contra tyrannos

Eliminate the intrinsic, accentuate the plastic. Associate the former with rigid social discrimination, the latter with enlightened tolerance-of-choices…

I can’t bring myself to give up on Geoffrey Hill’s sense of the intrinsic as that which resists tyranny, where the latter is construed precisely as command of plasticity – both the power to mould, and the power to insist that you be (and see yourself as) limitlessly mouldable.

This can cut both ways; re debates about gender identity, for example, what’s often at stake is the question of what is to be regarded as intrinsic, and hence a locus of resistance: the body-in-person versus the performatively-gendered body, for example. The phrase “coercively assigned” implies a subject of coercion, something that is not intrinsically disposed to be what it is coerced into trying (and, often, symptomatically failing) to be.

We don’t have to pathologise the intrinsic, assign it an aetiology, treat it as correctable. Its value often lies in its incorrigibility: eppur si muove. Indeed, it is in refusing to pathologise it, in embracing and affirming it, that we may also be said to “choose” it and to proclaim that choice as a valid one.