because being ‘gay’ is all about feeling bad…
Of course, the thing that we’re all meant to be looking for is inclusion and tolerance and to talk about ourselves in terms of harm. excellent! so the JCCV has recently placed the following ad in the Jewish News:
Where do I begin with how this framing offends me? First off, what’s with ‘GLBT’? I feel like it’s been quite a while since the umbrella acronym (as much as the acronym always annoys me) was that short. Why leave out ‘IQQ’ (Intersex, Queer and Questioning…, and the numerous possible other letters that could be added in there too)? If you actually want to speak to a large group of people, demonstrating from the beginning that you’re totally out of touch with so many of us probably isn’t going to make us want to write you a submission.
And then, what is it we’re meant to be writing submissions about? Oh, that’s right – the ways in which being ‘GLBT’ in the Jewish community has sucked. And of course, for many people, it has been a totally crap experience. The explicit and implicit homo/trans/queerphobia in the community pervades every aspect of the community (which is unsurprising, seeing as there is such an excessive focus on the idea that the continuation of Jewishness in Melbourne is possible only through the ‘healthy’ reproduction of the community through heterosexual reproductive sex acts between two Jews… (and yes, I know I just used ‘reproduct…’ twice in the one sentence – just trying to mirror the excess)). So in part it’s a good thing that they’re seeking these submissions, asking people to detail their experiences, to lay bare the ways in which they have been excluded from the community. But to set up the framework for the discussion as being one of harm, and one where it’s all about the gays writing in to explain how they’ve been harmed (rather than, say, asking everyone else to have a think about their heterosexuality and how they push the idea that being hetero is the best/only way to live), is to reinforce the idea that there’s nothing gay about being gay. Why not set the framework as being, ‘Write in and tell us about your experiences of being LGBTIQQ in the Jewish community. Tell us what has worked and what hasn’t. Tell us about your pain and joy. Tell us the ways in which you have experienced the awfulness of heteronormative dominance, and what you have done to subvert it, and when you haven’t (been able to) subvert(ed) it. Describe the ways in which you have been subversive, the times when you’ve felt marginalised, and the ways in which you have found pleasure in the margins. Tell us what you enjoy about being LGBTIQQ in the various Jewish communities you live in. Tell us how your mental health has been negatively affected, and strengthened, through interactions with different people and different groups. Explain the ways in which you have been subjected to emotional and physical abuse and discrimination. Tell us what you would change, and how you would change it. Teach us how to make sure that the Jewish community changes to become one which actively, truly, resists discrimination.’
Because I wonder what happens when someone writes in and says ‘I’m an anti-Zionist queer feminist jew, and pretty much everything that the JCCV has ever done has been purposely designed to demonstrate that the way I live my life, the ways I identify myself, have to be disavowed.’ How do they respond to that, knowing, if they are honest with themselves, that that is true?
In a lecture this week I was reminded of a slogan from the early days of the queer movement: ‘not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you.’ As in, fuck you for thinking that it’s just as simple as putting out a call for submissions, and writing a report, and putting it in all the schools and synagogues and wherever else these things go. As in, fuck you for thinking that it’s not about the fact that at every opportunity, the Jewish communities in Melbourne reinforce a hegemonic, heteronormative idea of family. As in, fuck you for reinforcing that queers are outside the community, and if we’re ever to be let in it’s on your terms; and that we want to be ‘let in’, rather than to radically change the community as it’s conceived. As in, fuck you for thinking that heteronormativity isn’t linked to patriarchy, isn’t linked to capitalism, isn’t linked to zionism, isn’t linked to the innumerable ways in which Jewishness is circumscribed in our community today.
(Also, y’know, some of you might want to write a submission – if so, the info for doing so – the address to send it to – is up there on the ad)