Tuesday, April 03, 2012

This review of Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots in Bookslut is incredibly gorgeous and intimate and insightful and loving and perceptive -- thank you thank you thank you!!!

This is just the beginning:

As I've already been swept off my feet by the potential of queer creativity displayed in Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity and So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, the latest anthology of narratives edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Why Are Faggots So Afraid Of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform, came as the sweetest punch in my lovely straight-acting face. Challenging the assumption of binary and assimilationist norms that make lesbians and gays buy into heteronormative schemes and performances and building a political discourse around one's sex and desire doesn't exactly make for the perfect bedtime story, but again, making queer people share their most intimate and terrifying experiences and asking clever questions about hardcore subjects has never been easy. "We've come to terms with our deviance, our defiance, our love for fucking and flowers. We've pushed inward and outward at once; we've learned to hold one another even if it's only that moment, that taste, that tongue to tongue or the imprint of sweaty fingertips. And still, we are losing hope": this is, shortly, the pulsing reason and context for each of the essays included in the anthology. A legitimate critique mixing writing styles that vary excitingly as you browse the pages, celebrating queer nonconformity, explicitly engaging with sex, and exposing the hypocrisy of mainstream gay culture and its objectifying norms, Why Are Faggots So Afraid Of Faggots? is a literary rabble-rouser questioning prejudices, preferences, and hierarchies, offering some quite tempting hints on what it would feel like to reclaim and reoccupy our sexuality only to make it more fluid and take up some space for its new expression.

Manhood as accepted by general society is a status that must be achieved and constantly demonstrated through specific qualities that have been labeled as manly and masculine. There's no wonder why these particular characteristics, including having dependents and people to provide for, being tough and courageous no matter what, marriage, and a constant declaration of dominance with or without fireworks shooting in the background, have also placed so much pressure on the mainstream gay culture, a culture that has become obsessed with deifying masculinity and erasing any femme identity or expression. Basically, the essays in Sycamore's collection challenge these very ideas of masculinity as routine accomplishments that "happen" only to men, but only to go much further and link trans bodies' desires to ideas such as poverty, safe sexual behavior, open sexuality, body image, AIDS, terrorism, gender, religious upbringing, nationality and nationalism and colonialism, drug use, and acceptability and make sure that these intersections provide the sharing experience, storytelling, and insight so needed in radical queer culture and communities.

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