In addition to a feeling of wanting to reclaim intentional space for myself to own discussions of my own art, a large part of my decision to remove myself from social media relates directly to the ways in which my peers (as opposed to “friends”) rely on exterior performance of gender and overt indicators of homosexuality to determine one’s authenticity within the loose aesthetic subcultural brand of being “queer”.
First, I feel that discussion of queer must account for the ambiguity of the term – which escapes easy definition across time and historic context. My own definition of “queerness” is that it is a divergent strain of subculutural beliefs, aesthetics and behavior that can be exhibited by members of the greater LGBTQIA mainstream. Among these beliefs for me personally are:
- the recognition of gender and sex as indistinct socially-enforced categories that perpetuate a white supremacist patriarchy
- the recognition of gendered intersecting oppression, the perpetuation of the family as the core social unit and reproductive futurism as inherently capitalistic organization existing within society
- the opposition to authoritarian forms that enforce these institutions (be they of the state or socially-enforced)
- the aspiration toward nothingness, genderlessness (via the aboliton of gender and / or destruction of modern gender signifiers by any or no means necessary) and uselessness to the reproductive function of a capitalist apparatus
Obviously, not everyone shares this definition – which is fine. My own experiences as a transgender butch lesbian places me within a context where I have arrived at these conclusions of what I hold in my mind as “queer”, and I don’t claim to be an authority on this definition for anyone but myself – especially not for people for whom queerness operates in more direct conflict with racialized bodily autonomy, colonial patriarchal constructs and other intersecting forms that I don’t endure as a white person.
The aesthetics of queerness – particularly that of white queer people – is often the most easily recognizable and co-optable by the mainstream LGBTQIA culture, from where it can enter into the market of buying and selling subcultural aesthetics as a brand. This isn’t new territory for queer-identified people, who are often intimately aware of their outward aesthetic of queerness being mined by capitalism for edgy subcultural dollars and how this defangs the anti-capitalist meanings of these aesthetic symbols. This in many ways has watered down the anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal definition of “queer” into something more amorphous, with less rigidly defined subcultural boundaries that (maybe?) at one point signified a lifestyle of willing uselessness to the state and the future in the auspecies of actualizing desire – frequently, guiltlessly, publicly, and explicitly.
HOWEVER, I don’t believe that the grinding perpetuity of capitalism is something that warrants subjecting newly-out, non-transitioning or not-visibly (for whatever reason) queer-identified people to authoritarian peer-surveillance (a fancy way to say “weirdly acceptable and often-transmisogynist suspicion”) to determine the authenticity of their identity. This has been a weirdly triggering line of discourse for me – as someone who fails to perform femininity by choice, as well as someone for whom my outward presentation has been weaponized by others to cast suspicion on my desire to access the identity of “womanhood” in my own (IRL) community.
Ultimately, the misdirected suspicion of queer individuals (rather than articulating a challenge to the way capitalism strips things of meaning) is both a violence done in loud voices and quiet whispers from a number of people who have supposedly figured out what determines the status of an “authentic” queer person – as opposed to supposedly-existing interlopers that are identifying as queer cynically because of its brand-potential. It is impossible to reconcile this projection of “fake queer” invaders contrasted with the concept of an “authentic” queer person with anything other than the definition of aesthetics found most marketable by queer-coopted capitalism. The belief of a “gold standard” being of queerness is an assimilationist fantasy that envisions the trans person as nothing more than a pity object that exists to aspire to a feminine or masculine ideal, to be patronized, sexualized and then discarded in their fruitless and pathetic quest to be granted the ability to be accepted as someone trying to appease the rigidity of socially-defined gender presentation.
Those dedicating their energy to scrutinizing the queer DJ community (clearly the most worthy targets for scrutiny in a morass of of a music industry that facilitates real physical and subcultural gentrification, drug-and-alcohol-sale-assisted predatory rape culture, wealth disparity as a function of the industry that prioritizes ascendant quick-money of DJ rockstar culture, the building of an industry to facilitate a luxury commodity economy for wealthy yuppies that scours away the revolutionary mutual-aid potential and black anti-establishment roots of the genre, etc) are operating their suspicion predicated upon a capitalist half-truth, and a deeply cynical understanding of queer individuals and their motivations for identifying as such. It’s nobody’s fault to be an alienated subject of neoliberal hell, but to reify the idea that queerness looks or can be determined as authentic by anything other than formless negation and possibility outside of societal institutions is a deeply anti-queer assertion of authoritarianism, and a pursuit to establish oneself as the loudest voice to be nothing more than an arbiter of a bootlicking hyper-capitalist fantasy that enforces and punishes queer people for existing outside the socially-acceptable images that makes them a potential product to be bought and sold.
Ultimately, queer people deserve autonomy and I refuse to stop advocating for that. Half-measures that don’t allow for a wide expression of queerness – from those for whom the destruction of their coerced gender identity by transitioning, to those who seek no outward change to their appearance as they deprogram their understanding of potential and presentation to their value as queer person, to those who fall at odds with either/any accepted gender and aspire toward nothingness – flatten the experience of queerness down to the most easily-marketed, sexualized and monolithic forms that emerge fully fledged from the aether as a ready and willing market to be sold a repackaged and toothless idea of being queer. I refuse to make space in my life for those who reduce queer people down to merely a brand, an identity to be cynically sold or marketed, or an object worthy of suspicion until they appease the fantasy of an easily-ignored queer identity.
Yours in sterility and negation,
(Manipulated images repurposed from “educational comic artist” and homophobe Dick Hafer’s “Homosexuality: Legitimate Alternate Deathstyle” from 1986. Read it from a third-party who thinks he was an asshole here.)