the mountain

One of the hardest parts of identifying as queer, or any other minority, is the burden placed on you to educate everyone outside of that group. From allies to bigots, it is a constant upward battle of explanations and justifications for something as simple as your mere existence. Eli Clare sums up this harsh struggle in the first chapter of his book “Exile and Pride” using the metaphor of climbing a mountain. In this passage of his novel, Clare states that “we hear from the summit that the world is grand from up there, that we live down here at the bottom because we are lazy, stupid, weak, and ugly” (Clare pg 1), this is extremely reminiscent of how that outside of minority communities always push for those being oppressed to take a stand against their oppressors even if it comes at a great personal cost to them. Clare even gives an example of his own experiences facing these unrealistic expectations. He details a story of trying and failing to hike up a mountain due to his disability, and hoe in response to this his able-bodied friends responded by telling “him with the right gear and enough practice you could climb Mount Adams” (Clare pg 9). On the surface, this seems like a very encouraging platitude, but in reality, it is shortsighted and placating. Clare’s friends and acquaintances should not have expected him to do something that would put him in harm’s way to feed into their underdog fantasies. Similarly, people who claim an LGBTQ+ identity should not be expected by cis straight people to always put themselves in harm’s way to fight for the recognition they should have by right. Queer people do not owe the rest of the world their lives. It is brave to go out of one’s way to fight for the lives of oneself and others, it does not always constitute a risk to one’s safety. Clare upped my sentiments on this issue when he wrote that he wishes someone had told him “you made the right choice when you turned around” (Clare pg 10).

4 thoughts on “the mountain”

  1. I really liked your analysis and I agree with it. At the same time, it reminded me of Susan Stryker’s words in the Prologue where she says “This lack of access created by the way the world is organized to benefit people whose embodiments are different from my own” (p. xi). With both authors we can see how the world has always been organized to benefit the majorities, and the minorities have to “fight” in order to have equal access and rights.

  2. Your interpretation of the mountain is one that I have not really thought of and it brings up a very important point about how people apart from any underrepresented or marginalized group should not be expected to fight for it in ways that could make them uncomfortable. I realized this during one of the uprisings in the Black Lives Matter movement. As a black person I felt pressure and that it was my job to do something. But I realized that it was not my responsibility nor could it be to fix the race problems of America. Some people in marginalized groups may not be able or ready to share their story and I think that it is important to consider and if they ever do choose to it should be in the way they please.

  3. I really love how you pointed out the mountain’s meaning as both metaphor and literal situation for Eli Clare. The theme of the mountain and representation of the marginalized reminded me of Cherrie Moraga’s writing. In Loving in the War Years, she similarly touches on the pressures that she feels on representing her community. Because there is a lack of people like her in the writing community, she is given the task of representing everyone. She points out that no matter what she does, she can’t perfectly represent everyone as we all have such different experiences. Like Eli Clare, she feels enormous pressure from the community and society to keep pushing forward and to fit into an expectation.

  4. I agree with what you’re saying in the first sentence. Being a part of the LGTBQ community, people like to put you in a category even though it is such a diverse community. Your analysis of Clare’s testimony is inspiring and real. Being different in anyway from societies consistently changing beauty standards is exhausting and necessary. What helped me in my life to learn to deal with it is to drown out the noise. Everybody is going to have an opinion is human nature but you shouldn’t listen to all of it

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