contents - fall from grace, sarah gibson -the concept of identity is a catch 22, em travis -self portrait in bubble bath, tom nuttall -returning item bought on ebay, jack mccambridge -why so tacky? tom nuttall -coming out stories, anonymous -rainbow flames, jessi lloyd -dynamic sited for identity construction and formation, noor milekpah -untitled #372, jaspyr geddes-rainbow -the politics of queer musicology, zachary l. stewart
editors jaspyr geddes-rainbow + em travis graphics tom nuttall content notes at the beginning of each piece
cn: graphic body imagery, fire, violence/destruction, imprisonment, religious metaphor
cn: compulsory identity/labels, cis-heteronormativity, self-doubt, q slur, invalidation the concept of identity is a catch-22. we are compelled to label ourselves at the same time as being told that to do so is hypocrisy; that to apply a common identity to our own experiences of ourselves is to stereotype ourselves; that we cannot expect to be respected as diverse individuals if we ascribe to an identity that allows others to box us in, but we cannot expect to be understood if we do not. neoliberal individualism puts us in an impossible double bind: our (individual) identities must exist, and exist coherently, but only insofar as they fit in with a coherence that has already been established for us. cisheteronormative capitalist society demands that we define ourselves so that it can rationalise us, all the while dismissing the power of these definitions to shape our experiences and our politics. we must be both consumable (articulate, convenient, compliant) and consumed (assimilated – into societal norms, but also into the Acceptable homogeneity of Gay Inc). there is no room for ambiguity. there is no place for pluralities. caught up in this formulated environment of mandatory identity is a pervasive impetus for self doubt. the compulsory cohesion of queer identities combined with the insidiousness of cisheteronormativity informs us categorically that we are only valid if we are comprehensible, and we are only comprehensible if we fit a narrative that was constructed for us without our consent. if we ever doubt, even for a second, the applicability of this narrative to our own experiences (and we DO doubt it, every one of us; even if it ‘fits’, cisheteronormative society would never allow us the luxury of total and constant security in a queer identity), we are Fakes. reinforcing this is a preoccupation with authenticity that has grown to become something of a fetishisation – of Realness, of objective personal ‘truth’ (but a truth which is inherent and immutable, rather than something we have the authority to define for ourselves). whether or not this True Immutable Identity exists, its concept is frequently employed as a means of invalidation. as a result, we question whether our understandings of our own identities are ‘genuine’, ***not realising that it is the essence of those understandings themselves that they provide their own validity***. queer+/trans “identity” is defined wholly by self-identification. type it on a desktop sticky note, write it on your mirror in lipstick, spray-paint it on the walls: queer+/trans “identity” is defined wholly by self-identification. likewise, so is ~lack of~ identity – a choice not to define, even an eternal question mark, is as valid as any definition. what makes it genuine is that it’s yours. ‘authenticity’ does not have to come at the expense of agency. reject every label that could ever describe you, or collect them like postcards and use them like wallpaper: there is no way to be Fake when the ‘truth’ is, necessarily, characterised solely by subjective personal realities. your identity is yours to conceptualise and yours to live out. fuck anyone who tells you otherwise. Emrys Travis
Returning item bought on ebay - bid titled â€˜Genderâ€™: I return enclosed. It was broken and smelt bad. Please refund ASAP
cn: ‘coming out’, identity struggles, imposter syndrome, homophobic rumours
ly iteral l i n s ma er wo ime... it ha d n e isg et ling ual, c one, all th y and fee s. x e s i ie it ry ,b ident ommunit inine ut to eve y m m e f c h o e wit t of as a o com f struggle h” for a lo t e v o g ha a lot enou led to “not gay m like i’
looking back the only reason i did n’t come out when i was younge r was probably because i had no nee d to. nobody in my year at school was gay. very few people in my loc al area were gay. it wasn’t like i was going to meet someone, brin g them home and have to explain to my parents that they weren’t jus t a friend. but cambridge change d this comfortable albeit repressive life i led at home. people were ope n about their sexuality here. people had been in gay relationships. and so i took it upon myself with new -found enthusiasm to embrace this part of my life, not suppress it.
’re surls when you ir g s e k li o h ult. w can be diffic s someone l a o t o u h o c s g ’ in ls ir m co at a g per, a straight girls ind of interlo k e m o s s a rounded by r the rumours ey’ll see you e th b t m a e th m r a re ll fe you omei can sti hers when s p’s clothing. c e a e te h s e p in e lf th o w ne of und about o that went ro bian. he was a les s d e im la c e on
cn: ‘coming out’, food mention, family uncertainty, invalidation
coming to cambridg e, i discov you alrea ered wha dy know t i’m sure c oming ou do only o a lot of t is not so nce. if you mething y want peo on telling ou get to p le to know people. th , you have is can be really any awkward, to keep go because a out over c od ways to work th re th at in? i on urry. ce just blu ere rted it
sometimes i just kind of stop deliberately covering it up, and wonder if people will ever catch on. and although i haven’t met any hostility here, there’s always the question - if i come out to you, will you just kind of brush it off and treat me as if nothing had happened? or will you accept that this is an important part of my identity, and celebrate it with me? ’t want y family, i don m to n a p i/ b s y won’t. ome out a ’t be sure the n i still haven’t c a c i y, tl n re me diffe them to treat
if i were to give a pie ce come out, it would b of advice to lgbt+ youth stru e that the it. don’t le re is no ri gg t anyone g h p t or wrong ling to ressure yo are ready ti u into it: y . ou have to me to do feel that y ou
cn: ‘coming out’, biphobia, casual homophobia from family
dI nd an e e i r f m my l and cringey to xo o h ise d t sc ass a noying an eah, I’m b use i l c y r “y ist an ca chem t’s kind of but i said it back be ctun i d , i t aroun “skins”... come ou )... i took day and a . it g n i k as at jo to irls ut i was lking abo elped me ’t think i w t home th ith other g n a n h t e w were at “skins” ason (i did t then i w of being u a h e t r b e . t, id al now e true no re as straigh ion to the m r o o f c , t t ” i w ti ual era de ht tha e consid it had ma g u o th g om sayin ave s ally g irdly as if e was w
i have n’t act ua that cl ose w lly come ou ith t yet, b friend, ut asking anymore se nt a gr two people keeps if i was o I’m no asking u a lesb t ian ye p message stand me if i t… sim to my ’m gay bisexu ality is il a thing not sure if p arly, my mum ? eople under-
t ardes h e h t e of sual ely on ing ca confit i v n a i f h e em sd my nts wa erhearing th g to boost ght up e r a p n ov my othi brou out to been to do… had done n g was s n d i a a h m h thing co ity er s l e v n a e o u m i t x e o a e v s ers. s i’ rs e out. my should things obic conve g about my m a c i off in ce ph homo . now, noth it years sin eight lifted b w … dence st two and a d a massive a a l in the , though: i h nt differe
cn: ‘coming out’, familial rejection, transphobia, worry of being outed to return ht before i was due ig rtn fo a t ou ab t but ou with it fantastically, i decided to come al de ’t dn di um m y er… m e, and his home for the summ talk to my dad for m to r he d ke as i e; tiv hour angry was broadly suppor ed me up for a twoon ph he e. tiv si po stressful reaction was less because i’d had a ed us nf co st ju as onths eiw me for the three m to phonecall, telling m k ea sp ’t dn di ty, and then first year at universi in the same house. that we were living
when i told my mum i was pan with ‘but y sexual sh ou’re still e replied a girl right? fit those b cause you oobs into a binder!’ ’ll never
hesient is something i do ev + bt lg an to g in attend back home. even now, clicking e out to my family m co t n’ ve ha i at th too ct sity is probably not tantly, wary of the fa er iv un at t ou e m sion to co comforti would say my deci w it is blighted by un no t ls hi w d an , t rs othe in time things will ge at dissimilar to many th ct fa e th m fro ke comfort able obstacles, i ta easier.
i finally feel h appy with th e labels i ha like i unders ve adopted tand myself for myself, a a s i am now. in future as m nd feel there may b y identity ev e more com olves, but no third step I to ing ou ne of it can b ok (coming e as big as th t out as a tran e s woman).
cn: ‘coming out’, ace erasure, imposter syndrome, fear of dismissal, family invalidation, biphobia, stereotypes of queer identity, homophobia from friends
i realized i was asexual after a consent worksho p in freshers´ week last year… i wear an ace ring and an aromanti c one, but when people ask about them i always lose courage and dismiss them. i was worried that i ´wasn´t lgbt+ enough’, and i was scared that people would dismiss something that had become so much a part of who I am. ’ e ‘fashionable b to g in y tr s ickly ther i wa ondered whe rovocative’ qu w ‘p s ly a n e w p it o h r e ic h ptly my moth ture in w er - who prom th ative’... the na o c o m v d n ro ra ‘p g n y e v or e r told m fact i had when my siste moaning the r e a b le , c e s e o m rp a u c e p father b ing my grand gering her on n th a f d o o o e g m a d s e a to accus ian (refusing ol, saying it w b o s h c le s a ’ s ls a ir w g i a to know sking studied at ould hurt him and, finally, a ) w y it lit e a c u x in e s is d b a ing as was de xually. was such a th re e th t a e ‘woman’ se th th e v s a w belie o h w d the ‘man’ an me who was weirdly enoug h, one of the lowest mome when i notice nts of my com d my mates w ing out was e re no longer ta rugby matche king naked sh s because the owers after y felt uncomfo little things th rtable i was th at changed w ere. it’s the hich bothered me the most.
ore erstanding m d n u y ll a u d of gra on. more a story rt of interacti is o s ry r e to s th t o u y o n rt my coming entity than a a label, i sta t id p y o d m a f i o s ts e c pe label more tim and more as alise that the r me as the fo re g to in h th g u g o in n nerally e it’s an amus elf more, ge s y m g in d n ow. understa fit me someh ’t n s e o d d te i adop
cn: homophobia (use of f*g and ‘gay’ as insult by others), internalised homophobia (anti-aids prejudice and gay predator stereotype), alcohol, fear of ‘coming out’ I loved dancing as a young boy. Whenever somebody put Afghan music on in the house, I would immediately pick up an orange hijab and used it as a prop in between my hands, twirling with it and moving my body in a light, carefree way. My lack of self-consciousness in dancing diminished as I grew older. The message that the way I danced was not acceptable had begun to be internalized. When I had first took to the stage at my first Afghan wedding, I remember the other children scoffing at me for dancing ‘gay’, calling me a ‘fag’, and other words in an unkind way that left me feeling like an outsider. The barbs were directed at how my dancing was androgynous, less conventional, and not socially befitting. From that experience and others like it, I learned that something about my expression was ‘incorrect’, and that the price for dancing in a way that felt natural was rejection by my peers. In the remaining weddings I went to during my adolescence, I denied my impulse to dance, declined all invitations to join the dance-floor, and strapped myself to my seat. I didn’t feel there was a safe place for me there. These childhood experiences contrasted greatly with my initial immersion in the gay night-club scene. Dancing, especially unrestrained dancing, became an unexpected technique for my self-formation as a gay man. Because I did not know of any other public social spaces in my hometown to encounter gay subculture, I visited the only gay nightclub in Gainesville, Florida as an entry point to discover what it means to be gay. In this account, I detail my past experiences exploring a variety of gay nightclubs in Gainesville, Atlanta, and San Francisco from ages 17-23. I would like to begin this discussion by examining stereotypes. Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity argues that different stereotypes of what men are and should be are socially placed in a hierarchy of value. He drew attention to subtle and indirect ways of reinforcing inequalities, leading to the exclusion of particular others. In my experience, this is applicable to sexuality as gay stereotypes privilege heteronormative standards as socially appropriate while subordinating gay expressions as less acceptable. For example, in talking to my heterosexual acquaintances, friends, and family members about their impressions of gay men, the following are some responses I’ve received: promiscuous, superficial, glamorous, and feminine; gay nightclubs have their own associations: drag queens, muscular men, flashy clothes, wild dancing, and drama. In my first experience in a gay nightclub at the age of 17, I too came in with some of these stereotypes, although mine were more extreme and even irrational: that AIDS was practically airborne in a room full of gays, and that gay men were all predators — mostly inherited blindly from family, out of ignorance. I remember feeling very nervous walking in that night, as I had not shared my struggle to accept my same-sex attraction with anyone and was afraid of being ‘outed’ to my family. Because it
was my first time entering into a public gay space, paradoxically, I felt like an outsider, vulnerable and guarded, as I had no idea what to expect outside of my imagined stereotypes. Being a sheltered and inquisitive young man, I was curious to come in contact with others who shared my orientation, to hear their stories, their relationships with their families, and the ways in which they reconciled or struggled to accept themselves. While I did hear some interesting stories conversationally, I found myself discovering more about myself and others through dancing. Through this mode, I was able to read quickly into peoples’ unique personalities, styles, and eccentricities; I learned, too, about my own unabashed, wild nature. At the club, I felt safe to express aspects of my identity that challenged whether I aspired towards hegemonic masculinity, which I had locked away and repressed, out of fear of rejection. There, I reconnected with my innocent joy of dancing without self-consciousness and liberated my movement to find its authentic expression. Having just discovered this new world, I was eager to make new friends, so I began to visit the club weekly. I appreciated it as a site where gay men could come together and explore their public identities without the risk of censure. At the club, I found individuals had the space to explore their unique queer identities, whether it be gender non-conforming, bisexual, gay, buff, effeminate, etc. Although admittedly it was not the setting in which I felt most at ease —due to my age, the fact that I was alone, and not yet ‘out’ at the time — I realized it was an approximation of a place I had longed to discover since I was a young boy. It was a place that confirmed that I was not alien or an absolute exception; where I could discover others like me longed to belong, and were reconciling, exploring, or affirming their sexual identities, and wanting to meet others doing the same. Being aware that I needed space from my family and origins to redefine myself, I was eager to leave my Florida hometown for college at the age of 18. When I moved to Atlanta and began my undergraduate studies at Emory University, I felt comfortable for the first time to learn about other aspects of LGBQT experience — such as what it means to be ‘out’— without the fear of being exposed to my community back at home. It wasn’t so much that the change in setting offered me the relief and freedom to be more of myself, but that I was in a different psychological space. Having moved to a new physical space, it enabled me the relief of not having to deny my sexual identity and work to keep it concealed. At college, I gradually developed a group of close queer friends. With this group, and through our experiences of dancing, I came to accept my identity as a gay man, and later came out to my family. Being a sheltered and inquisitive young man, I was curious to come in contact with others who shared my orientation, to hear their stories, their relation
ships with their families, and the ways in which they reconciled or struggled to accept themselves. While I did hear some interesting stories conversationally, I found myself discovering more about myself and others through dancing. Through this mode, I was able to read quickly into peoples’ unique personalities, styles, and eccentricities; I learned, too, about my own unabashed, wild nature. At the club, I felt safe to express aspects of my identity that challenged whether I aspired towards hegemonic masculinity, which I had locked away and repressed, out of fear of rejection. There, I reconnected with my innocent joy of dancing without self-consciousness and liberated my movement to find its authentic expression. Having just discovered this new world, I was eager to make new friends, so I began to visit the club weekly. I appreciated it as a site where gay men could come together and explore their public identities without the risk of censure. At the club, I found individuals had the space to explore their unique queer identities, whether it be gender non-conforming, bisexual, gay, buff, effeminate, etc. Although admittedly it was not the setting in which I felt most at ease —due to my age, the fact that I was alone, and not yet ‘out’ at the time — I realized it was an approximation of a place I had longed to discover since I was a young boy. It was a place that confirmed that I was not alien or an absolute exception; where I could discover others like me longed to belong, and were reconciling, exploring, or affirming their sexual identities, and wanting to meet others doing the same. Being aware that I needed space from my family and origins to redefine myself, I was eager to leave my Florida hometown for college at the age of 18. When I moved to Atlanta and began my undergraduate studies at Emory University, I felt comfortable for the first time to learn about other aspects of LGBQT experience — such as what it means to be ‘out’— without the fear of being exposed to my community back at home. It wasn’t so much that the change in setting offered me the relief and freedom to be more of myself, but that I was in a different psychological space. Having moved to a new physical space, it enabled me the relief of not having to deny my sexual identity and work to keep it concealed. At college, I gradually developed a group of close queer friends. With this group, and through our experiences of dancing, I came to accept my identity as a gay man, and later came out to my family. Noor Milekpah
cn: q-slur, erasure of queer historical figures, heteronormativity, misogyny, freud, compulsory binaries of sexuality, biological essentialism
No figure looms larger over British music in the month of December than Handel. I like to think of December as Messiah season, and this year I saw at least six performances of the oratorio advertised in Cambridge. The demand is seemingly insatiable. But what do listeners know about the oratorio, or its composer? Do they know that Handel may well have been queer?
The question of Handel’s sexuality has a long history dating back at least to his first biographers, John Mainwaring and John Hawkins, the latter of whom knew Handel and offers a curiously circumscribed description of Handel’s relationships and explanation of why he didn’t marry. More recent biographers have not been as subtle, notably Paul Henry Lang (1966), who euphemistically—and rather offensively—argues that Handel was “a man of normal masculine constitution.” Lang appeals to empty, misogynistic generalities (“How would any woman understand the single-minded pursuit of any idea that took possession of him?”), cites Freudian psychoanalysis (“Handel, like Brahms, had an unnaturally strong attachment to his mother”), and presents a dubious list of women (“his amorous encounters with them were . . . carefully screened from view”). The central account of Handel’s sexuality within the field of queer musicology is that of Gary C. Thomas in Queering the Pitch (1994). Thomas notes that Handel lived in England during the rise of the “molly,” a social identity (albeit a derogatory one) for eighteenth-century queers, and the associated “molly house,” a place for homoerotic encounters. Handel circulated largely within cultures associated with homoerotic activity, namely the Italian leg of the English Grand Tour, the English country retreat, and the London theatre culture. While in Italy Handel associated with queer men and engaged in what Thomas calls “flourishing homosexual subcultures,” and in London he was part of the homoerotic milieu of the young Earl of Burlington. Thomas unearths the queer signifiers of the day, applying them to understand the environments in which Handel lived and played. Thomas concludes that although there is no outright evidence that Handel was queer, enough circumstantial evidence exists that the burden of proof should lie on those who argue that Handel was not queer. Some musicologists have disagreed with Thomas, and the question largely comes down to who needs to offer proof—both sides think the other does. This exposes a perennial problem in scholarship and in society, namely that we are straight until proved otherwise. But I want to explore a different problem inherent in Thomas’ account (and which Thomas is aware of): that of the homosexual. Thomas describes Handel and the cultures surrounding him with the terms “homosexual” and “homosexuality,” but I have opted for the more slippery “queer.” The roots of this problem are the question of binary identities and the thorny political aspects of queer musicology. To the historian, Thomas’ use of the word “homosexual” smacks of anachronism, imposing modern ideas about sexual identity and sexual culture on an entirely different era. Foucault and his disciples have argued that the homosexual was invented in the nineteenth century along with its polar opposite, the heterosexual, and thus that
homosexuality is partly socially constructed. The two terms now conspire to produce a Procrustean binary structure, and just as this binary fails utterly to represent the real diversity of human sexuality today, so it fails to represent the highly fluid sexuality of the eighteenth century. Yet this line of thought leads down politically awkward paths. Briefly, the assertion that the homosexual as a recognizable sexual category did not exist in the time of Handel implies that sexuality is partly socially and historically constructed, and thus based partly of the availability of social categories. This runs counter to the politically expedient line that sexuality is inherent or even biological and therefore that certain privileges—same-sex marriage, for instance—are in fact rights. This problem is only exacerbated in queer musicology. One of the central tasks of queer musicology since its emergence in the 1980s has been to demonstrate that sexuality has an impact on music. This task is essential to the subdiscipline’s place in musicology—otherwise sexuality would be confined to biography. Musicologists like Ellen T. Harris (on Handel), Lawrence Kramer (on Schubert), and Philip Brett (on Britten) have duly worked to connect music and sexuality, in my opinion with frequent but not uniform success. Needless to say that not all music by queer composers evinces their queerness . . . but here we have taken a faux pas. The truth of this statement seems both obvious and desirable. In this era of self-determination we like to believe that no one’s actions are predetermined by their character. Put negatively, the idea that one could detect a composer’s sexuality from a sample of music seems absurd. How would we go about such a task? Which notes are the queer ones? The logic of this position, however, is politically inconvenient. If queer composers need not write queer music, then perhaps queerness is partially a matter of choice, and perhaps they need not express their queerness in other ways. If queerness can be set aside for music, then why not for sex? These questions are part of a larger debate between essentialists and social constructionists, cogently discussed by Paul Robinson in Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters (2002), whose terms I have borrowed, and who also discusses the political implications of these position. But it seems that we must tread particularly carefully when exploring the confluence of music and sexuality. What, one must wonder, would those who throng to performances of The Messiah every December think if they knew that Handel may well have been queer? More realistically, even if musicologists were certain of Handel’s sexuality, could we ever convince the composer’s devotees of his queerness? Handel occupies such a central position in English national and musical identity that his character appears inextricably bound up with cultural values, and queer musicology becomes largely irrelevant. If Handel’s queerness becomes widely known, it will not be due to the efforts of queer musicologists, but to a broader cultural shift. In an increasingly tolerant world, Handel could still ground English national identity, just in a slightly queerer way. Zachary L. Stewart
The phoenix is rising, in the form of our first print zine of 2016. Step inside for poetry, articles, photography, illustration and an excep...
Published on Jan 18, 2016
The phoenix is rising, in the form of our first print zine of 2016. Step inside for poetry, articles, photography, illustration and an excep...