Issue Three: Queer Culture
Attempting to understand queer experiences is an essential step in becoming a faithful queer ally. This endeavour must be approached from a global perspective, because, as these pieces deftly show, these experiences vary enormously in different political, social, and geographical contexts. The significant nature of these differences, from country to country to continent to continent, became apparent to me when I moved to France in September 2020. I was shocked to discover that in France, it is currently illegal for lesbian couples to have IVF; people who change gender have to legally re-adopt children they previously had and only four gay couples successfully adopted children between 2013 and 2018.
Oliver, who also moved to France in 2020, recounts this in his article as he recalls the homophobic slurs that were used as an everyday part of French speech, not only by older people, but thoughtlessly by young and seemingly accepting peers. He argues for the need to urgently reconsider this usage, and consciously unpick the historic and linguistic implications of language. Another contributor also focuses on the importance of words by challenging the label ‘queer’, which they find obsolete. For this author, labels have the harmful power to graft an alien permanence onto individuals whose sexuality is transient or fluctuating. By comparison, Will’s reflection on code-switching interweaves an attention to language with that of space. Drawing on his lived experience as a boy in Melbourne, Australia –a city he found more parochial and closed-minded than many presume – he describes how inhabiting hyper-gendered and traditional spaces forced code-switching upon him. What began as a conscious practice became unwittingly necessary.
In contrast to the realism of Will’s depiction of Australia’s cultural perceptions of queerness, director Ruth Novaczek nostalgically reflects on her time in 1990s New York - where being both Jewish and queer made her feel doubly involved in a zeitgeist marked by its radical cosmopolitan energy. An ineffable sense of optimism and cultural potential stands out against the practical evaluations of Silicon valley’s LGBT+ tolerance in Zoe’s piece that consciously considers both the benefits and limitations of prevailing cultural norms. These considerations overlap with the focus of our co-founder Anya's piece, insofar as they both refer to the concept of a ‘chosen family’ for queer people insufficiently welcomed by the households of their birth. Whilst Anya focuses specifically upon the experiences of British queer Jews who are seeking to reconcile their inherited religious culture with their queerness, this similarity could be evidence of a broader trend in queer experiences across the Western world.
A very different account of queer religion is then apparent in Caitlin’s piece that focuses upon her experience as a modern Catholic. She charts her personal religious journey alongside the inspiring impact of homosexual Irish author, and late convert to Catholicism, Oscar Wilde. Drawing upon the entangled historical conceptions of Catholic aesthetics and nascent queerness in parts of the English imagination, she clears a path for a queer inclusive interpretation of the faith.
Moving beyond the Western world, inhabiting spaces as a queer and non-white body is an underlying theme in many pieces. Panoramic’s interview with Lolo Arziki – a Cape-Verdean non-binary filmmaker seeking to demystify black queer representations through their work –provides personal and inspiring reading for further reflection on issues of intersectionality and representation.
Meanwhile, Annabelle’s article which reflects on the ambivalently experienced sexuality of two young queer males in Lebanon - a country which forms part of one of the most dangerous regions of the world for queer people – also poses the question of space-making in the face of widespread homophobic discrimination. In Lebanon, queer individuals turn not only to separate and specifically queer spaces and events, but also to the internet, as a means of expression. This method of establishing insular protective communities contrasts the efforts of Arti5+ project, uncovered in their project leaders’ interview with our lead writer Anna. The scheme is dedicated to the positive representiaton of queer individuals in China with the intent of changing the conservatism of prevailing cultural attitudes.
The final theme that I believe underlies this issue is precariousness. Safety and survival are words that recur throughout the pieces and are more or less implicit in the notions of occupying space, queering traditions, and reclaiming language. The issue closes with a reflection of the life and activism of Marielle Franco, a Brazilian queer black activist from the favelas, tragically assassinated in 2018. Her death haunts Victoria’s sensitive reflections on the worrying homophobic trends in Brazil under the Bolsonaro’s far-right Christian rule.
Nonetheless, Victoria finds reasons for optimism, and I hope that whilst reading these pieces, you do too.