I chose my terms, resist/reject, because I was interested in the additional readings for the terms and because I believe that, as Kate Bornstein states, one cannot do queer theory without putting it into praxis unless they are heteronormative. I have self-defined as 'queer' and have been politically active for a number of years, though it was only within the past two or three that I became familiar with queer theory. Informed by activism, I believe queer theory without queer praxis ceases to be queer, as it has lost its radical potential through its rootedness within the privileged space of the academy. As Kate Bornstein may state, queer theory without queer praxis is a cooptation of 'queer' by folks who theorize queerly but practice heteronormatively.
To me, queering as a verb is impossible without resisting and/or rejecting. Queer/ing, as a process of resisting and rejecting seeks to make visible the non-normative gaps and spaces in which 'queer' subjects and communities fall into unintelligibility (I'm referencing Eve Kosofsky-Sedgdewick here). These politics require visibility to be politically effective, but not to the degree of being fully legible and understandable. I argue that queer needs visibility to a degree because without visibility 'queer' will only ever remain known to an exclusive few. To reference Rocko Bulldagger, exclusivity is reflective of a 'scene' rather than a social movement.
My non-sexual academic partner, Anna, and Jose Esteban Muñoz, helped me out in thinking through differences between the terms resistance and rejection. Previously, I had not differentiated between the terms but after taking this course, my opinion has changed. I will start with a section talking about resistance before I move into my problematization of rejection.
Resistance: I define resistance as an active process in which one engages in struggle WITHIN discourse. For Butler, resistance can exist through picking up objects and redefining their symbolic meanings. By this view, normative matrixes enshroud us as subjects, and we are never completely outside of them. Butler recognizes that resistance is contingent upon the object as strategically placed there in the first place. This is how I understand Muñoz's concept of disidentification. Disidentifying is reliant on something that already existed in order to empower and effectively resist dominant discourses and violence.
I believe our understandings of objects inform our own subjectivity. That is to say that our subjectivity is constructed by our ways of knowing. Objects of knowledge are not simply passive in this process, our definition of them informs our ways of knowing (Donna Haraway's Situated Knowledges and Cyborg Manifesto informed this). How we understand the 'self', bodies, institutions, science, and technology speaks to this.
For Dorothy Allison, resistance is present through challenging the limitations of dominant lesbian and gay coming out narratives. These narratives assume a certain classed and raced position that universalizes the experience of white upper-middle class queers who are able to migrate from 'rural' to 'urban' in order to actualize themselves as queer subjects. Multiple social positions influence gender identity, gender expression and sexuality. Allison makes this clear in her understanding of how class affected her sexuality and gender. How might coming out narratives of the working class, immigrants, folks with dis/abilities, LGBTQ people of color, and folks who did not make the 'rural' to 'urban' migration look different? What assumptions can we interrogate regarding ones ability to afford relocation? What assumptions can we interrogate regarding ones ability to access higher education (recognizing this as a reason many leave their hometowns)? Can LGBTQ communities who have always lived in the 'city' be placed in this narrative? Does the 'city' grant them the same degree of anonymity? The process of actualizing ones queer subjectivity is more complicated than the 'rural' to 'urban' trajectory allows. Resisting is more complicated than an awareness of and a critique to dominant discourses, as it requires we look deeper in order to recognize how we have internalized and normalized numerous aspects of discourse.
Miranda Joseph's queering of Marxism becomes valuable in this context. Assigning value to the production of some bodies over others mirrors material and economic production and consumption. In Allison's case, the narratives of certain queers were taken as natural and normal. Likewise, capital, production and consumption influence the embodiment of ones gender and sexuality.
These questions become important for me when we consider the relationships between queer resistance and space. Resistance in this context is contingent upon the ability to queer those spaces already present. I recognize the necessity of safer spaces for queer communities, but also an inability for them to exist entirely separate from the larger society if the end goal is to affect broader change. To me, the role of rejection is the creation of temporary spaces and within certain instances. Rejection is not a sustainable and ongoing process like resistance.
Rejection: I believe rejection calls for a creation of altogether new discourses and ideologies that exist outside of dominant discourses. I do not recognize a full possibility for rejection to affect lasting change that influences structures and institutions. In order for something to be queer, something else needs to be defined as not queer. If there is an outside and an inside to queer, can rejection of dominant heteronormative discourses exist in a way that does more than rearticulate, repackage and redefine norms? Can queering as a means of rejection speak fully to the numerous ways in which one's subjectivity and community are eclipsed by dominant discourses?
Cathy J Cohen's essay, "Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens", is helpful for looking at the limitations of rejecting heteronormative discourses on gender and sexuality as it makes clear exclusionary practices queer enacts through defining itself as in direct opposition to heterosexuality. Working class folks, immigrants, and people of color who are non-normative in many ways (and heterosexual), are absent from this definition of queer. Cohen also discusses the hesitation by many LGBT people of color in using the word 'queer' to define themselves or their communities, recognizing the harsh connotations of the word in its previous usage and the unchecked whiteness in 'queer's' interpretation of gender and sexuality as the root cause of oppression. This discounts the experiences of folks who face multiple forms of oppression and view their sexuality and gender identity as secondary to other primary identities (such as race and class). I do not believe queer can include differently raced and classed understandings of LBGT people of color when it is largely defined by and for white queer folk whose knowledge of gender and sexuality is informed by their race and class. Having attended the White Privilege Conference two separate times, I can definitely speak to this, as LGBTQ caucuses at this conference have always been overwhelmingly white. This is also the case when one looks at queer spaces in Minneapolis, New Orleans, and Olympia Washington -all of which I have lived in and been present in activist communities.
Referencing Miranda Joseph again, I believe that queer privileges certain gender expressions and identities over others. Rocko Bulldagger offers a list of who is not included in the umbrella term of queer, citing "people of color", "femmes" and "trans women". If queer is truly fluid and holds radical potentiality, it will always need to do more than engage in a process of subversion. Taking the bottom and flipping it to the top may never be enough. Further, it may be impossible.
A friend of mine of who is a local hip hop artist in Minneapolis and identifies as a transgender woman asked once at a concert, "How many benefit parties have folks here attended for gender-confirming surgeries for trans men? Great! Now how many benefit parties have folks here attended for gender-confirming surgeries for trans women?" Maybe one or two people responded out of an audience of over 100. A good amount of those present identified as trans men or gender queer. The presence of trans women was absent, and the presence of cisgender feminine folks was lacking.
I am at Homo-a-Gogo a queer punk rock music and film festival in 2009 in San Francisco California. I am watching a performance by a cisgender high femme female and a trans male at the SOMA Arts building just a number of blocks from the location of the Compton Cafeteria Riots. The trans male performer is hyper-masculine in his presentation and has danced in front of, interrupted and cut-off his performing-partner numerous times in front of an audience of 400 people. Similar to the concert in Minneapolis, there were not many trans woman present and while cisgender femininity was present, it was often confronted with explicit misogyny.
What does it mean that trans women are largely absent from queer spaces? What does it mean that trans men who intend on presenting a queer form of masculinity are still using masculinity as a weapon of misogyny? I have trouble reading these two things as entirely separate. Especially considering the proximity I was in to the site of one of the first documented uprisings of trans women, queer men and other gender non-conforming folk. Police regularly harassed many of whom because they could not find stable employment outside of sex work. The Compton Cafeteria Riots predated the Stonewall Riots by 4 years.
In her book Whipping Girl, Julia Serrano states that we have moved beyond a place where folks can explicitly devalue women while valuing men. However, we have not reached a place where we equally value masculinity and femininity. By this reading, masculinity is more desirable and natural while femininity is superfluous and fake. The absence of queer femininities in queer spaces implies that masculinity holds more value than femininity at least in its malleability and fluidity. Serrano interprets the absence of femininity, and the hostility directed at femininity within queer spaces when it is present, as an internalization of misogyny and sexism. Serrano means to make visible an implicitly held view that seemingly renders anyone who would 'choose' feminine gender identities and expressions as compliant in their own oppression. Serrano also states that expressions of femininity are often understood primarily through consumption. If we are to take this seriously, that means that expressions of masculinity are embodied in oneself while expressions of femininity are possible only through purchasing feminine clothes and makeup.
A friend of mine who self-identifies as politically radical, queer, and femme wrote a zine about classed assumptions many held within queer communities regarding femininity. The zine was well received by some and read as divisive and dismissed by others. By offering these critiques, those who dismissed her believed she had created a problem, rather than calling attention to something that was already there.
JJ Halberstam in their book, The Queer Art of Failure, calls for all queers to embrace the darkness, illegibility, for the purposes of expanding the potential of LGBTQ social movements. Halberstam calls on us to directly reject heteronormativity, to fail and to fail well. Halberstam's definition of failure is myopic, as it does not address the material implications of failure for marginalized populations who experience multiple forms of oppression. Can undocumented immigrants afford to fail? What of the under employed, the impoverished, the homeless, the under and uninsured? Where do we place racism and classism in this politics? Where do we place chemical dependency, seroconversion, physical and sexual violence? The reality is that only a select few can afford to outright reject dominant discourses. Further, those who can reject may only be able to do so through limited means and only within certain context. Halberstam did not fail at getting their book published, nor did they fail to fill an auditorium and reap a handsome honorarium for speaking of the Queer Art of Failure. I do not mean this to be as snarky as it comes off. I actually adore JJ Halberstam (and not just because they complimented me on my outfit when I met them). I mean more to draw attention to irony.
On the Blog: I loved the use of the blog for this course and for multiple reasons. I believe it facilitated deeper conversation and understanding of many topics and theorizations addressed in this class. For me, it made the class feel more like a community rather than individual students seeking to pass a course. Seeing what my classmates had to say and being encouraged to directly engage with their words definitely improved my understanding of topics. I also appreciate the public posting of writings as it more thoroughly engages with Freirean pedagogies that highly value the ability of students and professor alike to contribute knowledge to the classroom. Something happens when one writes publicly. The author loses a degree of ownership over their writing, as it has been given over to others for their interpretation. Gloria Anzaldúa understood her published writing in a similar fashion.
I did not like twitter unfortunately. I successfully resisted getting a twitter account until this class and believe I only posted about half the things on twitter as I was supposed to.