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An Exquisite Corpse: Reflecting on Pride, Art, & Activism

Updated: Jul 24, 2019

I grew up in an old world, a maze of antiquated politics and schools of thought. I clung to these things because I knew of little else, and built a broken self from the debris around me. I didn’t know queer culture, I didn’t know queer theory, music, politics. I didn’t know how to use the word if it wasn’t in direct reference to a person. What the hell is “queer” art? “Queer” activism? I heard people talk about “queering” culture, and thought of a suspect, clandestine marathon to turn as many straights as possible. I was never truly witness to what it was to be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and so I didn’t know what it was to fight for it. I didn’t believe anyone was standing up for me, especially at a time when I wasn’t standing up for myself.

"Che Gay" Unknown Artist, Offset, 1974
"Che Gay" Unknown Artist, Offset, 1974

An absence of genuine gay bodies in the world I was exposed to had taught me to understand queerness only in the context of toxic stereotypes and shrill affectations, a caricature of "the f*g," penned by dominant cultures– of a fey, fluorescent, one-dimensional homunculus, defined only by the extent of their hedonism and vocal perseverance. To believe, by virtue of your sexuality, that there is but one role which you must fill, and that this is the only way to exist as a queer man, was not kind to my self image. And since I did not know who I was, but I knew what I wasn’t, I leaned into a corrosive persona, because I refused to humanize a part of me that I wished desperately would just go away, as if it could. Because of this, even after I (finally) came out to myself, for years I had a lot of trouble locating myself within queer activism because I had a lot of trouble locating myself within queerness.

"So You're Not Comfortable With Our Complexity?" Ian Cozzens, Silkscreen, 2012