Queerness in defiance of a monolithic world

Yet in this extended working-class family, unspoken lesbianism balanced against tacit acceptance means that Barb is family, that Aunt Margaret and she are treated as a couple, and that the overt racism Barb would otherwise experience from these people is muffled. Not ideal, but better than frigid denial, better than polite manners and backhanded snubs, better than middle-class “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which would carefully place Barb into the category marked “friend” and have her sit many pews away from immediate family at her lover’s father’s funeral”.


In the book titled “Tendencies”, by Eve Sedgwick, the author defines what it means to be queer: “… 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” (8). In the book titled “Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation”, Eli Clare materializes Sedgwick’s definition through the telling of his own story as a white disabled trans man in the United States.


In the passage above, Clare refers to how his white working-class family back in Oregon would consider his aunt’s girlfriend as part of the family. Clare doesn’t say that homophobia or racism doesn’t exist in that community, but he states that this “tacit acceptance” is better than a “polite manners” middle-class family, who would consider Barb as a friend, not as a girlfriend. This middle-class family could be located in a bigger town, or even in cities considered progressive, such as New York or San Francisco.


The passage illustrates how queerness is an intersectional term, impossible to be defined monolithically, as Sedgwick said. One would expect that Barb would be treated in a very biased way in this small town in the countryside of Oregon, but these expectations aren’t met. This passage then conveys the message that, when it comes to queerness, nothing can be easily defined. It’s a dissonance which invites the reader to abandon their metronormativity, that is, queer people are to be found everywhere and might find reasonable acceptance outside large, metropolitan and progressive areas. Clare ultimately wants to say that being aware of queerness is not only respecting everyone’s idiosyncrasies, but also understanding that the world is made of many layers, which overlap in many unexpected ways.

Home Is a Contradiction

“Home is also the damp, rotting log smell, the fog lifting to broken sun and wind. I am climbing steadily now, the two-lane shale road narrowing.” (Clare 27).

On this page, Clare connects environmental destruction to the queer experience. As Clare walks into the forest and hears logging trucks, he immediately thinks about his aversion to the timber industry, but then corrects himself with this statement. Although home is “rotting”, and like the trees, Clare felt like he was decaying while growing up in his rural community, he will always have ties there. 

Clare continues this narrative by using a form that mirrors his relationship with his home. When Clare leaves his home the “fog lifts” and he expects to uncover his most authentic queer self, like he expected to see a growing forest. However, living in a city and surrendering to queer metronormativity makes Clare feel like more of an exile, and he feels out of place and “broken” like the environment around him.  

Through the tie between home and decay, Clare implies that maybe home will always be a contradiction. He recognizes that his queer and disabled identities weren’t supported at his home, but he feels perpetually stuck in the chasm between rural and urban, which can feel like the chasm between decaying and flourishing when most queer media set in rural locations references violence or unhappiness. Like witnessing this forest being turned into a wasteland, Clare doesn’t want his life in a rural location “to mean destruction” (Clare 27), but to remain home for him.  

Overall, in this passage Clare reflects on the ostracization he felt his home and how he now emotionally and physically sees his home as “a graveyard, a war zone, the earth looking naked and torn”. However, as Clare states at the end of this excerpt, as he is exploring the forest, he “climbs steadily”, walking on a “shale road”, stepping on rocks at the bottom of the chasm, but continuing forward, with his identities intertwined. For many queer people, home is a contradiction, home is the space between, and home is a multiplicity of identities, and this is what Clare implies as he describes navigating through environmental destruction and the memories of his home.