gay liberation

James Miller jamiller at igc.apc.org
Fri Apr 26 19:56:12 MDT 1996


ON "QUEER THEORY"

   Gary MacLennan posted "Queer Theory 1" and later "Queer
Theory 2." I like Gary, and I think he has made many valuable
posts, but now he seems to be floundering:

>In the debates around identity politics a fear is often expressed that such
>politics may tend to "obscure ...real human diversity". (Weeks, 1985: 187)
>Weeks' reply is that it  is sometimes forgotted that gay people are already
>given an identity by straight society and that Foucault's "happy limbo of a
>non-identiy" is simply not an avalialable option to the despised.  It is
>surely the worse kind of utopianism to deny that gays are positioned within
>the social order as the Despised Other.

   It should be mentioned that "debates around identity politics" are
a variant of bourgeois ideology. Naturally, I sympathize with the
quandary of those who are trying to fight back against oppression,
and find that they have no weapons with which to do so, apart from
liberal and postmodern jargon.
   The oppression of gay people in capitalist society deserves to be
treated seriously, and the struggle for full human and civil rights
needs to be conducted in such a way that it becomes accessible
and comprehensible to millions of working people. It is part of
the struggle of the working class.
   As far as the "despised other" is concerned, there is nothing
wrong with the term. But where does it lead you? The tendency
of these "theorists" is to drown in their own sorrow, while inventing
extravagant terms to describe the misery they experience. The point
is to end this oppression, and that can't be done without a massive
struggle to transform society from top to bottom. In fact the gay
liberation movement has already made a contribution to this
struggle, regardless of the liberalism and confused notions of
its principal spokepersons. And it will continue to do so in the
future. I look forward to the day when the working class, acting
through its fighting organizations, fully embraces the demands of
women's liberation and gay liberation. And when that day comes,
it will be in great part due to the sacrifices of many fighters for
gay rights--past, present and future.
   There have been huge demonstrations and gay pride marches
since the 1970s. These have played a big role in helping
working people understand the legitimacy of the demands for
equality and justice for gays and lesbians. I think these public
actions reflect the working-class character of the bulk of the
gay population, in spite of the appearances to the contrary.
   I think, in general, Act Up and Queer Nation have helped
the cause by their public actions, whatever one might think of
their tactics and political views. But the shortcomings of the
gay and lesbian activists are to be expected in the present
situation, given the seemingly unstoppable bourgeois economic
and ideological offensive against the masses. To be militant,
public and massive--that is the key to success in the long run.
   The politics of gay liberation should continue to focus on
issues of democratic rights, and not stray off into "identity
politics" and pity-mongering. Gay liberation is best when it
is defiant, proud and massive. Gay liberation is dissipated
when it is dissolved in a solution of postmodernist jargon.
Are you trying to make an impact on the world? Or are you
trying to make yourself incomprehensible to ordinary
people? Are you trying to fight to change the world? Or are
you trying to make a big sensation at the conference of the
Modern Language Association?

Jim Miller
Seattle


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