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Week 2: Clare and Multiple Perspectives's picture

For one of the first times in my college experience (kind of surprisingly, I guess) I am re-reading a text I encountered in a previous course. Eli Clare's Exile and Pride was also on the syllabus for an English class I took with Theresa Tensuan as a sophomore (hardly a coincidence, as her work on these topics is part of the other online reading for Tuesday). Since initially reading the book (largely for the way it adapts the autobiographical form in creative ways) my perspectives have certainly changed. Again, the metaphor of approaching the same questions from multiple angles, key to the interdisciplinary nature of our work in PPPP, maps well onto this revisiting of a text with different (gender-oriented) set of questions. However, the fundamental, unavoidable complicatedness Clare tries to convey -- especially the interrelatedness of social justice movements -- hit me with a memorable force both two years ago and this time around. We can get caught up in the specifics/feasibility of some of his recommendations, but I think he makes a pretty good case that the underlying forces of oppression cannot be parsed out into neatly divided identity categories, and that creative collaboration strategies -- whether his or our own -- are therefore necessary to social justice movements that wish to have more than shallow successes.

One connection I made while reading Clare this time around was to the "Living the Good Lie" article we discussed. Living with multiple opposed/competing, yet still simultaneously "true" identities is the crux what the homosexual evangelicals were struggling with. It's also how Clare describes a lot of his experiences, particularly the interplay between a set of rural/urban and straight/queer assumptions that don't seem to comfortably (enough) allow for the rural/queer combination in which he would ideally feel most comfortable, and for which he is of course entitled to long. Clare, who doesn't really speak of religious identity in his book, presumably envisions a world in which these smaller rural (generally religious) communities would just open their minds and be more accepting to queer folk who don't necessarily want to be city people. But the article pointed to the power that religion has over people's perceptions of others and themselves, and seems to challenge this particular possible arena for change that Clare envisions. The sheer force of evangelical belief in the wrongness of sexualities outside of a pretty narrow box is the problem I encountered as GSA president in my high school in Virginia, and it's stuck with me in my coursework even if I have (in some ways) distanced myself from communities of people espousing those ideas.