“Queerness,” writes Love, is “both abject and exalted” (3). This contradiction permeates the queer studies as one side aspires to “fix” the abjection by disregarding it and imagining a utopia, while the other emphasizes the suffering of queer lives.
The attempt to deny the past, without properly dealing with it, can misfire; such an attempt is only “a symptom of haunting,” of pretending without succeeding (1). Queer novels, like The Well of Loneliness, that anchor in queer suffering, are the novels that stay and haunt the readers the most, not the happy ones. Suffering seizes while happiness makes us forget. The forcibly imagined utopia for queer lives can create a delusion, a discrepancy between reality and fiction, and ultimately, apathy. In another word, we don’t care about ourselves when we are happy and others don’t care about us when we are happy (or pretend to be). The “mass-mediated images of attractive, well-to-do gays and lesbians” can generate apathy on a larger scale, within the public (3). We have had our equity, so why should anyone care about us, why should pay attention to the “reality of ongoing violence and inequality” (3). Denial of this reality for an “imaginative fix” makes it easier to happen again, to allow it to keep happening unchecked. Denial can also disregard the legacy of our ancestors, disregarding what has propelled and led us here. Love says we cannot risk such amnesia.
On the other hand, suffering can individualize as well, meaning that we can become it, be consumed by it, and, as Love cautioned, be “destroyed” by it (1). And so the challenge for Love is to understand suffering and not be consumed into the totally crippling victimhood. Even though she claims she does not know how dwelling into the “dark side” can brighten queer lives, she does not mean to brighten it, at least not in the sense of “wishful thinking” or an amnesiac “utopian desire.” Going backward and “feeling backward” on “painful and traumatic” queer literature is not to be equated with being retrograde or homophobic. Love means to understand the past, to move beyond victimhood, to reconcile, in order to live better, to engage with the “archive of feeling,” to honor the roots of queer literary history (4). Such roots indelibly always involve suffering and without such roots, the propagation and history of queer lives and queer literature would not be possible. The future of queer lives, then, depends on how to reconcile with that suffering, to understand what it meant to be “living with injury——not fixing it” (4). No denial or utopia can advance our lives if we cannot understand and reconcile with the unavoidable rememory of our own lives.