Cancer Butch

I'm up late dillydallying on the internet and skimming this Cancer Butch article by Lochlann Jain, a Stanford anthropologist [who my friend is starting her PhD work with this fall] who studies storytelling about disease and injury, and how it varies in individuals and across cultures.

At just about the very beginning, I ran across these brilliant two paragraphs:

When diagnosed with breast cancer, literary theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's first thought was, "Shit, now I guess I really must be a woman." Crucially, Sedgwick's recalled reaction to diagnosis was that the cancer, not the breast (which she already had), offered the defining trauma that constituted her as a woman. (Perhaps just as HIV/AIDS constituted her friend Michael Lynch as a gay man.)

Moving between self-elegy after her diagnosis and elegy of Michael, Sedgewick examines the contexts and identities of illness within the gender performances of the two friends through the prop of a pair of white glasses. Her article tells the tale of her effort to adopt the white glasses worn by Michael in her own attempt to be recognized as a gay man. But after a cross-country search for the same glasses, she finds on wearing them that "the pastel sinks banally and invisibly into the camouflage of feminity, on a woman, a white woman. In a place where it doesn't belong, on Michael, the same pastel remains a flaming signifier." Not hip at all--and certainly not an expression of the fag identity she desires to communicate--the glasses merely supplement the codes of her own femininity.

And thought, Fuuuuuuuck, that explains so much about why my fashion choices never work! Ah, nothing like a good anthropologist to explain why, worn in the real world, my aesthetic is so dissonant from how I envision it.

Yes, I know I'm missing the broader point (made less concisely over the following pages) for flighty infatuation with the smaller point. What of it? ;)