QUEER CITY VHS: Lo-Res clips from vibrant queer life in NY, Manchester and Berlin, 1984-1994
The idea of homonationalism, coined by Jasbir Puar, has gained much ground recently with queer activist and academics. Homonationalism “refers to an understanding and enactment of homosexual acts, identities, and relationships that incorporates them as not only compatible with but even exemplary of neoliberal democratic ethics and citizenships.”* These film clips come from a time when these were still contested identities. From a time of transition from Fordism to neoliberalism. From Reagan’s refusal to say the word AIDS and Margaret Thatcher’s mine closures, to the end of actually existing socialism in Europe.
Rather than a nostalgic look at a golden era of activism and gay culture, a nostalgia that obscures the material conditions that these films were made in, we’ve chosen these clips to challenge and complicate easy understandings of radical political action and to highlight the ways that earlier communities documented their struggles, defiance, and celebration. In the face of rapid gentrification — not only of the cities we live in, but of the cultural and political imagination — we offer a glimpse at the ways other queers have organized against, been complicit with, and defied the devastating social and economic policies of governments and institutions that wanted us dead.
*Don Kulick, “Can There Be an Anthropology of Homophobia?”, in Homophobias: Lust and Loathing Across Time and Space (ed. David A. B. Murray), Duke University Press (2009)
(We’ve put this online for those who couldn’t make it)
The problem with living in a constant state of crisis is that it isn’t. Like, how are we meant to deal with our temporal/Oedipal/daddy issues when this is just what _is|? Like, how would anyone /accidentally/ kill their dad in the age of preemption? I mean, there are no atheists on Facebook and it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of the end of the world. #nodads #NeverForget
Future is now. And yesterday. (And tomorrow - but that feels very retro.) The future starts when you start and everything happens so much and horse_ebooks was a human like all the best spambots and I’m not saying those things are connected but I think in 140 characters or less and I never drop below 7 open tabs and the next pandemic does not exist yet but the risk it represents is entirely plausible. #SpeculativeFML
I don’t want to perpetuate the myth of a flat internet, but last night I dreamt about a virtual buffer zone, a safety net at the edge of the net (to prevent falls and injuries and lawsuits). Time’s slower there, and the space is heavy and soft - you’d like it. I’m not sure what comes next because I wasn’t trying to leave, and there were meters and meters of Bliss (image) to get through, and I can’t afford the insurance.
[Hey btw from one broken boygirl glitch body 2 an/other I can see your structural violence through that t-shirt and I guess it’s a lqqk but like I mean have you heard of daisycutter bombs? Sorry, that came out wrong, I meant to say it’s qt, very Precarity SS14.]
A nervous trigger is a connective tissue and we’re all connection now because wasn’t that the point? (Although don’t take my word for it - I’m 2 yung 2 remember and trust no man’s post-gender history.) Every system is nervous but that’s accounted for like everything else and every thing is ‘literally’ or ‘virtually’ because what else are we going to cling to? I don’t understand ontology but I’ve been able to feel the emotional block in my back ever since someone told me it was there and I can describe in detail how bodies feel when they don’t want to exist anymore. I don’t wanna get corporeal about this but Cartesian dualism is so 2000 and l8 and there’s a lot of dead skin trapped in your keyboard and I had my first panic attack because someone told me hot tubs cause cancer and like, ‘the greater the threat the greater the risk of inaction’. So like prophecy is the externalization of desire but some prophecies have more biopolitical klout than others?
There’s no such thing as irrational fear and every fear is forever and disintegration is my utopian dream and disaster planning offices are the institutionalization of fantasy and your darkest desire is probably already a Craigslist ad so like, get over yourself. In my dreams nobody gets a cohesive subject position or body to match (which is less good than it sounds) but last night I got beaten up (a post-post-body exorcism) and stayed myself for the duration which is #rare and in the dream I wrote on the wall and it looked like this: |—————? except that line was solid and the question mark sat above it and I woke up smiling and I’ve never been on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors but sometimes they stop you dreaming. No moralizing, we’re all trying to fall apart in a constructive way and irl is the highest drag and sometimes I think singularity is the hardest thing there is (and I Have Even Met Happy Call Centre Workers). And sleep is like the body’s last bastion of resistance to l8 capitalism or whatever but #StressStillLingers
Fuck it, I mean, let’s ‘fuck’ ‘it’, I /mean/ - we’re precarious aesthetic architecture and our architectures are shoddy and subcontracted and structurally unsound but so is their junkspace and there’s no_such_thing as an earthquake resistant structure and the real 9/11 is inside of you and their combined vibration control system has nothing on my pile of rubble.
"When I take a dose of testosterone in gel form or inject it in liquid form, what I’m actually giving myself is a chain of political signifiers that have been materialized in order to acquire the form of a molecule that can be absorbed by my body. I’m not only taking the hormone, the molecule, but also the concept of a hormone, a series of signs, texts, and discourses, the process through which the hormone came to be synthesized, the technical sequences that produce it in the laboratory. I inject a crystalline, oil-soluble steroid carbon chain of molecules, and with it a fragment of the history of modernity. I administer to myself a series of economic transactions, a collection of pharmaceutical decisions, clinical tests, focus groups, and business management techniques. I connect to a baroque network of exchange and to economic and political flow-chains for the patenting of the living. I am linked by T to electricity, to genetic research projects, to mega-urbanization, to the destruction of forests and the biosphere, to pharmaceutical exploitation of living species, to Dolly the cloned sheep, to the advance of the Ebola virus, to HIV mutation, to antipersonnel mines and the broadband transmission of information. In this way, I become one of the somatic connectives that make possible the circulation of power, desire, release, submission, capital, rubbish, and rebellion."
In general I think the idea of the online being analogous with physical space is a metaphor that has served its time and obscures more than it illuminates. In this instance, however, I think analyzing hook-ups and cruising online through the prism of physical space, particularly cruising space, is instructive. Whether in cyberspace, meatspace, or their constant intersections, the practice of cruising shouldn’t be over-romanticized. Queer men lived, and continue to live, lives of constant surveillance, legal, social, self or otherwise. One can pass years of one’s life without a hint of personal or sexual privacy. The codes of affect and psychosexual exchange — of cruising — are rich and exciting, but they have been built on a heterosexual reign of terror. Codes are reactions to direct threats of making-public. Which of us openly gay queers would voluntarily return to a life where every encounter risked public degradation, humiliation, poverty, and suicide? Yet millions of us still live this life, and a discourse of private rights is both irrelevant and inapplicable to our everyday existence. The homosexual male, the man who fucks men, and the queer are still brutally afflicted worldwide by the heterosexual regime. We can’t even make out the silhouette of self-determination from our digital dark spaces.
Because individuals don’t move politics: movements do. Dozens of LGBT groups in Russia have slowly been creating broad-based social movements. They’ve been building their communities, making spaces for youth, women, the gender-nonconforming. They’ve been connecting to other political movements and human rights groups that can offer not only support but services. They’ve been trying to carve out a place in the historic pro-democracy campaign. They’ve been reaching out through less confrontational means — film festivals, art exhibitions, publications — to a wider public. It’s not just that Ireland’s and Tatchell’s obsessive promotion of Lone Ranger Nikolai marginalized them and made their work invisible. It’s that the Lone Rangerism made LGBT rights in Russia revolve, in media narratives and then in popular paranoia, around a few flawed, foreign-identified figures. Alekseev’s polarizing prominence was a walking cry for backlash. Alekseev’s fans and fantasists have to answer for the damage.
Alekseev may be finished as a figure, but the forces that dreamed him up live on. Already activists in the West who work on Russia are looking for a new Lone Ranger: somebody else to be the “go-to person,” “new and prized leadership, an imperative voice for the plight of LGBTI Russians.” When they find the guy (it’s usually a guy), they’ll forgive almost anything as long as he gives fodder to their fantasies and says what they want to hear.
This article discusses the piece Left For Dead which has been doing the rounds on Twitter this morning. Judging by the shares the article resonated with quite a few people. The one element that we will not consider here are those regarding the SWP and the People’s Assembly. We will concentrate…