quotes from the argonauts by maggie nelson
"you, reader, are alive today, reading this, because someone once adequately policed your mouth exploring. in the face of this fact, winnicott holds the relatively unsentimental position that we don't owe these people (often women, but by no means always) anything. but we do owe ourselves 'an intellectual recognition of the fact that at first we were (psychologically) absolutely dependent, and that absolutely means absolutely. luckily we were met by ordinary devotion.'"
"when you are a stepparent, no matter how wonderful you are, no matter how much love you have to give, no matter how mature or wise or successful or smart or responsible you are, you are structurally vulnerable to being hated or resented, and there is precious little you can do about it, save endure, and commit to planting seeds of sanity and good spirit in the face of whatever shitstorms may come your way. and don't expect to get any kudos from the culture, either: parents are hallmark-sacrosanct, but stepparents are interlopers, self-servers, poachers, pollutants, and child molesters. . .
when i try to discover what i resent my stepfather for most, it is never 'he gave me too much love.' no - i resent him for not reliably giving the impression that he was glad he lived with my sister and me (he may not have been), for not telling me often that he loved me (again, he may not have - as one of the step-parenting self-help books i ordered during our early days put it, love is preferred, but not required), for not being my father, and for leaving after over twenty years of marriage to our mother without saying a proper good-bye.
i think you overestimate the maturity of adults, he wrote me in his final letter, a letter he sent only after i'd broken down and written him first, after a year of silence."
"one of the most annoying things about hearing the refrain 'same-sex marriage' over and over again is that i don't know many - if any - queers who think of their desire's main feature as being 'same-sex.' it's true that a lot of lesbian sex writing from the '70s was about being turned on, and even politically transformed, by an encounter with sameness. this encounter was, is, can be, important, as it has to do with seeing reflected that which has been reviled, with exchanging alienation or internalized revulsion for desire and care. to devote yourself to someone else's pussy can be a means of devoting yourself to your own. but whatever sameness i've noted in my relationships with women is not the sameness of Woman, and certainly not the sameness of parts. rather, it is the shared, crushing understanding of what it means to live in a patriarchy."
"if there's one thing homonormativity reveals it's the troubling fact that you can be victimized and in no way be radical; it happens very often among homosexuals as with every other oppressed minority [leo bersani]."
"eve kosofsky sedgwick wanted to make way for 'queer' to hold all kinds of resistances and fracturings and mismatches that have little or nothing to do with sexual orientation. 'queer is a continuing moment, movement, motive -- recurrent, eddying, troublant,' she wrote. 'keenly, it is relational, and strange.' she wanted the term to be a perpetual excitement, a kind of placeholder -- a nominative, like argo, willing to designate molten or shifting parts, a means of asserting while also giving the slip. that is what reclaimed terms do -- they retain, they insist on retaining, a sense of the fugitive."
"i told you i wanted to live in a world in which the antidote to shame is not honor, but honesty. you said i misunderstood what you meant by honor. we haven't yet stopped trying to explain to each other what these words mean to us"
"how to explain, in a culture frantic for resolution, that sometimes the shit stays messy? i do not want the female gender that has been assigned to me at birth. neither do i want the male gender that transsexual medicine can furnish and that the state will award me if i behave in the right way. i don't want any of it [beatriz preciado]. how to explain that for some, or for some at some times, this irresolution is ok -- desirable, even (e.g., 'gender hackers') -- whereas for others, or for others at some times, it stays a source of conflict or grief? how does one get across the fact that the best way to find out how people feel about their gender or their sexuality -- or anything else, really -- is to listen to what they tell you, and to try to treat them accordingly, without shellacking over their version of reality with yours?"
"i think [judith] butler is generous to name the diffuse 'commodification of identity' as the problem. less generously, i'd say that the simple fact that she's a lesbian is so blinding for some, that whatever words come out of her mouth -- whatever words come out of the lesbian's mouth, whatever ideas spout from her head -- certain listeners hear only one thing: lesbian, lesbian, lesbian. it's a quick step from there to discounting the lesbian -- or, for that matter, anyone who refuses to slip quietly into a 'postracial' future that resembles all too closely the racist past and present -- as identitarian, when it's actually the listener who cannot get beyond the identity that he has imputed to the speaker. calling the speaker identitarian then serves as an efficient excuse not to listen to her, in which case the listener can resume his role as speaker. and then we can scamper off to yet another conference with a keynote by jacques ranciere, alain badiou, slavoj zizek, at which we can meditate on self and other, grapple with radical difference, exalt the decisiveness of the two, and shame the unsophisticated identitarians, all at the feet of yet another great white man pontificating from the podium, just as we've done for centuries."