We live in a time where the marginalized, the exiled, and the self-exiled -- the orphans -- are struggling to find their voice and a place to stand in a culture that is polarized. Although we may claim to have gained considerable ground and status in the culture, the Queer community is also susceptible to high levels of hate, violence, death threats, murder, and a rate of suicide that is perhaps higher than it is for any other subculture or identity in our culture.
Embodiment involves a sense of agency. In my clinical experience, more than one client has let me know that they could not begin to feel embodied as a trans person until they took the step of injecting hormones into their body. There was a felt need to take their transformation literally into their own hands. And then to observe and reflect on the slow process of transformation of their body. I am reminded of the theological concept of FIAT, an unconditional YES to accepting one’s authenticity and fate. The concept is most often applied to the story of the Virgin Mary. Without her FIAT, the son of God could not come into the world. She had to be willing to consciously suffer her fate.
FIAT also carries a feeling tone of urgency. In art history, Giotto’s painting of the Annunciation depicts the moment when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary to tell her that she will be impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Above the two of them, the angels in heaven hold their breath. What if she says NO? Without her participation, nothing can happen.
Queer people seeking to find their authentic self also express this intense urgency. The feeling can be that “I must either change or die.” It is not different from a person receiving a terminal diagnosis and being offered an experimental drug that might help them or kill them. The will to live must be so potent that no risk is too great.
Transgression brings agency, yet the glorious sense of agency brings punishment because existing structures do not yield to change easily. To identify as Queer implies a capacity to resist the existing constellation of cultural structures because the need to live is even greater. To be Queer means to stand outside of the hegemony of the cultural structure and to be willing to suffer for one’s place and identity. Surrendering to what is understood as the “norm” is also understandable because it brings a kind of comfort and relief. We need comfort and respite when we are just so exhausted by the struggle.
Narratives fail because they do not fit the agenda of one who cannot hold the tension of the opposites between the heteronormative and the defiant Queer narratives. Linguistic and imagistic realities differ, and the divide between the poles is not easily crossed. As Jung says in The Red Book, “Your myth is not my myth.” As subjects, we are both particular and unique. And in interpersonal contexts we struggle to remain subjects and not objects. We oscillate within our subject-object selves. If we are sufficiently conscious of this oscillation, it is potentially a form of creative suffering.
To be anything other than one’s full self is ultimately inhuman. To be fully human means to have a capacity to be your own self despite the suffering it will ultimately require. I believe that individuation is an essential task, and I believe it is particularly essential for individuals who, through their perceived differentness, must take up an ethical stance of declaring themselves Queer. Culture and social structure seek to conserve form. The Queer psyche must leave these structures and be willing to deconstruct form. No symbol system is living or life-giving for all. Queer identity shatters the collective fantasy of a system that could hold all of us.
Might there be something inherently Queer about the nature of Psyche and of the teleological unfolding of the Self? My clinical experience tells me this is indeed so, if one can embrace that a Queer attitude and Queer energy is quite analogous to analytical attitude. I am fond of the concept of amor fati, the love of one’s fate. I understand amor fati as the necessity of coming into a conscious relationship with all of one’s complexes and archetypal constellations in the personal psyche. This is the path towards wholeness, and this is cooperation with the unfolding of the Self, what Jung refers to as the Opus.
Jung tells us that a clinician can only go as far with an analysand as they have experienced themselves. I understand this to mean a personal experience of being in the dark with oneself and of building a capacity for staying with the difficult places in psyche, most evident in one’s unfolding relationship with a unique constellation of personal complexes with their archetypal cores and the archetypal core’s teleological aims, not only for the personal self but also for Psyche with a capital “P.” Engagement with self brings challenge, dissonance, suffering, confrontation with cultural complexes and social structures, and the imperative to find a place to stand not only with oneself but also in differentiation from the participation mystique of collective consciousness and unconsciousness. Analytical attitude and process is intrinsically Queer.