Look, here is my thought on the Elena Kagan issue:
She doesn't publicly identify as a lesbian. OK? Let's drop it. Every time there is a swell of squawking speculation about the undisclosed (homo)sexuality of a public official, it makes me feel really weird. It heavily underscores the fact that queer people are still considered freakish anomalies with a monolithic agenda and no right to privacy.
This brings up something I've been wanting to talk about recently. Let me reiterate: queer people do not have a monolithic agenda or identity. I understand wanting some representation in the public sphere; I understand the desire for queer public officials to be out, proud, and fighting for queer rights/promoting queer visibility. But let's be real. It is very, very hard to shoulder the responsibility of being visibly, publicly queer; and there are many interpretations of what constitutes "queer rights".
I think for all of us, there is such pressure to be a model queer first and a human being second; and a model queer is:
- exactly the same as a straight person with the sole exception of matching genitals in the bedroom
- haplessly queer (IE "I was just born this way")
I get it, you guys. I do. We've been painted as deviant, repugnant, abnormal, promiscuous, man-hating (lesbians) or Not Real Men (gay men), ineffectual, ugly, a threat to children, a threat to families, diseased, predatory. The sex we have is Not Real Sex (especially dykes; like, can it even be sex if a flesh dick isn't involved?! It's the sexual equivalent of veganism- "Wait, so what can you even EAT?!"). The relationships we have are Not Real Relationships. We are not complex beings; all we are is our queerness, and it is depraved.
So says dominant culture. And I see a lot of queer folks reacting to these assertions by living lives as Exemplary Queers. We Are Just Like You, they say. We Are No Different. We Were Just Born This Way, Just Like You Were Just Born Straight. They strive for upward mobility. They prove that queers can be conventionally attractive, too. That rather than seeking to tear them asunder, queers want nuclear families and children of their own, too. That their relationships are just like straight relationships.
In short, their goal is assimilation.
It is not my place to claim that this goal will not work for them. But it is not my goal, and it won't work for me. I don't choose to entertain the question of What Causes Queerness, and I think that relying on the "I was just born this way and can't help it!" trope too heavily does us a disservice, whether it is true or not. The 'cause' of my queerness should not have any impact on anyone else's willingness to treat me like a human being. I watched a video recently that a friend shared in which a queer girl stated that if she had a choice, she'd choose to be born straight. Now, I understand that what she probably meant was "I would choose to not have to live in a world in which I am hated for being who I am," but I thought it was very telling, and very sad. And I think more of us need to be willing to say that we wouldn't erase our queerness if given the chance. I may be hated for being queer, but I do not hate myself. I do not want to be folded into the straight world, enveloped, until my queerness disappears. It is not who I am entirely, but it is part of who I am, and I will not twist and compress it into something that is more palatable to those who hate queerness.
In short, I do not want to be erased.
I do not care about proving that queers can be conventional, too. I am more interested in critiquing convention. I am not interested in being a Designer Dyke. I am interested in questioning beauty standards (both straight beauty standards AND queer beauty standards, because they are factually different), not adopting them with a queer twist. I am interested in questioning consumption as identity, not in asking, begging, fighting to be acknowledged as a potential consumer. (I will come back to this one, because I would like to write an entry about a film I saw at the Davis Feminist Film Festival that dealt with this issue in a way that dissatisfied me.) I am more interested in extending legitimacy to various social units than in reaffirming the nuclear family headed by the married couple as the only legitimate one. (queer folks, we have been creating and choosing our own families since time immemorial. these bonds are unique. they are part of our culture. why are we so quick to abandon them when the marriage carrot is dangled in front of us?)
I am not exactly the same as a straight person in every respect except for my sexual orientation. That theory works about as well as colorblind or genderblind or any other -blind theory, for me. I think it is appealing because it is simple, and because queer folks are made to feel less than human so often; but life is complex and human beings are complex, and experience is a powerful force. My experience as a woman-born, woman-identified person living in a misogynist, patriarchal culture is different than that of a male-born, male-identified person. People of color experience white supremacy in a different way than white people. Saying that queer and straight people are fundamentally the same is a denial of our experience as an oppressed class of people. This is not a value judgment. This is an acknowledgment of difference.
I would like to see as much effort put into healing our community as we are putting into these causes that are, in my opinion, assimilationist. Assimilating is practical, more convenient than radical reform, and also just...the genuine desire of some people (though it is hard for me to accept this, because it isn't as though we are presented with much choice in the matter). But it should be an option, not a mandate. Not our only means of survival. Which is why I truly do believe that the mainstream queers upon whom I am a poor reflection NEED my radical ass. As much as I need them. We need each other. They need radical queers to keep fighting for the right to be recognized as legitimate human beings without denying our difference. We need them because they fight for the things that some of us do want- like marriage, which I will frankly never, ever fight for because I do not want it and I believe it is destructive. I have to acknowledge that not every queer person is radical and that my agenda can't be every one's agenda, no matter how right I think I am (and I really, really, REALLY DO think I am right. Really a lot. But, you know, so do they. We can and should keep having conversations about this issue, but we may just have to call an impasse an impasse at some point. I'm not gonna kick them out of the queer club for choosing something I wouldn't choose, and I do hope they will start treating me the same way.)
...you know, my main flaw as a writer is that I never have a snappy conclusion. I guess because I view all of these things as ongoing conversations that will never have a pat ending. I love a pat ending, but they rarely have a place outside of fiction. t...the end.