The debate over radicalizing the LGBTQ movement put forward by queer theorists and activists verses keeping the movement “mainstream” put forward by gay rights/equal marriage groups reminds me of similar debates within feminism. It’s akin to the ‘do we want women to be equal in an unequal society or do we want to overthrow the whole system’ argument that has colored feminism from the get go.
Claiming the title queer seems to be a similar move to claiming the title feminist – both are politicized identities. On the other hand, “I’m gay, not queer” seems to be a statement comparable to “I’m not a feminist but…” Refusing the term queer (as with refusing the term feminism), is a de-politicizing move. It’s as if you are saying: “I’m ok with the way things are in this unfair game of life, just give me a seat at the table, just give me my gay marriage that looks just like your hetero one.”
I, being one for in your face radicalism (and a big fan of Emma Goldman), call for loudly and proudly claiming these identities. That’s why I particularly enjoyed a book I read and reviewed for Feminist Review. If your into resisting assimilation, or interested in queer activism, it’s great read. I have pasted the review below or you can read it at the Feminist Review site here.
Edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Soft Skull Press
That’s Revolting, in thirty-two essays, covers the breadth and depth of queer activism. It is not a queer theory anthology, but a primer in, as the subtitle suggests, “queer strategies for resisting assimilation.” The broad coverage of the book is both a strength and a weakness. On the plus side, the wide-range gives readers a succinct, entertaining overview of queer history and activism over the last 40+ years. The writing is strong throughout, emphasizing an in-your-face analysis laced with humor.
The anthology does a particularly fine job stressing the intersectionality of privilege and oppression, and for anyone unsure about the differences between ‘gay rights’ and ‘queer activism’ (or merely what ‘queer identity’ means), That’s Revolting delivers a witty, angry, and thought-provoking introduction to the Q word. Taken as a Cliff’s Notes of queer activism, the text serves as an inspirational guidebook for the queer activist in training.
On the less positive side, the book lacks any overview of queer theory. While a number of pieces nod to theoretical underpinnings, none of the writings examine in detail the links between queer theory and praxis. Granted, the book proclaims its activism agenda up front and does not purport to cover queer theory. However, given the importance of queer theory in the academy, as well as the ways queer theory has undoubtedly informed queer activism, this omission seems unfortunate (especially given the explosive growth of queer theory in the past 10 or so years).
Putting that minor criticism aside, the book does a phenomenal job of including voices from many margins. From questioning Zionism to mocking Dr. Laura, from discussing queer parenting strategies to exploring the need for “restroom revolutionaries” (or activists that addresses public restrooms exclusion of trans and disabled people), from tackling the divergent as well as overlapping issues of queer inter-city youth to examining how race, class, disability, and geographic locations shape, limit, and police queer identity, the book’s thorough coverage is laudable.
That’s Revolting is especially topical in its coverage of the move to legalize gay marriage, which it defines as a “gay assimilationist” stance. Via analysis spread throughout the anthology, various writers reveal the problems with ‘normalizing’ or socially sanctioning certain sexualities and gender identities. A number of the writers indicate that those identifying as ‘gay’ or ‘gay rights activists’, rather than as ‘queer’, are mainstream sellouts. While this may seem severe, overall the book is very convincing in its claim that ‘queer’ is the politicized identity the LGBT movement needs to adopt if it really wishes to undo the white-supremacist, classist, ableist, heteronormative mandates of society.
For its provocative, original coverage of queer identities and activisms, this nifty little anthology deserves a read. And, as a bonus, you can shock (and maybe even inspire) onlookers who take a gander at the cover as you lug the book (as I did) from doctors’ waiting rooms to public swimming pools to the school carpool pickup. Perhaps by just putting the That’s Revolting cover in the public’s face, you can take your first steps toward “queer strategies for resisting assimilation.”