Where Did Queer Go? Part I

Where in the world did queer disappear? Once upon a time, it was all the rage to belong to the category of “queer,” that intellectual wing of the avant-garde movement to transcend gender and traditional sexual expression. If you were “queer,” you could support gay rights in your community and you were on the cutting edge of toppling the oppressive institutions of the world which kept openly gay and transsexual people marginalized. Better to use academia and its “queer studies” departments to undercut these stodgy institutions. After all, higher education had become associated more and more with making students recognize that distinction between race and gender were only there to identify which group was the “oppressor” and which group was the “oppressed.”[1]

 

Somewhere along the line, that strategy appears to have failed or have been abandoned or both. One hardly ever hears of queer anymore. According to the Gender Equity Resource Center of UC-Berkeley, “queer” can refer to “a political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking by recognizing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid” and to “a simple label to explain a complex set of sexual behaviors and desires…” If it is true that “queer” can refer to this conceiving of gender identity and sexual preference as itself “potentially fluid,” or it can refer to real desire which is not hetero-normative, it would seem that the term “queer” itself is pretty “fluid.” Can “queer-ness” remain when it can mean so many things?

 

But it seems that LGBTQ has been altered, for better or for worse, to LGBT. Perhaps five was one too many letters or perhaps dropping queer was the best way to signal that the movement had to move on and use concrete sex- or gender-based practices as a basis for suggesting that alternative sexuality was the new norm. Queer did not pass muster unless one was complaining about the lack of universities who had fully funded “queer studies” departments. “Queer” appears to resist definition and social scientists have analyzed the results of data on attitudes toward children who identify as LGBT, but that “Q” is elusive.[2]

 

But perhaps the clearest death knell to “queer” as an ongoing critique of normativity in sexuality came from the bifurcation of “punk rock” and “queer” signified by punk lyricist, Patti Smith, when she assured the TV viewers of the NBC talk show “Tomorrow” that her musical protest would and should never endanger the lives and the innocence of children.[3] That was one barrier that should not be transgressed. As she put it, “[F]or me, the future is children…”[4] Some adult desires, whether they be shameful or perverse or simply socially unacceptable, should not be employed in a way that would subvert the naivete of infancy and youth. Some things are simply to sacred to violate without significant repercussions for the rest of society and one’s local community. These non-crossable boundaries which keep the domain of youth free and clear of adult complications and “queer theory” may be questioned by the radical, disenchanted members of society yet the anti-authoritatian, Patti Smith, reassured audiences that evening in 1978 that children were worth protecting from those who would undermine the importance of “reproductive futurity.” That is, upholding the ideals of family life conducive to conceiving and rearing children and the valuing those children as blessings from God was preferable to a society in which these ideals are subverted.

 

But “queer” as in questioning gender identity and sexual orientation may be making a comeback these days. As we’ll see in Part II, powerful cultural shapers and trend-setters are seeing to it that “queer” envelops the media and celebrities, all bathrooms are unisex or pluri-sex, and those who seek to promote the safety and stability of traditional families will belong to the much-maligned “oppressor class” who are imposing “hierarchies of race, class, and gender…”[5]

[1] David Horowitz, Reforming our Universities: The Campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2010) pp. 12-13.

[2] Thus,  “[W]ith the ‘Q’ signifying students who are ‘questioning’ or ‘queer,’ a grouping that was not included in the research involving parents…” in Tracey Peter, et al., “Are the Kids All Right? The Impact of School Climate among Students with LGBT Parents,” Canadian Journal of Education 39 v. 1 (2016): 1-25.

[3] Tavia Nyong’o, “Do You Want Queer Theory (or Do You Want the Truth)? Intersections of Punk and Queer in the 1970s,” Radical History Review100 (Winter 2008): 103-119.

[4] Smith via Nyong’o, 2008, p. 103.

[5] Horowitz, pp. 12-13

by Adam Zens

House of Cards audio cover squared

 

Audiobook Nook

You know that Shroud of Turin book by Michael Freze that we have been talking about recently? Well, here is a free listening excerpt along with a short introduction by the narrator. The Shroud continues to be a controversial historical landmark of the Christian faith, but there are some Christians who believe that no existing empirical evidence actually verifies the death and resurrection of Jesus.  There is at least one Christian who has concluded that the Shroud could have been made in the Middle Ages by showing an alternative manner of developing a three-dimensional picture as well as a photo negative simultaneously. Locust & Honey has also recently released an audio book which quizzes the listener on trivia from the popular TV program, House of Cards, thanks to collaboration from Madison voice-over artist, David Gadow. If you know of a book on philosophy or theology that has to do with Christian apologetics and would like it turned into an audio book, you can reach the editors of Locust and Honey here. Next week, we plan to share a recent interview/podcast with the author of Worldview Apologetics, Pradeep Tilak.

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