Trade for what?

“Before I left, I was a rural, mixed-class, queer child in a straight, rural, working-class town. Afterward, I was an urban-transplanted, mixed-class, dyke activist in an urban, mostly middle-class, queer community. Occasionally I simply feel as if I’ve traded one displacement for another and lost home to boot.” – (Eli Clare, p46)

The word “traded” here is really revealing. What is the author wants to trade for? He wanted to use family and home to trade for acceptance and a feeling of not being “queer”. However, the list of adjectives that are full of contradictions shows that he failed. “Mixed-class” vs. “working-class” vs. “middle-class”. “Rural” vs. “urban”. This long list of words is like “tags” on him that show how alien he is to the environment he lives in, either before or after, nothing changed. More heartfelt is the word “lost”: he doesn’t get what he wants, but lost something that is really important to him.

Moreover, the word “traded” also reminds us of the cruel fact that for queer people, acceptance is something we need to “trade” for. We can’t be easily accepted by just being ourselves. We must give up something, for most of the time the family, to get what other people are born with. This reminds me of the “Christmas effect” which is also caused by the conflict between family and identity. Without family, we lost the place to “boot”, and most people, like the author, failed to find another place to be home and thus being haunted by loneliness and isolation all the time.

One thought on “Trade for what?”

  1. I don’t think that Claire necessarily failed to put aside his feeling of queerness, but rather considered it as a bad trade. The understanding of class here could differ from context to context and does not really inherit any traits of failure; however, in a more profound sense, it implies Claire’s reluctant acceptance into the formalized system and it showed his unhappiness, unwillingness to keep on his end of the bargain – pretending to be something that he is not.

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