Reading Jay Prosser

So, it’s an essay titled “Judith Butler: Queer feminism, transgender, and the transsubstantiation of sex.” I don’t know if I suggest reading it or not, decide for yourself… The most interesting part? It’s after the jump…

From homophobic epithet designating and reinforcing the other’s social abjection to self-declared maker of community pride, “queer” was reclaimed precisely according to the transformative mechanisms of camp in which what has been devalued in the original becomes overvalued in the repetition.

It’s not that I disagree. I think there are other mechanisms at work in the reclamation of queer, not just camp, though this is an interesting take. transformative mechanisms? yes, definitely. Transforming something from pejorative to pride-inducing-self-descriptive is not an easy task, and camp/humor can be an interesting and integral part of that.

The interesting part to me is something I’ve noticed in my community: overvaluing “queer.” I say this in regards to the need to “out-queer” each other that I watch happen around me all the time. Especially among some queers my age and younger. It’s in watching someone’s efforts to deceive their self – to push queer to its limits when it may not fit with what it is they want. I don’t know if I believe in a core self, though in some sense, I think I do – whether socially created, genetically codified, or some combination of the two – i think we all have things that we want/need, and some of that is in us – no matter where it started, it’s there. So watching people force themselves to live in “open relationships” because that’s the “queer way to do things” or “that queer’ll only have me if I believe like they do and practice it well” is really hard for me. I have seen poly relationships. I have also watched as a poly support group met and discussed their issues of living in poly relationships. None of it is easy. It takes work, like all relationships. Some people, yes, are polyamorous. I don’t deny them that right to self-identification. What is painful to watch, however, is my friends getting hurt over and over because instead of standing up for what it is they want, they constantly convince themselves that they’re “not sure what they want” and try to be “queerer” than the next person by fitting in to a standard in this community. Apparently, monogamy and queer can no longer go together. Oh, and queer and voting can no longer go together if I were to believe what this community tells me. Luckily, I’m immune to the crap they spew and think for myself, but I think there’s a lot of shit going on here that’s, well, fucked up. Maybe it’s just here, maybe it’s everywhere, but queer isn’t about being better at it than the next guy – it’s about challenging what it means to be “better” than someone else at anything/everything. And I don’t think I’m better than them, I’m just really confused by that particular use of queer – an over-valuing of the word, in a sense, and it frightens me.

Does being queer have to mean throwing everything out the window and starting over? Is anarchy a necessary corollary of queer? Somehow, I think not. Never mind that anarchy can never work – and the anarchist community here has that same problem. No matter how hard they try to live “outside the system” they’re all living in it somehow. Or they’re bumming off people who do. And consensus is a great thought, but in a group where everyone’s trying to out-queer the next queer, and no one defines queer the same way, consensus just ain’t gonna happen – and it slows up progress. At some point, someone has to lead. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have to listen to everyone’s input, and it doesn’t mean the majority always rules, but at some point, someone has to take charge – or everything goes under. I’ve watched it a thousand times.

But, over-valuing queer in this community also means throwing lesbians and gays and bisexuals in front of the queer bus and hoping they make a last-minute conversion or get run over by the weight of queer bearing down on them. Queer is valuable, but it’s no more valuable than lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual. Queer only has value to the people who identify as such. Lesbian has value to women who identify as lesbians, and gay has value to women and men who choose it as a label. Especially older generations for whom gay and lesbian were terms much friendlier than the medical “homosexual”. I get it – queer lets you break free. Just remember that “Gay” and “Lesbian” let others break free before you. Don’t throw the LGBTs under a bus.


One Response to “Reading Jay Prosser”
  1. Lin says:

    Asheville, though not a true gayborhood, is a good community to study the LGBT and Q dynamic. Asheville is a city of “others” of one sort or another. Many of us would not fit in or belong anywhere else or at least not in our home towns or trailer parks. I feel comfortable like I’ve never felt anywhere else and yet I know I am still different in one way or another from everyone else. In Asheville, I can be myself. But I too watch the “queerest of them all” competition and feel the sting of a “queere than thou” attitude and see the negative progress made by the anarchist punks with trust funds supporting their daily habit of sitting on benches and curbs drinking lattes and twisting their dredlocks. With or without trust fund backing those anarchists are as much a part of the problem as the tight-assed, lily white, conservative, pampas, politicians that see drug dealers and illegals immigrants and terrorists behind every tree and at the root of every problem. Queer to me means, in part, not being afraid to be yourself. It means not giving a damn what people think or say when you pass them on the street. It means not conforming to every expectation and rule of our society and culture to make others comfortable even if it doesn’t fit who you are. Queer means going against the grain because it’s the only way you can go. Queer was a pejorative, an epithet, a slur my classmates threw at me like an ice ball that stung and burned and hurt to my core but I was happy with who I was and proud to be different so I learned to smile when someone would shout “queer” at me and spit on the sidewalk. Even now if I here it, and in Asheville it happens oh so rarely, I think to myself, “you got that right.”

    Those who think you can’t be queer if you have one partner are just as closed-minded as the the Bible thumpers who preached against beer and LGBTQ people and rock music at Bele Chere. Every relationship requires an effort and they all risk hard times, challenges and even failure. And not just monogamous ones but polygamous ones as well. To say that one kind of relationship is queerer than another is wrong. Love and relationships are different for each person. The important thing is that the individuals within the relationship get what they need equally – love, respect, compassion, understanding, and a sense of security/safety. Personally, I have yet to see a poly relationship work for the long term. There is often an imbalance between and among the individuals. The best one I saw function for several years was made up of a man with two wives. There seemed to be equity between them but even they have crumbled and gone their separate ways. For me, one partner is all I have ever wanted and being an only child, sharing is not my strong suit. I love my wife and support her fully in her endeavors. I wouldn’t have the energy to take care of more than one partner anyway, I don’t see how anyone could. But maybe I’m a bit old fashioned that way. I do believe queer and monogamous can go together. They seem to be working together in my life.

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