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The personal is political and you cannot escape. The ideas we have in our head about what constitutes maleness and femaleness, as well as what constitutes ‘normal’, are all socially constructed (yes, all of them). When you get up in the morning, put on a skirt, and desperately try to find a husband before your overbearing mother considers you a failure, you’re taking part in a production of power in which we’re all implicated.
In our heteronormative world refusing to perform the script of heterosexuality is radical. The same applies for non-heterosexual sex. Queer theory is all about breaking down norms and institutions, and queers are in a unique position to disrupt the reproduction of the social order by virtue of queer sex’s un-reproductive nature.
Unfortunately the queer community hasn’t been the best at destabilizing all norms. Queer culture has its own forms of transphobia and ‘ideal’ forms of sexual existence. This is topped off with a healthy dose of racism—while Europeans were busy ‘discovering’ the world, modes of queer sexuality were alive and well in non-white cultures. Modern queer narratives have not only elided their settler-colonial past, but are also centred on the figure of the white affluent cis male.
Queer theory, when it privileges difference over sameness absolutely, colludes with institutionalized racism in vanishing (thereby retrenching) white privilege. Non-privileged queers are marginalized by their lack of this superhuman ability to transcend their own social location. The problem lies in the idea of a ‘queer exceptionalism’ that looks down on people who are too poor or marginalized to say “fuck it, I don’t need any social institutions,” because what they really need is to put food on their tables.
So what does it all mean? You can think of queer theory like Neo from The Matrix. It tells you that everything is a lie, that there is no spoon (gender), and you can bend it as you will. And the moral of the story? The political is personal and you cannot escape.