The Christmas Effect and Isolation

“What if instead there were a practice of valuing the ways in which meanings and institutions can be at loose ends with each other? What if the richest junctures weren’t the ones where everything means the same thing?” (Sedgwick 6)

Prior to this quote, Sedgwick describes  “The Christmas Effect”. The statement above is when she ponders what it would be like if family units were not focused on conforming to the norm that is enforced and instead embracing the differences that occur between them. She then goes on to list things like a surname, a building, and a circuit of blood relationships. 

The Christmas effect is the idea that during the Christmas season, everybody; families, businesses, schools, and churches are all on the same page. This then puts people who don’t celebrate Christmas into an out group. She relates this to the experience of being queer becuase it diverges from what society portrays as the normal experience. Because of the strict norm of creating a certain family dynamic that is expected, it forces queer people into isolation and having to go through the process of “coming out”.

When reading this, it made me think of Micheal Warner’s piece when he says “almost all children grow up in families that think of themselves and all their members as heterosexual, and for some children this produces a profound and nameless estrangement, a sense of inner secrets and hidden shame.” This is the experience that kids feel because of the Christmas effect. Around Christmas time, you can barely even leave your house without being bombarded by something having to do with the holidays. This made me think of the role models and adults that queer kids are surrounded by, being almost entirely heterosexual. 

When Sedgewick says “What if the richest junctures weren’t the ones where everything means the same thing,” I think of the definitions of queer that we have come across in our readings. Many of them separate queer from just being about sex and open them up to a broader specrum as anything that stems away from heteronormative. Sedwick herself refers to the word queer as an “open mesh of possibilities,” (Sedgewick 8). I think this definition relates to what Sedwick is saying because it opens up opportunities to enjoy the differences that occur among people and relationships instead of trying to force conformity.


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