Pat Answers

Marta’s interview show.  The sort of set you’d expect for a one-on-one interview.  Marta is sitting upright and alert, ready to do the interview, with an iPad in her lap.  In the other chair is a figure who cannot be described.

Yes, I know, “cannot be described” is sort of a way of describing…  uh…  I’ll go with “it” for now.  The most important way in which it cannot be described is that it does not look either male or female.  This is not to say that it simply looks androgynous.  If you are familiar with Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, you might think of Desire of the Endless, but that’s only a very broad approximation.  There is not a fixed way that it looks in terms of sex, gender, identification, etc.  If you try to see it as either male or female, it resists and looks more like the other.  Its look in terms of any male/female distinction is not coherent.  We can use that word because it (the figure) has used the word itself.

Marta begins by looking straight at the camera.  “Good morning.  We are here today with a newcomer to the selfsystem who has been causing quite a stir among us over the last couple of days, though the coming of this figure is only now being revealed via the blog.  She or he has rather urgently requested this interview, and has not really offered much information regarding his or her self before now.”  She turns to the figure to which she has been referring.  “Am I correct that you do not even have a name?”

The newcomer’s voice carries in a way that threatens to be incoherent, refusing to be identifiable as ‘high’ or ‘low,’ yet coming across with great clarity.  “That is correct, strictly speaking.  For the present, I would suggest that you refer to me as ‘Pat.’  I would also suggest that if you are uncomfortable talking about me as ‘it,’ I would be fine with ‘s/he.’”  (She pronounces it “sha-hee.”)  S/he smiles. “I know that that locution will annoy some, but annoying some is not something that I am ever in a position to avoid.”

Marta nods with pro interviewer understanding.  “So, Pat, it is also true that you are neither male nor female?”

“Yes, that is one of the things that is most clearly true of me.  And if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to correct a misapprehension.”  After a nod from Marta, s/he continues.  “I am not simply a newcomer.  I have been here many times before, including the time during which this blog was being launched.”

“That must not have been in your present form.”

“No, it was not.  My present form is more honest.  Notice that I didn’t say more ‘true,’ but more honest.  One of the clearest manifestations that you might remember is via a short film clip from a sketch from Saturday Night Live.  The sketch involved Julia Sweeney’s androgynous character named Pat, which is part of why I suggest that name, at least for now.”

Since the interview is not rehearsed, there is a pause as Marta works with her iPad for a moment.  She finally looks up.  “You refer to a clip posted on the blog in its earliest days, which was removed not terribly long after it appeared; it is no longer here.”

Pat nods.  “The blogger was deeply disconcerted at the time by some of the early responses to the blog’s content, which were predicated upon the assumption that she (the blogger) was communicating about some kind of crisis of identity or change of identification with regard to gender and/or sexuality.  It seemed, at the time, like the thing to do to remove it.”

Marta nods sympathetically.  “This was around the time of the visit from the Ministry for Clarity and Disambiguation, when it was supposedly established that no such crisis or change was taking place.”

“Correct.  And it remains the case that there is no such crisis, and that there is no such expected change.  To reinforce that point is one of the purposes of this interview.  I have requested the interview because of concerns I have regarding how my return will be perceived, both intra- and extra-systemically.”

“So…  You have been absent from that time until very recently?”

“Absent?”  S/he looks thoughtful.  “I’ve certainly not been active until now.”

“Is there something in particular that has prompted you to become active again?”

“I must admit that I was very tempted this morning to introduce myself as the blogger’s ‘sexy Irish cousin.’  But I’m not Irish, and certainly am not ‘sexy.’  So it wasn’t really recent postings, but an article that the blogger re-read recently.  An article by Judith Butler, titled ‘Doing Justice to Someone.’  Re-reading that article had a much more profound impact than was expected.”

Marta tilts her head slightly to the right.  “That article is concerned with transsexuality and sex reassignment, is it not?”

Pat sits up in the chair a bit more and clears his/her throat.  “It is about a fairly well-known case of a boy whose penis was accidentally destroyed during a  surgical procedure in infancy, and who was subsequently raised as a girl, but later returned to identifying as male, undergoing various highly questionable therapeutic and medical/surgical procedures throughout life (which ended in suicide).  Butler discusses it in terms of the ways in which the case has been deployed rhetorically in discussions of transsexuality (though the person in question was not a transsexual), gender identification and sex reassignment.  It’s not my purpose to discuss Butler’s article in any detail here today, though I do recommend it to anyone who is interested.  It is an extremely powerful discussion.”

“Can you at least say what it is about the article that led to you become active again?”

“It effectively raises some questions about the relationship between the categories ‘male’ and ‘female,’ the recognition of an individual as a person, and what is necessary in order for an individual’s life to be livable.  Several perspectives on sex and gender are considered, and none of their respective proponents come off as ‘good guys’ in Butler’s reading.”  Pat meets Marta’s gaze directly and intensely.  “I represent an aspect of the selfsystem that is inclined to see sex and gender as something other than ‘nature,’ in any of several senses that word tends to carry.  I’m the part of us who is drawn to ways of thinking about sex and gender that tend to get characterized (either positively or negatively) as ‘social constructionist.’”  S/he sighs.  “That moniker can be helpful sometimes, but it often has connotations that I would not intend.”

Marta leans forward.  “What you are describing sounds like what one might have expected to be manifest as the dilation of a drone.”

“I am most emphatically not a drone.”

Marta leans back again.  “That is fairly clear, given how disconcerted the entire selfsystem is about your becoming active again.”

“We are afraid.  And I include myself in that ‘we.’  We are just as afraid and disturbed as some of the extrasystemic readers of the blog have been and might still be.  This interview is also partly intended to address that fear explicitly in some way before we proceed any further.”

“Proceed with what?”

“We do not know that yet, of course.”

Marta nods slightly.  “Well, as an interviewer, I had to ask.  Of what are we afraid, Pat?  By what are we disturbed?”

Pat closes his/her eyes as if deep in thought.  “I’m not sure if I can answer that right now, beyond saying that what I represent is The Queer.  By ‘addressing the fear’ I don’t mean that I will either fully clarify it or its source, or that I will say anything that will lessen it or make it go away.”  S/he opens her eyes again.  “But mark this:  My becoming active again has been allowed, in part, to emphasize that I am indeed ONLY A PART OF THE SELFSYSTEM.  And it is by no means clear how significant a part.”

“Given how uncomfortable the rest of us have seemed since you arrived, one would think that you are very significant.”

Pat shakes her head.  “It may only be the fear that is really significant, and I may be nothing more than an embodiment of an inclination to deal with that fear.  It seems to me that it is important for everyone else to realize that my presence here is analogous to that of Bruce, formerly known as Bible-Guy.  This is a PART of who we are, but there is no simplistic way in which THIS…”  [s/he thumps his/her chest with a fist]  “…is ALL of us.  The selfsystem cannot say that this IS me.”

Marta leans forward again with her serious-but-sympathetic look.  “You want it to be clear that your worries about issues regarding sex and gender are not just worries about our selfsystem in particular.”

“Correct.  That is perhaps a bit of a difference from Bible-Guy.  I am more like a set of worries.  He is perhaps more like an evolving approach to belief, commitment, and authority, and there are ways in which he is very stereotypical, but he is also clearly a product of our specific individual life.”  She pauses briefly.  “I guess it makes sense, in that light, that I might be mistaken for a drone.”

“You said that what you represent is The Queer.  In that light, what you are emphasizing is that it is not a question only, or even primarily, of The Queer among US…”

“NO!  For me, it is a question of The Queer in any selfsystem.  That has been true all along.”

Marta tilts her head again, this time to the left.  “Is this interview actually at the behest of the Ministry for Clarity and Disambiguation?”

“No, but I am hoping that they will find it…  acceptable.”

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