Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The 'Closet' and the Paradoxical Power of the Secret

Jordan Carter

Now a reified euphemism, ‘the closet’ metaphorically embodies the homosexual subject’s elusion of the ‘sexual declaration’—and his subsequent avoidance of the act’s performative capability to form identity on the basis of sex. The homosexual subject is assumed heterosexual, as he has not yet identified himself in relation to, or rather difference from the sexual norm. Yet, the subject is fundamentally not heterosexual, and is thus positioned in a sort of sexual purgatory. His intermediate sexual identity can best be defined as that of the ‘pseudo-sexual’—a mode of identification facilitated by what appears to be the ‘ideal’ state of secrecy. This ‘ideal’ form of sexual secrecy, or perhaps ‘sexual fraud,’ is made possible due to the lack of objectively perceivable attributes of homosexuality in the absence of a public declaration. But does this ‘perfect’ secret endow its subject with unprecedented power, or plague him with internal fragmentation?

Foucault’s argument suggests the former. In the frame of his analysis of secrecy and sexuality, the ‘pseudo-sexual’ functions in a state of Pax-Sexuality, as the flow of the “network” of power has fluctuated in his favor. Indeed, the resistance “exercised” by the ‘closeted’ affords him the ability to intervene in what Foucault sees as the reification of action into a “manageable” object, or identity. Accordingly, the ‘pseudo-sexual’ is rendered immune to the “regulation” of the ideological mechanism—that is the constant open secret—and the “categorizations” engineered by oppressive “analytic discourses” (Foucault, 24)

Although Foucault’s argument is ‘non-economic,’ it does not adequately address the state of the subject’s interior. Thus while the ‘pseudo-sexual’ may retain his political agency, his emotive interior is fragmented, as there is constant tension between the objective and the subjective—between the external and the internal. Ironically, Trevor Paglen’s ‘spatial’ critique of secrecy’s degradation of democracy parallels the Freudian discourse on the internally destructive and fragmenting nature of psychological repression. As Paglen notes, secrets are bound to fail at some point, as “nothing disappears in completely.” Analogously, the repression of psychological trauma, or in this case sexuality, does not represent a permanent fix. Rather, repression simply veils, or rather ‘closets’ the subject’s object of distress deep within the unconscious. Unfortunately, the unconscious cannot be enchained, as it is a amorphous and fluid entity capable of slipping through the crack at the bottom of the ‘closet door.’ Thus, as Paglen forbodes, the affinity for the secret—or in this case, the resistance of the sexual declaration—is predestined for failure, progressively moving towards an invisible, yet inevitable deadline. Psychoanalysis might suggest that the only way to reunite the fragmented interior of the ‘closeted subject’—who is constantly disavowing his internal truth in favor of external secrecy—is the elucidation of the repressed and the declaration of sexuality. Indeed, it appears in order to reestablish internal wholeness is not make a compromise: the ‘closeted’ subject must allow himself to be “codified”— equated to a mere sexual statistic—in exchange for internal and external sexual symmetry.

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