Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cherrie Moraga, Race and Sexuality

I've been reading Cherrie Moraga lately. She's a wonderful writer. I came across the following quote:
"People can't read your mind, they read your color, they read your womanhood, they read the woman you're with...I think that is why I have always hated the terms "biracial" and "bisexual." They are passive terms, without political bite...They are a declaration not of identity but of biology, of sexual practice."
Is it possible that those terms can be declarations of identity, especially now? (The book I read this in was published in the early nineties, which makes me wonder, in the fifteen years since that statement, are these claimable, political identities?)
I ask mostly because it seems like there has been a lot of activity happening in those two worlds. With the election of Obama to the presidency, there's been a lot of discussion of racial identity. Obama's mother was white and his father was African, but Obama claims to be African American and not biracial. There's been a lot of debate as to if he has the right to claim being African American or if he is being politically irresponsible in not choosing biracial.
And then there's the issue of bisexuality. I hear complaints all the time, from various people, about how bisexuals should just "choose," and then, if this wasn't problematic enough, that they are dangerous because they don't.
In both cases, I keep coming back to the idea of self-determination to define themselves however they want. No one chooses to be gay, but what if someone decided to define themselves as a bunny, as one of my friends did at around eighteen? It was a little unexpected, and some people struggled to wrap their heads around it, but it wasn't really a big deal. He just enthusiastically ate carrots and I occasionally petted him on the head. I realize there are bigger things at stake when discussing race and sexuality, but if identity is self-defined, it challenges the notion that society can define race and sexuality, which is, of course, what it has always been doing all along. Despite the evidence that there is no biological basis in race, people have been grouped that way. If someone decides they simply aren't anymore, maybe society at large will look at them the same way, but maybe they won't. And when lots of people begin defining themselves in unexpected ways, maybe more people will be forced to examine the idea that they have the right to impose identity on someone else in the first place.

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