Sunday, April 15, 2007

counter spaces, liberals and defensiveness

one of the books i'm reading at the moment is about how Muslims are (mis)represented in the media. it traces hegemonic, dominant discourses, but seems to assume that "counter spaces" are somehow unproblematically great. i'm not meaning to be harsh to this particular book, it just got me thinking about the nature of my project.

i want my research to challenge the binary of good representations and bad representations. i think that the whole "goodness" that liberals attribute to ourselves is immensely problematic in the context of representing Others. benevolence is not necessarily a good foundation for dealing with a marginalised, despised Other.

People hate queers. They bash us to death, rape us, stare at us, administer shock therapy, kick us out of home, pray for us, harrass us in public spaces, create porn eroticising us, use the word "gay"to put each other down in the playground, pass laws that discriminate against us, police their own gender so as not to mistaken as one of us. Sometimes they "accept" us. they rarely see our queerness as reason for celebration.

anyone who tries to argue that we're all just people is ignoring central facts of our lives. There are places i will not travel with my girlfriend. there are moments when we suddenly drop hands in public, censoring ourselves, understanding that our safety may depend on it. i love an expression that margaret cho uses in relation to people of colour - she says "we hesitate". i'm appropriating that to describe my queer experience. i hesitate to tell people about my lover who died, i hesitate to hold my lover's hand in public, i hesitate to read lesbian books in public, i hesitate ...

and anyone who argues that "we pay our taxes too" doesn't speak for me - i don't want to give money to this government to spend furthering its abhorrent agenda; anyone who says "queers shouldn't marry" doesn't represent me - i think life's choices are complex, and sometimes when you weigh things up, the apparently conservative path works best. anyone who is cruel to trannies doesn't represent me ...

in the context of mental health, fear is a presence in my life. i fear relapses. i fear being seen as crazy. i fear having personality quirks attributed to my mental illness. i fear being mentally unwell for too long, and my lover tiring of me. i fear embarassing myself in public. i fear being found out by people who will use the information to discredit me. i fear getting so sick that i'll be institutionalised. i fear taking on too much responsibility because the stress may break me. i fear running out of medication. i fear being honest with my psychiatrist, in case i no longer get access to my drugs. i fear having children in case i can't handle the stress and they are negatively impacted by "mommy's craziness", i fear being pitied, i fear people misunderstanding what a disability is and believing that i am simply "unable", underestimating my abilities. i fear dying young.

i don't want misplaced pity. i HATE it when people make decisions for me because they don't trust my abilities. that's worse than being mentally unwell.

my experience is not an unproblematic "yay for those wonderfully benevolent people, taking my side." the reality is that "my side" is infinitely more complex than benevolence can get its head around. i don't desire to be tamed and domesticated, or judged, or radicalised. progressives sometimes give me the shits as much as conservatives.

1 comment:

Jan said...

this is a beautiful post, flop. thank you for sharing it.