Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

Author: Cookies and Naps

Red Not Yellow

What is Queer?

“If we think about queerness as an outcome of strange temporalities, imaginative life schedules, and eccentric economic practices, we detach queerness from sexual identity and come closer to understanding Foucault’s comment in “Friendship as a Way of Life” that “homosexuality threatens people as a ‘way of life’ rather than as a way of having sex” (310)” (Halberstam, 1).

My first thought is Sedgwick’s Tendencies, specifically Sedgwick’s definition of queer, as well as the exercise we did on the first day of class of what queer means. Sedgwick describes queer as “the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses, and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, of anyone’s sexuality, aren’t made (or can’t be made) to signify monolithically” (Sedgwick, 8). While Sedgwick is referring to queer as elements of sexuality or family that differs from the “list” society has made as acceptable; Halberstam define queerness as abnormalities or as something differs from the norm, but not just family and sexual identity but everything, like time and space. Their core definition is similar, not sticking to the norm or the status quo in whatever way (this also reminds me of the song “Stick to the Status Quo” from the first High School Musical). What is truly interesting is that on the first day of class before we read anything, we talked about what does queer mean. We used many words and phrases to describe this word, including one particular phrase, something different than “cis”. In Sedgwick’s Tendencies, she has two lists that describe elements that makeup, in the first list, what a family is, and sexual identity in the second list. The elements listed are what we would consider being “cis”, just a bit fancier.

My second thought is about the quote from Friendship as a Way of Life that Halbustam uses, “homosexuality threatens people as a ‘way of life’ rather than as a way of having sex”. This is interesting because a lot of people use words like “lifestyle” and “choice” when talking about homosexuality. In their minds, people are making the conscious decision to stray from the list of what is acceptable. That these people are more afraid of their lives being upturned than of how a couple or group likes to have sex. If people start turning away from what is “right” and “acceptable” then what does that mean for the people that have structured their lives around it. We see this is Lisa Dordal’s Mosaic of the Dark in the poem Intersection, “Have you ever thought you might be… – / …It wasn’t an option, you said. / Your head never turning, both of us looking straight…” (Dordal, 11). Dordal’s mother tells us in this snippet that being anything other than a heterosexual woman, that being attracted to anyone other than a man was not possible. What is more terrifying, two people of the same sex having sex? Or the timeline people are brainwashed into believing is the only is not the only way?

Ship and the Sea

“Where am I? There is nothing here I recognize. This isn’t the world I know, the little ship I’ve trimmed and rigged.” (101)

When Elgin tells the narrator about Louise’s cancer everything they know is shaken, “Where am I? There is nothing here I recognize” (101). A couple lines before, “‘Louise tells me everything,’ I said coldly. ‘As I do her.’” (100), the narrator has this absolute certainty about their relationship with Louise, and to an extent a certainty about the world around them.

In this passage the narrator returns to the metaphor of a ship on the open seas. This is not the first time this metaphor of a ship on the seas is used “the journeys they made were beyond common sense; who leaves the hearth for the open sea? especially without a compass, especially in winter, especially alone” (81), but it is the first time it is used in a negative manner. For the narrator their relationship is an exploration of something new; Louise is the ocean and the narrator a ship. This metaphor is commonly used during sex, the first time the narrator begs Louise to let them “sail in you over the spirited waves” (80).

For the narrator Elgin took the map they had so carefully and painstakingly drawn and ripped it apart, “this isn’t the world I know, the little ship I’ve trimmed and rigged” (101).

This passage is about the narrator’s loss of balance and certainty in everything.  This relates to the whole of novel  because for the first we saw the narrator passionate and in love with someone just as passionately in love with them, the first person we know of that chose them, possibly the first time the narrator truly was loved by their partner as more than a dirty little secret. And now the narrator is faced with losing this, and not just to another person but to death.

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