Monday, February 27, 2012
The itching bracket
If you are a writer or an artist and also a queer, people take some annoying liberties to make presumptions about your work (and you too, for sure). If the other person, especially if it happens to be a self-styled intellectual schmuck or a homophobe, they are very comfortable in believing that if you are queer, your art is going to be all about sex or the ways you came last night or the places you pick up boys (or girls) from or the last time your family ever saw your face. Queer art is deduced to these stereotypes which is not only infuriating but extremely confusing to me.
I don’t think you get my point, so check this.
An editor at a glossy literary magazine (yes, they exist somewhere) wrote this to me after seeing some of my work - “Beautiful poems but these last poems, about spirituality and music, are they for evaluation too? We are only considering queer works for this issue”. I had a million questions pronging to reach his ears, probably scratch his face before they make sense. What definition of ‘queer’ he was looking for? And how did he cripple me into such a limiting bracket? Just because he is a rich white man, doesn’t give him that license. Yes, my work can be graphic and in-your-face and back-on-your-ass, I delve into gore and sexual pain, I write about loneliness and its desperation but is that all I can ever be expected to write?
I also draw cutesy flowers and Shiva faces on walls and why should that disappoint some editor? Apart from Butler, I have also read Rumi and Akka Mahadevi, does somebody bother with that? My sexual-gender identity is an important part of me and I take an immense pride in all the struggles and happiness that comes along, but this is again a part of me and not the WHOLE of me. I don’t want to be written off as a ‘queer (or a transgender) poet’ all the time but I am a poet, who also happens to be queer. This messy situation is often symbiotic, where a queer individual who writes, is firstly cast in a mould and then only identified for that. After a certain point, it’s difficult to breakthrough from that tag and becomes an infection you have to deal with and so most artists are either fine with being identified that way or remain annoyed with this pigeonholing. It’s the same with feminists or anyone who goes against the patriarchal tirade. Since there has been a such a storm about literary festivals lately, why don’t I see more of ‘queer performers’ in main sessions apart from that special performance in between?
I don’t want to be stereotyped for what I do but how do I avoid it? Do I, or anyone in my situation, pitch our writing only for mainstream, so-straight magazines? but that would be so boring, of course, after the money has being paid (oh did I mention queer-LGBTQI publications suck at paying?).
I want to retain my alternative-ness, the rebel face yet not only be just that. I can’t stop writing about being queer, it’s like asking Amartya Sen to start ramp walking but I also write stuff which is not essentially only about being queer and I need that to be respected and identified too.
I guess it’s time people (or at least literary editors) start revaluating their definitions of ‘queer’ and in that respect for ‘feminism’ too. It’s not only about locker rooms, tanned chests and horny men. It’s not only about trapped women, hormone therapies and psychiatric rants. It’s more about the courage behind it and the confidence to walk the streets, like we own it.
(And yes enough with the stereotypes, right?)