Sunday, May 6, 2012

Judith Halberstam, "Queer Time"

Judith Halberstam's essay, "Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies" in In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, which I read online, contains some very important definitions of queer, queer time, and queer space.  I think all of these concepts will be helpful to my project and to the understanding of what queer is and what makes it different from "straight" thinking.  Part of what makes queer so appealing to many people over or in addition to the traditional identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or even transgender is the way that it can symbolize radical shifts in thinking and conceptions of life, relationships, public and private spheres, and even time and space.  The concept of space is important to this project because the blogosphere, tumblrsphere, cyberspace, or whatever else you want to call it is not traditionally pictured as a "real" space.  If this is not a real space, then that means that the actions and the identities formed there are not real.  This is problematic and something that I want to argue against.  I conceptualize these spaces as real because people think they are real.  The identities and the relationships that people enact and find in these spaces are real as well because they have meaning for those people.  Queer also deconstructs the idea of real space and time as matching some sort of physical phenomenon as well as being linked to normative constructions of how people should live.  Judith Halberstam provides definitions for queer, queer time, and queer space as well as discussing how other theorists conceptualize these ideas.  Halberstam writes, "
Queer uses of time and space develop, at least in part, in opposition to the institutions of family, heterosexuality, and reproduction. They also develop according to other logics of location, movement, and identification. If we try to think about queerness as an outcome of strange temporalities, imaginative life schedules, and eccentric economic practices, we detach queerness from sexual identity and come closer to understanding Foucault’s comment in “Friendship as a Way of Life” that “homosexuality threatens people as a ‘way of life’ rather than as a way of having sex” (310). In Foucault’s radical formulation, queer friendships, queer networks, and the existence of these relations in space and in relation to the use of time mark out the particularity and indeed the perceived menace of homosexual life. (Halberstam, 2005, 1).
I really like this conceptualization because it gets to the heart of my understanding of queer and the LGBT subculture.  Queer is a defining aspect of people's lives.  It is much more than who a person desires sexually or has has sex with.  It is a culture.  It is a way of looking at the world.  It is a way of thinking of gender, sexuality, and relationships.  Halberstam says queer  "refers to nonnormative logics and organizations of community, sexual identity, embodiment, and activity in space and time" (Halberstam, 2004, 4).  She goes on to define queer time as "a term for those specific models of temporality that emerge within postmodernism once one leaves the temporal frames of bourgeois reproduction and family, longevity, risk/safety, and inheritance" (Halberstam, 2005, 4).  Queer space is  "the place-making practices within postmodernism in which queer people engage and it also describes the new understandings of space enabled by the production of queer counterpublics (Halberstam, 2005, 4).  Queer space can also refer to the ways that queer people have to find to use and create spaces that are not used by normative peoples because queer people are often not welcome in normative spaces.  If they do exist in these spaces (as everyone must at some point), they have to masquerade as the norm in order to gain admittance and limit the repression they face.  They are always in danger of being unmasked as not normative.  This is why cyberspace has become a place where queer people can create communities, explore identities, and show their true colors as it were.  Young people in particular are bared from the traditional gay and lesbian spaces of the bar and nightclub.  People in rural areas also do not have access to these spaces or may have to travel to visit these spaces.  People with disabilities or of other marginalized identities may also have trouble accessing these spaces.  Not everyone feels welcome in these spaces if they cater mostly to binary identified people who embrace more normative understandings of space, time, and identity.  This can be a difference between people who identify as LGBT and people who identify as queer.  Even people who are part of the LGBT subculture can still have normative ideas about binaries, relationships, time, space, gender, and sexuality.  Homonormativity and heteronomativity have more alike than either has with queer.  Queer and homosexual do not have to mean the same thing at all.

Halberstam, Judith. In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. (New  York: New York University Press, 2005).

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