LGBT, Q? A queer case against the Q

In recent years, a radical political movement has grown to threaten both mainstream capitalist gay culture and heteronormativity* alike. The queer movement grew out of a militant gay rights movement that had been radicalised by mainstream societies’ lack of compassion during the HIV/Aids outbreak in the 80’s.

Social and political theorists started to draw on the movements confrontational anarchist tactics and propaganda to produce academic works highly influenced by third wave feminism, social constructionism and the radical left. They argued that gender and sexuality based oppression should be seen within a context of global capitalism, class, and other power structures such as race and disAbility.

The concept of ‘identity’ was critiqued, and the way that people are coerced into adopting identities based upon seemingly arbitrary factors such as sexual behaviour so they can be easily categorised into and recognised as being either ‘normative’ or ‘deviant’ exposed, the ability to justify oppression against those who happen to fall outside of the normative category challenged. As such, “Queer” is not an identity, but an anti-identity, more of a political ideology than something a person can ‘define into’.

In more recent years, the term ‘queer’ has been adopted by people who feel they aren’t straight/cisgendered, but don’t necessarily fit into the narrowly defined roles of L, G, B and T. This new ‘queer’ is effectively a grouping of lesser known identities such as pansexual and agendered which don’t receive as much attention as other identities.

What this represents is a de-politicisation of the word ‘queer’ and the appropriation of the term as an identity (or even as a group of identities) rather than as an explicitly political ideology, something which is often encouraged by some of the more assimilationist members of the LGBT community who may feel that their identity (or perhaps their reactionary politics) are challenged by the Queer movement.

This is further compounded by the current popularity of the term ‘LGBTQ’, used to group Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer together. By placing ‘queer’ in a list of identities, it essentially reduces it to become one.

“The term ‘queer’ is deliberately provocative and confrontational, in abbreviating it to ‘Q’, this is quality is lost”

Queer theorists have long discussed the importance of language and linguistics in the way that we refer to queer issues, an area of study called ‘lavender linguistics’. Indeed, the term “Queer” itself is deliberately provocative and confrontational; reflecting the radical nature of anarchist queer activism and theorist’s preoccupation with deviancy and normality. In abbreviating ‘queer’ to ‘Q’, this implication is lost, and ‘Q’ could easily be mistaken as meaning ‘questioning’, another term often used by LGBT(Q) youth groups and organisations.

It is important that we see the de-politicisation of Queer in a context of capitalism and the way it seeks to appropriate radical movements and sell them back to us; turning campaigners into consumers and activists into beaurocrats. As queer activists and theorists, we should resist those who wish to engage in this process, those who use queer rhetoric to gain our support but use their platform to push assimilationist ideas. Lets keep queer political, and our movement radical.

*heteronormativity – the assumption that being straight/cisgendered is normal/good and everything else is weird/bad.

Cisgendered – not trans

Add me on twitter @charliethescarf

Subscribe to my blog by clicking the button on the right 🙂

Advertisements
    • jamie
    • April 22nd, 2010

    Interesting post. Some of the best queer theory out there is set up precisely to avoid what happened to (pretty much every form of) identity politics – Bersani, for example, reads homo-ness as anti-identitarian identity, while the queers (or “sinthomosexuals”) in Edelman’s no future are just about as anti-identity as you can get.

    Problem is the practical activist side of things… how do you take these grand, even beautiful, theoretical concepts and apply them (when they even resist the very notion of politics. or even the notion of future, or utopia, or change – seeing them as inherently heterosexist.)?

    Queer theory, for me, doesn’t offer any answers. It’s well pomo like that respect, ditching the easy (and easily abused) grand narrative of identity, hope, even ‘rights’. But that means we don’t get a praxis from it either. :S

    • jamie
    • April 22nd, 2010

    Interesting post. Some of the best queer theory out there is set up precisely to avoid what happened to (pretty much every form of) identity politics – Bersani, for example, reads homo-ness as anti-identitarian identity, while the queers (or “sinthomosexuals”) in Edelman’s no future are just about as anti-identity as you can get.

    Problem is the practical activist side of things… how do you take these grand, even beautiful, theoretical concepts and apply them (when they even resist the very notion of politics. or even the notion of future, or utopia, or change – seeing them as inherently heterosexist.)?

    Queer theory, for me, doesn’t offer any answers – at least not answers in the sense of ‘aha, we should act in this way to achieve this result’. It’s well pomo like that respect, ditching the easy (and easily abused) grand narrative of identity, hope, even ‘rights’. But that means we don’t get a praxis from it either. :S

      • radicalrabbit
      • April 22nd, 2010

      I think its worth thinking about what came first, the queer activism (or practice) or the queer theory.I would argue its always the practice that comes first. Theorists always capitalise on the grassroots, take their radical ideas and put them into a language that makes it difficult to understand, in order to sell books and justify keeping their jobs in universities

      Queer theory and activism has always been heavily influenced by anarchism. Queer deconstructs identity, and the idea of ‘rights’ – because “rights” are something given by a dominant group to a less dominant group. Instead of arguing explicitly for legal rights, queer activists subvert what it is to be normal and deviant so far that no one can tell the difference and there are no dominant groups no more. Or at least, thats one of the aims.

        • jamie
        • April 22nd, 2010

        Haha, well then that pitches us towards the grand old debate between ivory tower academia and grass-roots activism.

        I guess the problem with continually grinding away at identities, subverting and extending what is ‘normal’, is the idea that the ‘problem’ is in the exclusiveness of identities – and not the way we relate to those identities (or even, in the way we relate to each other.) If the ‘problem’ is a structural one then extending the normal is ultimately destined to fall short of what it aspires to – i.e. something about the way people relate to each other, or to themselves, means however many identities abound, there will always be something excluded. Dunno, food for thought I guess.

        Academia is useful in the sense that there is a vast body of people spending most (in theory) of their time thinking about these problems from multiple and vastly different angles. Though you’re right – that sometimes leads to multiple and vastly different forms of bullshit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: