That Queer Feeling in Your Gut

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I don’t get why people think “queer” is advanced or privileged politics. As if it’s difficult theory or something so complicated that people can’t understand. I guess that must only be evoked by a fundamental misunderstanding of queer and its attribution only to academics. Every theory has roots on the ground. And every lived experience has a theory to explain it. Millions of books have been written about socialism, but anyone who’s been hungry and broke will understand unfair distribution of wealth. Millions of books have been written about feminism, but any woman who’s felt silenced by a man will understand gender oppression. Likewise, queerness is not just for academics nor did it start with the academics. It started right there, in your gut.

It is impossible that you spend time working with women of diverse sexualities and don’t develop a gut understanding of queerness. It is impossible that you not find a problem with LGBT frameworks and politics. Something gnarls at your throat and you are made to think: is this about her being a “lesbian” or is this something inextricable from a thousand other socio-politico-economic systems of oppression?

If you work with queer kids, it is impossible not to understand how suffocating LGBT boxes are. If you work with transgenders, it’s even worse, there is no way you can still think the acronym LGBT even makes sense. It is impossible to go visit a young woman in a village forced to stay at home by her parents for suspicion that she is doing immoral things, that you don’t contextualize the intersection of oppressions, the influence of culture and traditions, from the most private and personal to the most public and political.

And it’s not just because you are the activist with the assumption that only activists think about these things. What is a queer activist anyway? Every one of us is an activist – we wear our causes on our sleeves, on our chests, in our voices, every day we walk out the door. Everyone understands what it means to be queer. But when we, as organizers, push them into identity boxes or train them into thinking of their problems as homophobia or transphobia, we’re the ones imposing limiting frameworks. You will tell me “queer politics is a framework too,” and I will say yes, but some frameworks are liberating and others are suffocating. And often, the most liberating frameworks are dismissed as chaotic, elitist, minority, lewd: anarchism, radical feminism, queerness.

Fact: The majority of women who have sought counseling services from Meem over the past 4 years have wanted to discuss issues of identity. Am I really gay? What are these feelings I am having? I can’t call myself a lesbian. Am I bisexual? Fuck these boxes. Fuck the dominant discourse that forces us into these boxes and forces the agony of fitting into them. Relax. You’re alright. If you’re confused or can’t fit in or can’t adopt a sexual identity, fuck it. You don’t have to.

What is common to us in Meem – what has always been – is not identity. No, it is not identity, has never been identity, and will never be identity. I have screened over 300 members who joined Meem and not once have I asked the question: “So, are you gay?” Not because I had any politics about it, in fact, I knew very little about queer politics back in 2007 and 2008. But it’s because I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with the question. I had a gut feeling.

To bring people together on the basis of identity is to box them, to force them to adopt something for the sake of fitting in. It is to leave people out. It is to create hierarchy among those “who have it okay” and those “who are victims.” Fuck the word “victim,” never use it, never ever use it. You are a survivor and it is our job as activists to celebrate your survival. Even if you have been killed, it is our job to celebrate that your legacy survives. To say anyone is a victim is to strip them of their agency, to transform them from subjects to objects, to take away their voice. And what is an activist’s job besides amplifying the people’s voices?

What is common to us is that we understand a certain form of oppression. We understand the common feeling. That condemnation that we don’t look like normal women or men, that we don’t love like normal women or men, that we don’t fuck like normal women or men. Normal in quotation marks. That feeling that everywhere we look, nobody represents us or addresses us or knows who we are. That realization that history has intentionally forgotten us and that art has intentionally left us out. That oppression of any alternative sexuality – sexuality being the sum of a thousand different things about us. We can relate to it, many of us, tens of thousands of us, in different, complex ways. And if there’s anything we should and do organize around, it is that feeling.

What is it about queer theory that is complicated or alien? That the binary of gay / straight is false? Anyone who’s struggled with their sexuality can relate to that and feels the liberation it brings. That forms of oppression are intersectional and we must resist all of them? Anyone who’s thought a little bit about their lives can understand that. It is impossible for you to be working on radical, revolutionary change without it hitting you at some point – years into it maybe – but surely, at some point, that the LGBT framework does not work. Tolerance of diversity, pride in identity, the most useless concepts in social change history.

We should never think about what would make people accept us, no. It is not us who must adjust to their structures. We are here to bend their structures, to contaminate them, to queer them up, to bring them down to their knees. It is our responsibility as the people who get it. Big responsibility, I know, my friends ask me why should we be the ones who undertake this massive mission? It’s precisely because we’re queer and our queerness is about a lot more than who we sleep with or the gender we carry around on our bodies. Because it’s about resisting the systems. It is the inevitable burden of queer. Because we get it. Because the underdogs must always fight.


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