Sunday, March 11, 2012

Communities of Care, Communities of Despair

One of the questions people ask while I'm on tour is how I came up with the idea for this anthology. I generally start by saying that all my anthologies come from a very personal place. Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots arose out of the contradictions of my personal experience in gay and queer worlds. On one hand, I feel intensely inspired by the politics and potentials of trans, genderqueer, and gender-defiant subcultures. Simultaneously I find myself less and less hopeful in the (gay) male sexual spaces I also inhabit. I wonder: if the desire I hold dear has only led to a product-driven sexual marketplace, what are the possibilities for transformation?

In offering this answer about Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots, I started to think about shifting the focus of my next anthology. I still think that a queering of the Occupy movement is an important project, but this doesn't feel urgent to me in a personal way right now. And so, I started to wonder: what would feel intimate and crucial? My anthologies are always a melding of my passion and history as a direct action organizer with my skills as a writer and editor. I put an idea out in the world; I see who relates to it; I hone the pieces into a multi-faceted conversation that serves as a necessary political intervention.

And so, I started to think about part of my answer to the question about where my impetus for Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots came from, the part where I say that I feel inspired by the politics and potentials
of trans, genderqueer, and gender-defiant subcultures. When I say that, I mean specifically a radical queer analysis that believes in the central importance of creating alternatives to status quo normalcy as a way to survive structural, familial, and cultural homophobia and transphobia, misogyny, binary gender tyranny, self-hatred and the dead-end options of assimilation into gay or straight consumer identity. This is a queer politic that centers around accountability, negotiation, fluidity, communal care, creating families of choice, and gender, sexual, social, political, and cultural self-determination -- challenging all the violence of the outside world, in its never-ending quest to annihilate difference, and building something else.

As queers, many of us believe that desire is where our politics, our sense of the world and its injustices and possibilities, our drive to build community and intimacy, lust and care, on our own terms -- perhaps desire is where all that started. When I say that I believe in the politics and potentials of this analysis, I don't immediately reveal that I don't believe in the actuality of what exists now. Over and over again, I see the places where a liberatory politic masks the realities of everyday brutality in the communities and cultures that mean so much to me, cultures I've lived in for two decades now, where in spite of our dreams inaccountability often reigns supreme, and a lack of trust, an absence of negotiation, communication, or commitment lies camouflaged beneath the rhetoric of amazing intentions.

This is the paradox that I want to investigate with this expanded anthology I'm tentatively titling Communities of Care, Communities of Despair: Queer World-making and the Politics of Accountability. How do we live up to our brave visions? How do we hold ourselves accountable when these visions fail? How do we imagine something else? I'm starting to brainstorm a new call for submissions now...

4 comments:

davka said...

wow. wow. wow

"where in spite of our dreams inaccountability often reigns supreme, and a lack of trust, an absence of negotiation, communication, or commitment lies camouflaged beneath the rhetoric of amazing intentions. "

yes. cry. hope. heartbreaking. this is going to be fantastic! we must get better. we just must.

davka said...

also- when "inaccountability often reigns supreme" despite "the rhetoric of amazing intentions"- for some reason the heartbreak of it all is so much more intense, maybe because I didn't see it coming, because I believed, because of expressed intentions, that we were all on the same page. I've lived through a lot of trauma and pain, but I can say that the hits that have hurt the worst are the ones from people I thought were friends in struggle at most, allies in the least. Yes, this is important. Thanks for always asking the hard questions.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yay -- thank you so much, Davka!!!

Love--
mattilda

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Davka, somehow I just received this second comment, and:

"I can say that the hits that have hurt the worst are the ones from people I thought were friends in struggle at most, allies in the least."

Oh my, I couldn't agree couldn't agree couldn't agree more!

Yes yes -- to the hard questions, thank you always for the support and engagement, my dear...

Love --
mattilda