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Thinking Towards my Final

smalina's picture

I'm interested in revisiting Dill's character, looking at intersectionality to unsettle (and reveal the assumed privilege inherent in) the "coming out" narrative. I mentioned this earlier in the semester when we were reading Getting Mother's Body

Dill's story really disrupts Western, white, middle/upper-class expectations around "coming out," to which I think labels and identities are attached. Dill doesn't vocally (or in Dill's narrator voice) claim any particular identities (hence our indecision about how to gender Dill and even refer to what issues are coming up in the narrative...queerness? a trans identity?)--however, everyone is aware of Dill's presentation vs. anatomy (thanks to Willa Mae) and understands that Dill and Willa Mae had a romantic entanglement. Though a number of voices in the book, as well as others in the community, refer to Dill using derogatory language, it's employed almost lazily, off-handedly, and it's clear that most characters have a deep respect for Dill's more prominent characteristics (trustworthiness, physical strength, etc). While Dill's community of friends and family don't speak of Dill in a way that suggests they would be named "LGBTQ friendly," and while they seem to feel uncomfortable around direct mention of Dill and Willa Mae's relationship, Dill still experiences an unspoken acceptance because Dill is seen as a person not defined by identities that might evoke hateful responses. 

I also included a quote from Exile and Pride:

"Queer people--using the narrow definition--don't live in Port Orford, or at least I have never found them [. . .] Now if I moved back and lived quietly, never saying the word dyke but living a woman-centered life, no one would shoot at my house, throw stones through my windshield, or run me out of town. [. . .] Urban, middle-class queer activists may mock this balance as simply another 'don't ask, don't tell' situation contributing to queer invisibility. While I agree that it isn't the idea relationship between queer people and straight people, it is far better than the polite and disdainful invisibility bestowed on us by many middle-class, liberal heterosexuals. [. . .] I am quite sure my aunt has never introduced Barb [her lover] to Uncle John or Aunt Esther, Uncle Henry or Aunt Lillian as her partner, lover, or girlfriend. Yet Barb is unquestionably family, sitting with my grandfather's immediate relatives near the coffin, openly comforting his aunt" (Clare 32-33). 

And one from Ellsworth, on the insufficiency of language (which I related to labels, which I related to coming out):

“It is impossible to say everything, once and of all, in language. Any attempt to say who ‘I am’—to make my language become fully identical with itself and with myself—brings me up against the limits of language, up against the impossibility of language coinciding with what it speaks of, up against the gap between what is spoken and what is referred to, up against language’s inevitable misfire” (Ellsworth 44).

Ultimately, I'm imagining moving toward a claim for the possibility for a more complete self-expression in absence of a "coming out," as I explained in my Serendip post: 

"It certainly does not seem possible for Dill to be "out" (whatever this would mean) in the community, but the lack of identities put into language offers up opportunity for a true acknowledgement of Dill's complex personhood to take place--one that is not constrained by a laundry list of identities."

I've been frustrated this semester feeling excited about the texts I'm looking to read without having a lens of race theory to read them. I enjoyed writing my first paper for this class because it allowed me to use theory I was comfortable with and felt passionate about, but I don't want to lose the fact that this is a course about race. I don't think I have to lose either, if I use theory from one discipline to unsettle another. I have some theory in mind on intersectionality and the privilege of coming out, and I'd also like to look at queer theory written by POC. 

It sounds like some people are planning on reading some more literature, too--and I would be excited to do that, especially if it would allow me to look at two characters (one in Getting Mother's Body and one in another book). To do this, I'd like to think more specifically about whether I want to look at Dill's gender or sexuality (of course inseparable, but focusing on one over the other may offer up different subtopics to think about and discuss). I'm on the hunt for a good book about, potentially featuring a trans POC dealing with coming out (or not). Two I've found so far, but know very little about:

Trumpet by Jackie Kay - a jazz trumpet player dies, and his son finds out that his father was assigned female at birth. Could be interesting to explore this posthumous outing, and see how he becomes defined after death by this identity.

Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties by Felicia Luna Lemus - a young Latina woman explores her gender and sexuality in Los Angeles.

Of course, if I go for the sexuality route, there is The Book of Salt, but I'm not sure if that's the direction I'm going in in terms of themes. 


Anne Dalke's picture

check out this "trans of color course syllabus":

and also this piece on how men’s gender advantages at work vary with characteristics such as race/ethnicity:

and also this piece conceptualizing a new intersectional model, which places transgender people of color at the center:

one thing that strikes me in all of these pieces is how urban-centric they are. dill is insistently rural (as was eli clare, originally) and there's something going on there (a la the second video in van jones' "a messy truth": )about how people might be acknowleded/accepted as individuals, rather than as fulfilling some sort of identity category, in a town where "everybody knows everybody." a cousin of mine (who has a grandchild who is trans) came with me to the philly trans health conference a few years ago, and was struck by how urban the whole framing was (with advice to "move to another school district," etc--not @ all an option for folks who are insistantly placed in their rural homescapes...)

looking forward to exploring these ideas with you further,