Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Navel-Gazing: Is It What Being Queer Is All About?

[What I am about to say in this post may come across as controversial, as unreasonable and probably as anti-queer? Please feel free to disagree with me and let me know what you think. I'd rather stir a debate than keep quiet.]

Navel-gazing, I said: the narcissistic act of always looking at oneself, at staring at ones figure in the mirror and telling oneself: "I am important, I am important and I want the world to turn its gaze on me..." I acknowledge that I am narcissistic in many ways and I acknowledge that we all are. I acknowledge that we are all passionate about certain things; and passion and hard-work are a combo that I respect and highly revere.

There are those who are obsessed with things they do, watch, like, listen to etc. So all they want to talk about is their work, the latest video-game, the last episode of their favorite TV show, Whitney Houston's new album etc. And then there are those who are obsessed with something that is very inherently tied to their identity: their age, their sex, their race etc. Quite obviously, both these categories-- what we are and what we do-- have socio-political implications in their own right.

My interest here is in the second category. It seems rather obvious that one would obsess over part of ones identity particularly when one feels that she/he cannot live this part of her/his identity to the fullest. Thus, if I identify as a transgendered person of color who is restricted and discriminated against on a daily basis through my everyday life (not being allowed to enter a bar), or through the bigger structures that makes one count as a citizen (not being allowed health care unlike other citizens); I would get off my chair, protest, cry, complain, shout, show my disagreement etc.

The two questions I would like to pose here are the following: Is there a limit to this shout of protest and is there a way to voice one's protest (i.e. how is one protest)?

These questions have implications that are inherently tied to the legalization of same-sex marriages in the USA (and more generally, queer activism in the USA.) If I am to be honest, I think I am getting sick and tired of the issue. On a daily basis, I read 20 blog posts on the issue, I receive 10 other mails about it and 2 out of the 5 articles that I read in newspapers deal with the same issue. Okay, granted, we are all still trying to get over No. 1 in Maine and Prop 8 in California. But isn't it high time to get over it and get activated onto other issues that demand attention? How long will we play the blame-game, how long will we continue pointing to the "hypocrite radical right-wings" or the "religious fundamentalists?"

I do grant that the issue of same-sex marriage is one that is close to American citizens who feel discriminated against, but isn't it time to move on and leave things to settle for a couple of years before stirring them against? If Question 1 has been repealed because of the vote of 52.7% of the population and Prop. 8 has been repealed because of the votes of 52% of the population, isn't this good news? Shouldn't we be celebrating that roughly 50% of the population of these states support same-sex marriages and that this figure can only increase with the years to come? Shouldn't this be a victory in itself?

Maybe I don't feel close to the issue because I am one of those third-world persons from an island nobody even knows about (Mauritius, lost in the middle of the Indian ocean-- not South-Asian and not quite African yet-- lost in an ocean of its own), maybe because ultimately I don't care whether same-sex marriage is legalized or not in USA, maybe because we're making something that's ultimately not-so-central to our lives to be our daily wine, bread and discussions? How long does the navel-gazing over the "oh-I'm-so-important-and-I-need-to-have-the-right-to-get-married" discourse continue?

How many people in the USA are aware of the fact that Jamaica now has a "gay eradication day" for example? How many are aware that it was just in July 2009 that consensual same-sex acts were legalized in India? How many people are aware that more than 130 Iraqi gay men are believed to have been killed over the past year because the Iraqi militia has been infiltrating internet gay chat-rooms with the aim of persecuting Iraqi gay men? Isn't the obsession over same-sex marriage in USA a new form of colonialism in itself? (Dare I term it "queer colonialism?") Isn't it time to look out and realize that there is a whole world out there that demands attention too?

And let us forget the rest of the world for a minute: Doesn't North-America still have issues of its own? What about health-care? What about homophobic crimes? What about the rights of trans-people? What about transphobia? What about racism? Does the fact that we now have chatrooms, gaybars, pride-parades all over the country entail that marriage should be the only issue we need to work on? How many of us have actually paid any attention to the amount of discrimination and harassment queer kids still face in high-schools for example? And how many of us actually stopped sipping wine in the comfort of our couches to do something about it?

This now brings me to the second question I had raised earlier: Is there a way of voicing ones protest?? I have a feeling that queer activism is losing all of it's punch and energy as an active term that triggers change and socio-political progress. I always thought being queer meant being active, being a moving agent that questions, that does not take anything for granted, that moves around by distorting things and demanding that they be redressed in skewed ways. At the moment, I feel that what queer activism has been reduced too is a passive process of self-victimization. "Oh we are victims..."; "Oh we are being discriminated against..."; "Oh they are unfair to us..."; So let us just sit here gaze at our own sorry navels and whine and cry and tell ourselves and whomever wants to hear how victimized we are.

I have encountered a lot of youngsters who had such flaky attitudes even here in Canada. Fine, we've been victimized at a point of time (and we probably still are) for various reasons that have to so with gender, class, race etc. But how long do we go on indulging in self-pity? How long will we keep our gaze on ourselves? When do we get out of such self-pity and activate ourselves again?

Wasn't it Freud (or Lacan, I can't remember) who posited that homosexuality is a pathology that can be caused because the small boy fell in love with his own reflection in the mirror as an infant? Isn't this why one of the cliched stereotypes that generally goes around about gay folks is that they are just full of themselves and are concerned with their own image and their own parties and their own pleasures?

If I have a question to conclude it is: When do we stop looking ourselves and when do we start looking out there and doing something concrete about what needs to be changed?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Two Notes to the Bloggers (and Readers) Out There

1- National Blog Posting Month:

National Blog Posting Month (link here) started today. Damn, is it too late for this post? I don't think so. In just one line, the challenge is to post a blog-entry every single day throughout the rest of November. Rest assured, I am not doing it, so you won't have to put up with an article by me on a daily basis throughout this month! November will turn out to be cruel month for me and I know my blogging proficiency will decrease over the next two weeks.

However, you should check out the website and also check out the Queer Canada Blogs group that has been created. (link here).If you are more courageous than I am, it could be a great way to connect with people in more significant ways than Fakebooc and dating websites, to feel a sense of community with other bloggers (queer or not) and above all, to challenge yourself into getting into the habit of regular blogging.

2- Canadian Blog Awards Nominations:

The 2009 nomination for the Canadian Blog Awards has started (link here). You have 20 days to nominate some of your favorite blogs and there are many categories. I know quite a few ones I want to nominate myself. So please do nominate your favorite blogs and if you think The Queer Behind the Mirror is worth nominating, I wouldn't mind either! :P