The Sexual Uniform
Article in The Broken Rifle No 87, December 2010 as part of a Latin America special issue.
The military uniform hides under its camouflage – olive green, pale kaki, dark blue or snowy white – yet another uniform deployed over the very body which sustains the warrior clothing. Over there, taking the form of skin and hairs, you will find the sexual uniform: that act of faith that turns men into men and women into women, regardless our identity, wishes or actual actions. For the military (and the various kinds of militarisms), sex is the ultimate certainty and the ultimate order. Provided this remains in place, the space for this hierarchical, conservative, aggressive, militarized society will be secured. Because in spite of it all, in spite of existing desire, identity and sexual intercourse and all of the analyses around gender, over there, somewhere between the legs, there exists the order that sustains it all: you are a man, or else… a woman. There is no other option. One or the other. That is Order, that is Reality, that is Truth.
Fundamentally, such sexual uniform, for the military and the various kinds of militarism, is natural, biological, scientific, incontestable. It is a conviction (an absolute certainty), as firm as a bunker, more solid than a mortar -- some indisputable conviction where all abnormalities are resolved. All is negotiable, except that stronghold: sex.
You can fuck whatever, you can screw whoever you like and you can sodomize as many people and whichever way you like. You can wear any costume, pick your looks, identify with anything, be whatever you want to be, as long as you keep treading the path from macho to female, from female to macho. Over this fundamental line is where the Prevail Game by military and militarist conservadurism is won. Because that’s what it is -- from the military viewpoint of protracted war, almost everything are diversionary tactics to the stronghold of definite natural sex. Within this scope we move on and move backwards along the lines of the universal battle, gaining ground in some spaces and losing none nowhere, because almost all is fun combat, a simple pastime. Nothing important is at stake. In any case, we must prevent the fire from moving closer to the vital points.
Consequently, it is irrelevant whether you are a trans or not, a cis, an intersex. While the discussion remains in the realm of the solid consensus around binary sex, there is no need to worry. Patriarchy is not questionable; therefore military forms are not questionable either. It is all about keeping the lines as far as possible from what is vital – that is why we can discuss liberties, abortion, the family, infant sex... In this sense, essentialist stances on sex will be as operational for militarism as the stalest and most machista patriarchal concepts regarding Order and the System-World. Each in its rank contributes to sustaining the ontological order that the faith in our binary essence establishes.
But yes, each battle won is important, each territory gained is precious, each loss, each casualty, irreplaceable. Guerrilla warfare opens up new spaces, de-structuring the Patriarchal at least a little -- Is that possible? The gains are great. Depathologizing transexuality, confronting machista violence, empowering cis wimmin, deconstructing the supremacy of cis men, the intersex discussion, the queer explosion (not yet domesticated)… are scenarios for clashes and openings in the rock-solid defensive block of a patriarchal system soundly founded on two—so far, unbeatable—pillars: there exists man, there exists woman. And all the rest will exist within that framework.
What is military, thus, promotes this faith and generates the alliances that sustain it. The forces are abandoning blatant machismo to enthusiastically engage women in the first place, then gay people, then the whole of Diversity, for by maintaining the same hierarchy of authoritarian subjection posed by the Rule-and-Obey Model and the Binary Sexual Uniform, everything keeps in place, both concepts nurturing and sustaining one another.
The disaster of this militarist Order occurs when it is questioned, unbelieved in, uncertaintied, when we refuse to accept as given the biopolitical and medical-governmental description of Being a Man and of Being a Woman, as well as the paths leading to those places. What needs to be done is break the mold – not only the Identity mold (stop being something, start to be there), or the mold for desire, but also that of the certificates those grant you (stop believing you are this or that, stop labeling yourself) – because what is a man? What is a woman? But to willingly accept a sexual uniform given out by the militarized machine of a society biopolitically controlled from a kind of Power that considers itself natural, biological, explaining, consequently, along those lines (biologically) its legitimacy: it is natural, it is scientific, it is real. You are a man, you are a woman.
And wE-all accept this uniform without turning the jacket inside out, without stepping deep into the mud, without chucking away the medals. In the gender discussion, sanctuary for militarism lies in the fact that we are not allowed to question sex. This faith sustains positions, hierarchies, knowledge, skills, power, economy, history and salaries. It sustains it all both in the military and the civilian, establishing alliances – even bizarre – to the point that the ontological conviction is the same for a feminist pro-abortion or for a military commander: he believes he is a man, she believes she is a woman. All in place, excellent.
And what’s left for antimilitarists… more of the same: we have to know where we stand, we have to discuss about our faith-believes, our deeply rooted convictions and all that is upholded by these. With our work, aren’t we making men more men-like and women more women-like? Are we accepting the binary mold willingly because it shows us where we belong? And this place where we belong (supposing we’re allowed to have a say)… is it the contented place of the Ordinary Person or the uncomfortable place of the rebel?
Right, from the realm of resistance, before accepting we are men we will say we are women, before being cis we will be trans, before being certain we will be inters. However, from a truly constructive position, before acknowledging we are something, we will acknowledge we are nothing; instead of accepting bio-conformist certainties, we will become walking questions; before comfortably saying yes to identity, we will be rebels of norm, parting from, because we will have made contact with the actual boiling pot of our desire.
Because violence is also unquestionable dogma and compulsory consensus, and nonviolence is also saying no to impositions and refusing to be their partners in crime. A direct antimilitarist action working ethically and politically should allow us to abandon the track of Compulsorily Consensused Certainty.
Translated from Spanish into English by michelle (December 2010), proofread by Pelao Carvallo
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- Sandro Mezzadra, comp. Estudios Postcoloniales, ensayos fundamentales, ed. Traficantes de Sueños, junio 2008
- Colectiva Libertaria D-género Proyectil Fetal
- Grupos de Lectura de La Comuna de Emma, Chana y Todas las Demás