That’s Just Queer

Our bodies have been born into conflict with this social order. We need to deepen that conflict and make it spread. –  The Mary Nardini Gang

Wait, wait, wait. Let’s back up.

I realized somewhat belatedly that no one should begin a blog under the title “Undercover Queer” and neglect to define the term queer. I do find the term “queer” to be inclusive of my sexuality, but queerness is by no means indicative of sexuality alone.

Queerness is not synonymous with those who exist under the LGBT umbrella. Queerness denotes sexual preferences and practices, but at its core queerness is a revolt against normalcy. Queerness discards the preferential practices of a heterosexual, white-centered, patriarchal society. Queerness is what mainstream society deems as abnormal, undesirable, dangerous. Queerness is a threat to the status quo, because those who choose queer as a lifestyle both recognize the injustice and hypocrisy at that society’s core, and commit to fighting against it.

Queerness is both a place and position. It is a space that creates room for those our culture identifies as the alien, the immoral, the criminal, the deviant. It is an anti-society; it is an insurrectionary response. But it is also an alignment against totality, against the oppression of the overwhelming majority, against the crushing popular conception. It is a revolt against a culture of privilege that designates us as being unworthy of privilege, because we do not fit within the limits of “normalcy.”

Normalcy is everything that society has groomed you to be. It is the future already predetermined for you, without your consent.It is defined and structured by capitalism, by civilization, by the violence of empire. It is maintained by practices of violence and intimidation. Normalcy is every slur and every threat you have ever experienced. It is the ostracization and condemnation of the Christian right. It is the assumption that you should desire the same things as every other American, that you should assimilate into mainstream American lifestyle. It is the reasoning that gay individuals should possess the same rights as others because “they’re just like us.” It is the assumption that until we are “just like everyone else,” with children and a lifelong partner and minivans and steady jobs, that we do not deserve those rights. Normalcy is police brutality, it is repeated rape, it is the criminal convictions of four lesbians of color who defended themselves against the hate of a heterosexual white male. Normalcy is the practice of domination, the subjugation of everything that does not neatly fall under its totality.

Normalcy does violence to both our bodies and minds; it is emotional and cultural terrorism. Anyone who has experienced the anguish of not being able to fulfill the rigid expectations of loved ones, the pain of being considered a lesser person and of less worth and importance, of being ignored and demonized simply because one is “other,” understands that normalcy rejects bodies and minds that do not fit within the social code. Normalcy mutilates, poisons and erases us, in order to “help” and “allow” us to fit within the social norm, to ascribe to the ideals of whiteness, of prosperity, of “male” and “female,” of monogamy and family-oriented life. And if we cannot achieve these ideals, we are taught to hate who we are, to blame and abuse our bodies and our inner selves.

Queerness, then, cannot share a discourse with other forms of social analysis. It is not class or race or sex theory; it is not a continuation or an offshoot of any political theory. There is no space in existing narratives for us. We do not want, even if we were granted, a place in a model that is designed for heterosexuals. The history of queers in our civilization is the history of criminals, and even now queers that refuse to assimilate into normalcy are often considered immoral and criminal – the seedy, diseased underbelly of society.

Yet we can claim our past and redefine the stories that society tells of us. We may have been disenfranchised and marginalized; we may still be criminals. But as criminals and undesirables, we have – slowly and painfully, but we have – created a space outside the domination of normalcy. And it is that space  that will threaten and topple the constructions of normalcy. Queerness does not seek half-hearted concessions and politically correct patter; it seeks to destroy the systems of domination that maintain the world we live in. We want to overthrow and eradicate the world that our culture believes in, the only world that normalcy posits as possible. In this way, our culture is right to be afraid of us, but everyone forgets that this conflict was begun centuries ago. We are simply here to inherit it.

Queer historian Susan Stryker asserts that the state acts to“regulate bodies, in ways both great and small, by enmeshing them within norms and expectations that determine what kinds of lives are deemed livable or useful and by shutting down the space of possibility and imaginative transformation where peoples’ lives begin to exceed and escape the state’s use for them.”

By imagining sex and sexual practice outside the patriarchal norm, as separate and distinct from constructions of hetero-normative identity, we are creating that dangerous imaginative space. We are subverting the realm of sexuality and by acting upon our illicit desires, rejecting the narrative of heterosexuality and privilege.  Queerness opens the door to true identification with oneself, to healing the scars of forced assimilation, to inverting and redefining society’s label of miscreant, lowlife, unmentionable.


2 Comments so far
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This reminds me a lot of a book we read in Graduate School by Paolo Friere called the Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I don’t know if you have heard of it, but I enjoyed the first part of it especially. He was a Brazilian guy who got kicked out of his country for educating those in poverty. It wasn’t that educating them was “bad” as long as he educated them in the accepted way. But he educated them in a way so as to help them gain more autonomy and freedom. It really was just a picture of the fact that education and cultural expectations are a powerful tool. the sad thing is that they are usually used as tools to control others, or to suppress or oppress others rather than as tools that can lead to freedom.

Comment by Jeff Williams

check out http://www.crimethinc.com/
You might enjoy it.

Comment by Alvaro Gundzalo

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