So the LGBTQA Coalition on-campus here at ASU recently put on a “dance for diversity” entitled “Born This Way.” We could not not critique this problematic piece of shit homonormative move.
The event is loosely tied around National Coming Out Day, which was conceived by HRC. Just the mention of anything associated with HRC should be enough for anyone cis-identified who supposedly stands in solidarity with trans* and queer individuals to be wary and recognize to check their privilege. Instead, our lovely gay “umbrella” organization that supposedly represents ALL of the letters (including that fantabulous A for “allies”) chose to fully endorse political motives with strategies that are highly kyriarchal in nature and spirit. I guess I shouldn’t be TOO surprised, since the group is mostly comprised of White homosexuals and has a history of ignoring and appropriating trans* voices.
We must consider the cold politics of representation that permeate the promotion of this event. These signs were everywhere on campus. Despite not being able to attend the meetings and remaining in very little contact with the Coalition, I was reminded about the event several times each day. Along with me, other students were exposed to these messages. Thus this signage contributes to the LGBTQ culture on-campus and sends a message of “this is what it means to be queer.”
From the sign, it is obvious that their understanding of queer is positioned along with other privileges, namely able-bodied and thin privilege. Where does this leave queers with bodies that society paints as abnormal or disabled? And what does this strategy of homonormativity and assimilation into “normal” culture do to non-queer students’ understanding about queer culture, identities, and desires?
Even the bold title of this event, BORN THIS WAY, exposes the essentialist positioning and universalist rhetoric that the leadership of the Coalition fully believes in and affirms in its most dangerous sense. In past years, shirts were simply spray painted on with “NCOD” and the year on the front, and with the text “Today I’m coming out as ___________________” on the back. This technique provided a way for individuals to truly “come out as” whatever they wanted, though it still forced queers that were not “out” to feel guilt and shame for being within a position in which they were not ready or able to “come out.” This year, however, the shirts were printed with big block letters BORN THIS WAY on the front, with a small line at the bottom where people could supposedly write on. This Gaga-esque gimmick only gets better though, because it turns out that the shirts were designed to look like the shirts worn in a Glee episode. Glee has a history of ableism and transphobia, so it’s only fitting that the Coalition would model this entire event off of the same fucked-up themes that serve to establish and perpetuate cissexism and homonormativity!
I’m over this bullshit. This does not represent me, and this is not what “queer” means. This is not critical of all social institutions; this is blatant disregard for the oppression of marginalized groups along other axes of domination. This is not a win or sign of diversity; this is full-blown homonormative assimilation.