In the following narrative, a participant in the worldwide anarchist gathering that took place in Saint-Imier, Switzerland in July 2023 explores political practices and discourse around gender and sexuality in the contemporary anarchist movement.
Lest the following text occasion any conflict with the residents of Saint-Imier, rest assured that any controversial details are surely exaggerated. For a discussion of how struggles around gender have evolved over the past two decades, you could start here. For a discussion of anarchist approaches to accountability, start here. The illustrations are by Aubrey Beardsley.
I have done some sleazy stuff in my life, sure. But hooking up with a stranger on a Zamboni in a dark hallway in an ice-skating rink amid a hundred other queer anarchists? That’s up there.
It almost didn’t happen. Don’t get me started on the weird rigidity of anarchist culture these days, especially with regards to the erotic. Sure, we’re all non-monogamous (are we?), everyone’s queer now (are they?), and we are serious about things like queer and trans liberation, positive consent, abortion care access, and so on. Well, as political issues, at least, if not as pathways towards transforming our actual lives.
Is this me being “lifestylist,” suggesting that how we live our lives today actually matters? And that sex is a terrain worth fighting on, that sexual liberation is worth fighting for? Or let me rephrase that—forgive my overly militaristic metaphors, you can chalk it up to the anarcho-patriarchy. Is sexual liberation worth living for? Living differently? Living as if our bodies and our pleasure really matter? Could breaking free from the stilted ways of relating that both our dominant culture and our counter-cultures are stuck in have the potential to open up broader forms of freedom?