Monday, July 30, 2012

Gender Parasites in Animorphs: The Sickness (#29)

"Acquire her. Acquire her. Become her."

KA Applegate, 
Animoprhs #43 (The Test)


Becoming Trans

Our blood comes from many mothers. DNA is a marshal, an apparatus of capture that receives life indiscriminately and transforms it into us. The sun becomes vitamins, the soil becomes minerals, the plants become tissue, and the animals becomes muscle through the gates of ingestion and the immigration services in our blood stream. Our bodies are at work as we speak, transforming the world into us. I ask: can we claim to represent where we came from once we cross the border?

In KA Applegate's book series, Animorphs, you have a set of humans and one alien (an Andelite, called Ax) that are gifted with the power to acquire the DNA of other life-forms and use it to marshal their bodies into new shapes. Birds, fish, bears, and guerrilla blood joins with their human and alien genetic coding, allowing them the multiplicity of identities to forge a war against an invading species of alien slugs, called Yerks, that enter into the heads of other species, expand across their brain, and take over their bodies. Quickly and secretly the Yerks are taking over all official and cultural areas of human power as their numbers steadily grow.

The Animorphs for many years continue to fight their secret war against a secret enemy. Both sides exist as semi-symbiotic parasites, shape-shifters, and infiltrators in their respective ways using whatever life forms will see them to their goals. While the series draws us in to ally with the Animorphs, to see the Yerks as the bureaucratic planners, and the humans (or Andelites) as the resistance fighters using what tactics they can to flip the enemy's plans on their head, from a distance, we can see that all sides are effectively outlaws engaging in guerrilla combat to capture control over the planet and it's life-forms.

I have selected the two instances in the book series' extensive run where one of the Animorphs "becomes a member of the other gender." The scare quotes are there because the two closest instances of this are in Animorphs #29 (The Sickness) and #43 (The Test). In the prior, Cassie acquires the DNA of and becomes a Yerk, then enters the body of a human-male, uniting with his brain so as to control his body and receive all his thoughts and memories. In the latter, Tobias acquires the DNA of and becomes a human female that is host to a Yerk; however, Tobias early in the series became trapped in hawk morph. He later re-gained the ability to morph, including into his human body, which he must do from hawk form.

Thus in both cases, there is no direct morphing from a human of one gender into a human of another gender, there is in both cases a species in between; with the former demonstrating the parasite model of knowing the other and the latter demonstrating the becoming model. Also, both books feature on the cover one of the Animorphs becoming a member of the "enemy" alien species: Cassie becoming a Yerk and Tobias becoming a Taxxon; in addition to both of them becoming an "enemy" human member of the opposing gender.

While initially looking for a straight forward "trans-gender" moment, Applegate answers our gender crossing questions with pictures insisting we look to see related issues at play in the realm of the "trans-corporeal." We have here : an animal studies question (what does it mean that we can't look at the human outside the question of the animal, and is it merely our "ape" or does it exist in its own dignity?); a object/thing question (can we represent or speak for the alien, which does not exist or relate to us in the way we wish to use it); a disability question (how do we feel for the Yeerk that doesn't live with our mobility or senses but may use our bodies as a prosthetic); an ecological/post-colonial question (what is the violence of borders and are they something which can or should be policed?); and questions of gender (what can or cannot be translated or transformed). Our critical question follows the demands of the literature, which teach us to function in terms of guerrilla war-fare where the battle come from anywhere.


Becoming Infected 

"I closed my eyes. Focused. 
And the DNA of the Yeerk became a part of me. 
The Yeerk. The Yeerk became a part of me" 

KA Applegate, Animorphs #29, 97

Disease is about crossing enemy lines. All lines are about creating enemies, about creating others, so as to create the self. Disease threatens these divisions and like warfare can bring about the destruction of the other and the self.

The sickness in "The Sickness" may refer to the Tria-infection, an alien ailment, which the Andelite "Ax" shares with the rest of the Animorphs, except for Cassie, leaving her alone to run the next mission. It is an illness which is a kind of a meta-illness, an auto-immune-like disease. Preparing to care for him, Cassie asks the delirious alien to give her more information on what is wrong. <"Disease,> Ax answered. <Disease organisms collecting in my Tria gland... Tria gland keeps disease organisms away from the rest of the body...but if it bursts. Bad. Disease organisms get must take it out. Or I will die>" (#29, 30-31). In the end, it is a part of the self, that part which polices the line between self and other that must be removed in order for the ecology of the body to survive.

It may also refer to Cassie's mission, which requires her to acquire the DNA of a Yeerk, become one, and enslave a human host, Mr Tidwell. The group feels their bodies' battle-lines crossed by micro-organisms, which fight with their immune system to maintain a sense of self and other. Cassie feels herself cross over to join the enemy and as the enemy cross into a man's body, past his defenses, and wage war to define who controls his self. She undergoes, like Ax, the removal of that part of herself which policies the line between self and other, human and Yeerk, parasite and host, in order to survive.

We learn throughout the story, how a Yeerk's integration into a human's body infects both parasite and host with each other's knowledge. Cassie, herself having been an unwilling host to a Yeerk, worries over her old captor's safety as it waits imprisoned in the hands of Yeerk leadership on trials for treason. Cassie worries about the leadership finding out about her and the others. "She would end up telling the Visser everything she knew. Which was everything I knew. Aftran had been inside my head. She unlocked all my memories." (#29, 24). Some cognitive scientists as well as philosopher's contend that it is our memories that make us who we are. In a sense, what Cassie fears is that in the end she will be the one sacrificed to the Yeerks along with her former parasite.

This connection and exchange of memory, we also learn, can bring about such a strong sense of identification, that it can radically change our allegiances. One Yeerk rebel tells Cassie through the mouth of its now willing host, Mr. Tidwell, "It was partly experiencing Mr. Tidwell's distress that led me to join the movement," Illim continued. 'His howls of fury and agony forced me to accept what I had done to him. At the same time I began to hear about a group of Yeerks who thought it was wrong to take an unwilling host" (#29, 71)


Becoming Parasite

"I focused my mind. The changes began. 
Any morph is frightening. Any new morph doubly so.
This morph... this was the enemy. 
This was a parasite. This was a slug" 

KA Applegate, Animorphs #29

A fundamental concession which many Object Oriented Ontologist's (OOO) make, have to make, is that their theories on "What It's Like to Be a Thing" (as Ian Bogost puts it) are largely based on speculation. The premise of the question, "what is it like to be the Other" precludes an answer. If we could know the experience, without essentially changing the knowledge through its translation into "the self", then it would not in fact be " the other."

There is merit however in the speculation, because it begins to change the premise of the question and the questioner. By allowing the self to become, however contingently, the other, they might be brought closer together, or at least share a trajectory, so as to improve relations. It is this sort of imaginative task which Cassie takes on before she conceives of it as a physical task; and in both, she brings the reader along on the crossing. "You must be thinking the Yeerks are pure evil. But let me tell you what its like to be a Yeerk who isn't a host. Yeerks are basically gray slugs. No hands, no legs, no eyes, no ears. If a Yeerk wants to be free, free to really move, free to see the beauty of the world around it, free to hear music or even the sound of the rain on leaves, if a Yeerk wants that, it gas to have a host. If a Yeerk wants to be free, it has to make another living creature a slave." (#29, 3). We see how the question changes, or is suggested to change, through speculating on it. We begin to re-conceive "the Other," what it means "to be" the Other, and discover we may need to be asking better questions.

From an ontological question, Cassie moves into conceiving of her crossing into Yeerk-dom, more phenomenologically. In doing so, she transforms the Enemy, the Other, the Yerk from an abstraction of the very dividing line which defines it from her, and makes it into a physical, living thing. Cassie contemplates how it feels to be a Yeerk, "When they enter a host they get hit with thousands of new sensations. I can hardly wrap my mind around what it must feel like. I have to narrow it down for myself. I'll pick one thing, like color. Then I'll close my eyes and try to imagine I have never seen any color of any kind. When I open my eyes the array of colors around me makes me dizzy. And color is only one part of sight. And sight is only one of the new senses Yeerks experience in a host" (#29, 11-12). Contrary to many critics of such speculative realism, there does not seem to be real danger of Cassie totally forgetting the divide that exists between her and the other she is imagining she is. Trying to imagine across this divide, underscores the divide, and in turning back to look at the self, underlines how different and alien her experiences are to the other.

At last, through the transformation described above, Cassie crosses the enemy line physically and becomes a Yeerk (soon to do Yeerk things). The abstract divisions of self and other, ally and enemy, are put aside or collapsed and she dwells on the overwhelming phenomelogical experience of being a Yeerk. Cassie tells the reader, that while a blind alien slug, "I realized that I could do something kind of like a bat's echolocation. Or like sonar. The Yeerk threw out some kind of electrical waves, then analyzed the way they were bouncing back at it. They gave it an idea of the size and shape of things" (#29, 101). In other words, just like how sound and light waves hit us and bounce back to animals or sensory instruments that can digest the changes, Yeerk's emit an energy from their bodies, which joins with their surroundings, and rejoins it, bringing back traces of the other. Once on the other side, Cassie has found that there had been more regular correspondence between their sides than she expected.


Becoming Human

"[The Yeerk] was so right when she told me humans live amidst splendor and magnificence. Mr. Tidewell's red and white checked tablecloth was a sight to be relished and lingered over...I could have stood in Mr. Tidwell's kitchen all night. Allowing myself ti feel the Yeerk's joy at every new sensation" 

KA Applegate, Animorphs #29, 102-103

By the time Cassie, the Yeerk, enters into Mr. Tidwell's head and crosses yet another boundary of identity, she has already inverted the question of becoming the other. As in her abstraction, she moves from crossing into the existence of the other, to crossing as the other into the existence of the self.

And the different between the mental practice of closing her eyes and the physical act of morphing makes a case for the trans-corporeal and the multiplicity of actants involved. Rather than seeing the self/other divide psychoanalytically, in which would insist in this divide as a necessary dualism which allows the pysche to produce subject and object simultaneously as mirror images of each other (via the double pass); what we have here is a physical unity (played by protagonist narrator) which is the Becoming itself, passing through the state of Cassie, then Yeerk, then Mr. Tidwell, and back again. The divide is not a wall, a mirror, or any sort of impermeable surface, but a threshold of tension which she passes through and thus alienates herself from one form and identifies more with another. She always exists in tension and movement towards and away from these points (which are more than 2 in number, we can count at least 3). This tension is what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari call "the double bind."

Moving again from abstraction to experience, this double-bind, is expressed in the rich description on her transformation into a Yeerk and then the Yeerk's transformation into a human:

"My sonar picked up a new shape. The Yeerk instincts kicked in. Hard. I stuck out two little protrusions. Felt around until I targeted the small opening. Then I was moving in. Slithering right into Mr. Tidwell's ear canal. It was a tight fit. I squirted out some kind of painkiller to deaden the canal and squirmed, stretched, pushed bones and tissue aside with surprising strength.

I penetrated. Deeper. Puncturing flesh now. Deeper inside. I inched along until I felt the tinge of electricity. Yes! This was what I was looking for! The brain! The neurons fired microvolts around me as I stretched. I was paper thin. Spread like hammered-down silly putty. I pressed myself into the cracks and crevices of the brain. Ah! Now I could feel it. The neurons were connecting to me. Making me a part of this strange, wondrous new body.

I felt the Yeerk's jolt of awe and pleasure at its new mobility. At its new size, and strength, and power. It was a visceral, nonconscious, nonintellectual, animal pleasure. I touched the brain's center of hearing. Ahhhh! It was like being alive again. The sound of water dripping into the sink sounded beautiful. Then, I touched the centers for sight. It was lights-on after being forever in a min shaft. Overwhelming! Joyful! It was dazzling, dizzying delirium." (#29, 102-103).

The feeling of awe and wonder at the world which Cassie, the Yeerk, the reader, and perhaps even Mr. Tidwell experience here comes through a degree of alienation. The Yeerk needing the human, the human needing to hear the Yeerk seeing through him, Cassie needing to become a Yeerk to see again as a human, and the reader needing Cassie all signal that we need intermediaries to put distance between us and our objects in order for us to see them. It is hard to see the self except by a mirror or to see the hand if it right in front of the face. It almost makes a case for us to welcome the alien invasion or brain parasites.

This is at very least might be true from an OOO perspective. Aliens, alienation, phenomenology, "what is it like to be a thing" all come in one form or another from Bogost's book, which concludes making such a case for awe and wonder; perhaps he read his Animorphs. From a gender and animal perspective, we may not yet be done with our analysis, because subjectivity troubles our ability to identify with our aliens. A question remains: You may take on my body, but can you take on my mind?


Becoming Man

"I allowed it to open sections of Mr. Tidwell's brain. Some sections controlled physical functions like moving muscles. But some held memories. "

KA Applegate, Animorphs #29, 103

Gender politics has had a long and troubled relationship with disability issues. Transgender politics has had a particularly tumultuous time wanting to avoid the stigmatization of being classified as a disorder and wanting the benefits (such as prosthetics and medical care) which may come from identifying as disabled/crip. Where social constructionism fails, where it has to admit a divide between gender and sex, is the place where certain gender crossings are impossible without physical reconstruction of the body. Then again, debates are raised as to whether the post-operation trans body can be said to experience or represent their gender. Really, this again returns to any sort of border setting or cross, where the self claims an alienated identity which the other cannot breach. It can shrink all the way down to the individual, where you may say, "unless you take over my mind, you will never know what its like to be me." Of course, that is the very line Animorphs #29 threatens.

The self becomes the prosthetic for the other. All boundaries of privacy appear to fall down as the Yeerk is able to explore the constructed self without resistance. The body snatcher will remember your childhood as you do, all the moments which you claim "made you" your gender will be theirs. They will appear before culture to be your gender and they will exist in, with, and as your body as well. The crux is that they can separate and leave.

Transphobic rhetoric is trans-formation obsessed. Its conclusion is the same as its assumption: you are one gender and are trying to become another, but you can't, don't act as though you can freely chose to one moment be one thing and the next moment the next. The logic of the claim collapses on itself. It invokes essential identities and condemns the trans for breaking these forms. It claims that the self has something precious which no one else can take, and then arrests the trans for trying to steal it. Put another way, it is rage against the premise that "I" am bounded by certain borders and the trans is not.

Indeed we see Cassie, as character and narrator, attempting to minimize her plundering of these divides. "As I tapped into these areas I was flooded with images from Mr. Tidwell's life....I didn't want to see that. I didn't want to go pawning through Mr. Tidwell's memories. I wished I could apologize to him, but even though I could hear his thoughts, I didn't know how to send him my thoughts back. I continued searching his brain, backing away any time I hit memory. But memory was everywhere. I was invading every secret, destroying all privacy. I felt ashamed. I tried to move a hand. It moved. I tried to form speech. It was easy" (#29, 103-104). As a trans-gender, trans-corporeal, trans-former, Cassie has the ability to represent her self and many others at once and thus take control of them. It is her choice not to scandalize either Mr. Tidwell or her own sense of taboo that keeps her from digging through his memories. But the trans cannot help but cross borders, because it exists there. As a brain-slug, Cassie cannot help but run into memories, because they are everywhere in the brain. Connecting with them is what she does.

Likewise, we see an effort by the narrator to NOT tell us what the experience of this morph is like for Cassie, particularly where gender is concerned. We read all about what it is like to become a Yeerk and what the Yeerk feels through the eyes and nose as Mr. Tidwell, but not what it feels through his legs. In this book, we are given no description, it is practically ignored, that Cassie has effectively become a human male. Any sense of his body's particular gendered characteristics, its genitalia, its chest, its fat distribution, its hairiness, its sexual impulses, all variety of qualities which are read as having gendered significance are absent from the narrative. It is as though Cassie is sheltering her reader from crossing this line, even imaginatively. She has the power to tell us, but she chooses not to remain silent.

Now, this book series is aimed at children, which may be one case for the removal of gendered overly descriptions; as gender differences are for the most part valued because of its sexual significance. This reinforces the taboo of transgender persons as erotic, even kinky taboos, and the proliferation of images of them in media as sex-workers. Shielding young readers from these experiences then bring in a Age Studies question: are children without sex or gender, and if we are guarding them from it, doesn't that demonstrate that they are? Of course, despite our posturing, we do infuse children with gender and sexual codes. Animorphs abound in them as well, but we hardly need to look further than color coding and the "romance" and "martial" atmosphere cultivated among girls and boys to see it at work. In Animorphs #29 we in fact get to see Cassie cringe in relation to crossing norms of what might make her a woman, or a man, and no longer a blank-canvas (such is our fantasy of a child) and then to see her go ahead and cross all of them by starting the book with Cassie getting all done up in a dress and make-up for a dance and ends with her waging a solo war deep across enemy lines in the body of a man. As a child, Cassie is hardly an innocent and as children's literature, Animorphs at most plays lip service.

What we see in Animorphs, is an imagining of the Trans as enacting guerrilla warfare, crossing lines and taboos all across the board to plunder the systems resources, counting on their enemies timidity when falling back across the borders while continually working to collapse those divides. Secrets, borders, and mechanisms of violence can all be manipulated by the tactics of the trans-guerrilla fighter to perpetually make due.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Of Dirt: Fallow, Feral, and Infertile

"No matter how keenly we look at the 'outward appearance ' of things constituted in one way or another, we cannot discover handiness"

Martin Heidegger, Being and Time


Dwelling in Dirt

When we say things like "from dust to dust," we may imagine that it reflects an identification with our entire material universe, but dust or dirt, even on our own planet, makes up such a tiny fraction of the earth, that we are really comparing one rare substance (humanity) with another. Geologists will say that the "crust" of the earth is like a tiny rind on a giant molten fruit, and of that, only the smallest minority is top-soil and even smaller still is the dirt that we can grow anything hardy on, much less more fickle produce. If we follow Henri Bergson's theory of life rising and matter falling, then the distance on such a scale between humanity and arable dirt might be considered down right intimate. In such a light, we might begin to dwell in the vitality and the moods of dirt as well as our own.

It is a dream of mine to more explicitly dwell in dirt, to build and occupy my own Earth Home, like the one pictured above. They are economical, ecological, agricultural (you can literally grow food from the walls of your house) and as close as I might ever get to living in the Shire. I joke, half-heartedly, that when I die (assuming it happens at home) you wouldn't even have to move me. You could simply come, pay your respects, and then seal up the front door. Instant funeral mound! In this way, the time and space of my life's passage could be further inter-meshed with the temporality of the earth.

What conversations and conversions would come of sharing our vitality and our depression. Could the earth learn from me a way to navigate the intensification of our technological networking? Could I learn from the dirt how to slow down, rest, and become fallow?

Industries (including farmers) and researchers know all the work they can get out of mud smeared and soiled bodies. They also know that you can’t work such fields continually. At times, you need to let it become still, or else it will be unable to get you any further. Then again, sometimes soil goes wild or passes that threshold into which it will not budge from where it lays cold and unmovable. These are the seasons of rest, and we can learn something from dwelling in dirt, when we lay face-down in the muck. Among humans we have a saying to “get up out of the dirt,” but what other messages might we receive from the fallow, the feral, and the infertile?

Personally, I don’t like long breaks from work, from my community of producers, from the pushing and the shoving. In general, I am uncomfortable with stillness. It feels like a threat or an unwelcome warning that I will never see all the things I care about come to fruition. The best of what I may do (or cause to happen) I may not live to see. Frankly, right now, the majority of the consequences of my actions, my very life, that are occurring right this minute, I am unaware of. The good or bad of any of these actions, I will leave to others to determine. Nonetheless, right now, right here, in my summer break I feel an immense stillness, and I am uncomfortable. I keep thinking, “But I am not done yet.”

This, and more than a few of the lives crossing my path, get me to thinking about what it means to feel done. I think, especially when we say “done-ness” like I hear it referred to now, including in my own head, it means “useless.” If we regard most activities as working toward a certain end, as having a “use” in regards to that end, then being done might very well feel like being useless; all that has passed, use, purpose, direction, significance, because all these are about deferral, they are a part of the journey. Again we come back to stillness and why it might be uncomfortable.

As much as this is a question about "use" or the direction of our movement through time and space, this is also about our relationship towards this passage.

On the one hand, we have dialectical thinkers such as Kant, Hegel, and Zizek that contend that some premise of stillness (filled by either an eternal sublime presence or else a void) is necessary to serve as a reference point for our concept of time. Whether or not this unmoved mover is real or a mental projection, we need such a foundation to hold up any primium mobile we might conceive. Existentialists such as Heidegger, Harman, and to a certain extent Sarte likewise pin all our motion and relations back to fundamental (if not eternal) being or nothingness; like soil which allows what we know of the tree of time and space to sprout out in ever changing qualities.

On the other hand, we have relational thinkers such as Bergson, Deleuze, and to a certain extent Latour that contend that in our thought and existence we come across not a dichotomy of stillness and motion, but a spectrum of speeds and intensities. Our sense of the speed at which time and space push on is not in reference to a frozen spot on the wall, but in relation to slower moving spots. The crops may seem like the temporary and the soil like the eternal, but the land changes too, just in longer (we might even say larger) fields of time and space. From the point of view of the field, the land may shake and ripple like ocean waves, and all our seasonal crops are like spurts of foam from their crests. In this model, we can never be done, we can only ever slow down; we can never escape use or relation, we can only change the scales by which they could be measured.

As object-oriented and ecological thinkers, as dwellers of dirt, we don't need to come to hard answers or firm foundations just yet. Sitting with the questions, our periods of being fallow, feral, and infertile, as well as the many bodies that share these depressions with us may allow us to feel our way through the muck of feeling out of use and time.



Fallow is usually an agricultural term. It refers to the earth, soil, specifically that dirt which has been ensnared in the human-centric capitalist venture called farming. For the moment I will leave the produce industry largely aside, the fitness or violence of that network is going to be bracketed, and we will merely focus on the fact that it IS a network with a teleological purpose for us. The soil has work to do and leaving it fallow allows it to rest, so we can get more work out of it later. Centuries of crop-rotation has taught us that if we don’t give the earth a break, it keels over and dies on us (so to speak). I will also let the thought go unexplored of how you bury dead earth (we no doubt do it in our own fashion), but I will admit that its condition as dead earth is akin to infertility, which I will discuss later. Right now let us stress that fallowness is a stillness, a sleep, which is set in opposition to death.

And we can confirm in many ways that fallow earth is hardly dead (completely still or unproductive). On this break from the future oriented production of new desired life-forms, fallow fields team with queer activities.  Bodies die and decay, scavengers consume some of this waste and leave their own donations, worms work over the death and contributing that back into soil. That is just one cycle amidst a field of fallow earth which is probably a riot of activities which I cannot even imagine, partially because I know an impoverished amount about agriculture, but mainly because few look into the matter and those that do really can only get a glimpse. The amount we know about this process literally fits into relatively tiny cylindrical samples which we use to extrapolate immensely across an entire plain. And this not-knowing is critical to our thought about fallowness.

Without being put to work on a obsessively narrow set of processes towards very specific products for a ruling minority that will then deem the fields meaningful and alive, we don’t know how to relate or value the fallow earth. Mostly we forget about it, or at least that is what we do with other fallow bodies. Even in regards to our own period of rest, we tend to forget about ourselves and devalue not only our activities, but even our existence at this time.

If we did scratch the surface of our fallowness, however, we would likely find a lot of activities going on. If only we change what “work” we are looking for and find significant, we’d probably be overwhelmed with all that we are doing when we are supposed to be resting. Personally, vacations are exhausting.

Attending to our fallow lives may not only enhance our ability to get that critical “rest” which we need to get back to work later, but may alter whether or what labor we get back to; or at least how we do it. A close look at what “recharges” us, including persons, places, and hobbies, might remind us that these forgotten respites are what all our work was geared towards to when we began. I am not saying that our work cannot become an end in and of itself, but I know personally I am shocked by how good I feel when I finally take the pay off of my labor and spend it to enjoy the company of neglected friends or sitting doing frivolous things in out of the way places. When I remake my discovery of their value, I begin to dread ever leaving them again. What if I never find my way back? I begin to worry that my work will never finish. I worry I will never be done. I worry about becoming useful, productive, and fertile again.

Usually, especially when I do get back to the work that is a labor of love for me, I am likewise able to remember why this and that were connected to start. And what a good feeling when I can affirm that! I can take the refortified foundations and begin building again with new vigor. Rested I am ready to dive back in with new vigor. Renourished, my soil feels ready to blossom with new life.

Then again, fallowness may bring about startling new discoveries and new components into our life. The wind brings many wild seeds into our soil and when we go to break earth again later, we may find that we are not the same field which existed last season. Things transform, and a queer night’s sleep may give rise to feral days.



Hollywood movies mark the feral, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral, by smearing it with mud and showing wild sticks, rocks, and twigs poking out of queer places. You are lead to ask "what must they have been doing to look that way?" While humility literally means "earthy-ness" we nonetheless associate those with close relationships with the ground as soiled and dirty in all senses of the words; as if the earth itself is a wild thing threatening to transform us into monsters.

But we already are monsters. Evolution doesn’t happen because of natural selection, it happens because of chaos. We just like the selection part because we like to focus on the tiny portion we can plot and control. It is the chaos of lives intermixing and mutations that bring about new lives and species. In fact, however minute the differences may be considered, every birth produces an entirely new life form. Our systems of categorization come in to assure us that things are “normal,” that our babies fit the definitions of health, gender, and humanity. These systems also note exceptions of these rules, leading to marginalization,  stratification, reconstruction, neglect and death. 

Putting that systematic cultural production and violence aside like so much else, we can at least see through it that on some (even simply genetic) level every life is special. It’s so special and fleeting, it’s hardly the same thing years down the line as it develops. I don’t care what Lady Gaga says, I was not “born this way.” I, for one, was a lot shorter. And despite all our teleologies and our paranoid systems of child reering, there is no gareneeted way of ensuring that a child becomes the factory-desired model human. Even our successes (as a species, or otherwise) are largely flukes, as far as our power to control or select them are concerned.

Thus we should hardly be surprised when things go feral. Really, as I have just described, if feral is the ecology going wild, outside our parameters for what is domestic or natural, than everything is really somehow feral, just some things can successfully pass our inspection.

One downside, or violence, of going feral is that like becoming fallow, we are often left without a sense of ascribed purpose, use, or value. This may simply be a misrecognition. Put another way, if we do value a human as a biped with two arms, two eyes, a nose, some hair, and the ability to speak (which my imagination and history can furnish with very elaborate different varieties of) than a lot more “things” should be considered human or treated or valued as such than we ever seem to affirm. Then again, an almost, more-than, or other-than, human which flew rather than walked might not be initially seen as useful or valuable. Again, many “things” and persons which later have been retroactively adored, were not at their inception regarded as anything worth consideration.

Returning to the feral’s relation to the fallow, this swerve or transformation in our foundations may long be recognized as unproductive and a part of our rest. Some of us come back from our “breaks” and get working, now in a new way or developing something different because of an important change in our lives during our rest, and the question begins to be asked if we ever got back to work at all. Then again, either right away, eventually, or retroactively these “wild” or “feral” developments may become valued as great innovations. In our grand modernist tradition, we may even regard them as the “natural” progress of the labor which had been painstakingly plotted and controlled. Our period of being regarded as fallow or feral, may become erased from the history. After all, as we have repeatedly noted, they are status’s and things which we tend to forget about.

For those in a feral state, they may even buy into this belief that they are useless, purposeless, directionless, or valueless. They may forget about all that they are and do, and may want others to forget as well. This is a doubt which leads many to give up hope of reaching a valuable end and to despair. But this chaos and feral-ness, may just as well be as much reason to doubt this doubt and despair, even for those oriented towards the most narrowly defined targets. If we do regard our feral-ness as a failure to fulfill a path, than who are we to be so sure that we won’t fail our failure? What if chaos knocks us back on target? If you doubt yourself fully, you have to doubt your certainty of failure. Even for those who feel in their feral-ness that all order, use, purpose, value, ends, or destinations are fantasies, they may discover, by another surprise, an end that shows that perspective itself is a fantasy. There may be ways out of our despair which we having blundered into yet; we simply are not done yet.

Thus on one hand, we have feral networks and actors which change the direction of our existence, but so too we might discover that on their own, alienated from other things or acts, this have value in and of themselves. Life may not need to produce MORE life, in order for that life to literally be an end in itself.



We have been trained to not hear "infertile" as anything but a kind of slur or as a tragedy. Whether its humans, dirt, or other objects, we treat the absence of a certain kind of life-production as a failure. Really, it is hardly a lack of vitality, perhaps even as Hawthorn Pierce ironically claims on the sitcom Community, infertility may come from super-virility. In other words, some things are too intense, too full of life, too themselves to be able to be reproduced. How might it diminish the fleeting existence of some things to demand that they service us with offspring? Life cannot always be increased in this way, sometimes, as Bilbo (a fellow dirt-dweller) says, it is "like butter scraped over too much bread." Life can in fact be more flavorful when it is infertile.

In that way, Object-Oriented Ontologists and queers have a lot to say to each other, especially if we take Lee Edelman’s critique of reproductive futurity seriously. In the tradition of Graham Harman, if we look at objects as have an existence which retreats from all relations, which is not, as Bruno Latour focuses his work, in so many ways defined by the networks by which in enacts its presence, then we are marking a kind of infertile ground. For many, this kind of retreat from relation, from building relations and relatives (in a kind of reproductive manner), is a conversation stopper. What use or value can something be if we cannot plot and control it, so as to get labor out of it. This mentality, which sees fallowness as a necessary evil to be regulated, feralness as a kind of queerness to be killed, generally regard infertility (or non-productive capitalizable relations) of this kind as something which we can forget about with the idea that it will die out on its own. And in that is a kind of violence.

We see it enacted in the drive of old and sterile women into nunneries and gay men into the priesthood. I hardly would consider these vocations unproductive or valueless, but I will underline that this dragooning of the “infertile” or non-reproductive into a world which is often regarded by the capital driven industrial culture as separate and often forgettable, as a sign that it is used as a kind of violence. Not that all that send such people that way for those reasons are conscious of that fact, but it is often a part of a plot, a plan, a cultural tradition that intentionally eschews the infertile away from “public life.”

Another form of this is the segregation of those past their child-bearing age into assisted living communities or queers into recognized gay or lesbian districts. And this segregation is regarded largely as helpful from those on the outside and often as a safeguard by those on the inside. In many ways, the assistance that “the infertile” get in these spaces may be a great boon, even a necessity. That does not prevent it also from being a way of keeping them out of public life.

Returning to our ground, we likewise see infertile land simply marked off as a “desert” which is an inconvenient thing to cross at most and at least simply a “nothing” place which is hardly worth consideration. Yet again, many objects that find their way locked into museums or more frequently into boxes (marked or unmarked) in archives, once they are past their “use” for conventional capital purposes.

Again, some of these objects, like our deserts, elderly, or queer, may find passer by that value them. Generally however, even this usually occurs in the context of a journey from somewhere useful to somewhere useful. They may even discover some special use for these things/persons and bring them along so that they may re-enter the fertile market. Rarely, but it does happen, they will be loved in and for theselves. Art-lovers (which may include those art-critiques or professionals that may our life explaining, advocating, and making art “useful”) do have the ability to often see some thing as reason enough in its existence to be valued. Likewise, some people we meet, although we might forget about them at time, we may value and love because they exist; rather than taking their existence as a nessisary factor in our ability to get good conversation, recreation, sensuality, service, company, or other use out of them as a place to project and exercise our own mental needs and nouroceses onto (such as providing us with the sense of being needed, being loved, or even with someone to hate).

This comes down to saying, just as contemplating an existence which retreats from relation to us and our ability to know it is hard, so too is it hard to relate, value, and love things without expecting some sort of fertility or production of out them. These are theoretically possible, however. It may require some speculation, but with such a leap of faith, emotionally, intellectually, actively, we may begin to value things that exist as an end in and of themselves.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Estrogen: Feminine Products and Queer Objects (Part 3)

Breasts of the Martyrdom of Saint Agatha

Caitlin Karolczak, "The Martyrdom of St. Agatha"

Patron against sterility, against natural disasters, against breast cancer, 
for rape victims, for single women, for torture victims, for wet-nurses

This summer,  I am beginning by closely reading Humoral Theory besides philosophies regarding contemporary Physics, Biology and Chemistry. Again, I am thinking about key terms. Thus I set a challenge to myself: to pick a few key terms and think through their implications for how we look at the production of bodies, particularly gendered bodies, and how this has in term been exploited in one way or another by State and Capitalist Engines. My initial research produced the following terms, which will each be explored in a series of three posts highlighting one of the three inter-penetrating disciplines of contemporary science: Heat (Physics)Estrogen (Biology), and Silicone (Chemistry).

From Humors to Hormones

As I sit listening for ESTROGEN, I am overwhelmed with noise. Its presence is felt in excess but what it is passes over me like unfamiliar voices in a crowded room. The room is the construct of my own knowledge of gender. I didn’t invent it, but occupy it and tend to its maintenance, even as I plot my remodeling. I try to hear through the voices to get back the hormone and again and again I fail. All I can hear is the room, reverberating with the shouting of those who build it. Desperately I fight the urge to reject the existence of ESTROGEN in favor of an episteme. I hear how ESTROGEN was defined and given a place in the production of women before we knew it existed. It’s hardly metaphoric to say that we met ESTROGEN on the road and before it could introduce itself we grabbed it by the shoulders and babbled “Oh thank God, where have you been Mr. Sex Hormone? We have some women we need you to explain and control.” We put it to work without learning its tongue or trade. I am confident in this because we still know as much about ESTROGEN as we do about women; these two products remain as dark to us as they are to one another. We operate them as if by magic, pushes and pulls to invoke rote ends, but ultimately as an Other to the internal life of ESTROGEN.

In the Abolition of Man, CS Lewis contended that magicians were the brothers of the scientist, the one was weak and died, the other successful and rewrote his own history. He contends that the distinction came in the Early Modern period when Alchemy, Astrology, and their kin gave birth to these unruly descendants. I can’t say if this is not as good an explanation as any, because Astrology is not the brother of Astronomy and nor is Alchemy the brother of Chemistry, they predate them and are distinct in at least one very consequential way: they depended on what they could not see. The Magician (like Dr. Faustus) and the Scientist are students of the eye; they make what they command visible before they issue their orders. They are empiricists and they do not like to work in the dark; hence the name and disdain they give to the Dark Ages, as that which came before their own age, which they unabashedly call “the Enlightenment.” And yet the dark things are no less present nor are they any les dark because of the lights we blare. Our empirical method only means that we see certain things more emphatically in a certain way and become all the more blinded to and afraid of what exists beyond the iridescence of our ordering and naturalizing gaze.

To understand the dark-magic of hormones, we need to understand the dark-science of the humors. According to Galen's book On the Natural Faculties, informed by Hippocrates, gender is a product of a difference (a defect, in fact) in dryness and heat. All human life begins identical in the womb, but because of a variety of factors (most of which are pinned on the pregnant mother) a fetus may not “cook” long enough or hot enough to make the internal organs (i.e. vagina, ovaries) to pop out and become external organs (i.e. penis, scrotum). While we discussed this difference during the HEAT portion of this initial research, the relationship of this gestation to the humors was set aside. For the humors (blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm) are likewise the results of different levels of HEAT, and the morphological differences that determine a child’s gender in this system likewise come with humoral (we might call biochemical) differences as well. For this reason and others, we may take translator AJ Brock’s argument that “our modern conception of ‘hormone’ action shows certain resemblances with this [humoral] theory” (xxxiii).

Different balances in the humors, such as those between men and women, would have a menagerie of effects on the body. Disposition (mood), skin tone (complexion), size of certain organs, regularity of bodily functions, fertility, pregnancy, etc, were all read as dependent on the levels of these humors. Today, we regard hormones with the same pervasive powers of influence and market them as solutions to imbalances in the body. Because men were read as the standard model of humoral balance, women are given special attention in the literature as the exception that proves the rule. In the same way, worry over hormones largely began and remains primarily a women’s issue. Not only are we allowed to forget that men also have ESTROGEN but often that they have hormones at all; injections of Testosterone, for instance, are largely called “T” or “steroids,” to disassociate it from its identity as hormone therapy.

As will be explored, the pervasiveness of ESTROGEN and its ecological effects are myriad, but the dangers that have caused legislators to cap ESTROGEN emissions have only or mainly been its toxicity, but its gender. The men in congress worry that it may be making them into women. This fear existed before we knew what ESTROGEN was. It’s “discovery” came as part of a search specifically for the “sex-hormones” that produce men and women distinctly. We found it, noted it’s certain effects on genitals, breasts, etc. and declared we had found the chemical reason for gender; however many of those who made the discovery disagreed with this conclusion. Surprisingly, one of the largest groups to contend that ESTROGEN does not in fact make you into a woman, are doctors and biochemists. This is not just a gender versus sex distinction (gender as social, sex as biological). No, these bio-medical experts don’t necessarily think sex exists at all. As early as 1923, with the rise of understanding of hormones and the body, NCR Committee member for the Research in Problems of Sex (CRPS), Frank Lillie concluded: 

“There is no such biological entity as sex. What exists in nature is a dimorphism…in any given species we recognize a male form and a female form, whether these characteristics be classed as biological, or psychological or social orders. Sex is not a force that produces these contrasts. It is merely a name for our total impression of these differences… It is difficult to divest ourselves of these pre-scientific anthropomorphism… and we have been particularly slow in the field of the scientific study of sex-characteristics in divesting ourselves not only of the terminology but also of the influence of such ideas.”

If sex is already gender, a way of relating or knowing another, then when we consider ESTROGEN and women as things which have been produced and sold as feminine, we must work at the politics of the gender industrial complex. We will look at the makers and made of transgender healthcare, birth-control, menopausal medicine, and meat farms.

One of several reasons I left the discussion of ESTROGEN for last is that its relationship to the products and production of females has become so naturalized that it almost goes without saying; this speaks volumes. Now, being female without having ESTROGEN seems unthinkable, so that becoming female means to collect more ESTROGEN, whether by developments at conception, at puberty, at impregnation, or at the pharmacy where one receives it by injection or pill.

It is this naturalization, this refusal to see not only beyond the light, but even what the light may illuminate, that makes ESTROGEN and women dark objects: they refuse to respond to our methods of inquiry; they reject the premise of the question and ordering of our gaze.

Hormones and Transgender Healthcare
Transgender Healthcare

“Any or all of the things mentioned can be withheld by some men from other men; by those who sell, or who approve of the sale, or who control the means of production, or who make the goods. What we call ‘man’s power over nature’ is really the power of some men over other men…
Every victory ‘by Man’ is a victory ‘over Man’. 
It makes him stronger as well as weaker.”
CS Lewis, the Abolition of Man

If you have not already guessed, the room that I have been occupying is a kind of prison, or else a way to hide in plain sight; and for that you may call me fortunate. So far I have been able to pass inspection and cross through the borderlands that divide this cell and the one next door. That line is a no-man’s land. It is a place where the light of our empirical method shines brightly, policing and flushing out the dark places to see that land remains clear and everyone in their proper place, or else not. While ESTROGEN remains largely unlit, it has become one of the police and so it shines it’s the flashlight elsewhere. As we follow its gaze, we might see scratched into the land testimony of a genocide against gender outlaws.

While “transgender healthcare,” especially in the United States, is largely considered an oxymoron, it remains important as a theoretical area of the medical industry in regards to selling and regulating gender identities. Regarded mostly as either an outlier or an extreme case, trans* and intersex persons are offered as instances in which hormone levels and morphological features are so out of balance that intense regiments of “hormone therapy” must be purchased, overseen by doctors, then verified by state personnel, to bring these bodies back in line with one of two publicly recognized categories of gender.

Many doctors and advocates do not regard “transgender healthcare” or gender so starkly, but this remains the case for many, who largely consider it merely as a theoretical oddity which inform the general practice of medical gender regulation. If hormone treatments can be said to “change a man into a woman,” then surely, they can claim that it can be used to bring bodies that are already recognized as women “better in line” with their femininity. Indeed an increasing number of medical professionals and legislators are becoming less permitting of access to ESTROGEN for transgender persons. In Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of the Law, Dean Spade notes that while in the recent decades with a rapid increase in hormone administrations, the number of legal prescriptions for trans patients is diminishing: 

“Estrogens are frequently prescribed to nontransgender people for a variety of conditions including hypogonadism, menopause, late onset of puberty, vulvular astrophy, atrophic vaginitis, ovary problems…intersex conditions, breast cancer or prostate cancer….Nontransgender women who are diagnosed with hirsutism—where facial or body hair grows in what are considered abnormal amounts—are frequently treated for this condition through Medicaid coverage’s… treatments designed to help create genitals that meet social norms of appearance are frequently provided and covered for children born with intersex conditions” (Dean 148-9).

A major reason for the increase in hormone therapy among nontransgender and a decrease in the healthcare given those who are transgender is that the healthcare industry has hardened on the opinion that hormones, including ESTROGEN, not only bestow one of two genders onto a body but should be used to police and correct this two-part division of the genders. Furthermore, enforcement of the legal definition of gender, which is determined for transgender and nontransgender alike is effectively: what your genitals look like. Once a certain shape has been determined, usually at birth by a doctor, then typically the gender of that person is legally set.

That is why intersex persons can get treatment, to bring their genitals into line and why nontransgender men and women can get aid to bring their bodies back into line if abnormalities in their shape or function occur. Thus transgender persons, because they are regarded as already having one gender, based on their genitals, are being increasingly turned down, because they seek to defy popular  State, Medical, cultural & religious definitions of their gender. Transition is regarded as foolishness at best, a transgression against the Law, Nature, or God at worst.

Transgender persons, even those who can afford the expensive private health insurance and fork out the large amounts of money to personally fund the surgeries are finding themselves stopped at the doctors door; especially the increasingly number of transpersons that wish to have hormone therapy without surgical changes to their genitals. In Transpeople: Repudiation, Trauma, Healing, Christopher Shelley provides numerous accounts of healthcare discrimination.

  •   “Yossi (Ftm) lives with multiple disabilities and often requires medical assistance. He finds that healthcare professionals often get ‘hung up’ on his trans-ness, regardless of his reason for consulting them. He recounts once being rushed to the emergency department at a hospital. After he revealed his trans status, he was asked several questions: ‘they got all caught up in asking about my genitals, ‘have you had genital surgery YET, or DO YOU PLAN TO?; and you know, when you’ve been hit by a car, those are not really the kinds of questions you want to go through” (Shelley 65).
  • “Califia (2003) tells the story of Trya Hunter, who was gravely injured in a hit-and-run accident. When emergency personnel arrived they were compelled to cut off her pants to order to enable treatment of injuries. Discovering Tyra had a penis, the first attending paramedic jumped back and yelled ‘that ain’t no bitch!’ They refused to continue treating Tyra’s serious wounds and she later died” (Shelly 65)

The result of this refusal to provide or finance healthcare, many transgender persons chose to “self-medicate,” seeking black-market hormones and surgeries which can be not only hazardous but fatal. David Valentine in Imagining Transgender: an Ethnography of a Category, joins Spade and Shelley, in tracing the line of cause and effect following public transitioning which begins:  (1) rejection from a support system, (2) an inability to find work, (3) financial inabilities to afford treatments, (3) a turn to prostitution to bring in income, (4) a turn to illegal drugs to help deal with physical & psychological repercussions, followed by (5) arrest and prison; or suicide.

Polls such as the Seattle & King County Health Department report above 20% of transgender persons attempt suicide and Dr. Paul Cody of the University of New Hampshire Counseling Center report more than 50% attempting. While there is a range of 20% to 50%, the majority of polls trend towards affirming that half of all trans persons will commit suicide by the age of 20.  Yes, pioneering in ESTROGEN has allowed some trans persons to pursue transformations which make their lives more livable, but the force of the healthcare industry and the legal system has turned hormones primarily into a denied possibility. ESTROGEN has become a participant in a genocide which through the sin of omission sees that between 1 in 5 or 1 in 2 trans persons end up dead by their own hands, and the bulk of the rest either working on the streets, working in jail, or working in the capitalist-state system to pay off life-long healthcare debts for treatments that their insurance refuses to cover. 

The odds are, arriving into this world transgender is a literal death-sentence, or else a ticket to a life in jail or buried in debt.

Women's healthcare as a product of hormone market
Birth Control

“Every act of will is an act of self-limitation...
when you choose anything, you reject everything else…
It is obvious that ‘thou shall not’ is only one of the necessary corollaries of ‘I will.’
‘I will go to the Lord Major’s Show, and thou shall not stop me’”
GK Chesterton, “The Suicide of Thought”

ESTROGEN, since it was first synthesized, became a participant in a movement which has been responsible for the lives and choices of millions: eugenics. "Eugenics warned that the nation's 'racial stock' was endangered… To limit the burden placed on the whiter middle class by poverty and crime, believed to result from the 'weak heredity' of immigrants and darker skinned peoples, eugenicists advocated controlling the reproduction of the so-called unfit and promoted child-bearing among those thought to represent strong racial stock" (175). Thus before women were sexually conceived they may be abstractly conceived and their production planned. ESTROGEN’s development became explicitly marketed throughout the 20th century for and by state-medical authorities as capable of limiting the birth of undesirable women of color, class, disability, sexual orientation, etc. While latently and simultaneously promoted as empowering women with the choice to conceive or not, thousands of women were systematically sterilized by doctors who gave partial or no information on the procedures they executed on their patients.

As Aharon W. Zorea notes in Health & Medical Issues Today: Birth Control, women, especially women of color and those in poor neighborhoods were revealed as late as 1973 with consenting to and receiving a series of routine “shots” as part of their yearly check-up, that turned out to be, without their knowledge, a ESTROGEN-based sterilizations. Some girls as young as twelve-years old from these communities were given anesthetic and then "taken back into surgery where they underwent tubal ligation procedures,” all of which was executed “without their knowledge or the consent of their parents” (Zorea 87).

These procedures were legal and promoted in many states beginning in the 1920’s, continuing to be on the books into the 1970’s. Legislators wanted to eugenically diminish the number of society’s “dependents” by targeting “poor immigrants and other minorities” (Zorea 87). Challenges throughout these 50 years, were overturned by the 1927 Supreme Court ruling in Buck v. Bell that these practices were constitutional and that states had the right to legislate implementations to control population and the production of desirable off-spring. Zorea notes that in 1973, the same year that Ebony Magazine published series of articles unveiling these secret state sterilizations, “14 states considered resolutions to attach sterilization requirements to state well-fare provisions.” These resolutions were stopped by public opposition however, as “the American Civil Liberties Union filed several lawsuits, and no state legally permitted involuntary sterilization on the basis of income” (87). This victory for the Union however did not exclude involuntary sterilization on the basis of other prejudices, such as race.

Even with political pressures curtailing the outright involuntary sterilization, there remains factors that trouble choice and informed consent with the use of ESTROGEN-based pills and patches. In Our Control: the Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women, Laura Eldridge extensively reports on the history of Birth-Control Manufacturers and doctors that have been fined for prescribing pills without giving legally adequate information that the product was a type of birth control or that it carried such risks as inducing blood-clots, stroke, and cancer. Products such as Yas and Yasmin, which remains one of the most sold versions of Estrogen-based Birth-Control on the market, continues to pay out damages for their years of marketing the pill as a cure for cramps and acne without making it clear that it did so by controlling the bodies ovulation and menstruation; or that in animal testing it carried with it a variety of health risks.

Beside direct human use, ESTROGEN as a social-object itself acts with surprising independence. In Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES, Nancy Langston maps the various recorded effects that such pills have on the body that researches and consumers cannot fully understand, predict, or control. Even when these hormones are no longer in use, they can remain active in the body for months and years, making it difficult to control what the drug does. ESTROGENS can in fact have seemingly contradictory effects in different forms and doses. Among the notable effects of Diethylstilbestrol (DES), in addition to functioning as both a birth control and an ESTROGEN supplement for pregnant to “increase the size and health” of babies, the drug also can function as a abortifacient, can change the “gender” of offspring by altering the size and development of different organs in the womb, as well as “increase the likelihood of cancer in those offspring when they reached sexual maturity” (Langston 55-6). The magic word for potential toxins like ESTROGEN is “dose” This was also true for Galen’s abortifacient’s, which a varied and included a host of things that would only cause miscarriage if taken in certain doses without passing or inducing vomiting (285).

It is this mysteriousness, the dark magic of DES, which makes it potentially dangerous and allows it to stay on the market. Not only are the effects unpredictable in animal experiments and human experiments, the more predictable effects, including cancer, which is visible in the animal tests are argued to not be a guarantee that such effects will be visible among humans. Also, since human testing is so restricted and with so many contributing factors to the development of cancers and other conditions, even the more extensive and telling studies on human use of ESTROGEN-based birth control can be rejected by State regulators because they do not and largely cannot meet the requirements to be considered conclusive. Potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals are permitted on the market until conclusive evidence is available to show their danger to human life; in other words, legally, manufacturers are innocent until proven guilty.

Then again, many scientists, legislators, and consumers regard these risks as worthwhile, especially to produce and “guarantee” (keep within control) a certain definition of womanhood. The ability to choose not to conceive, to feel better able to conceive, and to maintain desired physical qualities such as skin, fat content, hair, and body shape, all of which produce a defined sense of what it means to be a woman, have been a part of the selling point behind ESTROGEN-based birth control since their development.

Undoubtedly, women are produced, violated, and controlled, especially sexually & reproductively, unacceptably and this contributes to the arguments justifying the risks & consequences of using ESTROGEN-based contraceptives. Nonetheless, birth control remains a part of this violence and being a feminine product (for women & ESTROGEN) means relating to the violent political machine of reproduction.

Menopause as product of hormone market
Menopausal Therapy

We have seen that the light of science is funded by industries and regulated by state interests, marking certain places and forms as significant enough to deserve enlightenment, while issuing other monsters off into the shadows. This field of light has a dimension and stake in time as well. As has been demonstrated ESTROGEN and gender , as ways of knowing, are interested in seeing that certain forms are reproduced ad infinitum. For this reason bodies that are non-reproductive will receive less light than those who can be used for this purpose. Thus as a child the day will be dimmer, high noon will come in the teens, 20s, and 30s, and slowly diminish (particularly for women) with the onset of menopause. These queer dark bodies, like the dark bodies that have been sterilized by government systems or by transgender hormone treatments, become conflated. Quick to market even your dismissal, ESTROGEN treatments for menopause are often sold in the clothing of a return to youth and ironically a return to womanhood.

In chapter four of her book, “Help for Women Over Forty,” Langston plumbs the history of researchers, legislators and marketers of ESTROGEN hormone therapy and discovers across them all the claim that ESTROGEN makes you a woman and ESTROGEN makes you young. By the 1930’s “menopause became defined as a ‘deficiency disease’ in need of treatment, and women’s health became increasingly controlled by professionals. Doctors, researchers, and pharmaceutical companies developed networks of expertise to develop and market new drugs for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. It was in this context that the search for cheap synthetic estrogen intensified” (Langston 31).

Taking this as an opportunity to diagnose part of women’s bodily rhythms as a disease, researchers, lawmakers and drug companies had an excuse to push forward on their examination to map, monitor, and control (as well as market) women’s bodies. By the 1940’s, even when researchers began to inform legislators that ESTROGEN was not bound directly to women alone, i.e. to defining gender. Initially there had been an established belief in a two gender, two hormone dichotomy, which “according to this simple formula, females produced female sex hormones such as estrogen, which made them feminine, and males produced male sex hormones such as testrone, making them masculine. But this simple idea became more complex…endocrinologists realized that both sexes contained both male and female hormones” and this “transformed biological definitions of sex” (Langston 29). Going on ESTROGEN is hardly any guarantee of an increase in femininity, it may even reduce the bodily effects which encode the body as feminine because at different levels, ESTROGEN will in fact increase testosterone production in bodies, causing, for instance, an increase of body hair.

The FDA also revealed that it had numerous potential risks including the increased likelihood of blood-clots and cancers, drug-companies covered up this information. “Women taking HT [hormone treatment] and ET [estrogen treatment] were having serious health problems: more heart disease, cancer, strokes, pulmonary embolisms, and blood clots than women taking placebos. These findings flew in the face of decades of research…HT and ET were on the market for sixty years before conventional wisdom was overturned” (Eldridge 44). The crux, however marketing might claim to return youth to menopausal women, was age. “The results of WHI aren’t applicable to young women and the pill. The same hormones work very differently in women’s bodies before and after menopause” (Eldridge 44). A body’s changes over time further complicate beliefs that ESTROGEN has clear and specific effects. In the same way that “if you are forty when you off the pill, you will not regain the fertility of a twenty-year old” (Eldridge ) neither will going on ESTROGEN later in life will return the same bodily effects as when you were younger. Going on ESTORGEN is then hardly any guarantee of an return to youth, as complications due to age may not only compound current conditions, they may bring about blood-clots, strokes, heart-attacks, and cancer.

Despite the protests of the researchers and the FDA, the drug companies decided to use direct to public marketing to raise popular support by convincing menopausal women that they were sick and that a cure was on the way, if only the FDA would stop blocking it. “Lettings flooded into the FDA offices from women begging that diethylstilbestrol [DES] be made available” (Langston 28-29). The pressure worked and more menopausal hormone therapy treatments were released by the FDA and this in turn raised the money and profile to sell menopause as a disease & ESTROGEN as not only the cure for it, but the cure for aging as well. Fausto-Sterling affirms in Sexing the Body, that by the 1960’s,doctors such as Robert A Wilson was telling the public that “the stigma of Nature’s defeminization [at menopause]” brought about “a general stiffness of muscles, a dowager’s hump, and a vapid cow-like negative state.” (Fausto-Sterling 146). “Postmonepausal women, he wrote in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, existed but did not live” (146). With such sales pitches from medical experts, one would expect research to collaborate, but neither the FDA or scientists agreed.

While the effects of ESTROGEN can neither give femininity nor a return to a pre-reproductive state, the promise of youth was broadly bought into by consumers, doctors, and lawmakers. “Some doctors promoted the therapy not just to treat the symptoms of aging by to arrest the process of aging itself.” (Langston 44). This was not simply part of the age-old battle against mortality, but reflected a deeply ingrained prejudice against women; a prejudice deepened by discussions of age & ESTROGEN. “The urge to control the disorderly nature of the hormonal female body was closely linked to a sense that women were flawed by nature, unable to make rational decisions without the careful guidance of the experts…many specialists saw women as creatures who were made irrational, almost child-like, by their hormones” (Langston 44-45).

Thus while often a source a relief from various symptoms, the prescription and marketing of ESTROGEN for menopausal women is not geared towards the liberation or re-feminization of bodies but the control of them but a culture that is as anxious about "the disorderly female body" as they are about age. ESTROGEN may be a useful ally for the material feminist, but not as a return to the light, but as an escape into the darkness by which queer monsters may thrive outside the reproductive futurity of enlightenment science and industry.

Beef industry as product of hormone drug market

Animals, Ecology

I am hardly alone in this room. More than walls, light, sound, mental constructs, and the many human actors the room is fulled to the brim with animals and other objects which occupy and move through the space of ESTROGEN and gender production. Most of them were here before me, and many of them before human ever imagined it. To this day, we depend on and live with these occupants, but cast out light and ears only upon a few

As Gianna E Israel and Donal E Tarver II, MD note in Transgender Care: Recommended Guidelines, Practical Information & Personal Accounts, the primary source for drug-manufacturers of ESTROGEN is the urine of pregnant mares. The juice filtered from pig ovaries as well as the crushed extracts of guinea pig and dog testicles have also been used to synthesize hormones. Some animal experimenting has included grafting the ovaries and testes of chickens, rats, and guinea pigs into animals of another gender. Once the discovery was made that the urine of pregnant animals contains significant amounts of ESTROGEN which can be synthesized, there was what Fausto-Sterling calls a veritable “gold rush” to begin collecting urine for experimentation and drug production. To this day, the urine of pregnant horses and human women remains the largest source of certain types of ESTROGENS.

Over time and experimentation, however, hormones began to be discovered in more and more places, adding men, soy, and certain types of plastics as sources of ESTROGEN production. These studies suggested even more ways that ESTROGENS function and potential uses it could be marketed for. Particularly when the connection was made between the boost in the production in the mammary glands, fat, etc among human women that were on ESTROGEN and the similar effects it could have on cows, then the drug industry really began to get cooking towards milking that market in a new way.

Following the second World War and the baby boom that followed, there was a concern by American farmers and legislators that the US had enough cattle that could be slaughtered to produce the meat and dairy sufficient enough to fulfill the demand of the general public. This anxiety met with the gendered assumptions that men needed to eat meat to become masculine and that women needed meat and dairy to give birth to strong men. This combined with an increased faith in American industrialization, technological innovations and chemical engineering saw a push from legislators and corporations to “modernize” the meat market by pioneering hormones to increase the birth rate, size, and milk production of cattle, as well as the birth rate, size and egg production of chickens. With government approval and sponsorship ESTROGEN and other hormones began to fulfill these desires, so much so that a whole new age of mechanization to reduce the amount of time, space, energy and effort needed to raise, breed, house and kill the animals. Cattle farming then became the meat industry we know today.

ESTROGEN has become so indoctrinated into society that the healthcare industry, lawmakers, and consumers worry over the flood of ESTROGEN we receive by eating meat or drinking a bottle of soda; even or vegetables and tap water are monitored for ESTROGEN to determine toxicity. As Nancy Langston reminds us in Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES, legally it is the dose of a material that determines it as a toxin. Anything, perhaps, can be considered a toxin at high enough levels. ESTROGEN however has been shown in animal studies to cause health problems, even cancer, at extremely low doses, doses far less than we imbibe in some areas by drinking from the faucet. The logic behind the chemical manufacturer’s and water-sanitation’s defense is that there has yet to be conclusive testing to show a causal effect between ESTROGEN and human death. Also, counter intuitively, ESTROGEN in higher doses and chemical forms shows to be less dangerous than in smaller doses. Despite unknowns, dangers and violence against animal test subjects however, ESTROGEN has been embraced as a boon with dismissible risks except one: its threat to gender norms if it is not controlled.

Just as its purpose was predetermined before its discovery, ESTROGEN’s associated dangers were likewise pre-scripted before the test results began to be reported. With cows and chickens receiving extra ESTROGEN and men eating their meat, is it possible that men (even soldiers) could become feminized as a result? When the studies came back, the answer was: yes.

Then reports began to be released showing that the environments around these meat factories were showing a noticeable increase in ESTROGEN levels, including in the soil and water which absorbed the fecal matter and other bodily excrement’s of the hormone injected animals. As a result the consumption of the water and vegetables, as well as regular contact through skin and breathing in the air showed notable changes on the human inhabitants including “marked disturbances in menstrual function and…a devitalization in men” as a result the FDA suggested “the employment of old rather than young men” at these locations, because of a feeling that such effects were less of a concern for those after their prime age for reproduction. The FDA continued to assure the public that the consumption of meat and produce from these regions were safe, while “acknowledging that male workers might become infertile and grow breasts, while female workers may have their menstrual cycles disturbed” (Langston). In time more regulation would be put into place on the use of hormones on meat, following further animal testing, but the motto remained and remains for many that these are dangers and concerns for “mice, not men.”

But how about those mice? The following is a small sample of some of the ecological impact, intentional and unintentional from the spike of ESTROGEN pollution. Pigeons in various states, including New York and California have been "put on the pill" through the release of OvoControl P, which sterilizes these birds prohibiting their eggs from developing correctly. This practice has recently been expanded to eugenically diminish the population of geese and deer. In West Virginia, Maryland, the Great Lakes, and Arizona (near Las Vegas) the release of ESTROGEN into the water systems from the flushing of birth control down the drain directly or when the hormone passes through the urinary track has been cited for the development of inter-sex fish. "Cross-gender" behavior has been witnessed among birds given hormone enriched foods, causing rapid changes to reproductive, nesting, and territorial habits among male and females of the species. Similar studies have been performed on white mice revealing similar cross-gender activity with the introduction of extra hormones into their diet.

Ecologists, gender theorists, and bio-chemists however are quick to warn against invoking the same anxiety used to defend men against "feminization" or to control women's bodies, and simply applying them to animals. Remember, it was the researchers that experimented on the relationship between hormones and gender on rats that first began to seriously challenge the existence of gender or sex as physical phenomena outside cultural contexts for certain morphological features. Calling for vindication for the lab and farm animals that are exploited to satiate our scientific, industrial, & culinary markets, we need to remain conscious of the problematic human-centric assumptions we bring to this effort. To what extent do we bring our trans-phobia, inter-sex-phobia, crip-phobia, and anthropomorphizing along as further forms of violence against animals? As Langston argues in the conclusion to her book, we must challenge ourselves to promote different kinds of lives for different kinds of life-forms, which may also include accepting the mortality of short lived species, while doing our best not to significantly contribute to its acceleration.

I join Langston, and the others, in demanding not only a more eco-conscious partnership with ESTROGEN and women, but the development of an ability to better live amidst darkness & among monsters; if for no other reason than we already do.