There’s one problematic thing about the term queer, which is simultaneously the thing that makes it so great. It works as an umbrella term, to encompass lots of things. That’s great in theory, to aid in working towards a society that discards labels and categories. The problem is, we still live in a society, a world, full of inequality. But because queer as a blanket term to those who actually may have many Other identities (race, class etc), it runs the risk of silencing those who's difference in identity means a difference in privilege. This is perhaps one of the reasons why queer has often been at loggerheads with feminism.
‘Queer is used as a false unifying umbrella which all “queers” of all races, ethnicities and classes are shoved under. At times we need this umbrella to solidify our ranks against outsiders. But even when we seek shelter under it we must not forget that it homogenises, erases our differences’ (Gloria Anzaldua speaking in Who is that queer queer? Goldman, 1996)
As a white, middle-class woman, I am uncomfortably privileged. Goldman suggests in her essay that perhaps white academics and writers stray away from issues of race/class in fear it renders them ‘less queer’. I’m more worried about who my privilige is over-shadowing when I identify as queer.
So I’ve checked my privilege, what next? What's the best way to live with that awareness?
That said, I do still identify as a woman, and that has its own set of problems in relation to queerness.
‘Due to discourses centering around whites and men, as queer becomes more popular amongst these dominant groups, it will increasingly come to represent the dominant group’ (Who is that queer queer?, Goldman, 1996)
I’ve seen glimpses of this at Homotopia and Glasgay, women being written out of queer but it being harder to bring up due it being a queer (and therefore assumed equal) space.
Goldman seems to think that the answer, in relation to race and class in particular, is for more white queer theorists to write about issues surrounding these. Currently white academics dominate the discourse, and perhaps if they were to address how anti-normative identities effect queerness, it may become a more welcoming space for academics of colour.
In relation to my practice, this means not forgetting to call out sexism but also to remember my perspective is a privileged one. As Goldman puts it:
‘we should strive to continuously problematise that which we have created – that we identify the constructed silences within our work and transform them into meaningful discourses’ (Who is that queer queer? Goldman, 1996)
Indeed, I shall. This is why I’m all for the (queer) feminist movement that is swooping in. It’s instant and media based, which means anyone can jump on board. This recent guardian article calls for an intellectual voice. I disagree; I think we’re moving away from a feminism that lives in books written from a wholly white middle-class perspective. Today it’s opening up so that the queer feminist perspective is not just one perspective, the freedom for anyone to blog and tweet means queers of all kinds can contribute to educating each other. It’s not just about whether you check you privilege anymore, it’s how you act after obtaining that awareness.