Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Queer Liberation as dialectics (random thoughts!)

2 things

1) Alot of people say queer theory is academic and inaccessible to the working class, and then write it off. However, the distinctions b/w sex, gender and sexuality are important concepts that do indeed also describe the experiences of working class people. I am wary of those who class bait queer theory as a way to not deal with the need for queer liberation within the working class. In fact, this kind of argument fall into the same old economist debates about the working class, that theory is for the academic/middle class, while struggle and "literature for workers" is for the working class. Part of what our project is, is to say we need working class militants and theorists. Queer theory is one of these theories that need to be reclaimed, just like Lenin, Marx, and Gramsci are theories that the working class needs to muster.

2) Ultimately, when theory describes an extremely personal and also social process such as gender, sexuality and sex, what is most important is how people are approaching the discussion, rather than the name-dropping of queer theory. This reminds me of what Michelle O Brien describes in her piece, that the fancy academics and yuppies who name drop about trans and queer theory sometimes turn out to be the most arrogant and pretentious, while those who dont know the jargon, but approach trans and queer peoples' experiences with a genuine desire to learn and understand, are the most valuable allies to have. It is this openness and genuine interest/vulnerability/unguardedness that paved the way for the queer-straight unity in the Welsh Miners Strike. I see one of my tasks as a revolutionary queer worker, to be one that nurtures and facilitates such openness with my coworkers through class struggle.

Queer liberation is a form of dialectical growth. It is not a static category. In the 1970s, Sylvia Rivera, one of the most important and dopest trans liberation activist in recent history, could not be named. As a drag queen, she existed lost in the binary b/w gay and lesbian, straight and gay. Today, as trans historians and activists like Susan Stryker, Leslie Feinberg, Joan Nestle, etc write the distinct narrative of the history of trans liberation, reclaiming Stonewall from middle class gay scenes, calling out the transphobia of the 2nd wave feminists, recognizing the Compton cafe riot as a definitive historical event for trans people, we now see Sylvia Rivera as a definitive figure of trans peoples history. What is unnamed today, is part of a birthing of a new historical, cultural, material experience, that can only be named tomorrow, later, after many pioneers have put their lives down.

My point was...this dialectical unfolding requires an open state of mind. This open state of mind is what Michelle O Brien describes, as the genuine, humbled experience of listening and understanding what another experiences in their relationships to sex, gender and sexuality, how their personal identities form through all our interactions with society, within ourselves etc. It is not born out of name-dropping queer theory jargon or Judith Butler-esque language. That said, note that I am not throwing out the insight that folks like Judith Butler and Foucault have made. Just that their academic theories are not the sole factors in shaping the new category of queer liberation, and should not monopolize queer liberation. We need to emphasize that the personal struggles and search for liberation of many individuals are part of the unfolding of the queer dialectic.

I hope this makes sense.
Toward a free and joyous expression of self!

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