"Identification is always [already] an ambivalent process." -- Judith Butler, "Bodies That Matter, p.126.
Let us first note that in "ambi-valent" ambi connotes "both or around" and valence refers to "a property or a power." Accordingly, ambivalent process infers a cathexis of identity which is at least bifurcated (dyad) and arguably fractured into dissonant properties.
Let us additionally concede that there is an ineluctable sexual (dyad) essentialism in the physical characteristics of cis-F and cis-M. If there is anything metaphysically teleological about the sexual dyad it is the essentialism of reproduction. Ambivalent identity suggests that we are constantly in a flux between (amongst) what it is ontologically that we are, and what it is that we are not.
Whereas other species perform the courting ritual of the "mating dance" in various behavioral forms and contexts, humans as a linguistic species perform the labrynthine narrative of sexual relations in a semiotic heuristics of cultural intelligibility.
Butler, and others, would suggest that the "intelligibility" of the sexual narrative -- the semiotics of gender -- is fundamentally an arbitrary cultural construct (F. deSaussure, Course In General Linguistics), and that trans-identified narratives seek to appropriate and subvert the denotative fixity of the hetero-normative (masculinist hegemonic) dyad.
Inevitably, all along the queer narrative, there emerges the issue of homo-sexuality. In terms of sexuality, queer orientation raises innumerable issues:
Fundamentally, queer orientation by definition refers to non hetero-normative sexuality and connotes any variation in sexual relations other than cis-F and cis-M in a putative dyad. Butler and others note that the "intelligibility" of the referents lie in their specification of what they are NOT. E.g. The hetero-normative dyad is NOT "homosexual," and resulting non-normative performances are less defined, less specific, more ambivalent.
"Recasting the referent as the signified" -- This quote from Butler needs exegesis:
The referent is the signifier. This is the name/word we use to denote a
signified. The signified is the object/subject/essence described or
denoted by the referent.
Butler's "recasting the referent as the signified" is something akin to linguistical theoretical jargon for the reification of those abstract terms we use (referents) into tenable substance (signified). Recasting the referent gives substance to the signifying terms we use to denote "queer," "trans," "drag," etc. Let us recast these abstract terms into an intelligible lexicon of signified heuristics.
Butler argues that we need to redefine our terms. We need to recast what it is our terminology refers to.
These days we're recasting the referent "queer" -- How do we refer to the significance (signified) of the term "queer" -- or other terms such as "transvestite, drag, queen, transvestic fetishism, transsexual, trans-gender, trans" etc. ???
Possibly one most pressing issue is that of gender identity and intelligibility.-- how are these relations constructed and to what extent are these constructions "intelligible?"
Foucault asserts an infinite diversity in sexual identity together with an infinite variability in "performance" -- the problematics of the heuristics being one of intelligibility. If as Butler asserts, "Identity is always an ambivalent process." then gender performance becomes a process of the "recasting the referent as the signified."
The structure that renders narrative intelligible is founded upon the dyad of normative sexual identity classification. When the one in the dyad does not contrast its identity with reference to the signification of the "other" then the heuristics of the narrative inch toward the unintelligible. The semiotics of the normative dyad deconstruct. The reference to "queer" identity becomes a signified that is in itself unstable, ambiguous, ambivalent. What queer "is" becomes a socio-cultural referent used to denote what the hetero-normative dyad is NOT. And so we need to recast the referent so that it might describe what it is that we are.
-- searching for lost revisions of this entry, how ironic --------