Nobody Passes DE


Reading essays from the anthology That's Revolting: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity alongside JJ Halberstam's The Queer Art of Failure allows for the problematization of conceptions of 'queer' as inherently radical (by this I am defining the term radical as referring to root cause of social inequity). If one is to take failure as an inherent art of "queerness", what becomes of those who do not have the luxury/privilege to fail? Theorizing from a space of seemingly unchecked race and class privilege, JJ Halberstam hardly seems to engage with material implications of failure within neoliberalist structures that require the success of some at the failure of many. Erased is the link between failure and violence and violence, where the material implications of violence exist to the extent of bodily harm, homelessness, poverty, deportation and starvation, access to healthcare and even death. This denies the power of institutional and structural violence through implying a degree of agency and autonomy that many may not have while romanticizing the notion of what it means to fail in multiple contexts. Who is absent from a definition of 'queer' subjectivity that assumes a certain degree of privilege in order for one to be 'queer'? What subjects exist in contradiction to "queer" (i.e. queer's abject, an impossibility to queer or be queer)? How is capitalism, dominance and hegemony rearticulated in a 'queer'/not 'queer' dichotomy that values certain identities and means of resistance over others?
In their essay "The End of Genderqueer", Rocko Bulldagger presents limitations of the terms 'queer' and 'genderqueer'. Some questions one could pose of genderqueer from Bulldagger's reading are: Is genderqueer a politics of exclusion? Who is absent from conversations that produce 'queer' discourse and understandings of gender and sexuality? What is the radical potential of an exclusively defined community that divides people into camps of those who get 'queer' and those who do not?
Many in Bulldagger's community define 'butch' identities as archaic. According to Bulldagger, many genderqueer folk read butch as bogged down with "too much baggage", implying that 'butch' embodies masculinity in a way that is not queer. This reading of butch is homogenizing and reeks of ageism and classism, as it discounts the validity of older generations experiences of queerness while ignoring the working-class roots many butch-identified folk come from (Stone Butch Blues anyone?). While Bulldagger does not implicitly state this, I do wonder if this dismissal of 'butch' identities subconsciously seeks to establish 'queer' as something modern that was created from the scraps of inactive queer subjectivities found in previous generations. Many LGBT theorists of color suggest that the way to the future is paved by ones relationship to their histories.
Bulldagger also questions the absence of queer people of color, cisgender femmes, trans woman and folks who have "transitioned all the way, however [one] define[s] that today" (That's Revolting pg). First discussing the absence of femininity, this is interesting to me as it seemingly rearticulates heteronormative misogyny albeit in a slightly different context. Referencing arguments presented by Julia Serrano in her book, Whipping Girl, we may have reached a point where it is out of fashion to openly discriminate against someone who would identify as female; this is altogether different from saying we have reached a place where masculinity and femininity are equally valued. This is arguably the case for heteronormative and 'queer' communities alike). By Serrano's argument, many in 'queer' communities read those who actively choose femininity as their gender identity and expression as compliant in their own oppression. This naturalizes a hierarchical relationship between masculinity and femininity, where masculinity is more desirable.
Classed assumptions define femininity as inextricably linked to a politics of consumption. Identification as femme and expressions of femininity by this interpretation, exist solely through accumulation of material possessions--clothing, makeup, and perfume--rather than something innate to one's being. While this may play out differently in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans communities, it seemingly does exist as a link between many of those under the umbrella term of "queer". Class informs how one is to do and be 'queer' (Butler on performance and performativity).
Similar to class, race also informs how one is to do and be 'queer'. Cathy J. Cohen and many other LGBT people of color have expressed hesitation in readily adopting the term 'queer', often because of the relationship between queerness and unmarked whiteness (Alan Bérubé How Queer Stays White and What Kind of White it Stays is a good read for anyone who wants to learn more about this). Universalizing 'queer' is both patronizing and colonizing as it privileges the experiences of 'queer' identified white folk while eclipsing the narratives of LGBT people of color.

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