My girl friends tell me that I don’t know ho to play the game, and they are right. I spent my teenage years in the closet about liking girls and only daring to imagine beyond the extremely conservative social life my parents’ seemed comfortable with. I went to college, lived in a women’s dorm, came out, started dating someone, and fell into the rapid socialization of queer radical often poc “down” and really concerned with being down liberal arts community. To be sure I learned nothing of heterosexual norms and my world was almost all biofemales and trannies. So when I started to realize in my mid twenties that I was in fact attracted to a guy in my master’s program, I had no idea what to do. I approached it the only queer way I knew how, allowing intense friendships and intimacy and fluidity, and before he barely knew I liked him he was in a committed relationship with (of course) the woman I had confided in about my feelings. So began the trajectory of the next ten years.
My friends tell me that I am too giving, and guys know it. They keep all the power, and I don’t demand anything different. While it’s not a critique someone aligned with black studies and an artistic and intellectual legacy of strong women wants to hear, I know it’s true. In many ways I’m at a loss of how to play the game, just because I don’t know. I have come far enough along to be a little bit aware of when someone is playing it around me, but that’s about it. I’m always in the dark. The other problem is that I have a commitment to the dark, not to ignorance per say, but to that dark queer space of sociality that is wary of claims to power. I am surrounded by intellectuals and artists who are committed to the fugitive, to disturbance, difficulty, the margins, and the monstrous, and I am often humbled and inspired by hearing and reading their thoughts on the possibility of impossibles. But I have also found that there in the midst of the celebration of a desire for “some what of something other,” there are all kinds of investments in power.
I listen to a professor talk about the beauty of the instrument and the kind of social and community of the one who is instrumental and instrumentalized. It is beauty, but then in a moment, they do not want to be instrumentalized. They do not want to be played (as it were). And I understand the hesitancy to want such a thing, but I wonder. I do really wonder. What is it like to live a life where you are open to being powerless and played. I can’t claim a complete abdication of power or claims to power, but I can say that the critique I get so often about not playing the game and my failure to comply is bound up with a divestment (perhaps innate to who I am because I certainly can’t take credit for any concerted effort) in certain claims of power.