Saturday, 13 August 2016

If That’s What It Means to be Queer — I Quit!

A few years ago I wrote an article titled ‘If that’s what it means to be gay, I quit!’ I was tired of apolitical, churchgoing, family-oriented, unsexual gays and lesbians, and outed myself as an ‘ESPIE’ — an effeminate sexual person. 
As a limp-wristed horny gay man I thought — ‘Well even if I’m not gay anymore I can still be queer!’ But recent developments have indicated that I might not be comfortable calling myself queer anymore either.
Last month I attended a queer conference in Vancouver. Someone at the conference said: ‘I have a dear friend who is asexual, they consider themselves to be queer.’ I said ‘That  doesn’t make sense to me. Queer is a word originally used against people because of the kind of sex they like to have. Hasn’t being queer always been about sex?’ Nobody seemed to agree with me.
At the same queer conference I also learned that some very vocal queers these days don’t like drag queens — and they’re certainly not ashamed to say so! Someone said drag was misogynistic, someone else said that drag queens perform to appropriated music — and that their humour is hurtful and unpleasant. Others agreed. My understanding was always that drag (as Judith Butler taught us) gives freedom to stretch the binary gender boundary. And don’t forget, drag queens are, and have always been, radicals — they were on the front lines at Stonewall.
But that is all history. And modern day queers don’t seem to care a fig about history.
All this is relevant to the changes taking place at Toronto Pride. The Executive Director of Pride Toronto — Mathieu Chantelois — recently resigned. 
His resignation has a lot to do with ‘new queer’ vs. ‘old gay and lesbian.’ 
At the the most recent Toronto Pride, Black Lives Matter marched in the parade, staged a protest against the police, and offered an agreement for Chantelois that would ban the police from formally marching in the parade. Chantelois signed the document, but after the parade he promptly disavowed his action. Now, as Chantelois resigns, there are voices calling for a more race-sensitive, trans-inclusive Pride.
The battle lines are pretty clear. The question is this: will Toronto Pride be a gay and lesbian parade — celebrating the mainstream values of nice, married middle-class white gay and lesbian parents pushing strollers and waving rainbow flags? Or will it be ‘new queer,’ focused on  issues of trans and race?
I haven’t marched in Pride for years; but I don’t think I’ll be marching when it turns ‘new queer.’ I mean, I’m all for a more race-sensitive, trans-inclusive parade, and I’ve fought against racism and for trans people most of my life. But the conference made it clear to me that in the ‘new queer’ world, there is absolutely no time or space for subjects that matter very much to me, for instance: AIDS, drag, sex, and feminism. The lack of support for my ideas at the queer conference made it very clear: these subjects are past-their-due-date and irrelevant, and the ‘new queer’ powers-that-be might even be offended by someone bringing them up.
So you see, now that I no longer can call myself ‘gay’, I find it doesn’t make sense to call myself  ‘queer,’ anymore, either.
Gee, what’s ol’ Sky to do?
It looks like I’ll be having my own party every June — all by myself!
Wish me luck!