Maria Kranidis—Synthesis # 1 Queer Theory 985
We were all suspicious of it. He was too sensitive, shy and timid. But most of all he always picked clothes that were not masculine enough. He was only ten when we noticed his whispers were explaining how pretty star rings and pretty colored feather are…It became serious a year later when my nephew had a school dance and for his date he wanted to go with another boy in his class. My sister called me up crying. “What should I tell him?” she asked. “Tell him the truth” I said. “That this world is not kind to boys who want to be with other boys, and perhaps this would empower him to be more careful”. But my nephew had more problems to face than that. He is half Greek, half Black, lives in the south and his father is a homophobic.
It was not until a couple of years later that my sister had to talk to a psychologist at his school to protect him from the bullying he was receiving from other children in school. After my sister had a talk with his father about the situation, her husband blamed her for their son’s homosexuality and left the marriage. All interactions with his cousins and family in the south were discontinued, except perhaps from his grandmother, who always treated the boy as if he were handicapped. A few months later my sister moved to another town. My nephew changed schools but the problems have begun again. The children in school call him gay and he comes home crying every day.
It is ironic and totally problematic to me how children are not taught about sexuality in schools or in society by any visible structure of establishment yet children are made to believe what is right or wrong about sexual behavior and preference before they even have sex. It is interesting to separate the categories of sex, gender, sexuality and race and see how historically we have helped embedded the ideas of superior knowledge or common practice into education, religion and every day practices.
Michel Foucault in The History of Sexuality does not make separations between gender and race, yet there is a great connection between sex, pleasure and power. His inclusion of children’s’ sexual knowledge is a part of different power and knowledge which is withheld from them. Children do not know who they are until their own existence forces them to oppose and resist a kind of practice. And even though Foucault does not concern his research with the forming of identity he does emphasize that “capture and seduction, confrontation and mutual reinforcement: parents and children, adults and adolescents, educators and students, doctors and patients, the psychiatrist and his hysteric and his perverts ,all have played this game continually since the nineteenth century” (Foucault 45). But my nephew had no knowledge of such a system so he finds himself confused about the personal and the social situations in his life.
Sex and sexuality are perhaps the most difficult to distinguish for a child, or a person who has not had to question these practices. If sex is there to accommodate the needs of a system which according to Foucault is designed “as a means of access both to the life of the body and the life of the species? It was employed as a standard for the disciplines and as a basis for regulations” (Foucault 146). Regulations indeed! Perhaps this might be the theoretical moment where Foucault decides that in order for homosexuality to be studied or understood, the reasons and historicity of homosexuality must have its own accumulation of knowledge in a different space and place, outside the realm of heterosexual regulations, by calling the homosexual a “species”.
Eve Sedgwick in Queer and Now analyzes how society treats children and how it controls their knowledge about themselves in regard to their own sexuality. She says, “This society wants its children to know nothing; wants its queer children to conform or (and this is not a figure of speech) die… (Q&N 3). Perhaps there is a system in place to separate and isolate queer children from other children and from other queer adults. Sedgwick seems to think so. She emphasizes that there is “a systematic sequestration from the truth about their lives, culture” which could be the cause of “the triple incidence of suicide among lesbian and gay adolescents” (Q&N 3). Foucault warns us that we must not “refer to a history of sexuality to the agency of sex…” and even though politically and theoretically “sex is subordinate to sexuality” institutional systems of marriage value the practices of sex according to sexuality and preference and production. My nephew has not had sex, yet he belongs to a certain sexuality which is perhaps closer to gender identification than a social construction.
But my nephew’s issues do not stop there. He is in the middle of a philosophical theoretical torment of identity according to his race. Because of his skin color he feels more at home with his father’s family, yet they do not want him. Our family loves him and supports him but he is far away. When I refer to my family in NY I do not include the Greek elements of the original family which is still homophobic. My father does not know that his grandson is gay and if he were not still so caught up on the fact that he is black he would have noticed…My nephew talks to him in Greek and my father smiles and utters, “Poor child, his mother made many mistakes…” And that is where the story ends and begins.
In his article “The Relevance of Race for the Study of Sexuality” Roderick Ferguson interrogates, (many times not too successfully) the theories of how sexuality becomes instrumental for racial projects and formations. His research includes a study of how specific nationalist discourses commit themselves to notions of homogeneous time (space and place as well??) that obscures the very sexual formations. I believe that Ferguson’s study of racialized sexuality falls short in addressing the issues queer children and adults face within their own specified racial communities which transform their conceptions of gender and self, and who might indeed be in deed of, if not a race, then a place which promotes a formation of social support as a ground for queer identity.