Art, work, and identity within capitalism and disability
I want to write. So badly. I want to create something out of my experience with transness and disability. Particularly out of my pain, my shame, and my struggle, so that other folks struggling with the same things I am can maybe feel a little less alone, a little less ashamed, find ways to love themselves a little more and hate themselves a little less. So we can identify and find each other and build more nurturing spaces and subcultures for ourselves. So we can figure out how to more effectively resist and navigate oppression. But I also want to produce writing because it feels like I’m doing something, like I’m tangibly contributing something to my communities and to the kind of world I want to live in. One that, ironically, doesn’t value or identify people based on traditional capitalist standards of production.
Usually, these days, I can’t write or create much of anything. The most my body can manage is paragraph or two on social media. Usually I’m too stymied by a variety of things. I’m only even able to write these words out of some paradoxical loophole my brain has overlooked — that I’m somehow permitted to write about not being able to write, because that’s not really writing about anything, not anything important anyway. The only way I can cheat some feeling of having produced something is by the pre-emptive concession that it will have no value.
It’s a clearly toxic swing back and forth from creation/production being important to a ridiculously intimidating degree, to having no value to anyone whatsoever. I know this panic-denial loop is unhealthy and unsustainable. I know that the most one’s work can be is ripples that contribute to a larger cultural swell, and that that’s good. True appreciation and value is relative and personal, not institutionalized. But within a culture, not just an economy, that is capitalist in nature, the degree to which we consider work successful or essential to personhood to begin with is insidiously associated with capitalism’s prohibitive standards. Despite years of identifying and deprogramming these associations, I still can’t shake them entirely. Which is why I must tell myself that this is not an essay. Because right now, it’s the only way I can escape the punishing weight of those internalized standards and actually get something written.