Desire is something that I feel is very problematic to analyse or politicise. I had an experience when I was a teenager, when I was confused about sexuality and identity, wondering if I was feeling certain things because of this or that or the other, when I stepped back and said – “you know what? It doesn’t matter. These are my desires at the moment and that’s all I need to know”. This was a liberating realisation for me at the time and allowed me to explore my identity without going crazy with over thinking everything.
However, recently I’ve become very aware of the ways my desires have been twisted by my upbringing and socialisation, how the heart of it has been repressed and hidden even from myself. How many of the desires I have felt are actually a kind of emotional self harm, keeping me down and keeping me from being all that I am. This, for me, has been one of the major results of being a trans man, of being a man raised as a female with female expectations, and, as a child, being very eager to please and to conform to what was expected of me.
Despite this, as I said, I understand that it’s very problematic to analyse desire. Queer people especially have experienced this over centuries, having our identities and our desires pathologised and put down to things like abuse and hormonal imbalance. Because of this it has been very important to say that people’s identity and sexuality is immutable and fixed right from the start (or as a certain person who shall remain nameless said, “you were born this way, baby”), and for many people this is true. But what about when it isn’t?
I have thought a lot recently about the concept of Will, as featured in the Crowleyism beloved by many to demonstrate the evil nature of Pagans and magic workers, “Do as thou will shall be the whole of the law”. Will is different from desires, desires can be transitory and fleeting, they can be coloured by societal expectations and by the information we have available to us. On the website Queer By Choice, there is the interesting comment that for many people, the main reason they are straight is because they’ve never seriously considered any other option*. While this particular sentiment is up for debate, there is a lot of truth in the idea that what we do with our lives is often limited by the stories of our culture. Basically, if something is the only story we’ve ever heard, then it’s not surprising when it’s the only story we feel is possible. If we’re constantly told that we should be a certain way and want a certain thing because of how we’re perceived by our culture, it’s unsurprising when we find ourselves doing and wanting those exact things. We can also find ourselves desiring something because we feel like it’s all we deserve. Desires can easily come from a wounded part of ourselves, and not only as a way to reach out for healing. In the same way, if we’re told that certain desires are bad, wrong or difficult, then we can find ourselves repressing them to the point where we don’t even notice we have them. We live in a society that makes it very easy to be scared of our desires.
So, what of the Will? Our will is something more innate, something at the core of our being. For some lucky people their Will and desires are naturally relatively congruent. They know exactly what will make them the most happy and fulfilled, and are in a position to manifest these situations in their life. But for many people there is dissonance with these two forces, in occult/psychological terminology we can say the conscious and sub-conscious minds are cut off from the super-conscious mind, which results in the person not acting in their own best interests, despite indulging in their desires. It’s only by rebuilding these connections that we can become whole people, in touch with all of ourselves and able to create the life and identity that will bring us the most fulfilling life.
I have found that expressing these kinds of thoughts around my sexuality have sometimes been looked down on, or I’ve been told it’s wrong, despite it being ok in other areas of life – sometimes it’s interpreted as repressing desires, or feeling like I should be a certain way (it’s interesting to note that it’s generally much more acceptable to talk about finding previously repressed desires than it is to talk about having desires that are not true to what you really want). But it isn’t about that, I’m just trying to work out who I really am and what I really want, and surely that’s the point of life!
*I read that website a while ago and that idea really stood out to me, but I can’t find the direct quote now. If I do I’ll add it in!
EDIT: It’s bothering me that this article seems somewhat dry and abstract. This is because in order to flesh it out and make it really interesting I’d have to explain exactly what my “untrue” desires and “genuine” desires are, and I’m really not up for doing that in a public forum right now. Deal with it!