I think the remake of this poster is incredibly interesting, as is the intense response to it. Majestic had this poster on their door the whole time we lived together and it always gave me chills. It made me feel powerful and vindicated and righteous. I really like the original poster. I think it articulates very clearly the radical nature of queerness that the hetero world doesn’t really see. I never saw it as being a response to gay people who don’t identify as queer, and I find it really interesting that it has been utilized to make an entirely different point in its re-imagination.
On Tumblr and in queer communities I’ve been part of outside of the internet, there certainly is a trend of rejection of lesbian identity. In my experience, lesbians are often categorized as: “homonormative”, non-radical, apolitical, second-wave, oppressive, boring, and “vanilla.” In self-identified radical queer spaces, there is often a large-scale erasure of the extremely radical lesbian feminist history that allows us to have the language to critique anything in the first place, as well as a silencing of radical, living, breathing lesbian culture.
This is nothing other than misogyny. We are doused in a culture that thrives on the hatred of women. “Radical Queerness” isn’t immune from that, and in fact these communities are often responsible for perpetuating misogyny in many different ways. One of these ways is actually by discursively defining lesbianism as archaic, backwards, and inherently apolitical. I like using the word lesbian to describe myself. It’s not the only word I use, and often it is not all encompassing of my desires. But there are some spaces and some moments I experience with myself where queer just doesn’t cut it. When I claim the word, “Lesbian” to talk of my sexuality and my politics, I invoke a rich history of brave women who taught me everything I know about survival, and fuck, is that powerful.
I don’t believe this poster to be “queer-hating”, nor do I think it is setting up a dichotomous relationship between queers and lesbians. I think it is asking us to question a culture of radical queerness that elevates certain identities over others (ie: if you are queer, you are inherently more radical than if you are lesbian.) It is asking us to think hard about this tendency to silence and erase radical lesbian history and it is a reclamation of a perfectly valid and resistant sexual politic.
My own experience and why i like this critique:
I very much appreciate this rethink of the original poster (same image: Not gay as in happy; but queer as in fuck you) as a response to some of the bullshit that goes on in our own community. I still like the original (not more or less so) and see it more as a response to the media’s portrayal of gay people in shows like Will and Grace and Queer eye for the Straight Guy (unsurprisingly usually men). These media caricatures reduce queerness to an approximation of heteronormative society and remove any anger and outrage toward a bigoted society. The original image for me is still powerful and inspiring as it gives me the ability to say “fuck you” to what society expects of me and my own queerness. However, this re-think is powerful in it’s own right. This re-think importantly critiques our own community and relates to my own experience in queer and trans* spaces.
In my own experience and community I’ve experience a queerer-than thou mentality as well as a lot of trans-misogyny. People who take on identities such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, man, woman are often looked at, in queer spaces, as inherently less radical than those who are queer and/or non-binary. I’ve see it first hand situations where the pronouns one uses and the language one uses to describe themselves instantly determine how “cool” of a radical-awesome-queer (tm) you are. These serve as stand ins for your political ethics. I find that when I use non-binary pronouns I’m seen as more of an equal than when I use binary pronouns (fucked up right?).
Trans-misogyny pervades queer/trans* spaces and must be questioned. trans-misogyny is something in my own community which I struggle against as a trans woman. trans men are often seen as inherently more radical than women, and thus can better articulate that radicalness. Thus, what I said about the pronouns in the last paragraph is often overshadowed by trans-misogyny. This leads to typical misogynist behavior such as trans men speaking for trans women without consent. When called on it the response is often that “we all have to stick together.” Something that is hard to argue again but masks the silencing of women identified voices. This is not universal, but it is something I have experienced in my time within the what is termed radical queer community.
I’m fighting against any monolithic projection of identity, and queer is no exception. I often us queer to describe myself because I have little else that fits and I choose queer because it does not “fit” anything. But, sometimes it’s that I feel guilty over using more recognizable terms like lesbian. I’m struggling with my own internalized misogyny with regard to my gender and my pronouns. I’m navigating my own identity even within a supposed radically open queer space. I see the image above as a potential source for allies in this struggle. And for this, I thank those who created and those who shared it.
If butch daddies want to crochet, if twinkly ladyboys are sometimes tops in bed, if burly bears can do BDSM play as little girls, if femme fatales build bookcases in their spare time, these things, too, are not just good but great. They bring us, I believe, wonderful news: news that gendered options can continue to explode, that the chefs in the kitchen of gender are creating new and imaginative specials every day. That we, all of us, are the chefs. Hi. I have a whisk.