More and more lately I have been coming to realize how much my sexual identity, and how I think about sex and intimate relationships, has been shaped by the fact that I was born after the emergence of HIV/AIDS. And the more I learn about the rise of the epidemic and the policies and media coverage that followed, the more I view the present state of national lgbt organizing and politics in relation to HIV/AIDS.
So I am going to take things back a bit here with my “Look over Here!” blog post. Remember when we talked about marriage? And the pleasure vs. responsibility debate?
For the longest time I could not figure out why people cared so much about gay marriage. I’m a butch, androgynous, radical pragmatist/formerly anarchist, post-punk, vegetarian, queer as f- artist after all and I will never get married. Right? My top priorities are more in the realm of survival: creating a world where my friends and I can live, dress and use which ever bathroom we choose without fear of violence.
It made me really angry to think about how much time, energy and MONEY was getting funneled into organizing that would have presumably no affect whatsoever on my life. Then all these queer people around me started having babies and I started grieving the loss of all these amazing artists and humans and my feelings started to change.
Thinking about gay marriage in relation to the HIV/AIDS epidemic has also helped me to understand why this issue is so important to some people, and why it has become the focus of the lgbt rights movement.
AIDS was first called gay cancer and later gay-related immune deficiency syndrome (GRID) and thought by some to be a punishment for promiscuity. As AIDS spread, more became publicly known about the sexual practices enjoyed by some homosexual men and the image of the reckless, promiscuous and dangerous gay man became cemented in the public psyche.
Gay marriage appears to be the perfect counter to that image, one that is gleaming with responsibility, monogamy and normalcy. The pursuit of pleasure cost many their lives, and now that queers are not dying as rapidly as before the time has come to change our public image.
Unfortunately I feel that this new, “more stable” image is just as damaging as the old. It leaves no room and gives no support to those who live outside of it, especially those whose genders on the more fluid or trans side of life. And yet at the same time I feel that if some people want to get married, they should be able to get married.
In conclusion (sort of), I really think that AIDS relates to most and informs many contemporary queer arguments. It is an important part of queer history that links political/social movements of the past with those of the present.
Following our discussion on the relation between responsibility and pleasure, specifically that the two are often thought to be developmental stages and, to some extent, mutually exclusive (for instance, Freud argues that babies are narcissists while heterosexual adults have learned altruism), I am wondering about what feels like a responsibility to be outrageous. Perhaps another way to phrase it, not as an alternative, but as a think-along-with might be the responsibility to perform a particular kind of queerness (or something designated AS queerness).
While this “responsibility” shares something with the tokenism broached by AJ and suggested, albeit implicitly, by Connor, I am interested (or troubled) by how it functions to contain what might be radical, or perhaps a better word is rude or impolitic about a kind of queer presence, a queer embodidness. Here, the “image” of the queer as somehow “image”–well-dressed, fabulous, interesting, the “men” who “never age like other men”–serves hetero-masculinities and is, in some fundamental way, contained.
Might it be possible, then, to take Delaney as a point of departure to think of practices of pleasure and pleasantness, the “nice” and the “fun,” that are deeply crucial to queer survival? And I raise the specter, the ever-present specter, of survival because it seems so absent from the pleasure side of the pleasure-responsibility divide.
This is not to say that queerness, or certain versions of queerness, should not serve hetero-masculinities, but that such service should neither truncate certain queer versions and visions of pleasure and pleasantness, nor should it abstain from critiquing those forms of hetero-masculinities. (And the debate on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell raises really interesting points in the kinds of masculinities it seeks to protect and promote.)
More broadly, I am interested in the social function of pleasure and pleasantness. I have in mind a scene from Modern Family in which intimate pleasure is divorced from familial responsibility, in which to enjoy pleasure is to take a “vacation” from certain kinds of hetero-responsibilities. What might this vision of hetero-responsibilities truncate or otherwise make invisible? Might there be a way that Delaney’s advocacy of pleasantness and pleasure might help us to have a more holistic view of hetero-responsibilities (what might be called heterosexual adulthood)?