Final Blog - Youth

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1) Youth is an extremely difficult term to define. Every source I read on youth this semester implied a different definition. Therefore, to define youth, I think it is more prudent to begin with what it means to queering theory. Of course, this is an extremely broad question as well, as it seems EVERYTHING is relevant to queering theory. What I can definitively say, though, and what almost all the sources I have consulted imply, is that children themselves are extremely queer, benefit from direct discussions about and realizations from the adults around them that they are queer, and would benefit from being directly involved in queer theorizing and politics. Curiouser, of course, lays out a very convincing argument for the queerness of children, saying that children only become heteronormative when an adult narrative is imposed upon their own. Dean Spade, in Fighting to Win, discusses the importance of legislation and public policy and activism in the lives of poor, trans youth of color. And The Lesbian Parenting Book discusses the need for queer ways of family life to be accepted and the need for children to be exposed to queer cultural artifacts. None of these sources, however, define concretely what a child is, leaving more questions than answers: is childhood under age 18? under age of consent? the property of parents or wards of the state? This has left me with the impression that childhood is an age of legal vulnerability, in which the 'child' much too queer to be a valuable part of heteronormative society, must be molded and held in check by all possible apparatuses of discipline. "Child" is almost derogatory, implying that children are incapacitated by age and thus do not have concerns on the level of importance of adults. Dean Spade comes the closest of any of the sources I read to actually making what I would consider a useful argument for children. For all theorizing about children or the figure of the child, very few people consider doing the human work of entering children's own stories into queering theory, or working with children to help them have a true part in the creation of society. It has been extremely frusturating as a child care worker who has spent tremendous physical, emotional, and intellectual labor working with children to hear the ivory tower preach about them, clearly having precious little knowledge of children themselves, and certainly not accepting any responsibility or involvement with children. After all, children are people, too.

2) I keep coming back to the same problem with the word queering, and much of it is about my own grappelings with the word. I would like it to be a space of new possibilities for political existence, but the word is controlled by whoever uses it in a certain context with certain people. I would like it to mean Nyong'o's Punk'd Theory, which was my favorite reading of the semester, and not Micheal Warner's oversimplified binary between straight and queer. Rather, it is this 'between' that I want queer to be, the place of the abject, for that is where I find truth in my life. I have always disidentified with the word because it seems the emblem of the white gay man, and I am really not interested in this definition. I would disagree with others in class who say that queer is simply what the norm rejects, for I don't think this goes far enough into interrogating the norm as abject itself. It seems this definition depends upon the norm for its existence, and indeed is often more "normal" than people think it is, and I find that frightening. After all, Warner's mobility as a queer subject in the way that he is is dependent upon the violence our country is founded upon and operates on. In the end, every social circle, regardless of who they are, creates boundaries around themselves that are often more meaningless and contrived than meaningful and political. In class, Remy said that they wanted it to be the space of possibility as well, and a place of brutal honesty about the nature of our own existences, if I'm getting their comment right. But, of course, they also admitted that we are constrained at any one moment for how queer is being deployed by certain groups or individuals, no matter what we want it to be.

3) I deeply enjoyed tracking my term! I got to read a variety of sources and bring them into conversation with my own work, which has been most interesting. Mainly, I found support for my own prior convictions about youth being queer and I also found new ideas about the definition of youth, the production of youth, and developed useful ideas for engaging children directly in queer theorizing and possibly queer politics. My engagement with the abject was a vital part of my theorizing about youth and queering as well, and helped me sort out my own definitions and political ideas about what youth and queering are and about useful political action.
As for the blogging experience, I would definitely tell future students to start right away and keep a regular schedule for working on it. It is a lot more time consuming than other class blogs they may have had and it should be treated much like writing a paper than a purely informal blog. I must say, I didn't like blogging at first, but I really warmed up to it through the semester. It really is a great queer space for engagement, especially as Sara has encouraged us to stretch the definition of what a legitimate source is and how to engage on the blog and format our entries. The blog also provided a valuable way for students and professors to engage with each other on a variety of topics outside of class. Introducing a blogging activity and atmosphere helps us break down and transform the 'institution's' expectations about what is a worthwhile academic engagement.

2 Comments

I like your emphasis on the need for children/youth to be directly involved in queer theorizing and politics. What would that look like? At what age should/could this start? I am interested in what it means to think about children as theorists--in her essay, "Theory as Liberatory Practice," bell hooks (citing Terry Eagleton) suggests that children make the best theorists because they ask so many questions. I agree and see many connections between kids asking "why" questions, troublemaking and curiosity. I wrote about it here.

But even as I recognize the value of children asking questions, I still am left wondering what children-as-queer-theorists could look like? What venues or opportunities for expressing their theorizing do kids have? Are they already doing it, but we just don't recognize it? If so, do we need to expand what counts as theorizing? Are the programs available (or programs that we could imagine making available) for this?

Overheard at the coffeeshop by someone talking to a parent about their kid: "I don't see kids, I just see the futureā€¦and dollar signs." What does this mean? I can think of many different possibilities (all of which involve the problematic reduction of child to capital). What would Edelman say? What do you think? Maybe I should make this a "queer this" post?