Friday, July 9, 2010

On a problem with Queer Identity and Politics: "I'm Here. I'm Anti-Heteropatriarchy and pro-Lesbian Feminist. Get Used To It"

 [this statement is from here, and appears on Carolyn Gage's blog post, excerpted below]

The white radical lesbian-feminist playwright and author of so many other forms of writing, Carolyn Gage, has newly taken to blogging. And we are better for it, as she is, after all, a writer, and her posts are wonderful to read.

I recently commented on one of them, having to do with the anti-lesbianism and anti-radical feminism (and, I'll add here, a rather complete obliviousness to womanism) in white-dominant/dominated queer community and white-dom queer politics. This is an on-going source of dismay and protest by me.

Below are some excerpts from her post, which may and ought to be read in its entirety, *here* @ a post titled "Umbrella Terms: All Wet".

The excerpts are  followed by my commentary. It ought to be noted, I suppose, that this is the first comment in which I "out myself" as transgender. More on this to follow in future posts. Probably soon, now that word is out.
"Queer has become so inclusive that it doesn’t allow the space for lesbians to exist." [-- Susan Hawthorne, white lesbian feminist, activist-publisher-poet]

I am old enough to remember when "men" and "man" were used to mean "men and women." Which is like telling people, "Well, now, when I say 'dog' you know what I really mean is 'dog and cat.'"  No self-respecting cat would fall for that for a nano-second. They would know that it was a political ploy intended to privilege the interests of dogs, erase the traditional animosity between the two species, and, basically, make the cats suck it up.

Sadly, women, and especially lesbians are not cats. We have and continue to fall for it. Imagine a gay man being told, "Okay, so from now on, the term 'lesbian' is going to be the term used to refer to both gay males and lesbians."  No self-respecting gay man would fall for that for a nano-second.  They would know that it's a political ploy to privilege the interest of lesbians, erase the ... well, you get the picture. [...]
Our suffrage sisters could tell us all about false inclusives. How Thomas Jefferson (enslaver and impregnator of an enslaved captive) added the words "all men are created equal" to the Declaration of Independence, and how women were assured that this meant us, also... oh, except for when it didn't... like, for instance, when it came to being able to vote.

What I'm trying to say is that words matter. Toni Cade Bambara, whose work the entire world should know, and whose book The Salt Eaters should supplant Moby Dick... ANYWAY... Toni used to say how she took "acts of language" seriously. We all should. Seriously.

Men are not women. Gays are not lesbians. And... okay, "queer." What about "queer?"  Well... I am not queer. I am not odd or unusual.  To cite another awesome African American goddess, Florynce Kennedy, "I never stopped to wonder why I'm not like other people. The mystery to me is why more people aren't like me." Yeah. What she said. Now, Florynce did not identify as lesbian... so she's not talking about that. But she is talking about how supremely natural it is to be wild, social-justice-loving, inventive, outside-the-box, feral, decolonized, and liberated. Women's natural state. (Color Me Flo, her autobiography, is a great read.)

"Queer" might work for someone who experienced their same-sex attraction as a burden, or an affliction, or a disability... something they were born with and have to learn to live with. "Queer" might fit for someone who views it as a quirky, deviant lifestyle.

My lesbianism feels like a homecoming to me. It feels like a beachhead from which women, all women, can effectively fight for our truths, our lives, and for the planet. In a world where women are still forced to offer up our sexuality and our emotional resources to men, where we are still killed, incarcerated, or faced with the slow-motion violence of poverty for choosing to put women first in our lives, there is nothing queer, odd, strange, unusual, funny, peculiar, curious, bizarre, weird, uncanny, freakish, eerie, unnatural; unconventional, unorthodox, unexpected, unfamiliar, abnormal, anomalous, atypical, untypical, out of the ordinary, incongruous, irregular; puzzling, perplexing, baffling, or unaccountable about choosing women. There is something tremendously courageous, with a deep core of integrity about it.

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 11:36:44 am
Thank you, Carolyn. [Note to A.R.P. readers: this comment has been slightly altered from the original posted on Carolyn's blog, particularly the last sentence.]

I detest[icle] what's been going on in predominantly white male queer communities with the invisibilisation of women-as-women and the marginalisation, derision, and silencing of lesbian women. To say Queer means "Anti-Lesbian" wouldn't be an egregious overstatement, to me.

The only case I know of for some in our non-heterosexual community to reject the term "lesbian" is on eurocentric grounds, by women who are not of european descent and don't see or celebrate the source of their woman-loving as ancient Greek society. I find that to be a legitimate political stance, as eurocentrism rules this country in oppressive, genocidal, and gynocidal ways. [Pardon my Latin and Greek rooted terms.]

Similarly, there are African American who reject the term "gay" and instead choose the term SGL (same gender loving). I find that to be a political "act of language" worth supporting for a variety of reasons. One is that decentering white male supremacist, even if not heterosexist, terminology, is important in this country.

Which brings me to a somewhat problematic, if possibly useful, analogy regarding the term "American".

The term "American" is habitually, ritually, and obviously wrongly used to mean someone born and living in the U.S. Because Argentinians and Mexicans, and, for that matter, Canadians, are ALL Americans.

I have begun to write North American in place of, when possible, as a protest of how Africa gets called a country and is considered one safari-filled, single-tribal culture all the damn time by U.S. whites--former loincloth-wearing, gun-toting white bad-boy Ted Nugent being a recent example. I seek, in acts of language, to decenter the U.S. as "a country" and demote it to just being part of a continent. "U.S. out of America" remains one of my favorite bumper stickers, and political ideas. From an Indigenist point of view, what is termed the "United States of America" was and remains "international".

The continents that comprise the Americas are burdened with the celebratory moniker of a pale alien (palien) invader--mystifyingly called an "explorer"--named Amerigo Vespucci. But only the U.S. has a holy-day for the slaver, genocidalist, rapist, and founder of sexual trafficking of girls of color to [soon-to-be-white] men, the savage, barbaric palien Christopher Columbus.

Carolyn, we know this is just another case of the ol' whiteboys not being able to admit "I'm lost" and drop the sky-godly ego to ask for directions, because to ask would mean they'd have had to admit the people (about whom they then sent word to the homeland for reinforcements to slaughter) were, in fact, more knowledgeable human beings than they were. And we know how much whiteboys hate having to do THAT.

So, white supremacists insist that anyone who comes to the U.S. MUST learn "American" English and ought to consider themselves un-hyphenated Americans. (Never mind that these Americans are pre-hyphenated, as U.S.-Americans.)

The tyranny of queerness is that it prioritises a politic of inclusivity within Homo (meaning "Man") Palien (meaning pale invader and occupier) supremacy and dominance over a politic of liberation from Homo Palien supremacy and dominance. Indeed, the term itself ensures and enforces marginalisation, and, as you note, quoting Flo: isn't THE PROBLEM that THEY (the Homo Palien invader-occupiers) aren't more like the racially, ethnically, and sexually marginalised and oppressed?

I agree with you that the quandary of queerness is that it further invisibilises, stigmatises, and shames lesbian existence, and practically burns at the stake anyone who cheerfully, if not queerfully, mentions lesbian-feminism, let alone RADICAL lesbian feminism. Talking about raining on a Pride parade! (I can hear the queer-cheerers striking their matches as I type this.)

As a radically profeminist white gay male who may or may not be transgender, I resist and reject the holy and, as you say, holey queer umbrella as pro-patriarchal, and anti-lesbian.

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