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Social Epistemology
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Queering Expertise: Counterpublics, Social Change, and the Corporeal Dilemmas of LGBTQ Equality
Bryan J. McCann Available online: 28 Jul 2011

To cite this article: Bryan J. McCann (2011): Queering Expertise: Counterpublics, Social Change, and the Corporeal Dilemmas of LGBTQ Equality, Social Epistemology, 25:3, 249-262 To link to this article:

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com ISSN 0269-1728 (print)/ISSN 1464-5297 (online) Ó 2011 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10. University of Texas) is Assistant Professor of Rhetorical Theory and Criticism at Wayne State University. MI 48201. McCann This essay considers how rhetorics of expertise constitute social identity in the lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer/questioning (LGBTQ) rights movement. Because the resulting arguments over strategy are simultaneously debates about what it means to be a queer citizen. Email: bmccann1980@gmail. USA. speculating that the mainstreaming of homosexual citizens has come at the cost of Bryan J. Furthermore. Social Change. July 2011. Queer Theory. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 Bryan J.Social EpistemologyAquatic Insects Vol. Keywords: Expertise. No. Social Movements Introduction How much do we become like them in order to enjoy the fruits of what they call success. and how much do we make them acknowledge that there are alternatives that must be respected? (Darsey 2001.1080/02691728. While members of the mainstream gay rights movement typically emphasize conventional political channels. 317) In this epigraph.578302 . pp. participants in the “radical” gay rights movement prefer transgressive enactments of non-normative sexualities. McCann (PhD. Counterpublics. [Bryan J. Department of Communication. 585 Manoogian Hall.2011. LGBTQ Activism. I conclude that discourses of expertise also function as nodal points for group identity within queer counterpublics. Detroit. 3. Correspondence to: Bryan J. McCann. 249–262 Queering Expertise: Counterpublics. James Darsey articulates a salient tension experienced by virtually all members of marginalized populations: how shall we define ourselves and on whose terms? Darsey is concerned with the agency of the gay rights movement. I argue that a more conservative queer rhetoric of expertise places constraints on queer subjectivity that are deeply problematic for those navigating the already murky waters of sexual identity in America. 25. and the Corporeal Dilemmas of LGBTQ Equality Downloaded by [Emerson College].

Whereas the mainstream prioritizes entrenchment in the contemporary circuitries of republican governance and commerce. First.250 B. independent. 317). an anti-consumerist ethos. such activists argue. [Bryan J. Because arguments regarding strategy are simultaneously debates about what it means to be “properly” queer in the 21st century. I proceed in four parts. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 . In both cases. consumer practices. and a corporeal politics of desire on the other. Next. the deep ideological rift in the LGBTQ rights movement represents a choice between a corporate politics of prudence on one hand. Texas Downloaded by [Emerson College]. and agitative social movements. I approach the above concerns as matters of rhetorical expertise. Can queers still be queer and hope to win equality? What would this equality look like? On whose terms are we defining this pursuit of social justice? In this essay. Rather. Specifically. I argue that debates in the LGBTQ rights community surrounding effective strategies of organization and rhetoric constitute hegemonic struggles over ` expertise vis-a-vis advancing a gay rights agenda. McCann “[inculcating] the values of straight society” (2001. the lesson of history is clear: one does not win rights through patience. the observation is that gay rights struggles are fraught with heteronormative baggage. I detail how articulations of queer counterpublicity demand a problematization of the public/private divide with regard to corporeality and desire. Thus. For them. Whereas members of the mainstream LGBTQ rights movement privilege proximity to electoral power and economic upward mobility as preferred avenues for winning rights. Third. In the case of the LGBTQ rights movement. J. Yep. Lovaas. In order to clarify this position. Members of the mainstream gay rights movement typically emphasize conventional political channels. for these queer rhetors. I demonstrate how questions of expertise and matters of counterpublicity are inextricably bound to one another. The results of such constraints are deeply problematic for queer subjects navigating the already murky waters of sexual identity in America. Participants in what I am calling the “radical” gay rights movement prefer agitative politics. Accordingly. I conclude that discourses of expertise also function as nodal points for group identity within queer counterpublics. I offer a reading of contemporary debates in the LGBTQ rights movement with a special emphasis on the public feud between the Austin. and transgressive enactments of non-normative sexualities. at stake is nothing less than the constitution a people. I demonstrate how a rhetoric of queer publicity that emphasizes a decorous and corporate politics over a transgressive and corporeal one necessarily limits the conditions of possibility for enacting a queer identity. when publics debate expertise. and Elia (2003) make precisely this argument as they observe the circulation of conservative “sexual ideologies” in the gay community. a queer corporeal politics locates its interventions at the level of the queer body. To be queer is to desire in non-heteronormative ways. the history of human rights in America has been one of highly visible. any meaningful rights rhetoric must account for and celebrate the transgressive character of queerness. or how their members might best engage in the practice of citizenship. and conservative enactments of queer identity as the appropriate mechanisms for change. queer radicals exalt the lessons of past struggles as evidence of their political expertise. At its core.

such preoccupation with decorum entails the de facto exclusion of subaltern peoples. On the other hand. For example. I demonstrate the significance of understanding expertise as a site for articulating publicity. Questions of expertise are. whose currency is the ability to use one’s reason freely. This is clearly not the case in the public sphere. in her analysis of the immigration reform debate. so economically dependent on an other that they cannot reasonably be expected to think for themselves. therefore. To demonstrate the deep theoretical connection between how we enact politics and the prerogative thereof. There are those.” Nancy Fraser (1993) argues that the narrow conditions by which one may enter the public sphere work to the . fundamentally questions of agency. Hartelius documents how elected officials appeal to their expertise as government figures to limit the citizenry’s participation in the immigration debate. Expertise and (Counter)Publicity In her study of the rhetoric of expertise. 3) writes: “Anyone who offers a definition [of expertise] privileges some aspects of meaning and subordinates others because doing so serves certain interests. Intrinsic to the Habermasian vision of the public sphere is the notion that publicity ought to be performed within the hegemonic parameters of decorum. Rhetorical studies’ interest in public sphere scholarship is the product of its investment in the production of eloquent citizen ¨ subjects. In her influential essay “Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy. Montag writes: In principle. activist organizations privilege the voices of community members and organizers over those of elected officials. Lastly. Hartelius continues by noting that different discourses of expertise offer competing visions of who may participate in processes of policy formation. Gehrke 2009). Hartelius (2011. I turn to scholarship on the public sphere. where participants bracket inequalities in the interest of equal conditions for discussion. Rather. [Bryan J.” Those interrogating the rhetorical dynamics of public deliberation simply cannot treat expertise as a valueneutral assemblage of normative logical criteria. determining expertise is a profoundly interested affair. Jurgen Habermas’s (1991) work on the bourgeois public sphere describes a domain of rational communicative action. 136) Downloaded by [Emerson College]. (2000.” Warren Montag (2000) demonstrates how advocates of a Habermasian public sphere denigrate “corporeal” modes of political practice like street protests or violence. He cautions that this narrow vision of sufficiently rational civic engagement is fundamentally exclusionary. Describing what he calls Habermas’s “fear of the masses.Social Epistemology 251 Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (AGLCC) and a radical organization that calls itself QueerBomb. any human being can participate in the marketplace with equal title to any other. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 For Montag. or communicative experts (see Biesecker 1997. It is difficult to overstate the importance of expertise for surveying the parameters of political inclusion and exclusion. the majority in fact in any given society.

J. “Counterpublics are spaces of circulation in which it is hoped that the poesis of scene making will be transformative. and similarly inclined critics. the rhetoric of expertise represents the choice between publicity and counterpublicity for political subjects. 122). I now turn to questions of decorum. these principles of decorum entail the exclusion of mass protest and violent insurrection from the domain of proper political practice. dominant publics. By understanding counterpublics as. Thus. Bodies and Desire in a Queer Public Sphere Habermasian notions of discourse are necessarily disembodied. “authentic” discourse must be able to say it has “surrendered itself. rather than to eliminate. constituted through their engagement in non-normative modes of political practice. at least in part. Indeed.252 B. counterpublics come into being by virtue of their antagonistic relationship to the norms of the dominant public sphere. For Montag. not replicative merely” (2002. Montag. McCann Downloaded by [Emerson College]. a corrective to this exclusionary ideal lies in the possibility of constituting counterpublics for those marginalized subjects who. [Bryan J. Whether one is inclined to accept Michael Warner’s (2002) claim that publics are constituted through discourse alone. In other words. in Warner’s words. the role of power relations within the rhetoric of expertise is remarkably resonant with the above writings on counterpublicity. “construct not only their own political expertise. she writes. She writes: “we should be led to entertain serious doubts about a conception of the public sphere that purports to bracket. people of color. and counterpublics. corporeality. In order to illuminate how questions of expertise are uniquely urgent for queer counterpublics. one can also recognize expertise as mediating the relationship between the state. 141). Hartelius observes the role of expertise in constituting both rhetorical agents and their audiences. and the LGBTQ rights movement. as Hartelius describes it. For Fraser. 526). sexuality operates in the even more problematic . For queer counterpublics. but for their very being as a public. or Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge’s (1993) insistence that publicity emerges through shared relationships to economic structures. structural social inequalities” (Fraser 1993. in advance. while discourses such as race and gender are undoubtedly inscribed upon the body. a common current that runs through the theorization of counterpublicity is that. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 exclusion of women. to the force of reason alone” (2000. and other marginalized populations. One of the ways counterpublics perform their counterpublicity is by engaging in transgressive modes of rhetorical invention. Self-fashioned experts. through common relationships to structural and symbolic determinants. Indeed. but also the nature of their audience” (Hartelius 2011. form enclaves as a public. preferring the cool logic of rational deliberation over the crass cacophony of agitative politics. In other words. As Montag writes. this exclusion of the body is problematic not only as a matter of political strategy. 48). they determine who may enter the realm of political practice and those who may not.

and Elia 2003). Thus. In addition.” Similarly. not only for its own sake but also for the sake of disrupting the banal and repressive practices of heteronormativity.Social Epistemology 253 domain of desiring bodies. The result. yet privileged center. Berlant and Warner (2002) advocate what they call “world-making” as an alternative to mainstream LGBTQ politics. 19) argue that public maleon-male kisses “function as a bodily challenge to a culture of heteronormativity that dominates best when expressions of intimacy between men remain hidden and private. As I document below. its proponents argue. Thus. Adopting precisely this perspective. Pearson and Lozano-Reich (2009. To be sexual is to do things with one’s body and to the bodies of others. others have argued for a more disruptive politics that challenges the domain of privacy. is “a constellation of practices that everywhere disperses heterosexual privilege as a tacit but central organizing index of social membership” (2002. problematizing its heterosexual privilege. It is a politics of public pleasure. How queer activists might best respond to heteronormativity is a source of deep inter-community divisions. However. in other words. Through these enactments. Morris and Sloop (2006. 386) theorize a queer “uncivil tongue” that “circulates a modality of erotic desire” and circumvents the privatized norms of heterosexual culture. It is everywhere and nowhere at the same time (see Nakayama and Krizek 1999). these divisions over matters of political expertise strike at the very core of what it means to be a queer American. [Bryan J. Specifically. Therein lies the challenge for queer counterpublicity and the urgency of rhetorics of expertise. and culture in civil society (also see Halberstam 2005). they observe that while traditional mores dictate that heterosexuality should stay behind closed bedroom doors. Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner (2002) argue that a prevailing assumption of a liberal. heterosexuality remains an invisible. While many advocates of LGBTQ equality have adopted an “assimilationist” perspective that would have same-sex desiring citizens adopt the privatized carnal practices of their heterosexual counterparts (Yep. To be queer is to be defined as sexual. can disrupt the syntax of heteronormativity and prompt a reappraisal of contemporary sexual mores. advocates unabashedly public enactments of queer desire. Habermasian notions of a healthy public sphere privilege critical–rational discourse over indecorous modes of intervention. space. I have documented how rhetorics of expertise enforce norms of ` publicity vis-a-vis proper modes of political agency. Lovaas. Such public enactments of queer desire. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 . to make arguments about how members of the LGBTQ community might best articulate their ` sexuality vis-a-vis the struggle for equality is to make claims on how one performs queer subjectivity. they argue. This discourse becomes a matter of expertise when gatekeepers to the public sphere proclaim their mastery over the circuitries of democracy. 195). write Berlant and Warner. the practices thereof nonetheless structure time. heteronormative public sphere is that sex acts should remain private. much like whiteness. because such norms of decorum are necessarily Downloaded by [Emerson College]. rhetorical agents can enact a queer counterpublicity. Such a political and theoretical project. Thus far.

Thus. and the Queer Politics of Expertise On the weekend of 10 October 2009. heteronormativity. two parallel events took place in Washington. In order to better demonstrate how this problem for queer publicity functions within the domain of expertise. The most visible articulation of this ambivalence about mainstream politics and LGBTQ equality came the day following Obama’s speech when an estimated 200. Barack!” as the President took the podium—public skepticism regarding his commitment to LGBTQ issues haunted the speech. has also voiced his principled opposition to gay marriage (Stolberg and Peters 2009. While the audience expressed a high degree of enthusiasm—one attendee shouted “We love you. Assimilation. para. I turn now to the contemporary gay rights movement. Don’t Tell” Policy and repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. 7) in terms of actual policy commitments. para. while indicating he voted and fundraised for the President. Thus. Outside the event. DC that. concluded nonetheless that his “track record on keeping his gay promises has been fairly abominable” (Aravosis 2009. At a rally following the march. the President proclaimed his allegiance to equality for LGBTQ Americans. while Obama’s speech symbolized a firmer commitment to LGBTQ equality than that of his Republican predecessor. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 . This was an event fueled by growing impatience with Obama’s approach to LGBTQ rights and heartbreak following the passing of Proposition 8 in California.254 B. An LGBTQ blogger who attended the event. In a speech lasting approximately 20 minutes. represented a deep strategic and ideological rift in the LGBTQ rights movement (Peters 2009a). para. a “small band of protesters” reflected a similar sentiment of impatience and disillusionment with a President who. it nonetheless prompted rank-and-file advocates to question the wisdom of wholeheartedly supporting the President or his party. McCann disembodied. in spite of his claims of solidarity. 13). yet privileged.000 LGBTQ activists converged on Washington. organizer and LGBTQ rights icon Cleve Downloaded by [Emerson College]. queer desire is marginalized in the shadow of an invisible. and O’Keefe 2009. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) held a major fundraising event that featured President Barack Obama as its keynote speaker. DC for the National Equality March (NEM). 3). [Bryan J. rhetorics of expertise that exclude sexuality from the public sphere not only limit the inventional resources for queer activists. while voicing his support for hate crime legislation that would include protections for sexual minorities (Obama 2009). specifically committing to ending the military’s “Don’t Ask. Texas. specifically the internal strife that gave way to a group called QueerBomb in Austin. Kornblut. Staff writers at The Washington Post noted that “although [Obama’s] sweeping rhetoric is appreciated. many are concerned that he has so far offered little beyond the symbolic and incremental” (Shear. but also place severe constraints on the enactment of queer identity. Agitation. which placed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage (Cloud 2009). J. for many observers.

it as a recipe for failure and betrayal. . 2017” (Hernandez 2009. who went to our parties. at the very least. 4). Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. but immature LGBTQ brethren. he insists. Change. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 . just one night before. Standing as they were in stark chronological juxtaposition to each other. suggesting it was idealistic and irresponsible. para. victory comes from working within the system. Rather. worked alongside corporate America to gain needed protections for LGBT workers and spread the message of equality to every corner of the country” (HRC 2010. “Citizens are implicitly encouraged to entrust politics to those who know best. a man named Bill Clinton. but our struggle has been around in this country. We say no more! (Jones 2009) Indeed.Social Epistemology 255 Jones remarked: “A free and equal people do not tolerate prioritization of their rights . para. and what did we get out of that? We got Don’t Ask. He continued: “To do the work. But we remember eight years of peace and prosperity under another Democrat. In a particularly controversial email to supporters. he is an advocate who knows how change happens.” adding “you don’t pass laws by sitting out. .” Wolf affirmed the central place of what Montag (2000) calls “the masses” in advancing the cause of civil equality. and. whereas Obama. Change comes to those who engage in the patient work of rubbing shoulders with those in power. characterizing the march as “our Rosa Parks moment. arguing: “This President may be new in office. [Bryan J. As Hartelius (2011) observes in other activist rhetorics of expertise. had encouraged members of the LGBTQ community to remain patient and trust that he would fulfill his promises. . and gave some of us some great jobs. They do not accept delays. Whereas NEM attendees promoted an ethic of impatience and agitation. a rational counterpart to his well-intentioned. who wrote flowery proclamations. not radical confrontation. the leaders of the NEM situate their expertise in terms of optimal public participation and discord with elected officials. 63) notes. For Jones and Wolf. the assembled movement possessed the expertise of experience. Referring to Obama’s last day in office. 6). HRC President Joe Solomonese wrote “It’s not January 19.” He added: And there are those who say we must wait for our President and give him some time . openly-gay Representative Barney Frank expresses an identical sentiment when dismissing the march as Downloaded by [Emerson College].” Leveraging his own authority as a member of Congress. You pass laws by sitting at the table” (Hernandez 2009. Activist Sherry Wolf echoed this sentiment in a speech immediately following that of Jones. para. Solomonese implored his public to participate in the democratic process through the traditional means of incrementalism. . Jones insisted that patience in this case was not a virtue. since 1950 [the year of the Stonewall Inn uprising in New York City]” (Wolf 2009a). the HRC dinner and NEM constituted a strategic line in the sand for the LGBTQ rights movement. As the figurehead of a group that proudly proclaims its record of having “lobbied for fair minded legislation in Congress. who took our checks. 3). As Hartelius (2011. those aligned with and sympathetic to the HRC were critical of such an approach. Solomese positions himself as an expert. we have to work with our supporters in Congress and with the Administration. comes through small victories.

many non-profits were unable to participate in 2010 Pride festivities because of exorbitant . For Solomonese and Frank. Austin business owner Chad Peevy assumed leadership of the AGLCC and thereby the duty of planning the following year’s parade. Frank. Questions of impropriety emerged when Peevy’s own multimedia company was contracted to develop promotional material for the 2010 Pride Parade.256 B. J. Texas. they are irrelevant at best. but rather constituting themselves as experts on such matters. but advanced the entire LGBTQ community as active participants in a movement that was both visible and impatient. Moreover. as Hartelius (2011) observes. Texas is somewhat of an anomaly in a state widely characterized as arch-conservative (Albo 2010). change came from the work of those navigating governments and other institutions.” the AGLCC organizes an annual Pride Parade that boasts over 40. and support for gay and gay-friendly businesses and professionals. 14). This revelation prompted one member of the AGLCC’s board to resign in protest. Specifically. In addition to possible conflicts of interest. Divided Pride in the Lone Star State Identified as the ninth “gayest” city in America by the LGBTQ magazine The Advocate. radical groups like those who hosted the NEM are inconceivable as experts. following the 2009 Pride Parade.000 attendees (AGLCC 2010). envisioned not only speakers such as Jones and Wolf as seasoned expert activists. began to take the event in a direction that privileged commerce and what Yep. education. Attendees and organizers of the NEM. the articulation of expertise constituted agents and audiences. Austin. Lovaas. I now turn to a microcosm of this fragmented movement: Austin. and their allies privilege their proximity to institutions of governmental and corporate power as a source of expertise. Due in large part to the state capital’s positive reputation among members of the LGBTQ community. Solomonese. Pride. under Peevy’s leadership. 2). Austin is home to a thriving Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (AGLCC). these members of the mainstream gay rights movement frame grassroots queer activists as infantile in their aims and irresponsible in their strategies. This latter component of the AGLCC’s activities prompted a sustained rift in the Austin LGBTQ rights community. para. and politically destructive at worst. Thus. para. While activists like Jones and Wolf locate their own expertise as activists in the struggle for LGBTQ equality. For example. and quickly inspired widespread concerns that the organization and event were too bound by corporate interests (Whittaker 2010b). and Elia (2003) call an assimilationist sexual ideology. McCann Downloaded by [Emerson College]. The HRC dinner and National Equality March exposed “deep divisions among gay rights advocates” (Peters 2009a. In addition to “promoting networking. [Bryan J. For HRC and its allies. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 “emotional satisfaction” and claiming “The only thing they’re going to put pressure on is the grass” (Peters 2009b. These camps were not simply debating the merits of one strategy over the other. To demonstrate how debates over expertise in the LGBTQ community also ` amount to a struggle over queer publicity vis-a-vis the desiring body. on the other hand.

and succumbed to ` the decorum of domination vis-a-vis queer sexual identity. heteronormative. Appealing to his own experience of isolation and underscoring the futility of “just another circuit party. [Bryan J. The practices of the AGLCC regarding the 2010 Pride Parade were not simply products of demure sensibilities or self-interested business. gave rise to the modern LGBTQ rights movement. With the exception of “heteronormative. Austin activist and performance artist Silky Shoemaker (2010) donned a rhinestone wizard’s robe and channeled the legacy of the 1950 Stonewall uprising that. Peevy and his allies cancelled a number of slated performers.).” Peevy and his allies would probably agree with QueerBomb’s assessment of their organization. para. QueerBomb accused him of being exclusionary by constituting a space that was virtually unrecognizable to the queer eye. is known for explicit comedy routines that explore the limits of human sexuality (Signorille n. In her address to the 4 June 2010 QueerBomb rally. para. safe and unchallenging” (Whittaker 2010b. Echoing Berlant and Warner’s (2002) call for queer world-making. Rather. para. no one apologized to their board of trustees afterwards” (Shoemaker 2010. para. 5). A coalition of gay rights advocates formed the group QueerBomb.” Peevy interpreted criticisms of his Bernhard decision as opposition to his attempts to make Pride more inclusive. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 . 6). when the Stonewall riots lit up the Lower East Side of Manhattan. such as controversial comedian Sandra Bernhard. too active an articulation of sexuality undermined the inclusiveness of this event. 3) sought to re-situate LGBTQ activism within the domain of desire. a popular act in many segments of the LGBTQ community. Peevy told one journalist: “We didn’t want pride [sic] to become just another circuit party” (Barnes 2010.” adding. Peevy. 8). “we wanted to showcase the best among us and the best within us” (Barnes 2010. Peevy and his allies. However. where the AGLCC saw a non-offensive and strategically prudent articulation of queer publicity. Circuit parties are typically lavish music and drug-infused celebrations that appeal primarily to young gay men. QueerBomb saw a dilution thereof. 3). For Peevy. Peevy’s family-friendly ethos did not go unanswered by some members of the Austin LGBTQ community. In other words. Bernhard. In an Downloaded by [Emerson College]. QueerBomb argued. QueerBomb described the AGLCC as “non-inclusive. had sold the gay community out to corporate interests. Further justifying his exclusion of explicit sexual content from the 2010 Pride events. they were connected to a broader theory of how change will happen for the LGBTQ community. She declared: “Forty-one years ago. capitalist. and the all-inclusive LGBTQ “we” had grown weary of the hedonism of previous Pride celebrations.Social Epistemology 257 vendor rates (Whittaker 2010a). by most measures.” Peevy fashions himself as an expert on the interests of the broader LGBTQ community that had for too long been compromised by carnal frivolities. Founded on an espoused rejection of Pride’s conservatism. para. While Peevy complained about being excluded from the transgressive queer festivities of the past.d. QueerBomb’s self-fashioned “flash Force assembly” (Whittaker 2010b. Peevy complained: “I have felt isolated in my gay experience. because they were not sufficiently “family-friendly.

if the Pride/ QueerBomb dispute could be reduced to a common tension. Resisting such conservatism. and Elia (2003) call a “radical sexual ideology”—as the appropriate enactment of a queer counterpublic. is how a real movement can be built. She grounds her expertise. Bodies. Experts. Judith Butler (2006) reflects on her own gendered subjectivity at the time she wrote her influential text. loudmouths. Lovaas. This entailed a firm grounding in the interests of commerce and the projection of a “family-friendly” event. 3) call “a juggernaut in a broader project of queer world making.258 B. it would be between a corporate and corporeal politics. the AGLCC envisioned Pride as a slick and strategic projection of LGBTQ publicity to the rest of the Austin community. they were trannies. She continues: [The Stonewall protesters] did not consider themselves “too freaky” or “too vulgar” or “unsuitable for families. It aimed to be what Morris and Sloop (2006. And they fought for their right to exist in just these ways and more! (Shoemaker 2010. They were sex workers and drag queens and passing butches. The very drive to be “family-friendly. and perverts—tired. while QueerBomb invoked the spirits of an earlier and rightfully transgressive queer past. Shoemaker invokes an era of transgression that the likes of Peevy were now denigrating. On one hand. She writes: Downloaded by [Emerson College]. At the core of this inter-movement tension was a debate about political expertise. They were drunks.” Shoemaker argues. Shoemaker posits her politics of queer desire—what Yep. By claiming the iconic status of the Stonewall rebellion. we’re not going shopping!” to challenge what they believed was the AGLCC’s tethering of queer identity to corporate politics. participants chanted “We’re here.” Even though that is exactly what the world wanted them to think. QueerBomb’s alternative transgressed this project. as well as contemporary LGBTQ citizens. They were queers of color. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 . and Publics In the preface to the 1999 reissue of her germinal Gender trouble. [Bryan J. As they marched through the streets of Austin on the eve of the Pride Parade. she argues. J. in the history of past struggles. Gay men marched in full drag.’s more conservative view of the LGBTQ movement. much like Jones and Wolf. McCann obvious reference to the institutionalization of Pride. while lesbians paraded topless. 6) Shoemaker promotes a corporeal politics of queer desire. Indeed. disappointed. reifies the heteronormative apparatuses that marginalized the movement’s ancestors. we’re queer. they were activists and organizers. and angry. the events of 4 June constituted a collection of queer bodies enacting a broad spectrum of desires and subjectivities. They were backroom cocksuckers and bitter old queens and underage twinks.” Peevy and the AGLCC appealed to a logic of maturity and inclusiveness. Sexually explicit signs and props accompanied more traditional rainbow paraphernalia. para. constituting a widely inclusive publicity that actively confronts and violates Peevy et al. as well as a claim to ownership of what it means to be queer. The events of the QueerBomb rally reflected such a project.

the urgency of the constraining logic of political expertise seems particularly relevant. such struggles over the definition of a public have meaningful ramifications for the identities and inclusion of marginalized subjects. This strategic caveat. First. any LGBTQ rhetoric of expertise that privileges the rational over the sensual. The more narrow queer expertise at play in the rhetoric of the HRC and the AGLCC leave the movement for LGBTQ liberation in a double bind. we should also be mindful of social movement scholar Herbert Haines’s (1988) observation that rights struggles often benefit from antagonistic mainstream and radical “flanks. it is difficult to define a public without. and enable groups like the HRC to make progress toward equality. Over the past several months. As my interrogation of strategic cleavages in the LGBTQ rights movement demonstrates. patience with the Democratic Party has historically done precious little for LGBTQ Americans (also see Wolf 2009b). As Cleve Jones (2009) argued in his speech before the NEM. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 . a series of widely publicized Downloaded by [Emerson College]. quite plainly. Butler recognizes that significant challenges emerge when constituting the oppressed and exploited subject. xvii) 259 Just as Darsey (2001) notes in the passage that opens this essay. provided figures like Cleve Jones can force the hand of the Democratic mainstream. the “family-friendly” over the “backroom cocksuckers” necessarily places stark limits on how queer citizens may express their sexual liberation. the decorous over the transgressive. As I write. I situated this salient concern within the rhetoric and politics of expertise. in the long term. and feel the exhilaration and frustration that goes along with being a part of that movement both in its hopefulness and internal dissension. In the above analysis. Debates over expertise may. and encountered sexuality at several of its cultural edges. Its members’ corporeality and desire are inextricably bound to the very rights they hope to obtain. [Bryan J. however.” He argues that radical voices often help moderates appear more rational to the powerful. doing violence to its members (also see Spivak 1988). bars. DC. The central argument of this essay—namely. as well as the tens of thousands of marchers who confronted President Obama’s piecemeal politics of gradualism in Washington. Because I agree with Hartelius’s (2011) claim that expertise functions as a gatekeeping signifier of agency. my sympathies align most closely with the politics of desire and transgression that approximately 1000 queer citizens enacted one hot Texas night. understood myself to be at the crossroads of some of them. I also believe expertise is inextricably bound to the constitution of counterpublics. that struggles for the prerogative of expertise are necessarily also battles over identification—is particularly important for an LGBTQ community. (Butler 2006. raises questions of subjectivity. and marches and saw many kinds of genders. in some way. be good for the movement. They are. fighting to do with their bodies and to the consenting bodies of others what they wish. the HRC’s position represents a strategic dead end for the movement. Thus. whereas subsequent incremental victories create wider strategic space for radicals to make demands. However. As my attendance at the QueerBomb rally in Austin undoubtedly implies.Social Epistemology I went to many meetings. I knew many people who were trying to find their way in the midst of a significant movement for sexual recognition and freedom.

I argue. J. [Bryan J. Available from http://www. a rhetoric of expertise that accounts for the wide range of subjectivities implicit in the signifier “queer” can help ensure a “better” condition of being both for those who. New York: Zone Books. References Albo. outandabout/entries/2010/06/01/who_owns_gay_pr. February [cited 2 December 2010]. Warner. Available from http://www. but not all. M. to assure LGBTQ youth that their lives will improve considerably as adults. felt less alone in their desires? Not just one way to salute gay pride. Sex in will be central to how they are answered. The Advocate. . INTERNET. Barnes. Aravosis. How the LGBTQ movement configures the politics of expertise.. 2010. Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of These sobering events pose two questions: first.html. From the vantage point of experience and expertise. But whose expertise shall determine what constitutes this progress? On whose terms will these young queers enact their newly found freedoms to love and desire as they wish? While it would be cynical to dismiss this important campaign. Several. 187– 208.260 B. 2010. Gayest cities in America.asp. 2010. how different might these teens’ lives have unfolded if the hegemonic logic of gradualism and decorum did not saturate the mainstream sectors of the LGBTQ rights movement? Might these suicidal students have found a broader repertoire through which to articulate their identity and. and for members of the LGBTQ community invested in flagrantly transcending the constraints of a heteronormative culture. 2002. In Warner’s publics and counterpublics. Austin 360. that they will be able more openly to express their desires in affirming and safe environments (Parker 2010). these queer rhetors invite their young brethren patiently to await a “better” tomorrow. like Peevy. Available from http://www. and largely assimilated members of the LGBTQ community. L. McCann Downloaded by [Emerson College]. 9 October [cited 2 December 2010]. INTERNET. Berlant.huffingtonpost. from the perspective of someone who has lived through the mockery and loneliness only to emerge triumphant. 1 June [cited 2 December 2010]. pp. About the Chamber [cited 2 December 2010]. highly visible. What would a Nobel Laureate tell the gays? The Huffington Post. therefore. and M. INTERNET. J. McCann] at 07:27 28 July 2011 queer teen suicides have prompted a national dialogue over the emotional health and physical safety of LGBTQ youth (Stelter 2010).advocate. the subsequent “It Gets Better” campaign has commissioned numerous political and cultural leaders. these questions are nonetheless salient for interrogating the very social structures that led to tragic suicides. 2009. INTERNET. prefer a more conservative mode of subjectivity. including President Obama. Ultimately. of the participants in the campaign are successful. Acknowledgements The author wishes to thank Johanna Hartelius and Jim Collier for their initiative and guidance in this project.aglcc. Available from http://www.

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