The King's Two Anuses

At last, my essay “The King’s Two Anuses: Trans Feminism and Free Speech” has been published by Differences: you can read it here if you have institutional access. You can email me here if you would like a PDF. I’m looking forward to people to reading this work - it’s one of the best things I’ve done, I think.

“The King’s Two Anuses” reconstructs a trans feminist politics from the encounter between trans expression and the cultural construction of “free speech” in the context of a collapse of democratic institutions. Responding to the “Open Letter to Grace Lavery” of late 2018, I develop a narrative account of transition that focuses on the function of parrhesia, turning first to Foucault to understand the social genealogy of the category of free speech, then to two defenses of free speech: one offered by Ernst Kantorowicz, the medieval historian, defending his decision not to sign the California Loyalty Oath in 1950, and another a moment of unguarded masochism glimpsed in Donald Trump’s interview with Michael D’Antonio, published by the New York Times in 2016. Finally, I explore the Lacan’s of the transsexual “dupe” as a structuring category for the Lacanian understanding of sexuation, a category that has helped to shape an anti-trans rhetoric of parrhesia in the contemporary critical context.

This essay is the first to be published of a sequence of three papers on trans politics that I have been working on for the last few years. My hope is that all three will be published in 2020. Each can be read on its own for a modular set of claims, but together I think they comprise a new psychoanalytic theory of transition. Eventually, the order will be:

  1. “Trans Realism, Psychoanalytic Practice, and the Rhetoric of Technique” (Critical Inquiry);

  2. “The King’s Two Anuses: Trans Feminism and Free Speech” (Differences);

  3. “Egg Theory’s Early Style” (TSQ).

This is the obvious sequence from a logical point of view (2 assumes claims developed in 1; 3 does the same to 2), but there’s an interesting reverse chronology here: “Trans Realism” concerns the question of analytic termination and end points; “The King’s Two Anuses” is concerned with the construction of the present moment; and “Egg Theory’s Early Style” is about the search for psychic origins. They each have characterizing genres, too: the first is organized around a reading of the realist novel; the second explores the aesthetics of the meme; the third comes to rest on a description of a surrealist painting.

Thanks to Elizabeth Weed and Ellen Rooney for commissioning this piece for Differences’ 30th Anniversary Issue; to an anonymous reader for helping me land the reading of Freud; to Denise Davis, for shepherding the publication of a tricky composition; to Joshua Branciforte and Ramsey McGlazer for inviting me to speak at the 2018 Ethnonationalisms conference at which this work first appeared, and to the many friends, comrades, sisters, and colleagues who read this work in draft form. And I suppose I can say sincerely, for once: thanks to my haters, you made this work possible and, to me at least, expressively necessary.