Sometimes it can feel like “gay” has got stranded on a privileged and irrelevant hillock out in the suburbs of Queer. Stranded by marriage equality, by a version of identity that seems to resist intersectionality and consumerism. Pink-washed. Masculinist. Culturally and politically white. Tickled by effeminacy and genderqueer and non-binary but not honouring them.
Yet the picture is more complex than this…
As a young gay activist the early rhetoric and ambition of Gay Liberation caught my imagination and continues to set a meaningful standard for what gay might mean. Early gay liberation didn’t seek a liberation of only gay people from heteropatriarchal family structures, but was instead intended to offer an invitation, an incitement, a demand for everyone to be liberated from those structures, through the opportunities that ‘gay’ presented for new and exciting forms of relationships, intimacies and structures of association.
David Halperin, in his iconic book How To Be Gay, suggests that:
“homosexuality itself, even as an erotic orientation, even as a specifically sexual subjectivity, consists in a dissident way of feeling and relating to the world” (12/13)
At a time when the increased, yet increasingly fragile, tolerance we currently enjoy in the name of “diversity” comes at an increasingly heavy price – politically, economically, geopolitically – the injunction offered to critically assess the meaning of gayness in queer times is timely, urgent and very welcome.
At a time when trans people are being driven out of public life, when figures of reported hate crime based on sexual orientation and trans are going up, when our identities are being coopted in culture wars against Muslims, and our very existence is said to pose a danger to young people… there has never been a better time to explore the potential radicalism of gayness in queer times.
Stephen Maddison, June 2019
Over the past decade the articulation of theory or politics that is explicitly gay (rather than queer or LGBTQ) has often been attached to limiting, exclusionary, and oppressive practices, particularly regarding race and gender. As an unsurprising result, in both academia and activism ‘gay’ is frequently framed as the normative, assimilationist, and exclusionary past to queer’s fluid, radical, and inclusive present and future.
Yet critically engaging with what gay and queer mean (or could mean) nowadays can be elided precisely because of this problematic juxtaposition. While in many ways we broadly align ourselves with queer thought, we are sceptical of knee-jerk tendencies to unquestioningly surrender gay to a politics of exclusion and neoliberal assimilationism. We want to challenge and interrogate assumptions of how gay can be known and conceptualised, beyond conflation with / reduction to homosexuality. Consequently, “gayness in queer times” invites a focus explicitly gay scholarships, theories, identities, identifications, politics, cultures, histories, and futures. It asks: ‘Does gay have anything useful to offer in queer times?’
The Gayness In Queer Times blog welcomes suggestions for material that broadly engages with the question above. This blog is maintained with support from the Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender (CTSG) and Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics, and Ethics (CAPPE). Enquiries should be directed to the CAPPE Administrator, <firstname.lastname@example.org>