Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 3)

Not Automatically But Already

Could It Be Queer? After plodding through debates on assimilation, heteronormativity and homonationalism, what can we make of these new stories and new families?

Image sourced from GQ

My last post on the hauntings of past trauma in queer lives that lingers in the depictions of queer futures imagined through texts like Born of Man and Could it be Magic? is here picked up again. After using an antisocial critique to break down these imaginings, I now want to approach the queer families that these texts point to in order to consider this idea that a return to the family will, for queer folks, always be a return with a change. To ignore the past is to see through ghosts.

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Miracles & Epidemics

The Gayby Boom & the AIDS Epidemic: overlapping metaphors between reproductive futurity and queer futurity at large.

In Familiar Perversions, Liz Montegary asks, “How, in such a short span of time, have we gone from queers dying in the streets at the height of the AIDS crisis to queers raising children and buying family homes in the age of marriage equality?” In both Born of Man and Could it be Magic?, these widely divergent experiences are expressed and conflated in the idea of male pregnancy. Within these works, this trope is used not to trace out the trajectory that Montegary identifies but to illustrate how the pregnant gay male can mean one and the same thing—both the beacon on the horizon and a glance back (or a “feeling backwards,” as Heather Love describes it1) to queer pasts. This post looks at how the two novels mentioned above employ male pregnancy as both a method for creating queer families and an analogy that explores the discourse surrounding AIDS in the 1980s and ‘90s.

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  1. Heather Love. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History. Harvard University Press, 2007, p.1.

Privilege & Power, Part II

Privilege & Power: sifting through Born of Man and Could it be Magic? to better understand the networked hierarchies of gender, economic status, and race as they pertain to surrogacy and queer family making,

Continuing the discussion of networked hierarchies that impact surrogacies and queer family making, this post looks to the additional strands of gender and racial hierarchies.

Gender Hierarchies: Tied up in this discussion of surrogacy and economic status, additional privileges structured around gender are difficult to disentangle. And this is not a new phenomenon by any means! Made visible in a passage from Euripides’ Hippolytos, which conflates two central aspects of what Maria Aline Seabra Ferreira refers to as “male autoreproduction”: “the creation of another human being and the dream of a world without women.”

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Privilege & Power, Part I

Privilege & Power: sifting through Born of Man and Could it be Magic? to better understand the networked hierarchies of gender, economic status, and race as they pertain to surrogacy and queer family making,

Image sourced from the Center for Genetics & Society

Despite my critique of the antisocial turn, I do find it to be a useful means of deconstructing the networks of privilege and power at work in surrogacy pregnancies. Here, the antisocial turn can be brought to bear on Born of Man and Could it be Magic? in order to highlight the ways in which sexuality and increased opportunities for family-making impact other marginalized groups, specifically looking to economic status, gender and race. This impact, in turn, is what is ultimately read back into the politics of these queer modes of production, determining (for the theorists who analyze these relationships) whether they “count” as queer or are merely assimilationist. While employing antisocial theory as a critique of these power structures, however, I ultimately break away from this binaristic view of (potentially) queer family-making.

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The Antisocial Swivel

The Antisocial Thesis: how Born of Man Could it be Magic? shed light on this turn in queer theory & the necessary background to understand it.

In her account of her transgender brother’s pregnancy, journalist Jessi Hempel writes, “Now that gay marriage is legal, the social battleground has shifted to new frontiers.”1 Laura V. Heston draws attention to this idea as well, noting a common refrain from LGBT parents who wish to be seen as “no different” than heterosexual parents.2 Hempel and Heston’s perspectives are further supported by queer theorists like Michael Warner and Lisa Duggan, who have both regarded the emergent politics around queer family making in this same political light, albeit with a less positive connotation, viewing these new norms as assimilationist, heteronormative, and (in Duggan’s case) even homonormative.3 From the charged language that shifts between seeing LGBT family advocacy as a “social battleground” to seeing this very initiative as one that demobilizes queer politics, hefty theoretical debates quickly emerge.

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  1. Jessi Hempel, “My Brother’s Pregnancy and the Making of a New American Family.” TIME. September 12-19, 2016. (pp. 70-77).
  2. Laura V. Heston. “Utopian Kinship?: The Possibilities of Queer Parenting.” A Critical Inquiry into Queer Utopias, edited by Angela Jones, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 245-268, p. 249.
  3. Duggan defines “homonormative” as “a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions, but upholds and sustains them, while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption” (Lisa Duggan, 2003).

The Fiction of the Gayby Boom

Born of Man and Could It Be Magic?: a summary of my central texts in Ch. 3—two books published by gay male authors through queer presses, dealing with gay men becoming impregnated and giving birth to biological children.

“It’s my observation that the one thing every male gay I know wants most, and can never have, is a child.”1

So states the narrator of Stephen Gray’s 1989 novel Born of Man. This work of queer magical realism follows the narrator through networks of queer families and communities in AIDS-era, apartheid South Africa. While commenting on a wide range of topics within race and sexuality, the central narrative of this work follows the tumultuous relationship between the introverted but flashy clothing designer Kevin and rebellious biker Henno. Their narrative is one that follows a long line of stereotypically tragic queer romances in literature, with gay, effeminate Kevin seeking out the abuse that Henno provides.

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  1. Stephen Gray. Born of Man. GMP, 1989, p. 142.

Lessons in Drafting, Part II

Following my last post, I decided to take direction from another of the writing exercises I’ve given students in the past in order to help me organize my next chapter in my dissertation. This exercise goes back to the early cut-and-paste methods of organizing an essay from grade school.

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Lessons in Drafting, Part I

This summer, I’ve begun drafting the first two chapters of my dissertation (which, in fact, are the last two chapters of my dissertation, as my advisors suggested that I begin with whatever I’m most interested in). While thinking about how to approach these first chapters, I’ve decided to employ some of the past exercises that I’ve required of my own writing students. I’ve heard a number of accounts from more senior academics who state that they do complete their own assignments to ensure their efficacy and usefulness.

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What to Expect When He’s Expecting: A Prospectus

Louise Bourgeois & Tracey Emin, “It doesn’t end” from Do Not Abandon Me at the MOMA. Although this series is meant to “articulate physical drives and feelings, candidly confronting themes of identity, sexuality and the fear of loss and abandonment,” this image seemed to depict for me a playful (and at times problematic) representation of my project: the complicated intersection of gender, sexuality and childbirth.

This past spring, I held my dissertation prospectus meeting with the members of my committee. As my dissertation advisor told me beforehand, prospectus writing is odd because it’s not a “real” genre. There aren’t clear rules to it, and almost no one will see the end product. Nevertheless, I’m posting the finalized version of my prospectus below (final in that it’s the draft that my committee members and I ended up discussing; the shape of the dissertation has already shifted a bit through their helpful feedback and as I begin to actually write out my first chapters).

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Week Two of DHSI 2019 in Review

DHSI is too much fun. This past week, I was fortunate enough to work with two amazing scholars of electronic literature: Astrid Ensslin and Davin Heckman. In going into their course, I’d only casually brushed up against forms of electronic literature (with Twine, an individual platform, being an exception to my otherwise novice understanding).

Screenshot from Jason Nelson’s Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise.

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