Categories & Binaries?

My vision of the queer–poly blend goes beyond just promoting, celebrating, or exposing additional identities or additional categories. Though this is a noble goal, eventually we may find that we are exhausted at adding one more letter in long acronyms such as LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) and we may begin to find the root cause for the need to create such extensive labeling systems in the first place.

Why is it important for the exposition of modes of living and loving which run counter to dominant systems of thought? If we can begin to dig into that question, then we, as a human race, will be closer to what feminist rhetoric is after. We will begin to “become increasingly aware of the identities we privilege to the exclusion of others” (K. J. Rawson, 2010, p. 46)—and, in that rising cognitive awareness, we will become to understand how language is either in service of violence/oppression/privilege/exclusion or in the service of peace/freedom/equality/diversity. Though this may, at first, raise the cautionary red flags of those who mistrust binary systems, I offer the insight that, in some contexts, viewing the world through a binary lens might, sometimes, have productive ends. There are times for viewing things in a more fluid or unitary way. And then there are other times when a binary system allows for more clear-cut thinking. In a sense, a binary framework can allow us to ask the sometimes important question of: Are you on this side or that side? It allows us to, for a moment at least, figure out which direction we want to move in. This way or that way? That way or this? It gives us the much-needed (temporary) energy to get our bearings and move forward. Sometimes, a binary can help us cut through the myriad directions and hone in on a (temporarily) single path. 

About heathertrahan7

I am a fourth-year doctoral student in the Rhetoric & Writing Program in the Department of English at Bowling Green State University.
This entry was posted in inspiration, relates to Chapter 4, societal repression/control, terminology. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Categories & Binaries?

  1. Cornelioid says:

    It took me a little while to figure out why this post made me uncomfortable. I think i’ve got it, though it depends on whether i correctly inferred whom you meant by “those who mistrust binary systems” and in what context. My interpretation is that you’re referring to critics of gender, sexuality, and other binaries broadly. Assuming so, is this kind of criticism bona fide mistrust or just skepticism? and are these critics advocating an end to these binaries or just a contextualization of them?

    My own suspicion (again, based mostly on personal interactions and the blogosphere) is that many of these critics would fully agree that binaries are useful, and that their own program is an attempt to prevent binaries—which are themselves only models—from being construed as essential rather than approximate. (The physiological sex binary, for instance, is certainly useful from an anatomical and medical perspective; and the gender binary is, i expect, just as important to the study of queer genders as “distinct” languages like English and Spanish are to the study of blends like Spanglish.)

    But i really don’t know; i could be projecting my own mediating bias. Assuming both flavors (mistrust and skepticism) exist, it would be helpful to know how strong their respective influence on rhetorics has been and whether you are situating yourself as distinct from both of them.

    • heathertrahan7 says:

      Hmmmm. I think you might be right that there’s a distinction to be made between mistrust and skepticism. But, I’m not sure that that thinking is going to go into the diss at this point…It might just be useful for my mind/background thinking! I’m still mulling it over.

      But I suppose that, in general, my statement about binaries was more due to a gut feeling. Just as academics tend to instantly bristle when someone uses the term “truth” earnestly or just as they balk when someone argues that there is an “essential” nature to something, I think the same (generally) gut, knee-jerk reaction tends to happen when the word binary is used. Binary=bad.

      But that could be my own meditating bias! :)

      Thanks for getting me to think more on this, dear reader.

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