The language of the title comes from various discussions of queer identity, and are expressly not terms I would use in other contexts. Don’t go telling your momma that you’re saying it because Sly did, mmmkay?

The larger discussion here is coming out of many conversations, not least of which were Emily’s insightful comments in my last thread. What follows is my attempt to sort out my response.

First, we have a problem of discussion. I’ve rejected (though not given up on) the term “bisexual.” The contradiction here stems from the fact that this is the name by which my community is most visible, yet it again produces an erasure of certain queer identities. So, I’m going to get picky with language here.

Secondly, we have a problem of affiliation. I say queer like it’s an umbrella term. It’s not. It’s a contested term of identity politics, with various factions of would be queers vying for the legitimacy of the language, or fighting it’s use altogether. I try to never knowingly apply it to someone who doesn’t want the term, but it is a consequence of my generalized use of the term that some folks I talk about that way might respond to that language as hurtful. And even if we ironed out the language issue, some folks don’t want to be on the same bus. I’ve discussed “Questioning Transgender” before as the prima facie case that queer communities can be filled with assholes. Directly throwing other people under the bus, these kinds of splits occur over several lines.

And one of them is being out. And I talked a little last time of how being closeted is seen so negatively these days. While I think that’s it’s pretty damn difficult for someone who’s out to have a relationship with someone who isn’t, some of the vitriol that gets brought up in these fights just makes me think that there’s some projection going on. Instead of dealing with out own issues of internalized anti-queer rhetorics, we project it on “them.” Honestly, I don’t think the pinnacle of self-hating gays are the closet cases, or even the Exodus types. I kind of think it might be the people who have the choices, freedom, and social location that would enable them to construct a queer identity that is authentic to who they are, but just buy in to a commercialized, merchandised, and Het-Friendly relationship model. I’m not exempting myself from this…

Another is being “out.” Both the terms above the kind of language that is sometimes deployed against perceptions that some queers aren’t fully on board with the Grand Queer Project. Our internecine fights distract us from the fact that we don’t actually have a Grand Queer Project. “Lesbian until graduation,” “bisexual chic,” “diet queer,” “down low,” “questioning,” and a million more slurs or euphemisms are part of our discussion, as we judge the purity of prospective queers. Either a person is really in, or they’re actually het. There is appropriation going on, and I don’t entirely dismiss the argument that lies behind them.

But I disagree with many of the responses. Some folks think that by aiming at the fake queers, we can protect the real ones. My sense is that the resolution really lies in altering our relationship to visibility. Instead of displacement, think subversion. If “bi-sexual chic” glorifies het women who make out for het male gaze, then let’s crank up the visibility of ambiguous men, and other silenced sexualities. “Lipstick lesbians” aren’t going to get beat out of the public sphere. And there’s going to be waay too much crossfire if we try. But we do have the capability to work on being deliberate about burlesquing het fascination with those identities.

I should pause here, and try to state with a straight face that I’m not just proposing this because it would mean the popularization of queer ambiguous male heartthrobs. Wink.

But really. One of the greatest traditions that queerdom has is the subversion of the image. Drag, camp, exaggeration, are all time honored ways of playing with gender images. And if that means valorizing exactly what Het America doesn’t want from us, so much the better. Dominance over social culture is hard to achieve, and so we settle for targeting individual appropriators. Why be content with that?

Dearest Lifers; Your life is not made difficult by ambiguity. The solution to chic and appropriation is not homonormativity, or the exclusion of portions of the queer community. It is in counter-production. We could have a privilege-off, and try to decide who’s more marginalized. I’m gonna put this out there. If you’re a white American queer, chances are you can put that all down and get to the table so we can talk. We’ve got siblings who are in real trouble…recall that the cops didn’t care who you were at Stonewall. Dykes, trannies, fags, whatever. It was all about the bricks we threw. And it’s not over.

Dearest Appropriators; Your life will not be made easier by being queer. If that’s not your cup of tea, I suggest you try a different cultural motif to play with. You may think that you’re going to skip in and out of privilege, picking up just enough credibility to make you cool. You may get stuck. I would hope that every queer community would move to welcoming those who want to be with us. But if you don’t want to be here, I’d be careful if I were you. Being queer in America is a difficult negotiation, and the Mainstream Gaze that rewards you now can take you down the moment it gets upset.

Dearest Ambiguous Folk; I believe we have a special mission within queer community. As the folks who have compromised (but extant) positions in both het and queer hierarchies, we have the chance to raise issues from the third position, a hybridity. We need to be honest about the ways in which “passing” affects our lives in different ways, but re-center the discussion that doesn’t automatically assume that that’s a bad thing. The problem is not in adapting to mainstream culture or in fighting it. It’s in the less than deliberate choices about when to do each.

Love,

-sly

Ps. If anyone ever calls me “Diet Queer” ever again, I will cheerfully tell them to die in a fire.

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