QUEER PART 2.QUEER IN ITS SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER SENSE,INCLUDING MY PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT(ON A LOCAL LEVEL)IN THE FIGHT FOR LGBT EQUALITY.BY STEVEN BENSON

PREAMBLE: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOMOSEXUAL AND LGBT RIGHTS CAMPAIGNING IN THE UK

1. We had, in the Nineteenth century, “thanks” to Havelock Ellis and other “sexologists”, the binary first being made(officially and in a putatively medical way)between homosexual and heterosexual behaviour and persons, the first group being labelled, variously, as uranians, “inverts” and other odd nomenclatures.

2. Inadvertently-because the aim of Ellis and others was not to penalise homosexuals-this, unfortunately, in the UK, led to the Labouchere Amendment of 1885, which criminalised male homosexual acts of all kinds. Lesbians, for example by Queen Victoria, were deemed(officially anyway), sexistly, not even to exist,nor were same sex female sexual acts, so were not legislated against.

3. The homosexual world went (even more)underground, forming hidden societies like the Cambridge Apostles, whose membership was , primarily, male homosexual.

4. This lasted about 80 years until the report of the Woolfenden Committee, which took 10 years for its recommendations to become law (in the form of the Sexual offences Act 1967, which  made consensual homosexual acts, as long as performed behind a locked door and between two men only, legal). Instrumental in this was the only openly homosexual man who was willing to give evidence to the Committee, Peter Wildeblood, a hero of mine, who had already gone to prison for homosexual “offences”(his account of life in Wormwood Scrubs, “Against the Law”{1955}, and his apologia therein for homosexual equality, is very very moving; and is still obtainable.)

4. Gradually, a “homophile” and homosexual equal rights movement began, quite quietly, with, in the UK, “The campaign for Homosexual equality”(CHE), firstly known as the Committee for Homosexual Equality(founded in 1969), and given its still extant name in 1971. In that year CHE organised a Gay Day in London, the first of its kind.The word “gay” was used as a slogan , being an acronym for “Good as You”(though the word was probably first used for homosexual people as early as the  late nineteenth century). The creative co-option of the word meaning “cheerful, bright, happy” was an act of re-appropriation, more successful than “queer”, in my mind(though I LOVE the IDEAS of Queer Theory in ALL its rich meanings); it is, rather, the negative emotional baggage of the word, which gay does not have to the same degree(though it is still used offensively, for example, by school students of anyone who is perceived as “different”, camp, “effeminate”).The radical Gay Liberation Front(GLF) was formed in the UK in 1970, after the US post- Stonewall Riots 1969 GLF formation. The GLF took a sort of Foucault combined-with -a {part}-Queer -Theory(as it later developed) model, whereby it espoused a rejection of the hetero-homo binary(not seeing sexual orientation or gender as  fixed but as a fluid spectrum) AND a look at alternative families, created around, not just biological relationship and procreation but around families of friends; some communes grew up. The GLF performed a successful action against a rally by the “morality”-based, homophobic Festival of Light(with Mary Whitehouse) but within a few years had dissolved into factions, though one member, Peter Tatchell, went onto form a later radical activist group, “Outrage”; and some formed the Edward Carpenter Community, a gay mens’ movement towards communal living, which flourishes today, and of which I am a member. The GLF was precursor of Queer Theory in its first sense, as of allowing for difference, as it espoused OTHER non-hegomonic causes, eg race and class issues.

The first official Gay Pride Rally was held in London in 1972 and became an annual event, spawning many regional derivatives, with varying degrees of political and/or festival and/or commercial components(though the latter are probably  more prevalent now, it is still a very colourful, affirming event).

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This historical preamble is to set the scene for the two diverging strands that then evolved in critical theory/thought  and poltical activism around gay, later lgbt, later Queer/post Queer (and other)issues/movements. Political activism for lgbt rights survives upto the present as organisations like Stonewall, a political lobbying organisation, fight for the remaining lgbt equality legislation(civil and religious marriage and clear asylum rights for political refugess in fear, sometimes on pain of death,of returning to their birth countries); and was , for instance, very extant in the campaign around the introduction of the infamous Clause/Section 28 of the Local government Act of 1988, which criminalised the”promotion of homosexuality by any local authority”(which was not repealed, until 2000 in scotland and 2003 in the rest of the UK). I myself was involved in anti section 28 activism(campaigning and education) in a small but effective group in Liverpool, where our successes included lobbying the then Merseyside County Council to include sexual orientation in their Equal opportunities Policy(which they did!)and the local Trade Union Centre to do likewise(which they did!). i am proud of my involvement, on a local level, in this improved equality!So this was STRAND 1:continuing work for the (still) not (full) equality in law(in some areas), ie politically but with its concomitant theory/reparative reading of pre Woolfenden lesbian and gay texts, lgbt cultural studies generally counterpart, again providing historical and theoretical backing for the activism, or perhaps the latter inspired the theory!Gregory Woods was appointed the first Professor of  gay and lesbian studies at  Nottingham Trent University in 1998(his book “A History of gay literature: The Male tradition”{1998}is almost definitive in charting a course of reparative {in its true sense of the healing elucidation of the gay-content readings of the texts}study/reading of the gay male strand in literature, from Ancient greece to 1998).

However Strand 2 in cultural studies and political activism around sexual orientation and gender began to emerge in the very late 1970s, but mainly in the 80s , from, primarily , the US, in the form of Judith Butler, Judith Habelstam and Eve Kosofksky Sedgwick,and others,who began to use the word “Queer” in a sexual orientation cum gender sense that took the Foucauldian argument that the binaries of homosex and heterosex were SOCIALLY constructed view a stage further, eg Habelstam’s writings “In a Queer time and Place: transdender Bodies, subcultural Lives”(2005)wrote about how dragkings subverted  the social construction of gender; and others wrote more about Foucault’s thesis that many people had the capacity to love and feel sexual towards people of both sexes and people of intersex; people began to define themselves BEYOND straight, gay, even bisexual but as psychologically and/or physically androgynous, the fight for transgender rights began, dragqueens and kings were included and hermaphrodites, in a movement all subsumed under the nomenclature of queer. This then led to the confusion, and sometimes anger, around whether queer should be confined to this spectrum of sexual orientation, sexuality and freedom of gender or should then be expanded to the other, linked, larger, (some would argue) diffuser defintion(or anti-definitional definition) of queer as generally allowing of ANY difference in regard to race, (dis)ability, class, gender; and also whether it should also contain the concept of straightqueer, people who practise opposite-sex sexual acts or identity but who want to be part of this alternative, non-normativising tendency-challenging, all-embracing.. what is the word— “beyond groupings/labellings”. The obvious analogies are with humanism,self-actualisation theory(Maslow) or just BEING YOURSELF (outside all societally/politically/religiously defined and controlled categorisation)!

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So, I hope the above, linked with this recent posthttps://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/queerin-its-sense-of-not-solely-relating-to-sexual-orientationin-literature-a-creative-explorationclarification-of-what-it-means-to-me-by-steven-benson/ goes some way to clarifying the different strands of activism and critical thinking/studies round the lgbt/queer divide, together with piecing together, briefly, their histories. You will note that commonsense dictates that these trends/movement/beliefs(call them what you will or don’t call them!)begs the question: “why cannot they be allowed to run in parallel?!”: see this earlier post of minehttps://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/reasons-for-the-lgbt-studiesqueer-theory-divide-by-steven-benson/. We NEED BOTH approaches, though you could argue Queer includes lgbt rights within its (non/anti) defintion- or SHOULD do so.

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About decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)
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