Week 12: Queer Theory

Before reading the articles assigned I watched Saleem Haddad’s video Deviance is Revolutionary. I couldn’t help but to continually stop the video to think about the thought provoking statements Haddad made. First, I’ll comment on this one “The label was so common that it became invisible” (Saleem haddad), which is the response Haddad had to being labeled as Arab. I couldn’t help but wonder how any label, no matter how common, becomes invisible. Especially if we’re a people so inclined on noticing what is unlike ourselves, and differences between us is, ironically, something we all have in common.

Second, paraphrased as it was a bit muffled, “Identity is a human need, we all want to belong somewhere. But within us there are a whole bunch of different identities and we tend to cling on to the identity that feels under threat in the society we live in” (Saleem haddad) Boy, was I torn between agreeing and disagreeing and agreeing all over again. But, alas, I agree. I believe there is an unexplained need ingrained in us to defend a part inside ourselves, no matter how small, that may be misunderstood or under negative scrutiny. Do you wonder why? I sure did.

Identity. That is why.

Because there is hardly anything more important than knowing and being given a place in society for ALL of who we are.

 

i·den·ti·ty

ˌīˈden(t)ədē/

noun

1.the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.

Dennis Altman’s essay “Rupture of Continuity? The Internationalization of Gay Identities” does a fantastic job in exploring the distinction between modern and postmodern gay identity. Mostly in how those two have produced a different social perspective of what it means to be gay, and with the observation that most seem to have adopted an “intermediate position.”  Altman speaks of “the global gay”, which has been defined as a “social and cultural identity based on homosexuality.” Which have, as a byproduct of Altman’s global gay, given birth to terms such as “lipstick lesbians” and other social personas given to those that may identify as homosexual.

“The contemporary world is simultaneously experiencing the creation/solidification of identities and their dissolution: we don’t know yet if identities based on sexuality will be as strong as those based on race or religion. The idea of “gay/lesbian” as a sociological category is only about one hundred years old, and its survival even in Western developed countries cannot be taken for granted”

If I am misunderstanding, please correct me, but from what I have gathered from the above quote there seems to be a hierarchy of identity. One which apparently doesn’t rank sexuality above race or religion, and if anything, doesn’t even believe in its survival as an identity anyway. The problem, I believe, exists here: “The problem thus becomes one of finding the right balance between tradition and modernity, while recognizing that these terms themselves are vague, problematic, and politically contested; appealing to “traditional moral values.’” (Dennis Altman), too stuck in traditional moral values, but not yet emerged in our contemporary moral values.

How do we disconnect from restrictive and unchanging tradition to make room for a freer contemporary society? Well, for one, maybe move on from the idea that homosexuality is all about sex. My absolute favorite part of Altman’s essay is “Similarly, the term gay suggests not only a sexual but also an emotional definition. As Christopher Isherwood once said, “You know you are homosexual when you discover you can love another man.” [….] Human beings do tend to develop emotional bonds.” (Altman), and just because it’s beautiful…

One more time, please!

“You know you are homosexual when you discover you can love another man.” (Christopher Isherwood).

I found that in her essay, “Conversations in Migration, Queer, and Transgender Studies: Multimedia Storyspaces”, Gema Perez-Sanchez answered my earlier question about coming out of traditional values and into a more contemporary value system. First, I absolute loved how the article began. Sanchez described two laws that were passed in Spain; one which made same sex marriage legal, and another which made it legal for people to self-assign their gender without physical proof. And even though, as Sanchez listed, Spain was a predominantly Catholic country and was just getting out of years of dictatorship they were still able to afford the LGBTQ culture their basic human rights because “The process of democratic transition in Spain cannot be understood without taking into consideration the contribution that lesbian, gay, bisexual, ad transgender cultures have made to those processes” (Sanchez), in other words, stripped of all identities we are all part of the same society. Alternatively, Sanchez does provide another “cynical” reason as to why these laws passed, but it still answers the very same question, it still leads in the same direction…away from tradition. Simply because tradition is a boat that doesn’t allow seats for those not cut from the same cloth.

“The label was so common that it became invisible” (Saleem haddad), Historically, homosexuality has been around for a very long time. As so, have we made an entire culture invisible? because we place hierarchical value on identity?

“No one can deny the persisting continuities of long traditions, sustained habitations, national languages, and cultural geographies, but there seems no reason except fear and prejudice to keep insisting on their separation and distinctiveness, as if that was all human life was about.” –Edwards Said, Culture and Imperialism

 

Edward Said for the win!

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1 Comment

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog this week. I thought you did a great job at describing Alman’s essay. I also like how you mention that people usually think homosexuality is all about sex. I believe that to be true. When I was reading Glave’s Caribbean theory, I found that same notion. Society does not try to humanize queer people. Society doesn’t give them emotions, just sex. And I do love that quote “You know you are homosexual when you discover you can love another man” (Christopher Isherwood). I agree that this is a beautiful quote and it’s one that many need to hear and understand.

    Like

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