TACC Video Transcript
Deploying the Mother Ireland trope that has largely been manipulated and contested by Irish writers, Patrick McCabe questions Ireland’s relationship to transgender citizens. Through Pussy, McCabe suggests that transgender individuals must negotiate their relationship to the motherland, discovering that they must look beyond Ireland for a national identity. This paper will first examine the Mother Ireland trope in Irish literature and its effects on queer citizens. Then I will consider the question of whether those who reject the normative gender identities of society can be children of the Irish motherland. Lastly, I will suggest that queer citizens must create a motherland outside the Irish borders in which they create the norms.
Many critics have argued that McCabe’s work emphasizes the trope of Mother Ireland, and I agree that Breakfast on Pluto also explores this important image. Not only is Pussy searching for her biological mother, but she is also searching for her motherland. Pussy cries, “‘Where are you, Mammy?’ I might often be heard to choke. ‘Where are you?’ … How long to one finds mammy? Has anyone seen my mammy?” Although speaking of her biological mother, it can also be inferred that Pussy desires to find her motherland, a nation in which she is protected, supported, and loved. Pussy says, “For without her, how can I ever belong on this earth?” This is particularly troubling when considered in terms of a motherland. If an individual does not belong to a motherland, how can she feel a sense of belonging to this earth?
The body must be controlled by the cultural powers in order to prevent individuals from moving outside the acceptable norms of body, gender, and sex. If the body does not follow the cultural laws, as Pussy’s doesn’t, then the culture tries to destroy it. Although the cultural laws are not “internalized,” they are manifested within the body. And so those who cannot conform to the laws, cannot construct their body within that culture, and must instead find a culture (or create one) whose laws will accept them. Because Pussy does not conform to the cultural laws placed on her body, she is constantly attacked by Irish culture, and therefore, cannot fit within it. In order to find belonging and save her body and self from cultural destruction, she must create her own nation, culture, and laws to follow.
And so on a micro-level, Pussy’s ability to accept herself and find belonging through the creation of herself as her motherland is an inspiring idea for queer citizens who otherwise may find no belonging. As we continue to examine the complicated relationship Ireland has had with its queer citizens, we must consider not only what literature can offer us on the micro-level but also on the macro-level. Due to the time constraints of this presentation, a significant discussion about Pussy’s contribution to the queer community in terms of national belonging is left unexplored, and I look forward both to continuing my exploration and to hearing what others are saying and will say. Thank you.