What exactly is “queerness”? Is it identifying somewhere beneath the LGBTQ+ umbrella? Is it prescribing to a certain set of ideals, ones which deviate from the heteronormative frameworks we were raised with? Or is it more fluid and intangible than that? Eve Sedgwick, an American academic and queer theorist, described queerness as “the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances” in relation to gender and sexuality. Was she right?
For years, I internalised an “us” and “them” mentality in relation to my life choices. “Them” being people who get married in a church, refer to their partner as “my other half” and have “date nights” with two other monogamous couples. “Us” being those who are whatever that isn’t. People who form their own families, have fluid relationships, feel more at home in a club than a registry office. I’m not saying these ideas are intrinsically bound up with queerness (the stereotype that queer people are inherently “deviant”, for example, is untrue and damaging), but for me they were. In other words: why would I want to behave like straight people?
Over the past decade, though, a binary understanding of these ideas has begun to look more and more simplistic and reductive. Same-sex marriage is legal in 26 countries. Many of us can have children, settle down, buy our own “live laugh love” posters and live like our hetero grandparents. The way LGBTQ+ people are treated is far from equal – especially for trans and BAME folk – but in the West, visibility and assimilation is more widespread than it ever has been. So with more options available – for both queer and straight-identifying people – the culture has shifted, and is still shifting. Some queer people want a more conventional lifestyle. Some straight people don’t. Fundamentally, it’s about the right to choose.
In Amelia Abraham’s new book, Queer Intentions, out on the 30th of May, she grapples with these questions and more. Combining rigorous journalism with her own personal experience, the book sees her travel across Europe, Turkey and the States, from drag conventions to Pride parades and Britain’s first ever same-sex marriage, all to ask one essential question: what does it mean to be “queer” in 2019?
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