Against Articulation: Declining Gender and Refusing All Identity

by Ausonia Calabrese

Refusal is a liminal concept: it is the lack of action. Refusal is not passive: that which is passive shrinks back and reacts, refusal stays silent. Refusal is not active: it is still like death.

Within the milieu created by the greatly-widened discourse on gender, there exist ever finer and finer-grains of identity. Gender, it seems, has blossomed out into a million novel forms. This is partly good, for it dissolves a much more restrictive, vitriolic system within its virgin multiplicities. However, it is clear this system reproduces the very same structures of power that plague the gender binary. Bodies are still evaluated as "feminine" and "masculine," actors still as "passive" and "active." New binaries have emerged: "cis" as opposed to "trans," "queer" now opposed to "straight." In other times, in other places, these terms held no meaning. All such binaries represent developments of the Western system of gender. All such binaries oppress the liminal.

All solid identity categories are susceptible to the same flaw: they inevitably fail. The logic of the Individual and its Identity, when faced with the failure or breakdown of meaning inside an atomized social subject, constructs a finer grain of identity in response. Thus, in the reification of identity, the power structures of race, gender, and sexuality become reproduced on deeper and deeper scales. There is no label in existence broad enough in its distinction to completely encompass one's experience. We may tend towards identities with finer and finer grains, but inevitably, this fails to reach us. In *Living in the End Times*, Zizek writes:

A subject tries to articulate ("express") itself in a signifying chain, this articulation fails, and by means of and through this failure, the subject emerges...In a love letter, the very failure of the writer to formulate his declaration in a clear and effective manner—his vacillations, the letter's fragmentary nature, and so on—can in themselves be proof (perhaps are the necessary and only reliable proof) that the professed love is authentic: here, the very failure to deliver the message properly is the sign of its authenticity.

The failure of labels to reach the subject is the ultimate sign of one's authenticity as being ungraspable by language. Thus, the refusal of identity is an integral part of the process of becoming Unique, freed from the grasp of language and symbolic thought altogether, that is, being itself: union with the One, with the Real beyond being and essence.

True gender nihilism cannot be the affirmation of gender nor its abolition. Rather: its refusal. The gender nihilist refuses to articulate gender, indeed, all identity. But the gender nihilist also refuses to articulate the negation of gender, indeed, the negation of all identity.

Refusal to articulate is not simply negation, but the negation of the negation. Earlier critiques of identity espoused under the mantle of "anti-identity anarchism" fail in one crucial aspect: they position the critic in an active role. One who is "anti-identity" is pointing away from pre-existing categories. This act of "pointing away" is itself an articulation, which replaces the primary element with its negation, or more properly, the affirmation of its negation. There is a fine line here between *refusal to articulate identity* and the *negation of identity*. In the negation of identity, the negative aspect is affirmed. One who proclaims themselves to be nonbinary, for example, affirms that they exist outside of the gender binary. One who refuses to articulate gender, on the contrary, remains in total silence. One is neither affirmed to be inside, nor outside, the gender binary. The very concept of gender is treated as something entirely alien and without meaning.

This same affirmation-of-the-negation is present in the milieu of antifascism and postleftism -- both such categories are dependent on that which they are opposed to for their existence, therefore they have no existence of their own. Not phantoms, but parasites. Gender abolitionists, like antifascists and postleftists, chain themselves to their enemy, tying their fates. I will not further speak of milieus: one can refuse gender or they can take it. For my part, I refuse.

There are 19 Comments

Whats it mean to refuse to articulate gender or the negation of it? You'll still be categorized and live with the effects of all that. There will still be people who you find have similar experiences of gender. Pieces like this always just feel like masturbation and lack substance.

Read my piece "Mortification of the flesh." I have another piece in the works, hinted at in the introductory and final sections, which outlines material techniques as a sort of handbook (3nchiridion.)

the piece on individualism, that one was flat out hegelian to the point of being un-intelligable.

However, this piece also makes similar mistakes:

"Thus, the refusal of identity is an integral part of the process of becoming Unique, freed from the grasp of language and symbolic thought altogether, that is, being itself: union with the One, with the Real beyond being and essence."

Union with the One?! I can't decide if that's more absurd and la-la land than "true gender nihilist". There's no such thing. Period. There is no true gender nor true nihilist.

Does the author have a website or contact info anywhere?

Cool. Taking old critiques and presenting them as new but with a boring Marxist veneer. Calabrese must be the new Tiqqunist on the block.

the intent of the critique is for people to see gender/identity as a social construct which it is, i just feel it could be explained better. This is way better than arguing that independence in parts of the brain are an argument that "there is no I", which is what i got out of this person's other critique, other than an argument that nothing in this world is "independent".

I don't believe there is this "the one" though, if you are just talking about the immediacy of the your reality then just say that.

The intent of the critique is to promote the literal refusal of gendering oneself as a spiritual exercise that works towards uniqueness. The One is the Real ala Lacan, it doesn't have being or existence; saying you believe in it doesn't make sense because it doesn't work like that. It's the outside of language.

People are probably less likely to take you (Calabrese) seriously if you continue to respond to your own comments with other people's names. Just sayin'.

People in other countries starve due to poverty. Here on the internet you (and your writing) starve for attention.

how about the refusal of the identity "human" and all the bullshit mandates and assumptions that goes with it. i have found it quite liberating.

That too.

looking back at the way i went about my refusals and disconnects.. i'd kick this one out first...all other nonsense categorizations goes when it goes. though it probably is easier or more prudent to take a stepwise approach.

Add new comment