepts are usually too symptomatic of, and tainted by, the cultural dynamics of the problems they attempt to resolve. It's also a bit too optimistic for me to think there are solutions. A "time of peace" does not strike me as a realistic possibility. So, we are left with struggle, historical materialism, and analysis in an attempt to more clearly engage the unacceptable, endless oppressions of today's cultural processes. This motivation stemming from a necessity to actively challenge the present is quite different than being motivated by desires for what we wish to come, and I think the ensuing cultural momentum can also be quite different. This "devoid of dreams" approach is clearly not about a "way of life for everyone" - and, of course, dominant culture under Captialism will continue pursuing social change through humanist vectors - but I think the fact that "losing dreams" lacks an aura of mass appeal makes it all the more well suited as one approach toward challenging homogenization - whether that homogenization be fascist or humanist. The point is not self-determination or leadership, but resistance and critique - the continual auditing of society and the self. It is the chaos to be carried into the acts of "becoming-minor" (with a hyphen), and "becoming minority" (without a hyphen).

As someone who has been paid to stand here and say something motivational about these notions of "becoming-minor" and "minority," but who is not interested, nor qualified, nor personally together enough to tell anyone what to do, the best I can do is encourage you - sister propagandists and media manipulators of all genres - to consider actively engaging in the struggles of both, all the while actively resisting, confusing, and complicating every unavoidable act of "becoming" forced upon you along the way. It will exhaust you. And there will be no reward. And by most social standards it will make you a worse person rather than a better one. And there is no romantic underdog side to being a worse person. And there will be no escaping the feelings of shame, failure and worthlessness. But it just may minimize the violence you enact on others through your naturalized alliances with domination; although this is also unclear since you would still be destroying along the way - destroying oneself and others. But you will be aware of the knives in your own hands, and aware of how poorly you wield them. And I'm sorry to say, all things considered, that is as encouraging as I can be.

[Concluded with audience Q&A]

Student designed flyer by Martin Falck and Sara Kaaman.