Question #1: The Queer Child

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In "Curioser: On the Queerness of Children," Bruhm and Hurley discuss the use of the future anterior (Felipa's sexual desires for Christine "will pass") to assert childhood innocence while simultaneously preparing the child for entry into the heterosexual paradigm. Meanwhile, in her Introduction to "The Queer Child," Stockton discusses the "gay child" as one who can only exist retrospectively in the past-- through a "future act of looking back" (9). How do these two different strategies-- the use of the future tense and the use of a retrospective "gay child" work together? Do you see the two theorists' approaches as complimentary or at odds with one another? What is the effect of locating the queer or gay child in the future or past (never the present)? If the gay or queer child never exists in the present, then does such a child exist at all?

 

What do you make of works (like Owens' book mentioned in "Curioser") that paraphrase the words of their subjects? Is this ever a useful strategy, or does overlaying a narrative on the disparate voices of one's subjects necessarily obscure their message(s)? Does your opinion depend at all upon whether the subjects who were interviewed are pleased with how their stories were retold? 

 

What violence does the fiction of childhood innocence do to children? And to adults? How does this kind of "violence" relate to our discussion of violence earlier in the semester, when we were talking about ACT-UP and choreographies of protest?

 

What purpose does the fiction of childhood innocence serve for adults in society? While Stockton focuses on the violence that this narrative does to children, does it also have benefits?

 

How do you understand Stockton's notion of "growing sideways"? Do you find this terminology helpful to explain children's development? Why or why not?

 

After reading all of the children's short stories, it seems that a common theme is that if you are a troublemaker you are punished with a "time out." What is the significance of this particular punishment? What does a "time out" really mean? What is the logic behind having a "troublesome" child "cool down a bit" and reflect on their actions?

 

In the stories from the children's book, I noticed that not all of the stories revolved around children misbehaving. Rather, the stories were about children and women (The Not So Clean Queen and Grandma the Pirate). What message is the book sending to both our kids (and us as adults) by indicating that not only children, but also women, need to be tought to behave or risk punishment? Why is it that "women and children" are always grouped together-- as troublemakers, victims, or those in need of protection?  In the "Curioser" article it was mentioned that the movements to ban pornography were aimed at the safeguarding of "women and children." What is the double-logic of locating children and women simultaneously as the sources of trouble and those who need to be protected from trouble?

 

 

 

2 Comments

Regarding your first question: I don't think these two conceptions are at odds with each other. Rather, I think they both point to our lack of language/understanding and hence the need to fictionalize (whether through movies/books or through writing narratives for someone else or through excluding situating children within the present or silencing their actual presences, identities, and self-constructions). I like how you and the authors tied this to the concept of innocence: societally, we have built a narrative (how much of it is fictionalized and how much based in both societal and biological constructs and understandings, I have no idea) around children and need to fit conceptions of sexuality in this.

I am curious about how parental expectations and what I often see as a (white, middle-class) belief that children are a reflection of their parents also play into this. I often see instances where parents are unable to separate themselves as people from their children as people; this, for instance, would be why having a gay child is "like a death in the family" for straight parents whose conception of their children is that they should be like the parents. Whether in the school system or in the home, culturally a lot of time is spent trying to regulate children. Which is at odds with the narrative we've built about childhood being a special time of innocence and exploration--because there are definite rules and boundaries around that exploration.

I think this relates to your question about what happens when the queer child is always located in the past or the future. Since queer children don't fit into the narrative or the "acceptable" bounds of exploration, they can't exist in the present. And if their self-identification or exploration is frightening/unacceptable/"inappropriate," then the words of those children might also need to be paraphrased/not allowed to exist for themselves (your second question).

As a side note, I found the "fictionalization" of some of the stories in the children's book to be problematic, especially as troublemakers who are "bad"/misbehaving are conflated with troublemakers who are challenging oppression. (I don't think that fighting imperialistic wars is the same thing as challenging legal segregation by race.) I think that we should be encouraging children (and adults) to troublemake, if by that we mean question and challenge, and equating that to not taking a bath (a cultural conception that the author doesn't address) is dangerous.

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