“BEING A QUEER IS TO BE PART OF NON-EXISTENT AND FICTITIOUS CATEGORIES, MANUFACTURED TO EXCLUDE US, BUT OF WHICH WE HAVE RETURNED AND BECOME PROUD OF. QUEER IS ABOUT NEVER BELIEVING THAT WORDS ARE ABSOLUTE. IT’S ABOUT INHABITING THIS WORLD AS A CYBORG, AS THOSE UNINVITED TO THE PARTY THEY CAME. IT’S ABOUT HAVING NO CHOICE BUT TO DISTURB. »
ON THE OCCASION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST THE PHOBIAS OF LGBTQI PEOPLE, WE SHARE THIS BEAUTIFUL TEXT WRITTEN BY JULIEN DIDIER, A BELGIAN ACTIVIST AND PROJECT COMPANION WITHIN Mycelium.
“Beyond normality… we have no choice but to disturb.
On this international day against LGBTQIphobies, I would like to share with you a text that came out of me a few days ago, thinking about all those times when I was told that today being gay, a faggot or queer is “normal”, and this, with the best intention in the world.
This is often the first sentence a queer person hears when she comes out to people who want to be caring and accepting. And it is reassuring, as it contrasts so much with the violence that society produces in so many places against LGBTQI+ people.
For a long time I believed in it or wanted to believe in it. This Eldorado of “normality” was like a band-aid on all those years spent feeling deeply abnormal, wanting to be someone other than myself because who I am would be unacceptable and not worthy of being loved.
Then I felt more and more weird with this idea, like something that doesn’t sound right, because rather than fading away over time, my impression of abnormality in the world was getting stronger as I realized that the impression of abnormality was not fading away. I felt guilty about that – guilty that I didn’t appreciate the normality that was finally being offered to me, guilty that I always doubted myself when everyone around me was telling me “we accept you and you are normal in our eyes”, guilty that my hands always sweat when I had to speak sincerely about myself, guilty that I always assumed that it was better to show a conforming part of myself than to disturb.
Then I understood how queer is a lifelong thing, far beyond a coming-out at 19.
Gradually I understood how much of my life was invisible behind that adjective, how much saying “it’s normal” prevented us from recognizing the profound differences and deep stigmas that this society imposes on queers and how these condition our relationship to the world, in the wounds that are inflicted on us, but also in the potentialities that this assignment to difference invites us to explore.
I thought that when straight people wanted to reassure me that I was normal, it was as if they were somehow putting me back in the closet involuntarily, seeing only the tip of the iceberg, recognizing only a small part of my experience that would come down to the kind of person who would come with me for a family dinner.
And I realized that, if this promise of normality could be a life-saving privilege, in the eyes of all LGBTQI+ people imprisoned, raped, killed, thrown out on the street by their biological family, it could also be deeply toxic when it is the only horizon that is offered to a life marked by abnormality since birth. It is also a gigantic deception when it implies that our queer lives are only tolerated if they resemble this normality, which society wants to sell us in order to “integrate” us.
To recompose myself, I also need to recognize this abnormality and even more to celebrate it and give it life, give it colours, passion and love, to create with it.
As a tribute and in gratitude to all those who have gone before me and fought against this assignment to a confining normality, to an alienating assimilation, to a tolerance conditioned by the cis-heteronorm society, I would like to remember that…
Being queer is not and never will be just about the gender(s) you identify with or the gender(s) of the people you love or have sex with.
Being queer is not just an individual story. Our experience is fundamentally collective and shaped by the cis-hetero world that gave birth to us despite of itself.
Being queer is to feel, from far too early on, that we don’t correspond to what is expected of us and that it will cost us to assume who we are.
Being queer is to have learned not to love or even hate oneself, to see oneself as “different” from a norm we are made to dream of, not to take her place ande seek refuge on the periphery of society.
Being queer is to have learned to hide, to lie to oneself and to others, to cut oneself off from oneself in order to survive and then, even when the danger has passed, to struggle to learn not to do it anymore.
Being queer is to have been insulted, harassed, ostracized before you can experience the kind of love you want. It’s receiving the first spittle before you taste the first kiss.
Being queer is to learn how to escape. Escape from the people who are sometimes closest to you in order to survive. It is learning to escape from the person who harasses or insults you with a smile, it is learning to escape before things get out of hand. It is sometimes escaping too soon or too quickly, as so frequently as we have learned it, and then losing the opportunity of a relationship that was worth it. It’s losing the ability to trust and struggling to regain it, even when everything is peaceful around you.
Being queer is to have to create chosen families, when the one we were born with for the first time is to be avoided. It means giving up copying a family model designed for others than ourselves and co-creating new ones, where we learn to be each other’s adelphs and parents. It means learning to know our vulnerabilities, our intimate wounds, our deepest aspirations, and to care for them together.
Being queer is to create new modes of affection around oneself, which mix lovers, friends, life partners, sexual partners, roommates, nameless relationships and one-night stands in a joyful mix where it is not always clear who is who.
Being queer is to have the privilege to practice, to reinvent relational, friendly, sexual, loving, community practices, outside the imposed models of a heterosexual, monogamous sexuality, leading to the creation of a couple, to reproduce and create a four-faced family. It is to taste the forbidden pleasure of non-standard, non-reproductive sexualities, it is to see sexuality as an integral part of our lives.
Being queer is the challenge of finding lightness where shame has heavily drawn the limits of what is acceptable, it is trying to free ourselves from it. It is about recognizing how we ourselves are able to recreate those mechanisms of shame, abuse or competition learned in spite of ourselves in the cis-hetero world. And to be lenient in our acknowledgement of it.
Being queer is to protect ourselves on a daily basis from physical, verbal, street, institutional, police or just a friend of a friend who thinks he knows enough about it to open his mouth and give his opinion on our lives. It’s too much knowing about cis-hetero society and its norms, to have been called to order so often when we have exceeded them.
Being queer is to have an intimate relationship with anxiety, isolation, depression, death. It is about learning about our addictions that give us the illusion of escaping our ghosts. It’s learning to live with it for a lifetime and still cultivate joy.
Being queer is to live with our missing loved ones, with all the people we have not known and will not know because they did not survive.
Being queer is to have powerful ancestors, who were martyred, exterminated, still invisible in the great history, and who knew how to resist, to organize, to create. But it also means not knowing them ourselves because their stories have been permanently erased, or hetero-washed. It means having to constantly recreate this link to the generations that preceded us.
Being queer is to see our dead forgotten. It means having to count them ourselves because no one else does. It’s seeing our AIDS-affected elders buried in mass graves on Hart Island. It is seeing this epidemic that ravaged us today as a piece of history.
But to be queer is also to be seen again and again in each generation because heterosexual reproductive technologies are powerless in the face of our irresistible existences.
Being queer is to create tirelessly to resist the continuous erasure of our lives, like the waves erase our children’s drawings on the beach.
Being queer is to see the permanence of life other than through reproduction alone. It is believing in regeneration, in recomposition, in our ability to reconstruct our lives when they are dismembered or suffocated. It’s practicing magic. It is to see life in the care given to our communities, in the transmission to multiple heirs, without property rights or authors’ rights.
Being queer is to learn to think in a continuous present, so much the past has shown us that the future is an unstable investment, it is to think above all about the survival of our existences in the present, while fantasizing our lives in non-binary and post-capitalist science-fiction worlds.
Being queer is to take nothing for granted, to know that our lives are always at best only tolerated, that the slightest opportunity can be seized by heteropatriarchy to relegate us all to the periphery and invisible worlds of its womb.
Being queer is to know that, even alongside “progressive” activists, our place will always be precarious because it is seen as threatening in the face of fixed political categories that we contribute to explode. It is to constantly remind “and us” in struggles that will always tend to forget us. »
Being queer is to live deep within oneself the marginalization and oppression and not to bear to see it reproduced around us, in other places, on other margins. Above all, it means not believing in those who promise us the liberation of some at the expense of others.
Being queer is to be part of non-existent and fictitious categories, fabricated to exclude us, but of which we have returned and become proud of. It is never believing that words are absolute. It is to inhabit this world as a cyborg, as those who come to the party without having received an invitation. It’s having no other choice to exist but to disturb.
Being queer is to taste and cultivate hybridities, the spaces between two binary poles where nothing would reside according to the sad spirits. It is to live in spaces not yet existing, unnamed, judged impossible, it is to name new realities, to create or resurrect fluid, unbounded, liberating identities. It is often walking on an uncharted path.
Being queer is to turn the stigma that is stuck to us upside down and turn it into a strength, it is to make what the norm finds disgusting something to celebrate, it is to turn value systems upside down and invite the world to always see multiple sides rather than shutting ourselves up in binarity, it is to give full value to kitsch, to camp, to bad taste, to too much, when we have been locked up in good thinking.
To be queer is to recognize that we are so many things, that it will always be impossible to summarize us. »