What does queer mean to me?

I can’t claim to be an expert on queer theory, my forays into it are limited to a smattering of Foucault and international relations theorists like Cynthia Weber (mostly just Weber). Thus, I can’t really generalize what queer does mean academically, or what it should mean. And with those caveats in place, I proceed.

Often times I see queerness used as a term to denote some kind of amorphism or unintelligibility. To me, this is just wrong. Unintelligible is just that, and has plenty of synonyms, which for me, queer does not seem to be. And that’s mainly what I’m reacting to here, some kind of general sense that might or might not reflect the lay of the land in terms of what people think.

To me, queerness does not denote an inability to be identified or categorized within some frame of reference or regime of knowledge/discourse. Instead, it is a denial or refusal to be identified within discourses of power as something intelligible to that discourse. Or, at the very least, it is the refusal to be subject to discourses of power that arbitrate on the basis of identity adjudicated by those outside the individual. This runs the risk of becoming some kind of floating epistemology to be appropriated into any anarchist/fascistic position, however, queerness isn’t some ideological position or belief, it is anti identitarian to its core, and to a certain extent, more of an existentialist position than anything.

Take for example the term ‘genderqueer.’ Sure, it could identify some kind of unintelligibility, i.e. discourses that exist are inadequate to identify who/what I am, but I am something. But, in more common usage within the community, it is a refusal to identify oneself within dominant discourses of gender. Sure, language may be adopted or changed which could – at least in theory – provide some amount of theoretical fit with one’s identity, but it’s quite odd to invent language that makes one’s identity subject to more political control as it becomes intelligible. Which I guess makes me sound somewhat anarchist, however, I’m not convinced that social systems are any less oppressive than political systems. This is perhaps why I couch queerness into somewhat (or perhaps, entirely) existentialist terms.

So there it is, a very preliminary explanation of what ‘queerness’ means to me, with hopefully enough caveats to show where its limitations are.


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