by Naomi Moonlion
It’s easy for me to signal queerness; it comes honestly and thoughtlessly. Dab some glitter, tie your shirt like so; if all else fails, a rainbow flag will do. Everything different can be queer, even cuffed jeans and safety pins. To put a finger on heteronormativity is almost impossible; it’s illusive in its inclusion, its culture non existent or simply not perceivable? Live laugh love, bland colors, tight tights, or sportswear? It is argued that queerness exists as everything non-heteronormative, as a non-normal. But what if heteronormative culture only exists by comparison to queer culture?
The term ‘queer’ was first used in the 1500s. It meant strange, odd, or peculiar and had no relation to gender or sexuality. Its usage can be compared to how the word ‘gay’ was used to signify happy or fun. In the 1810s, ‘queer’ was first used to signify homosexuality or eccentricity in a distinctly male way. It was both neutral slang and a derogatory slur. In the 1980s-1990s, our gay and lesbian ancestors reclaimed the word ‘queer’ to present a unified front against AIDS and the governments’ lack of support. They transformed ‘queer’ into a term that was no longer exclusively male and symbolized togetherness and shared values. Since the 2000s till now, ‘queer’ is used as an umbrella term for LGBTQIA+ identities. It is often seen as anyone or anything non-heteronormative. The term ‘queer’ has even become so commonly used that it sometimes becomes watered down to a certain commodified aesthetic rather than a shared set of values and identities. However, because of the term’s negative past, older generations often do not identify with or even refuse to use the word queer.
I always saw queer culture as undefinable, forever mutable, fluid in time and space. Yet, we do have similarities, shared beliefs, and values. We uphold a common understanding of embracing differences. Our definition is that we refuse to be defined.
If queerness is not intersectional and box-less in its essence, nothing queer is left. It is similar to how cis white feminism is not feminism at all, because it does not include all women. If you do not support and intersect all forms of queerness, what is the point?
Heteronormativity is understood as the belief or understanding that heterosexuality and following a strict gender binary is the “normal” way of life. It implies that being cis (identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth) is normal, seeing trans (not identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth) as wrong. Heteronormativity is in opposition to queerness, which understands that sexuality and gender are fluid.
A ‘conservative rightwing’ white cis gay man can be as un-queer (read: racist, transphobic, antisemitic, etc.) as a ‘progressive leftwing’ cis straight man can be.
But this raises the question, is queerness in essence tied to left-wing politics? The personal is the political and all that? I would argue it is more about basic human rights, as my dear friend and fierce ally Nienke says.
Basic human rights and exclusion politics should have nothing to do with being left or right-wing, being queer or straight. But in The Netherlands, it often is so. Our focus on normality is pervasive and completely intertwined with our politics. The fact that the most popular party in the Netherlands, the rightwing VVD, uses “Normaal. Doen.” (Act. Normal.) as their slogan already says enough.
So I ask, what language should I use? Should I even, as a queer person, be the one to approach you, or do I need an intermediary (or ally) who vouches for me? It feels impossible not to be immediately written off as that weird gay girl if I start approaching conservative people by myself.
Gender dysphoria can be experienced by queer people who have an opposing perception of their own gender versus how other people perceive their gender or how their body looks to themselves. It is essentially a feeling of discomfort or distress surrounding any gender-related experience. There are countless situations and examples like being trans but not being able to pass as the gender one is or having a body one doesn't identify with. Being clocked (noticed) as being trans. Having to wear certain ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ clothing whilst being gender non-conforming. Being expected to be androgynous whilst being gender non-conforming. One’s pronouns are not being respected or acknowledged. One’s chosen name not being used, using of a dead (old) name. Gender euphoria is the opposite when one’s gender is being affirmed. For example, when I wear a chest binder, I feel less feminine, which affirms my genderfluid identity.
Can I pass as straight? I always think so, but more and more, I realize I am withholding my inner queerness from expressing fully for fear of judgment or even pain. Every time I celebrate my queerness in public fearlessly, something, or rather someone, happens, pushing me right back into that cis straight closet.
The complex concept of queer time is best explained by Jack Halberstem. In ‘In a Queer Time and Place’ he argues that queer people experience time, and specifically the idea of adulting, differently than heteronormative people do. Halberstem argues that this is largely the case because of a lack of historical narratives to base our lives off. We lost a lot of ancestors to the AIDS pandemic, and many others were not proudly out, their stories suppressed in shame, even purposefully forgotten by their families. Besides, it is only recently that more countries allow queer people to partake in heteronormative adulting practices like marriage. Halberstem explains that “Queer subcultures produce alternative temporalities by allowing their participants to believe that their futures can be imagined according to logics that lie outside of those paradigmatic markers of life experience-namely, birth, marriage, reproduction, and death.” Queerness is in many ways always focused on the future, because the current reality is so un-queer. We strive for a different way of life, building communities founded on care and love. Making our own histories by documenting our lives and actively re-remembering our ancestors. As José Esteban Muñoz puts it: “The here and now is a prison house. (...) Queerness is essentially about the rejection of the here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world.”
I am Naomi Moonlion. I am a queer artist, witch, and writer. My work often circles around societal themes, directly stemming from my previous Bachelor in Humanities. I approach topics like identity politics or creating community through a queer and shamanist perspective. My work stems from personal experience, has a definitive female gaze, and can be seen as an extension of myself.
I use photography, video, and other media to explore the boundaries of reality and fantasy, leaving behind an imaginative magical truth. My artworks are colorful, metaphorical, and atmospheric, never abstract, always including context.
I aim to make utopian and political fantasies into reality through my art. I hope to facilitate a space for people to discuss society in an open and honest way, throughout the entire process of making work. By sharing my experiences with my audience, I hope to urge people to relate to their humanness together.
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