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Wiscon panel report: Queer frontiers

Queer frontiers: Topics from the far reaches of gender and sexuality

Track(s): Feminism and Other Social Change Movements
Description: Does drag appropriate the trans experience? Is legal recognition of a third gender a step in the right direction? Are "bisexual" and "pansexual" really the same thing? Are we headed to a post-gender future? In Queer Frontiers, we're leaving the 101 conversation behind and blasting ahead to the very edge of queer theory. Let's talk about things we don't even have language for yet and write the theses that will be published in 20 years!

[My comments are in [italic brackets]. My notes aren't a complete transcription and may represent my own language rather than the actual words of the panelists. I welcome corrections. I did not identify audience commenters by name. If you said something I paraphrased here and want your name to be used, please comment or send me a private message.]

This panel was ASL-interpreted and also simulcast onto a screen so everyone could have a good look at the person who was speaking. The panelists repeated/summarized comments from the audience. I really appreciated this.

Panelists:

AM - Allison Moon (moderator; proposed panel): Author, sex-educator. http://GirlSex101.com & http://TalesofthePack.com
AL - Alexis Lothian: Professor, teaches queer theory and LGBT studies. http://queergeektheory.org
GT - Gretchen T.: Bookseller from Madison. Identifies as genderqueer. Pronouns: "they/them". @gretchening http://gretchening.dreamwidth.org/
NC - Nino Cipri: Writer. Identifies as queer, genderqueer. Pronouns: "they/them". https://twitter.com/nicolecipri

What's starting to happen, what do we need to create language for?

Is drag appropriation? Is the Genderfloomp party a minstrel show? Julia Serano spoke about this online. [http://juliaserano.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-few-thoughts-on-drag-trans-women-and.html]

NC: I'm not trans. Some trans ppl started exploring gender by dressing in drag. But some drag, e.g. RuPaul is denigrating to trans people. There isn't a yes or no answer. See documentary Paris Is Burning [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100332/].

GT: I support Genderfloomp because I can perform femininity, which is hard elsewhere for me. Mainstream drag, e.g. RuPaul, is sexist and racist, but sometimes subverting. At the party it's important that people have a feeling of safety; ppl want to know their gender isn't being mocked. But playing is important.

AL: Whether drag is appropriative depends on context. Vid party has a vid from Paris Is Burning. ["Like You And Me" (Paris is Burning) by Imaginary Circus (or on Tumblr here)]. Genderfloomp gave me a queer identity crisis, but I got over it.

Audience comment: Trans and genderqueer: I was told gender identity and gender expression are separate.

Audience comment: I help organize Floomp [the party was named Floomp this year, not Genderfloomp]. We need safe space for gender expression. Drag queens/kings and trans people have been allies a long time. I don't like using race metaphors, e.g. "minstrel show," to discuss this issue. I am a white person.

AM: Binary gender is presumed. If you have an identity close to an edge are you reifying binary gender? Can you reclaim femme? There is a femme panel. [I think this referred to a panel called "Sister of Girly Feminism" cross-scheduled against this panel.]

AL: Julia Serrano is where to go for that. Femininity has often been celebrated but there is privilege involved in some masculinities. [Missed some stuff]

NC: I'm not femme, schooled by femmes, attracted to butchness. Weird space between. Femme friends said ppl assume they're performing it out of habit, but that's not true. They find power in it. They are fighting the system too.

[Missed some stuff]

AL: The fear of not being ENOUGH or RIGHT, queer ppl feel this a lot.

GT: I don't have a set gender identity; sometimes I wear a skirt because it's hot out. It doesn't always have to be political, and I don't have to explain it.

AL: Queer as a verb. My activism honors change in our lives. Queer politics often involves staking/gate-keeping a claim. I don't like this.

Audience comment: Queer frontiers, what is the edge?

Audience comment: The word "frontier" has baggage. Can we transcend? Is there a queer term? "Frontier" erases our history of racism and colonialism.

GT: Putting it into historical context, often someone is already in the "unknown". One group of ppl can't always be on vanguard of newness. Maybe nothing new, just change.

[someone]: Did title of panel change from "future"? We need to deconstruct frontier

AL: Octavia Butler in her Parable novels had a spaceship called Christopher Columbus. New work in queer studies challenges the idea of avant garde. Whom are we ahead of? And who is getting left behind?

Audience comment: If we go into the frontier, do we turn our backs on history?

Audience comment: What about ppl caught in the middle of boundary? E.g. as a transnational person.

Alexis: Looking backwards, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories book by Elizabeth Freeman. One point of queer was always to be ahead, science fictional idea, read too much Delaney as teenager, not just queer ahead but also queer behind.

Niño: There is queerness not happening in academia/English. We are in small circles.

AM: Maybe gender bending went on for aeons. Do you need a body to be queer?

NC: Sex with robot or alien, is that queer?

AM: trans humanists ?

Audience comment (addressing NC's question): Yes, but redefine what counts as body? "Some material substrate".

GT: All our creations come from our histories and have baggage. In future maybe we won't need the concept "queer." What is this reacting to, how can I use it to enhance my understanding?

AL: Not having a body has a historical context.

Audience comment: You need a culture to be queer. You have to be queer AGAINST that culture.

Audience comment: Cloud metaphor is a problem: Someone has to maintain the server farm. So uploading self into computer ignores this. Body is still in one place.

Audience comment: Digital upload is not the only way.

Audience comment: An Eastern perspective is that you don't need a body if queerness is a verb/state of being. Cultures/actions are labeled female/male. Queerness can be a philosophy. Kind of like Buddhism.

AM: Must queerness be in opposition?

GT: No but often it is. Interactiveness. Being reactive. That's why it's not a noun for me.

AL: I keep asking myself about this. I do use it as a noun, but it's a process or a relationship, a way of engaging things. Must be something other than opposition. My mentor had a sound bite: ppl wanted to write essays that said queer = opposition to norm. But to be against something, you have to know what it is. Homonationalism: gay friendly becomes idea of freedom. If we are oppressed and then not, then what?

NC: Ongoing conversation. Queer ideology moves away from margins. One revolution seeds the next.

GT: Framing cultural future is privileged. Here, I can present as queer without fear because I'm white and there is a culture supporting me that isn't supporting POC, etc. Identities have context.

AM: Radical is perceived as fringe, but is that binary accurate? Depends on context. Victor [Raymond?] says radicalism means "create world you want to live in." This gives power to ppl who have less power.

Audience comment: To be queer without opposition, there can be continuums with no norm. E.g., astrology. Different signs are associated with different personalities/qualities, but there is no single norm to compare them to. In that situation, everyone's queer. But if there's a norm, opposition happens.

AM: "Normless continuums" sounds like a punk band.

Audience comment: The frontier is to deconstruct "normal".

GT: In astrology spatial metaphors matter. Can be limited by line or circle. Fringe or edge aren't always helpful concepts. Equality isn't gonna happen, we aren't going to end up the same. What we want is to dismantle power imbalances.

Audience comment: A future where everyone is queer, is that ideal? Would gender go away? Or are genders too important for our identities?

AL: Sameness vs deconstructing power: sameness as SF trope. Students think socialism = sameness. This is dangerous. Inequality is required for individuality.

Audience comment: In psychology it's said that ppl are tied to self-identities. Would we lose sense of self?

NC: No because ppl don't have one identity for their whole life. Everybody changes. Essentialism is wrong.

Audience comment: In Samuel Delaney's Dhalgren and Trouble on Triton, there is no norm. Everyone must confront radical difference. But some cling to normal.

GT: Sameness and everyone being the highest normal form is colonialist fantasy.

AL: Nisi Shawl's "Deep End" story [http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/deep-end/]. Delaney's Trouble on Triton is problematic about trans stuff, but protagonist wants norm and there isn't one.

AM: "Advancing beyond" is ablist, racist, classist.

Audience comment: Concept of transcending body acknowledges anxiety about own body in relation to other. Power fantasy about being disembodied, yet just as capable. Assumes individual identity won't change when one is part of collective consciousness. That wouldn't work. Concept is a fantasy about being at the top of structure but not being part of it.

Audience comment: Feeling pleasure requires a body. It's radical to accept pleasure in a non-normative body.

Audience comment: The body implies a boundary. Can we think of body collectively? Are boundaries needed for solidarity? Is queerness breaking down boundaries? Is there a queer way to have a boundary?

NC: Queers have good boundaries. Because we have to think of their identity more? It's why we have so many identity names, which is awesome.

GT: Is this about respect? There are ways to be queer and have respectful boundaries. By admitting differences you can respect others more. E.g. by using correct pronouns. Because you can't tell by looking at someone what pronouns they prefer

AL: Gender pronouns can feel like breaking something, scary. We have to give up idea that we know stuff.



So this panel wandered pretty far into queer theory. Queer theory was developed after I left school, so I'm not sure I followed all of it. And I was kind of sad it didn't address most of the topics in the description. But I found it interesting anyway.

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/843083.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments. I prefer that you comment on Dreamwidth, but it's also OK to comment here.

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