DE 3: That's Revolting!

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My assigned Tracking Term reading included selections from the book That's Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, which includes submissions from various authors concerned with anit-assimilationist queer resistance. I would encourage you all to take a look at this book, which is very helpful in interrogating anti-assimilationist queer politics and strategies. For my Tracking term project, I focused on three pieces that highlighted and/or problematized potential sites of queer resistance.

The first piece is entitled "Sites of Racism or Sites of Resistance?" and is written by Priyank Jindal. In this essay, Jindal points to the emergence of mainstream gay patriotism and its racist implications. The author framed the move as an assimilation accomplished through white supremacy, one that pitted the privileged (presumably white) "Amerikan" against the figure of the Middle Eastern terrorist and asked mainstream "Amerika" who was worse. Their ability to mainstream, siding with the "victims" of anti-"Amerikan" terrorism, was a highly visible assertion of white privilege. The author goes on to highlight some of the ways in which mainstream gay activist and cultural groups are rarely concerned with issues affecting the poor, the non-white, the trans, etc.

The next piece I looked at was entitled "Revolting", presumably an inspiration for the name of the book, and was written by Josina Manu Maltzman. In this text, Maltzman focuses on resisting gay mainstream consumerist culture. For example, she starts the piece off my telling of her attendance at a Gay Pride Festival in which she was costumed to protest the event. The author also suggests the importance of resisting certain privileges that may be afforded to her due to her status as a white, anglo-featured Jew. She goes on to encourage others who can "pass", who have certain privileges, not to take advantage of them.

The last piece used in my presentation was entitled "Inside the Box", written by Neil Edgar, a zine author who, at least at the time, was imprisoned in the California state penitentiary system. Edgar writes very candidly about his status as a rebellious resistance in an institution that's primary goal is to dehumanize and deindividualize its captives. He also talks about the rigid binary (trans)gender roles that emerge within the prison when men assume homonormatively traditional butch/femme performances within the institution, expression they would not necessarily assume on the "outside". I found this piece particularly interesting not only because of the awesome writing, but because of the massive, all-encompassing forces that the author is resisting from. To resist in a system specifically designed to demoralize and erase difference is quite a feat.

3 Comments

This was a really interesting presentation and I particularly enjoyed hearing about these pieces. The Jindal piece has obvious overlap with homonationalism. The 9/11 context always has very interesting implications and I thought that was fascinating.
I'm really interested in the Revolting piece and the concept of casting off your own privilege. It seems as if the author is refusing passing. I think this is interesting in terms of visibility. Although, I don't know how I feel about the author's urge for everyone to refuse their privilege. Thinking back to our discussions of coming out, is there privilege in the ability to refuse privilege? That seems like a silly sentence. And, does the author assume the subject's agency in passing or failing to pass? Do subjects have agency over that process or are they defined as subjects through that process (oh hi, Butler)? I'm also thinking about our discussion related to Chaz Bono. Many of us were fine critiquing the idea of Chaz integrating into a heteronormative framework, but I at least was not comfortable to say that Chaz should not desire that passing or refuse it. Now maybe I need to read the piece myself, but these were a few of my premature thoughts.
Also, I definitely want to read the Edgar piece. Has anyone seen Lock-Up, particularly the episode where they show basically a trans group putting on fashion shows? Because it's really interesting and the prisoners talk about their trans- identity as if it is a transitory period.

This was a really interesting presentation and I particularly enjoyed hearing about these pieces. The Jindal piece has obvious overlap with homonationalism. The 9/11 context always has very interesting implications and I thought that was fascinating.
I'm really interested in the Revolting piece and the concept of casting off your own privilege. It seems as if the author is refusing passing. I think this is interesting in terms of visibility. Although, I don't know how I feel about the author's urge for everyone to refuse their privilege. Thinking back to our discussions of coming out, is there privilege in the ability to refuse privilege? That seems like a silly sentence. And, does the author assume the subject's agency in passing or failing to pass? Do subjects have agency over that process or are they defined as subjects through that process (oh hi, Butler)? I'm also thinking about our discussion related to Chaz Bono. Many of us were fine critiquing the idea of Chaz integrating into a heteronormative framework, but I at least was not comfortable to say that Chaz should not desire that passing or refuse it. Now maybe I need to read the piece myself, but these were a few of my premature thoughts.
Also, I definitely want to read the Edgar piece. Has anyone seen Lock-Up, particularly the episode where they show basically a trans group putting on fashion shows? Because it's really interesting and the prisoners talk about their trans- identity as if it is a transitory period.

This is such a great book! I need to pick it up again to refresh myself on some of the essays.

Responding to the Jindal piece, it makes me think of the relationships between homonationalism, racism, gentrification and colonization. Specifically when GL(BTQ) organizations protested the homophobic message on a missile headed for Afghanistan. There is a juxtaposition between the United States and Western Europe, specifically white, upper-middle class highly educated folks and those poor people of color living in regions in other parts of the world. The US and Western Europe are imagined as places of true democracy where material differences between differently raced, classed, gendered, sexed and sexualized subjects are imagined to no longer exist. All countries outside of these regions are imagined as stuck in a historic past of development, it is implied that the spread of 'democracy' and free trade will perhaps lead to these countries 'catching up' and being on the same page. This ignores histories of colonization, where many cultures inherited homophobic and heterosexist violence from colonizers. This also ignores disparities and social inequities that exist within the United States. For example, the rural and the south are presented in a similar light (as suspended in development). Interestingly, these are also areas that are inhabited disproportionately by working-class folk and/or people of color.

Josina's piece raises the question: When I pass, who fails? This is incredibly important to consider, as when a person has their gender and sexuality read as valid and legitimate, this reading can only come at the rendering of another person's gender and sexuality as illegible and invalid. Josina refuses participation in the game, claiming the creation of alternate families and communities as a viable site of resistance.

I'm not sure I remember the Neil Edgar piece as it has been at least 3 years since I read it. Something that your direct engagement made me think of is the inherent queerness in refusing dominant ideologies that seek to subjugate a population of people. Edgar suggests that the prison industrial complex seeks to demoralize and erase. I see this as occurring both in how incarcerated populations are effectively erased from the larger society--such as they are not physically visible, but they are also not included in demographics of unemployment and homelessness. There is also the process that occurs from within that erases individual histories.

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