Representation by Means of Self Exploration (a dive into the presence of queer literature)
Literature has often been viewed as a mechanism of expression for both readers and writers alike. Literature allows for one to gain insight and often provokes some into self-reflection. Unbeknownst to some, it also serves as a means to project oneself both indirectly (i.e. through use of symbolism or characters) and or directly. For many, literature serves as a medium to convey experiences, thoughts, and desires. But what happens when those same thoughts, desires, and experiences cannot be classified as a heteronormative narrative?
What happens when a narrative is presented that some deem to be impractical or incomprehensible, because its context doesn’t exemplify a heteronormative paradigm? Is there a need for a presence of Queer literature? With society’s constant expansion on education and urban living, why then is the subject itself so taboo? The lack of presence of Queer literature (more specifically Black Queer literature) is quite compelling. It is rather intriguing as there is strong evidence shows that society supports and presents variations of that all types of heterogeneous lifestyles.
No Tea No Shade,edited by E. Patrick Johnson , is an exceptional anthology that delves into the resistance and resilience within queer literature. Jafari S. Allen captures the essence of such resistance as he describes Black Queer studies as being “intermezzo”. The term intermezzo is a perfect summation of the presence of queer studies as it is neither viewed as vastly progressing nor is it particularily seen as regressing. Allen, reienforces his prespective of queer idetification by explaining the complexities of sexuality by comparing Black/Queer rhizomes (“image of thought”)to the rhizomes of nature. He elequently states that, “In nature, rhizomes arise from underground or underwater connections/roots/routes that are neither limited to one place nor destined to go in only one direction.” (pg. 28) He then elaborates on the correlation of the two by saying “ The rhizomatic thus represents a queer temporality and sociality that is processual.”(pg. 28)
Jafari Allen made a profound statement in which he describes queer literature/studies as “A rhizomatic conceptualization of relations, space, and time. A similar school of thought is presented in Alexis De Veaux’s unconventional narrative Yabo, as these characters highlight and navigate through the Black Human Sexuality Spectrum. Yabo investigates both time and space by rejecting the idea of “the past, present and future.” Showing that each is threaded together and we are possibly living in them all at one moment. (pg. 134) De Veaux’s narrative exudes the multiplicity within sexuality and the way in which one prefers to identify. Take a look at the character Jules for example. Jules’ parents allow them to decide how they would prefer to be identified as. At a young age Jules decided they would be called her. As Jules gets older they feel that they are both and neither each gender simulutaneously and take on the name BN for identification purposes. (pg. 145) The same can be seen when Zen visits Jules and realizes the room is neither masculine or feminine. (pg. 128)Some consider this narrative as “pushing the envelope”, where as others couldn’t be happier to see and read such a compelling story of identification. Could you imagine a world without gender roles? Or what about the idea to identify as both male, female,or neither,without the possibility of scrutiny?
Some writers attempt to avoid such scrutinity and ridicule and turn to the genre of horror. Nightmare Magazine is a prime example of horror and queer infused narrative.Though not entirely common within Black/Queer literature, horror has proven to serve as an escape. It has been said to have been easier for those who are Queer to dive into the world of horror so that they may put their experiences in a place that are easily translated and can also be extinguished. It’s much easier to use fantasy and horror stories to explore the other sides of attraction, especially where everything is perhaps “evil” and “strange”. It is easy to see why some Queer people have turned to that headspace of writing where these other worldly creatures and characters having seemingly outlandish romances that, for the satisfaction of some, may end in disaster. We connect to very deep parts of ourselves when we partake in horror whether as audience members or as writers. In essence, this form of literature truly allows for one’s feelings come to life. It’s a way to hide in plain sight where abhorrent details and wild stories are already more prone to becoming marginalized.
So what’s next? What does the future of Black/Queer studies have in store? Comics, books or the appearance of these studies in the classroom?
Are we striving towards the progrssion and advancement of such studies? Or are we simply undermining the importance of such a presence in literature as another means of oppression? Though we live in a world “historically derived sociocultural system with political economics structures in its DNA”, (pg. 30)who says WE can’t defy normality and identify however, whenever and wherever!
Citstions Johnson, E. Patrick, and Jafari S Allen. No tea, no shade: new writings in Black queer studies. Durham ; London, Duke University Press, 2016.
Wagner, Wendy N. Nightmare: queers destroy horror! special issue. United States, Nightmare magazine, 2015.