The racialization of Mexican, Asian, Asian American, and African American labor as contrary to gender and sexual normativity positioned such labor outside the image of the American citizen… . As a technology of race, U.S. citizenship has historically ascribed heteronormativity (universality) to certain subjects and non-heteronormativity (particularity) to others.
—  Roderick A. Ferguson, “Queer of Color Critique”
The bad reading [of Gender Trouble] goes something like this: I can get up in the morning, look in my closet, and decide which gender I want to be today. I can take out a piece of clothing and change my gender: stylize it, and then that evening I can change it again and be something radically other, so that what you get is something like the commodification of gender, and the understanding of taking on a gender as a kind of consumerism … When my whole point was that the very formation of subjects, the very formation of persons, presupposes gender in a certain way—that gender is not to be chosen and that “performativity” is not radical choice and it’s not voluntarism … Performativity has to do with repetition, very often with the repetition of oppressive and painful gender norms to force them to resignify. This is not freedom, but a question of how to work the trap that one is inevitably in.
—  Judith Butler
Unlike the early lesbian and gay movement, which had both ideological and practical inks to the left, Black activism, and feminism, today’s ‘queer’ politicos seem to operate in a historical and ideological vacuum. 'Queer’ activists focus on 'queer’ issues, and racism, sexual oppression and economic exploitation do not qualify, despite the fact that the majority of 'queers’ are people of color, female, or working class. When other oppressions or movements are cited, it’s to build parallel case for the validity of lesbian and gay rights or to expedite alliances with mainstream political organizations. Building unified, ongoing coalitions that challenge the system and ultimately prepare a way for revolutionary change simply isn’t what 'queer’ activists have in mind.
—  Barbara Smith, “Queer Politics: Where is the Revolution,” from The Truth That Never Hurts, 180
Claiming a queer identity is an effort to speak from and to the differences that have been suppressed both by heteronorms and by the homo–hetero binary; the transsexual, bisexual, and any other ways of ‘experiencing’ and expressing sensuality and affect that do not conform to the prevailing organization of sexuality. It is an effort to unpack the monolithic identities 'lesbian’ and 'gay,’ including the intricate ways lesbian and gay sexualities are inflected by heterosexual norms, race, gender, and ethnic differences.
—  Rosemary Hennessy, “The Material of Sex”

Queer books out in August 2014. Know any others?
[image description: the covers of ten books, listed below]

if a young person who is new to the queer community comes toy you and says something along the lines of “i think i’m [this identity] but [this person important to me] thinks it’s just a phase”

never say “it’s not a phase!!!!! you were just born that way!! never change!!! you’re perfect just how you are!!!!”

years ago, when i began to id as queer, this was the ‘popular’ and ‘politically correct’ thing to say. people used to respond to me like that when I would come out to them, and it only made me feel more pressure to pick a very specific identity and stick with it forever. that isn’t how anything works.

  • your identity is not invalid because it is a phase; phases are just as valid as identities you keep forever
  • you do not have to feel as though you were born with an identity; that identity is valid no matter how early or late in life you began to use it
  • it’s okay to change; your identity is valid if you never change it or you change it every day
  • you’re perfect just how you are, as well as just how you used to be and how you will be in the future

the claim “gender is a social construct” will never not be amusing because these people actually believe that someone sat down and “created” the concept of gender “identity” which actually means nothing (because everyone has their own “personal definition” and it’s all based on feelings) and is thus impossible to invent

what’s even funnier is that they deny that gender has anything to do with biological sex, even though they wouldn’t have labels like “boy” “man” “woman” “girl” etc without sex

The certification of stable mental health is not required for breast reduction or menopausal ingestion of estrogen. The required intervention of a mental health professional on the occasion in which one wants to transition inserts a paternalistic structure into the process and undermines the very autonomy that is the basis for the claim of entitlement to begin with. A therapist is asked to worry about whether you will be able, psychologically, to integrate into an established social world characterized by large-scale conformity to accepted gender norms, but the therapist is not asked to say whether you are brave enough or have enough community support to live a transgendered life when the threat of violence and discrimination against you will be heightened. The therapist is not asked whether your way of living gender will help to produce a world of fewer constrictions on gender, or whether you are up to that important task. The therapist is asked to predict whether your choice will lead to postoperative regret, and here your desire is examined for its persistence and tenacity, but little attention is given to what happens to one’s persistent and tenacious desires when the social world, and the diagnosis itself, demeans them as psychic disorders.
—  Judith Butler, “Undiagnosing Gender” from Undoing Gender (2004)

On October 10, 1970, the day she was born, she was named Dorothy Maree Alaniz–a baby girl. Curiously, though, no one filled out a birth certificate that day. When the certificate was finally filed on November 5, the name on it was Rudolph Andrew Alaniz. Within less than one month after her birth, this girl became a boy.” 

Every year in the United States, more than two thousand children are born with an intersex condition or disorder of sex development. What makes someone a boy or a girl? Is it external genitalia, chromosomes, DNA, environment, or some combination of these factors? Not even doctors or scientists are entirely clear. What is clear is that sex is not an either-or proposition: not girl/boy, XX/XY, switching between two poles like an on-off switch on a radio. Rather, sex is like the bass and treble knobs on that radio. Between XX and XY provides a fascinating look at the science of sex and what makes people male or female.

There are people born XXY, XXXY, or XXXXY, or with any number of variations in X or Y chromosomes, but those who do not fit into society’s preconceived notions about sex often face a difficult path in life. Dr. Callahan explores why humans are so attached to the idea of two sexes, and examines our obsession with sex and sexual intercourse through the ages.


And when I see queer theorists saying that the sex binary is inherently oppressive, I can’t help but think it’s because they can’t imagine a world where male and female could exist and not dominate each other. Radicals see the material reality of biological sex and reject a system that uses those facts to organize its oppression of females; queer theorists, on the other hand, can’t separate the two – the non-oppressive reality and the oppressive fiction constructed in relation to that reality – so their only option to avoid the resultant abuse is to deny the facts.

Queer theorists see the intimate connection between biological sex and oppression, and they react by dismantling the notion of biological sex; feminists see the intimate connection between biological sex and oppression, and they react by dismantling oppression. That’s the fundamental difference between liberals and radicals; one destroys truth to avoid confronting power, and one confronts power to avoid destroying truth.

Performing one’s gender wrong initiates a set of punishments both obvious and indirect, and performing it well provides the reassurance that there is an essentialism of gender identity after all. That this reassurance is so easily displaced by anxiety, that culture so readily punishes or marginalizes those who fail to perform the illusion of gender essentialism should be sign enough that on some level there is social knowledge that the truth or falsity of gender is only socially compelled and in no sense ontologically necessitated.
—  Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” (528)

wickedrache asked:

hi there. while maybe your answer will be "actually get off my blog"... can you give me a sense of your take on why queer theory is antifeminist?

Queer theory goes back to post-modernism, Foucault and Judith Butler (known mostly for authoring Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity and Bodies That Matter). The idea of “queering” things and “being queer” refers to anything perceived as “subversive.” This encompasses a wide range of “stigmatized” practices and sexual behaviors, from pedophilia ( x ) to BDSM to inherently harmless sexual orientations. This lumping of them all together is not my doing. Queer theory’s argument that anything “negatively” socially stigmatized has a “subversive” quality when individually embraced extends indiscriminately. The various reasons for stigma, such as whether it’s due to wanting to protect children from predators, wanting to avoid normalizing violence, or in contrast, is about instilling homophobia, is not generally investigated.

Besides that, queer theory literature is heavy on jargon but the gist of ideas conveyed is the following:

Gender as a subjective performance:

In this view, gender is a chosen, voluntary form of self-expression (based on what constitutes a man or a woman, or to stay true to how queer theory is actually practiced: the many other “genders”). In queer theory, gender is not something that is socialized into you (in the form of femininity for females and masculinity for males based on relative cultural standards) but rather is something you already feel internally then conscientiously identify with and choose to express or “perform.”

In queer theory, gender is also something that is entirely defined according to each and every individual. There is no consistent, fixed, definitive, meaning to gender. Gender, in queer theory, has nothing to do with biology (it is not a sex-based category) and also has nothing to do with larger social structures that consistently and fixedly privileges one group over another. Rather, gender in queer theory, is entirely self-defined and is related to internal feeling.

This impacts the way language is used.

The view that the meanings of words, like man and woman, are in constant subjective flux and are entirely self-determined or self-defined makes categories like gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans not useful. Men can label themselves lesbians, people can label themselves trans without even having sex dysphoria. Since gender in queer theory is not a sex-based category and biology is not relevant to categorizing men and women, a lesbian saying that lesbianism is defined as a woman exclusively attracted to another woman (as biologically female) is criticized as narrow minded and bigoted. A trans person stating you need sex dysphoria or to have experienced sex dysphoria to be trans is called “truscum” (a pejorative).

There have been many Feminist criticisms of queer theory and “queer culture”  on the idea that gender is about a subjective, selected, choice based on internal feeling that is then performed:

“The idea that gender is natural is conservative, and the idea that gender is voluntarily chosen is insulting. Tell a victim of corrective rape that gender is voluntary. Tell any survivor of rape, the overwhelming majority of which are female, that being a woman is a fun set of clothing and behavior choices that she could reject identification with if she chose. Tell a preteen girl whose body is beginning to develop that the constant sexual assault at school, the constant leering and harassment from grown men, and the constant cultural messages telling her to starve herself, they’re all just part of her freely chosen identity as a woman.”   — Rachel Ivey

“If gender was performance, then there would be a way to perform that didn’t result in rape for women. But men rape housewives. Men rape butch lesbians. Men rape quiet women in dresses and lipstick. Men rape snarling punks in leather jackets and safety pins. Men rape every type of woman. There is no way for a woman to be that doesn’t risk rape. There is no way to perform that lets women escape the confines of gender because gender is not performance; it’s the designator of who can rape – us, the people called men – and who can be raped – them, the people called women. Performance has nothing to do with it."   — Queer Theory: The New Men’s Rights Movement                                   

Also, there’s Feminist criticisms of queer theory on the political challenges that arise out of being unable to consistently define what a woman (or man) is (especially without using circular reasoning: “a woman is a woman is a woman.” or “a woman identifies as a woman” with no consistent basis for what she’s identifying with):

“What did these [postmodern] ideas contribute to feminism and the understanding of violence? The idea that there is no such thing as ‘woman’. That it is essentialising and unacceptable to speak of women’s experience or women’s oppression because women are all utterly different individuals. Moreover oppression does not exist because power just floats around with no direction just constantly recreating itself out of the interaction of well meaning people in communication. There is no such thing as ‘truth’ which conveniently allows for a moral relativism in which it is very unfashionable to protest against any behaviour or condition of oppression.”   —  Queer theory and violence against women (2004)

Lesbians have criticized “queer” in its use as an umbrella term for anyone with same sex attraction (gays, lesbians, bisexuals) and also for the idea that gender in the form of performance, identity, or feeling, rather than reality makes it difficult to have an organized criticism of sexism:

“I’m ambivalent about the term queer. I think it’s useful in certain ways - it has the cringe factor, it’s confrontational. And there is something about the experience of being an outsider that’s embedded in the word. When you throw it back in people’s faces, it can produce a certain sense of empowerment. It also has limitations. In some ways, it reminds me of the word gay. I worked really hard to get lesbian into usage, and so did a lot of other people who came before me. Lumping us together erases the differences, the inequalities between us [bolded added]. At certain times it can be useful; at others it can really be throwing a rug over our diversities. … I feel like I see the word queer used a lot to erase my identity as a lesbian [bolded added]. … That ‘fuck you’ queer identity is more easily accessible for men than for lesbians, because of sexism and just the overwhelming reality of sexual violence. Lesbians can’t stop being women and dealing with that reality (emphasis added) (1992, 29).” - Holly Hughes

“Queer” has been criticized as not only rendering socially invisible lesbianism but also preluding to the rendering invisible of racial awareness/visibility within the LGBA, T. “Queer culture’s” “queerness” is seen as culturally homogenizing in its grouping together of gay culture(s), lesbian culture(s), the bisexual communities, asexual communities, and trans communities, across all racial and ethnic experiences.

“Lesbians and gay men have every reason to be suspicious of ‘queerness’ and its promise of an instant identity” (Kader and Piontek 1992, 9). The universalizing move of “queerness” also has the potential to make a similar argument about race, thus evacuating the specificities of racialized identities in favor of a queer universalism that claims multiracial status without ever seriously developing a race-based critique of heteronormativity.” - Suzanna Danuta Walters

"…[Q]ueer can “de-race” the homosexual of color in much the same way “old-time” gay studies often has, effectively erasing the specificity of “raced” gay existence under a queer rubric in which whiteness is not problematized.” -

Suzanna Danuta Walters

“Queer culture” also permits heterosexual people to be active in “queer spaces” since the standards of “subversiveness” includes practicing BDSM, playing around with gender as a trend or costume (this is NOT a reference to transsexual people or sex dysphoric people), or heterosexual people feeling entitled to use homophobic slurs and labels because they’re allies. Gayness and “subversion” for Queer Straights is tokenized and fashionable and gives them access to LGBA, T, spaces.

“Any of these Queer Straights would probably be horrified to think their behavior might translate as a tease. They mean to practice what theorists call ‘gender performativity’ - the act of defining your sexuality through manner and style. Postmodernism’s logic of surfaces has turned the closet inside out, making the projection of a queer attitude enough to claim a place in homosexual culture. Yet Queer Straights don’t practice the fundamental acts of intimacy that ground homosexual identity. They are neither bisexual [n]or experimenting. They’re not ambiguously defined companions of gay men, as were the fag-hags of yore. Queer Straights don’t just hang around; what they do is pass. … .” - Ann Powers

"The deconstruction of identity politics (the recognition that identity categories can be regulatory regimes) may have some merit, but it can also, in the world of academia as well in other social spaces, become the vehicle for co-optation: the radical queer theorist as married heterosexual. It becomes a convenient way to avoid those questions of privilege.

What are the implications involved in claiming “queerness” when one is not gay or lesbian? And, would we tolerate this passing (indeed, it is even being celebrated!) in another context, say the context of race or ethnicity? If it is clearly co-optive and colonizing for the white person to claim blackness if she or he “feels” black (or even feels aligned politically with the struggles against racism), then why is it so strangely legitimate for a heterosexual to claim queerness because she or he feels a disaffection from traditional definitions of heterosexuality? The white academic says she is working on antiracism and on issues of race and ethnicity; the straight (most often white) academic says she (or he, more often) is queer. There is a huge jump being made from studying/ teaching gay and lesbian work to pronouncing oneself queer.” - Suzanna Danuta Walters

"…[T]here is a disturbing trend in which queer theory has become disassociated from gay identity.
Indeed, this disassociation is often celebrated as the necessary adjunct to the disassociation of gender and sexuality. One of the interesting aspects of this phenomenon of queer theory in the academy is that you do not have to be gay to do it, in fact it is much better if you are not.” - Suzanna Danuta Walters

Queer theory’s argument that gender is about performance, style, self-expression, and individualism, through experimenting or exploring “identity” has been criticized as depoliticizing and misdirecting activists from being able to pinpoint and explain male privilege:

"Clearly, cross-dressing, passing, and assorted tropes of postmodern delight are sexier, more fun, more inventive than previous discourses of identity and politics. Indeed, … the performance motif the perfect trope for our funky times, producing a sense of enticing activity amid the depressing ruins of late capitalism. It obviously speaks to the pastiche-like world of images and signs that have come to signify what it means to live in the postmodern ( … ), yet this hand can, and has, been overplayed. In particular, this trope becomes vacuous when it is decontextualized, bandied about as the new hope for a confused world. Theories of gender as play and performance need to be intimately and systematically connected with the power of gender (really, the power of male power) to constrain, control, violate, and configure. Too often, mere lip service is given to the specific historical, social, and political configurations that make certain conditions possible and others constrained, as Hennessy here notes in her critique of Butler (and others) for the lack of attention to the material context of “gender performance”: “What does it mean to say that what can be seen as parodic and what gender parody makes visible depends on a context in which subversive confusions can be fostered? What exactly is meant by ‘context’ here?” (Hennessy 1994, 40). Without substantive engagement with complex sociopolitical realities, those performance tropes appear as entertaining but ultimately depoliticized academic exercises.” - Suzanna Danuta Walters

This individualizing and depoliticizing of gender is not compatible with Feminism if Feminism can here be defined as a movement to liberate women from patriarchal oppression by ending male power. “Queer” as an all-encompassing, generic, subjective, relative, label does not make understanding women’s condition easier, it blurs it:

"Unlike the terms gay and lesbian, queer is not gender specific, and this of course has been one of its selling points, … Feminism has taught us that the idea of gender neutrality is not only fictitious but a move of gender domination.”

And that “gender domination” is male domination, since in an androcentric, phallocentric, patriarchal, society MALE IS THE HUMAN DEFAULT.

“Queer (as opposed to gay or lesbian) lets you off the identity hook the way that gender studies has vis-à-vis women’s studies, while cashing in on the trendiness of postmodernism.”          

"Many are wary of [queer theory’s] … easy dismissal of feminism, as if “gender” was now a done deal and we needed to move on to a new discourse of sexuality: “It would be premature to dismiss the insights of feminism - of a gender-based perspective - in favor of a queer discourse which sets up universal, that is, male, subjects as its implicit referent.”

From Here to Queer: Radical Feminism, Postmodernism and the Lesbian Menace (…), by Suzanna Danuta Walters

Source: Signs, Vol. 21, No. 4, Feminist Theory and Practice (Summer, 1996), pp. 830 - 869

Published by: The University of Chicago Press

Also read: “Gender Performativity” is Victim Blaming

I will now leave you with a little story by Suzanna Walters:

“…[T]he new popularity of “queer” (theory and, less so, politics) is that it often (and once again) erases lesbian specificity and the enormous difference that gender makes, evacuates the importance of feminism, and rewrites the history of lesbian feminism and feminism generally.

The story, alluded to above, goes something like this: once upon a time there was this group of really boring ugly women who never had sex, walked a lot in the woods, read bad poetry about goddesses, wore flannel shirts, and hated men (even their gay brothers). They called themselves lesbians. Then, thankfully, along came these guys named Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan dressed in girls’ clothes riding some very large white horses. They told these silly women that they were politically correct, rigid, frigid, sex-hating prudes who just did not GET IT - it was all a game anyway, all about words and images, all about mimicry and imitation, all a cacophony of signs leading back to nowhere. To have a politics around gender was silly, they were told, because gender was just a performance anyway, a costume one put on and, in drag performance, wore backward. And everyone knew boys were better at dress up.

So, queerness is theorized as somehow beyond gender, a vision of a sort of transcendent polymorphous perversity deconstructing as it slips from one desiring/desired object to the other. But this forgets the very real and felt experience of gender that women, particularly, live with quite explicitly. Indeed, one could argue that this is really the dividing line around different notions of queer; to what extent do theorists argue queer as a term beyond (or through) gender? “Where de Lauretis retains the categories ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ and some notion of gender division as parts of her discussion of what ‘queerness’ is (or might be), Judith Butler and Sue-Ellen Case have argued that queerness is something that is ultimately beyond gender-it is an attitude, a way of responding, that begins in a place not concerned with, or limited by, notions of a binary opposition of male and female or the homo versus hetero paradigm usually articulated as an extension of this gender binarism” (Doty 1993, xv). But, again, this seems to assume that feminists (or gays and lesbians) have somehow created these binarisms.

Unlike the terms gay and lesbian, queer is not gender specific, and this of course has been one of its selling points …”

In the Jewish tradition, reading of the Torah follows a calendar cycle, with a specific portion assigned each week. These weekly portions, read aloud in synagogues around the world, have been subject to interpretation and commentary for centuries. Following on this ancient tradition, Torah Queeries brings together some of the world’s leading rabbis, scholars, and writers to interpret the Torah through a “bent lens”.

With commentaries on the fifty-four weekly Torah portions and six major Jewish holidays, the concise yet substantive writings collected here open up stimulating new insights and highlight previously neglected perspectives.

This incredibly rich collection unites the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight-allied writers, including some of the most central figures in contemporary American Judaism. All bring to the table unique methods of reading and interpreting that allow the Torah to speak to modern concerns of sexuality, identity, gender, and LGBT life. Torah Queeries offers cultural critique, social commentary, and a vision of community transformation, all done through biblical interpretation.

Written to engage readers, draw them in, and, at times, provoke them, Torah Queeries examines topics as divergent as the Levitical sexual prohibitions, the experience of the Exodus, the rape of Dinah, the life of Joseph, and the ritual practices of the ancient Israelites. Most powerfully, the commentaries here chart a future of inclusion and social justice deeply rooted in the Jewish textual tradition.A labor of intellectual rigor, social justice, and personal passions, Torah Queeries is an exciting and important contribution to the project of democratizing Jewish communities, and an essential guide to understanding the intersection of queerness and Jewishness.