This past weekend I had a fantastic romp to the University of Toledo. I met some stellar students working their asses off to support their community, and ecstatically networked and made friends with who I consider to be one of the most significant drag performance groups in history, The Kinsey Sicks.
With the Kinsey Sicks and UT student organizers Elizabeth and David.
This visit was my first official “keynote” slot, which like most titles, makes me sound cool and significantly more important than I actually am. I presented a new talk that I’m still experimenting with “How to wake up society in 500 calories or more – a sweet tooth’s guide to sex, gender, and the illusion of normalcy.” The topic turned out to be more relevant to my own thought processes throughout the weekend than I had anticipated. UT’s queer community reminded me very much of the community I was in, or more so on the edge of, during my undergrad at the University of Cincinnati. Now, both UC and UT are large state schools smack in the middle of very racially and economically segregated, (initially) industry based Midwestern cities so maybe one would expect similarities. But even without location, population, or environment, I think there is a bigger influence in play here. Queer communities -campuses included- don’t live in a vacuum. We are all exposed to the same oppressive systems, whether it is anti-queer discrimination and hate or “GLBT” propaganda.
Sometimes I can’t decided which is worse. Having one million monsters outside the door, or one hundred inside the house. Everyday queers are not only dealing with the oppressions of heteronormativity, but homonormativity as well. There is a division in the house of non-hetero politic, but I feel the familiar saying of “a house divided cannot stand” doesn’t apply. I think a house divided can stand, but that’s about all it can do. If G.L. Homeowner can only afford to give minimal upkeep to the house, naturally they will take care of the rooms they use most. If given enough attention, the chosen rooms can get to be pretty swank, maybe accent it with some nice furniture… but the over-all value of the house will be the same. It will never improve, it will be just good enough. And you sure as hell can’t let your family get any bigger than what the nice rooms can accommodate- to break the metaphor, better not let any of those gender non-conformers or people of color in. Surely they’re better off where they are out back. They’re probably happy there, and they’re used to it.
Normative conceptualization of queer communities is not accidentally spread. National marginalization of under-represented, often non-normative groups feeds our marginalization in smaller communities, like college campuses. Smaller communities will naturally have less resources and need to reach out to larger ones, creating a cycle of stagnation with no new exchanges of information. Perfect example: Most people have HRC stickers not because they even actually know what the hell HRC is, its because that was all they could find.All they know is the equal sign means good and means gay. What more is there? Race? Class? Identity? Not relevant. We’re all one homogeneous community, aren’t we? We are starving our youth of information, and they are paying the price for the community’s oversight. If young people are struggling for resources and isolating each other out of fear or ignorance it is because the greater community has not given them access to the information they need to develop their own autonomous understanding of the complex diversity of the queer community. The lucky ones figure it out for themselves, only to be stuck swimming against the current, isolated and alone.
How much can we really accomplish if our resources are close to inclusive, but not actually inclusive? Is this neglect any different from heteronomative society not teaching us about queerness? We are promoting the same practice of oppression, we’re just excusing it because its in house. “We’ll come back for you when we have more to go around” too easily turns into “We forgot about you” which might as well be “We never gave a shit about you in the first place, cause if we did, we would have brought you along in the first place.”