After Solveig Horne left the Pride House opening, with the mainstream media tagging along to get the "what are you feeling now"-interview, the next person was invited up on stage for her predefined portion of the prgram: Queer intro.
The ten minutes which followed changed the whole event. From beeing an awkward display of lack of solidarity, to quite the opposite. I've heard claims that this speech justified the fact that Horne was invited. Because she was critized. I don't agree. The speech, while adressing the issues surrounding the invite, did not focus on Horne or FRP. It's focus was why, if queering your understaning of the world, the invite should not have happened.
But now I will stop rambling, and leave the rest of this blogpost to, as I see it, the real star of the Pride House opening: Katrina Roen
EuroPride Opening Ceremony Presentation
Oslo, 20th June, 2014
The point of queer ways of thinking is to open up new possibilities: that is, possibilities that other approaches to sexuality, gender, and identity do not. Queer academic work can be traced back to the early 1990’s involving theorists such as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Teresa de Lauretis, Judith Butler, Judith/Jack Halberstam …
Queer: An umbrella term
In popular usage, queer is often treated as an umbrella term. It gets used to bring together LGBTI … people into an alliance. This is what the Norwegian word ‘skeiv’ also does. But queer – in terms of queer theory – does a lot more than this. It is not just an umbrella term. It is not supposed to be just another way of categorizing people according to sexuality and gender.
Queer: A critique of norms
The point of queer theory is to critique norms. We can see how this works if we use queer as a verb, rather than an adjective. To queer: to queer the way we understand sexuality and gender; to queer norms. Here, to queer means to challenge, to question.
Queering is about DOING something, not just about BEING something. We can all DO queer: we can all present queer challenges. We can all queer the way we see the world and the way others see us – and this creates breathing room for a diverse range of people.
Some of us do queer in the way we are in our bodies. Some of us do queer in the way we love others. Some of us do queer in the way we speak about others. Doing queer can mean making an in-your-face challenge to norms, or it can mean making subtle shifts in your language, and gently offering ideas that help other people to see the effect of normative assumptions.
Everyone can choose to QUEER:
For example: When you enroll your child in kindergarten, do you enroll your child as a girl, or boy, or as a child? Does the kindergarten need to categorise your child according to binary sex?
Queer allows us question that which is usually taken for granted, and to see ourselves differently in relation to others.
Queer allows us to question existing power relations. We can, for example, question the power relations that are built into the assumption that being out and proud is what counts. Being out and proud may only be possible in the context of particular privileges (middle class privilege, specific cultural location).
The point of queer theory is not only to queer gender and sexuality, but to queer identity itself. In the late 20th century, it became typical for people to use identity categories to try and describe sexuality and gender: terms like man, woman, transsexual, transgender, gay, straight, bisexual, intersex etc. Queer theory helps us to see that these categories themselves can have very normative effects: many people are excluded by these categories. The categories do not work well across cultures. The attempts to define the categories leads to divisions that do not help our efforts to work together.
It is not unusual for the high-profile successes to privilege a normative white able-bodied middle class gay man, and not necessarily work in favour of people who belong to multiple minorities. The concept of queer is used to challenge these normative ways of thinking about identity. Instead, the idea is to understand identity as multiple and fluid: we do not simply belong to individual categories, we’re not fixed into these unitary positions for our whole lives. Such a simple way of thinking about identity misrepresents all human beings.
Queering gender & sexuality
The point of queer theory is heavily focused on queering sexuality and gender: questioning the assumptions we have about sexuality and challenging us to understand sexuality differently; bringing the categories man & woman into question, challenging binary-sex norms.
Let’s try to think differently about relationships, not reproduce the (normative) relationships that we see around us and try to ‘fit in’ with them. The harder we try to ‘fit in’, the more we will be excluding others. This exclusion is the effect of homonormativity.
Homonormative ways of thinking lead to:
- some gay and lesbian people claiming the same rights as heterosexual people:
- Lesbian & gay privilege: Getting funding for ‘LGBT’ organisations that mostly work for white lesbian and gay people and mostly do not represent the more diverse and disadvantaged spectrum of bi*, trans*, and inter* people, queers of colour, and queers with disabilities.
- Strategic Alliances that work for some: Inviting into a forum like this, spokespeople who belong to conservative parties with agendas that do nothing to celebrate diversity. Watering-down our sexuality politics to make it acceptable to people who are basically homophobic but may be interested in winning lesbian and gay votes.
Arguably, homonormative ways of thinking do lead to change – but this is change at the expense of those who are marginalized.
Queer ways of thinking lead to:
- fundamental changes in understanding, and a reworking of power relations across diverse groups of people:
- Celebrating difference: Forming groups that are organized to include, respect, and celebrate diversity rather than aspiring to sameness.
- Challenging power imbalances: Noticing how some people are privileged by homonormative activism, while others are marginalized.
- Working across diversity to bring about political change: Not giving in and accepting political decisions that are good for a privileged gay few but leave the more diverse queer spectrum out in the cold.
The point is to work across difference, to value difference, to see difference as a strength. Queer prompts us to think about how we can work across difference and develop a more inclusive politics. It is worth developing a politics that turns norms on their head, rather than just producing another set of norms.
Professor in Cultural & Community Psychology,University of Oslo, Norway