This is about the way in which bullying (not “teasing,” which inevitably sounds—that carries the sense of being—all too playful and almost endearing for what I am trying to talk about here), is increasingly part of a deliberate and systematic effort to exterminate the lives, not just of single individuals who are typically its direct target, but an entire generation of contemporary queer youth. This post is about the very real brutality that drives what I propose to think of as a two-fold genocidal image of queer futurity.
Forcibly and relentlessly imposed upon the psychic imagination of queer youth, the genocidal futurity that drives bullying takes the image-form of a future that is never free of ridicule, denigration, debasement, humiliation, abandonment. It is a matter of ceaselessly creating the sense of absolute isolation that comes from being constantly ignored and incessantly scrutinized, of being rendered invisible and made to appear as the only thing visible, of being made to feel as though neither the shelter of the private nor the solidarity of the public can provide anything but the most false of assurances. In the end, of being made to feel that there is no way out, no one to turn to, in a word: no future. On the other side, in which genocidal futurity is forcibly and relentlessly imposed by the psychic imagination of societal homophobia, it takes the image-form of a future that is, once and for all, free of the difference, anti-normative, affirmative, courageous, and determined psychic-sexual-social power that has been the source of queer life for decades. It is the phobic imagination of a future with no queers.
It is precisely in this two-fold and double sense of the extermination of futurity: of queer youth and of a future without queers, that the current and deeply pervasive campaign (and it is a concerted, endorsed, and insidiously coordinated effort) must be understood as the genocide of queer futurity.
When a society such as ours, today, manages to find ways to make its victims kill themselves, it has achieved a degree of genocidal evil that simply has not been known up until now. We can no longer say—or not simply and solely—when a queer kid takes his or her own life, that he/she has committed suicide. For while the life that has ended was singularly theirs, the death of self was not one for which they are solely responsible.* Just as much as we can speak in terms of “suicide-by-proxy,” in order to categorize the murderously warped psyche of the self-hating serial killer, I propose that we speak in terms of “genocide-by-proxy,” in order to identify a societal hatred and genocidal extermination that has become so internalized that the subject of vilification kills him/herself, not simply because of the harm that has been endured in the past, but also and perhaps even more so, because he/she is forced to envision the endless perpetuation of this brutality as the kind of life that they will endlessly endure in the future. Which is to say that the agonizing temporal relation of these deaths cannot be understood as wholly of the past, tied to prior suffering (its incidents as well as the false “lull” between attacks, and irregardless of regularity/irregularity). No. For in confronting the reality of these deaths, I think we face something much more troubling about them. Which is the way in which they can be understood as responses to suffering that has not yet happened, that is still to-come, and that in its guarantee, delivers a blow that is felt as strongly as the bludgeon that was the latest and yet in no way is felt to be the last.
Of course death, by definition, is always the preemptive appropriation of the future, and when that already violent appropriation is brutally imposed by others onto others it becomes murder, and when that murder takes the form of exterminating an entire people, in this case of a generation, it is genocide. Therefore, when the target of the genocide is young queer people, as it is here, it must be understood as the genocide of queer futurity. And when the only image that young queers are made to envision is one of past brutality extending infinitely into the future, this too must be understood as the genocide of queer futurity. So I’ll end with something that I stated above: When a society such as ours, today, manages to find ways to make the victims of its violence kill themselves, it has achieved a degree of genocidal evil that is simply unprecedented in its effective obfuscation of actual responsibility and its triggering of an auto-immune response. It cannot get any worse than that. Or can it? And is this not the reason to remain committed to the sense that it gets better, precisely as a future without guarantee?
*For a discussion of the ways in which this argument corresponds with some of the most recent psychological theories of the motivational factors of suicide (including the work of Roy Baumeister) see Jesse Bering’s blog “Bering in Mind,”on the Scientific American web site: http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/bering-in-mind-blog/. Specifically when he writes: “Psychodynamic theorists often postulate that suicidal guilt seeks punishment, and thus suicide is a sort of self-execution. But Baumeister’s theory largely rejects this interpretation; rather, in his model, the appeal of suicide is loss of consciousness, and thus the end of psychological pain being experienced. And since cognitive therapy isn’t easily available—or seen as achievable—by most suicidal people, that leaves only three ways to escape this painful self-awareness: drugs, sleep and death. And of these, only death, nature’s great anesthesia, offers a permanent fix.”