Dear Gentle Readers,
Toronto has recently started its Pride celebrations. Personally, I have a somewhat mixed feeling about the function of Pride. Often, it seems to just be a celebration of sex, reducing an interesting and diverse community to what happens in the bedroom. Sadly, this is the problem of most LGBT politics - ultimately the queer rights movement is about sex.
Ok, ok, readers. I know too simple, too reductive. If queer theory has taught us anything, it is the the interesting thing about the LGBT community and its push for rights is that it has served to question many of the established institutions of society. LGBT rights not only questioned bigoted hetronormative strictures, it even served to undermine some of the limitations created through other rights movements such as the Feminist and African American. Specifically, Pride can be and at some points is a moment of communal unity in opposition to majority forces that try to marginalize. Pride can be a carnivalesque, topsy-turvy revelry. Sadly, often when Pride is not about fucking, it seems that it becomes a problematic push for tolerance. Tolerance, my dear friends, is not enough.
So what is the point of my post? Well, to be honest, readers, I am not certain, but I think I want to consider the state queer politics - its impact, its limits, and ultimately where to move forward.
I want to be clear about my terminology a bit. The problem is that in queer politics many different groups are represented and, disappointingly enough, not equally. For instance, queers of colour and trangendered individuals often are ignored in order to put forward the gender-stable, white, gay male face for the political movement. So getting back to terms, the word queer is a huge umbrella term that is purposefully inclusive, but the key is to remember that inclusively also tends to smooth out differences, flatten out the plane. Having this in mind, I will try my best to be careful with how I am using these terms. Often, I feel that queer has lost any purpose - many a times have I sat in a class and heard someone say "Everyone is queer." Great - so why say it? (ok, again I am being a bit antagonistic. The point in saying that everyone is queer is to point out that everyone has the potential in their methods of self-identification to undermine greater social narratives and structures. No one fulfills the requirements of society totally - no one is "perfect").
Again back to terms - so queer is less about an identifier as more of a subject position, and in this, it still has power. Who cares if some individual is queer when everyone is queer? But when we start understanding queer as a descriptor of a fundamental societal role - of the great societal gremlin, who tinkers and screws up the gears - we can start seeing the potentialities of the queer rights movement. This movement must move away from identity politics, which can never serve to adequately encompass all that need it. I am tired of minorities within the queer community being thrown under the bus for the sake of the greater cause. Never should a trans woman be told her rights have to wait. It is time for a real queer movement, one that test structures and actively demands change on its own terms.
I am not exactly sure what this movement will look like, but I know that this movement will not wait for the right president to make all the changes. This movement will have at its center an understanding that a real citizen has the requirement to demand the rights afforded to her. Obviously, these demands must come through legal means - overt radicalism accomplishes nothing. What I want is a queer rights movement that does not just demand marriage rights for gays, but even questions the role of marriage in society. Do we need it? Are there better alternatives? More importantly, does it actually serve the country's best interests?
In someways, the queer rights movement is oddly a patriotic one. I think after years of Bush's rhetoric, it is hard to talk about patriotism without a gagging (and personally, I don't think Obama's rhetoric has helped). What does patriotism mean? Who in the hell knows...but I hope it has something to do with truly understanding the true values underpinning this nation. Yes, these values are often generalized in grand words such as freedom, and at that point they lose all meaning. But if we understand patriotism too as a structural position, then once again, we see something more substantive. Patriotism is about getting back to the something. Specifically, I think true patriotism is true patriotism is loving you country so much that you are willing to change it and its traditions when they are no longer socially viable. If being queer has taught us anything, it is that America must not accept a state of affairs where it's citizens are denied basic rights and acceptance (note I did not say tolerance). I think then that demanding these rights is a strong patriotic move.
So to summarize a bit: I would argue basically that identity politics worked for a bit, but it is now failing. Tolerance, which I think has been the end goal of many LGBT groups, is unacceptable. I know it is a step in the right direction, but damn it, queers deserve more than that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality, and I think it is time to be a bit more intolerant of people who believe so. Like I said, I am not certain what I want the new queer rights movement to look like, but its appeals will be more about basic American tenets and foundational virtues. It will realize that to actively and openly and even somewhat radically demand your rights is not just acceptable, but appropriate. Quit waiting for the whims of politics, queers!
I have tons more to say on this topic. But I am not sure I am being entirely clear, so I want to post this and get some feedback before I go further. Please do feel free to share this and respond.
Your Humblest Author.
P.S. This post is definitely a very raw draft of my current thoughts. I plan to do tons of research and work on what I have presented here, so please feel free to comment and give me research suggestions. Also, I apologize that my first real post in months is so polemical. Also, for my Canadian readers, this post was written primarily for an American audience and political environment. Although, I would love to see how it relates to Canada.