Tyranny of the Queer Monarchs

JB Zachary might be talking about you.

I see it happening every now and then. It’s that self-entitled, self-important manner that starts to creep in oh so subtlely. That tone of voice, the rising up and claiming of space and settled authority. The inauguration of another self-appointed member of QUEER ROYALTY.

I know you know what I mean.  We’ve all seen it. That nice and lovely person, who you mostly agreed with, whose politics you respected and who you enjoyed hanging out with.  You haven’t seen them for a few months and BAM!  Now they’re a dickhead. And not a dickhead in the way where they’re rude to you, because no, you’re queer and you have “their” politics (or at least you’re too exhausted polite to say anything contradictory). You’ve been around the queer scene for a few years, so you can be a point of authorisation, a notch in their tally of social capital, another face they know.

This person is more like a dickhead in the way that they use their cred, their knowledge and their social power to make themselves the centre of the social network through ostracising others.   It’s that self-involved style, that way of talking that shames anyone with the “wrong” politics or who lacks a very specific Queer Tumblr Education.

So, how do you spot one of these Queer Royals? Well despite what may be the general consensus according to queer politics they’re not always the most intersectionally privileged person in the room. Sometimes it’s one of the most (on paper) ‘un-privileged’ people. Sometimes it’s the person who ticks all (or many) of the boxes on their application to the Oppression Olympics. Sometimes (but not always) it is a person who, because of their particular position, won’t engage at all with their privilege or the complexities and nuances of their social position (we will get back to this in a bit). Other times they will use the recognition of their privilege to further their social status because they’re ‘Just That Good’.

One thing that that I have noticed, with almost every Queer Royal (or wannabe) is that they are linguistically talented. Their tongues are gold and their lips are diamonds and the words they exude from their mouths are the exact thing you always wanted to say but never knew how to phrase. They catch phrase like they’re being paid for it, though of course they would never capitulate to capitalism like that. They always know the most “politically correct”, “radical” thing to say, and sometimes they will manipulate the words of others to shove their politics in your face.  They’re obsessed with being the most up to date, the most intelligent thinker, the most actively critical person.

Now I’m all for discussion.  Nothing gets me off like a conversation about the way in which a Deleuzian-Spinozist framework may be able to re-configure contemporary Western capitalist cultures construction of the human condition or the ways in which the patriarchal, racist, ablest, cis-centric and homophobic (and so on) society oppresses individuals, and makes us all culpable.But what I’m not into is the way in which certain people use a whole bunch of intellectual and social privilege to situate themselves as the most ethical, the most critical and the most needing-to-be-heard person in any space or context, at the loss of any (many) other voices in the room.

And it is an intellectual privilege.  They’ve probably been university educated, and if not, the intellect to be able to read a bunch of complex stuff, and regurgitate it as a means of cred and capital. And it’s also social privilege – they are people who are usually physically desirable in “radical” queer terms, and able to engage within normative social rules of engagement.

And the most frustrating part is that it’s nearly impossible to contradict them. Establishing themselves as the MOST radical, the MOST well politicked, they set the community boundaries and eradicate nearly all possibilities for dissent or contradiction, which they shut down flawlessly, often imperceptibly.

So what to do about this whole situation? Call for a referendum? Stage a coup? Sadly, I’m not so optimistic. I see this, as I’m sure you do too, my fellow queer minions, as a pretty common occurrence. And sadly (call me bitter and old, as many do) as a part of pretty standard social conditions. So I’m not making any suggestions, I’m not giving an outline as to where to from here.

Instead, I’m going to take this opportunity to address you, Queer Royalty, directly:

Hello Royals, you probably (maybe) know me, because I sure know you and I thought you should know that many of us… don’t like you. Or at least we don’t like who you’ve become. But don’t worry, we won’t call you out on it, we won’t humiliate you like that, because we are too nice, or tired, or too worried about the social and emotional wrath you may enact on us, or we can’t quite see you for who you are just yet.

And perhaps even sadder than this, you probably don’t even know this article is about you. So perhaps, and here are my parting words, ones that good god I hope you’ll never raise with me because I will probably lie and shrink and run away, scared of your wrath. If you’re certain that this article isn’t about you, think twice. Think about how much space you take up, how sure you feel of your politics and your right to speak, how you respond when people disagree with you – do you get angry? Do you try to self-righteously “educate”? Do you think you’re a Pretty Great Queer? I might be talking about you after all…

I guess deep down, I’m wondering what kind of community we’re trying to create here. Is it one based on exclusivity, on social cred, on denigrating others who can’t talk the exclusive, carefully honed talk? Queer Royals live on these things, they thrive on hostility, competition andself-involved vitriol.

Maybe there are more resistant, generous futures to be imagined…

Image: Jimmy Harris, CC BY 2.0.