More than anything, marking my students’ papers on queer issues makes me think we have really turned a corner, societally, on GLBT* rights. For them, it’s mundane, it’s status quo. My undergrad students these days had same sex marriage laws in Canada since they were about 11 or 12; they have had sitcoms with queer main characters in their mediascape since childhood; they were born, nor just into a world where the World Wide Web was being forged, but into one where “queer theory” was already taking it’s first shaky steps.
And like with the digital technology they are so comfortable with, they are largely comfortable with queerness being part of their worlds. Vincent Mosco talks about how the power of digital technology, like with the earlier push towards electrification, truly occurred when it just became another part of society, when—like electricity—it was just there, built into the structural design of everyday spaces, sunk into the woodwork.
As I read completely un-radical and fairly mundane papers about advertising to gay and lesbian markets—sourced largely from marketing magazines and advertising journals, and written by students who are not on the edge of society but looking squarely at its underlying fabric—I have to think we are at this moment too.
I’m not sure it feels like power, per se. Or, if it does, it feels like a power that comes at the expense of something, of that more radical edge, that societal questioning. As amazing as it is that that “new normal” has been acheived, I have Michael Warner’s voice at the back of my head saying” “Yeah, but why is ‘normal’ something we should be striving towards?” And, even though he personally rejected the term I can see the homonormativity sinking in and entrenching: in representation, in policy, in attitudes. Worse, the homonationalism being used as alibi for imperialism, the highly marketed-to crowds at Pride Parade (Toronto’s most lucrative yearly business festival) clamouring to applaud for the out military marchers…
It makes me think back to electrification too. Back at the advent, the dawn, there were multiple possibilities. AC was one, DC another, even AC/DC outlets peppered throughout our powered spaces enabling us to plug in whatever we wanted to wherever we wanted to plug it. (Very Marjorie Garber, really.) But with normalization we were saddled with clunky monolithic AC, where if we want to use direct current we are stuck using a whole manner of adaptors that burn extra energy off as heat and waste.
The grain of the wordwork can flow both ways. There is power in what sinks in, for sure. But what gets excluded doesn’t stop existing, and we might find that there are still radical moves that need to shake us out of our new complacency if we don’t want to spend the rest of our lives merely adapting…