engaging directly with cohen, #2

For this DE I thought I'd just pick a few sections of the article that really stuck out to me. Here goes nothin':

"Assimilation is killing us. We are falling into a trap. Some of us adopt an apologetic stance, stating "that's just the way I am" (read: "I'd be straight if I could."). Others pattern their behavior in such a way as to mimic heterosexual society so as to minimize the glaring differences between us and them. No matter how much [money] you make, fucking your lover is still illegal in half of the states."
(QUASH 29)

This excerpt from the activist group QUASH's manifesto gives a powerful, first-person (as it were) account of the pressures of heteronormativity and assimilation to it. It expresses the anger, resentment, and injustice of the legal system and the costs of attempting (and failing?) to assimilate as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning person. Cohen then takes this manifesto and the emotions/ideas its expressing and voices her own concern with its relatively simplistic adherence to the oppositional binary of hetero/queer, and questions the label queer (in the following quote) as well as poses questions meant to destabilize and mobilize the non-normative formations of heterosexuality (the last quote).

"But like other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists of color, I find the label "queer" fraught with unspoken assumptions that inhibit the radical political potential of this category."
(Cohen 35)

"Despite its liberatory claim to stand in opposition to static categories of oppression, queer politics and much of queer theory seem in fact to be static in the understanding of race, class, and gender and their roles in how heteronormativity regulates behavior and identities. Distinctions between the status and the acceptance of different individuals categorized under the label "heterosexual" thus go unexplored." (Cohen 36)

Mostly, I just appreciated a further fleshing out of the terms 'queer,' 'queer theory,' 'heterosexuality,' 'heteronormativity,' and 'gay politics.' Her discussion of the term 'queer' as a potentially radical political category is informed by her experience as a woman activist of color. She recognizes that the danger in assuming the identity queer too readily and too easily could very quickly result in the erasure of particular lived experiences and points of view that come from differences in race, class, gender, etc. 'Queer' as a category, then, has both the danger of becoming a monolithic, stable label, slapped on any non-heterosexual person and potential to be effectively political if questioned and talked about.

I also really connected to the questioning and problematizing of the category of heteronormativity. Before, I'd felt that within discussions of gender and sexuality, and the politics that come with them, the category/identity of heterosexual was simply used as the identity to define oneself in opposition to, even to the point that heterosexuality and heteronormativity were almost conflated in my mind. But Cohen argues that using the terms in such a way, in not questioning them, 'heterosexual' becomes as lacking in radical political possibilities as does an unquestioned use of the term 'queer.' She opens up the supposedly and typically 'normative' category of heterosexuality to non-conformativity, and to the possibility for non-normative, transgressive, and allied actions. I felt like she was opening up discursive space for me, a white-heterosexual-middle class woman, to enter into the conversation and potential radical political action/thought, by this questioning and destabilizing of heterosexuality/heteronormativity.

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