Alexander traces a queer-self-genealogy, exploring his own relationships with his family (particularly his uncle) to discuss how his queerness became thinkable to him.
Keywords: Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Rhetorics, Genealogy, Archive, Expirimental Writing, Multimodality, Composition, Writing Studies
Eribon, Didier. Returning to Reims. Trans. Michael Lucey. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), and Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2013.
Love, Heather. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007.
“It was such a thoughtful recognition of my past relationship with my uncle. Another part of me, though, felt that this handing off to me of his deathbook and photos was a simultaneous acknowledgment and disavowal of our shared queerness. The identity was recognized, but the gift also seemed to say, “This is your thing. It really belongs to you, not us.” Perhaps the fact that only one—only one—of my cousins asked me about Mack, my husband and partner of seventeen years, prompted me to feel that my queerness, along with Glen’s, was being both evoked and dismissed at the same time” (gene1).
“For while I may have strayed from both my immediate and extended families in many ways, the gifting of Glen’s memorabilia to me makes visible, if fleetingly, alternative genealogies, different trajectories of affiliation, divergent paths of relational contact and influence—paths that even my family, so clearly ill at ease with queerness, could acknowledge” (gene2).
“A history might record events, but a genealogy asks that we consider why those events, recorded in that order, as opposed to other events, other orders” (gene6a).
“[S]uch leaving is never a complete rejection of our origins, the fixed genealogies that we might want to leave behind. We might try to suppress them, but they can never be fully forgotten” (gene6e).
“I would always live in tension with the contradictions of this inheritance: my queerness taking me out of my family, but my periodic return to blood relations to enjoy their company; my delight in classical music and literature and my appreciation of rough-trade tough boys; my choice to live and work in urban areas and my love of down-home, deep-fried, slow-cooked country food. I’ve called these contradictions. But they are only so in this timeline, not out of historical necessity. If anything, I’m living these contradictions. And my return “home,” while also carrying my “home” with me, is the delicious, vexed, incommensurable meeting of contradictions: the handing to me of photographs that might want to disavow a queer genealogy but nonetheless cannot help but acknowledge it” (gene6e).
“For me, creative and experimental writing has been a way to trace the genealogical contours that, as Foucault points out, do not constitute the “gradual curve” of an evolution but rather the “different scenes” and “instances” through which we can not only critique the dominant view but also open up possibilities for orienting ourselves in other directions” (gene7).
“The contradictions are valuable. They speak to deliberateness, to chosen relations, not just to historical ones. They speak to craft in designing a life and loves” (gene7g).
“To be clear, though, my approach here is not to find a home for that queerness as much as it is a recognition that queerness is always already in the making” (gene8).
Questions, Reflection, Response:
I think about the orienting force of the fixed genealogies I carry quite a bit. These genealogies that direct me personally and professionally, they work in/through/with the identities I am situated in bringing me out of different “homes” and back to them. There is a between-ness and an already-ness to them.
I am fortunate to have queer mentors in my academic life who will call attention to the contours and contradictions we inhabit in academic spaces. These mentors as well as others have also helped me be cognizant of the academic genealogy that I am situated in, that I can be aware of how this influences their thinking and my own. I think of disciplinary “home”-ness and how scholars carry that with them even when they wish to move away, even thinking (or especially) about methodologies.
I think about the way that we construct archives and genealogies. The ephemera, the excesses, the ordering. An intentional design.
I think of the queer senses of family I’ve encountered. The mentors I’ve known and the intentional tending to those relationships that became familial: Will, Matt, John, Rich, to name a few. I think of the way that those became something more than associative relationships and the deliberate, cultivated meaning ascribed to them in familial terms. The way I used to call John my “gay dad.”
I think about my departures from a “blood” family. I remember growing up in Delaware, I remember our move to North Carolina when I was 12. I remember being so afraid. My impressions of the South from my previous education had been reducible to a statement: “conservative racists.” I was already very much aware of my queerness. I swore I’d move northward as soon as I was able. Sure enough, I ended up in grad school in Michigan (Yay?). But I remember growing up with the narratives that Alexander touched on of young queers running to cities for security, better lives, safer spaces, etc. These impact me. Yet, inasmuch as I have departed from this “home” I can still feel those periodic returns and those contradictions in which my various spaces and identities I inhabit are at once acknowledged and disavowed.