That line between feeling nourished and energized by the food I eat, and feeling exhausted, face glazed over, intestinal bloating overwhelm, I wish I could find that line. Just a bite or two more, and it’s over. And then a craving for more, why am I eating more, more in this place of feeling so awful from what I ate? When the US government talks about “core sanctions architecture,” why do I think of Pilates? And fascism, of course. Remember when farmers markets were cheaper than store? Whenever I hear that feminism is only about the relationship between “men” and “women,” I get so bored. Everything in New York is now gluten-free. Soon there will be gluten-free gluten. Gluten-free organic dry-cleaning. I get confused when I see people who allegedly don’t believe in marriage congratulating people who’ve just gotten married. Let me clarify: when I say confused, I mean exhausted, overwhelmed, despondent, and horrified. In the context of gay marriage, this becomes a public spectacle – who can be the most excited – me, no, me! Critical engagement is so 1990s. I’m worried about this thing called queer. Has it become self-congratulatory rhetoric, noncritical we-have-arrived groupthink posturing? Where does the critical engagement stop, and why? Who does this serve? How can we create something else?
A lot of people are afraid of critical engagement: they think this means you’re not supporting them. But what could be more supportive than critical engagement? I don’t mean tearing people to shreds. I mean tearing systems of oppression to shreds, embracing one another and creating something else, something we can live with, something we can call home or healing or even just help, I need help here, can you help? That’s what I wrote in The End of San Francisco, about my first immersion in queer world-making over two decades ago. I’m still looking for the embrace that lasts.
Sometimes I think queer has become a cheerleading squad, go team go team go team! I worry that queer spaces have become zones where the illusion of critical thinking hides the policing of thought. Like high school, with better outfits. I don’t want any team to win, I want to end winning. When I say critical engagement, I mean that we can’t tear systems of oppression to shreds unless we examine all the ways we participate in these systems of oppression in our daily lives, in our relationships, in our intimate dreams and creative imaginings. Sometimes I think queer prevents this analysis, glosses over the violence we enact against one another, enables it to continue taking place, over and over again while we congratulate one another on creating radical alternatives.