The current moment feels bleak. It’s hard to avoid the trauma that comes from even the daily headlines and media updates. ‘Civic’ decisions made by those in office and bombastic statements that are soaked in bloodlust, patriarchy, white supremacy, and general apathy. People relegated to the margins of society, femme’s, immigrants, working and non-working people alike, are exploited via sanctioned criminalization tactics as well as the corruption of rhetoric and state power. Queer people are no exception to this rule; trans, gender non conforming, gay, bisexual, and otherwise unrecognized or uncategorized queer individuals are pushed to the edges of a blatantly manipulative and predatory societal moment. Whether it’s the policing of public bathrooms, preying on youth, or simply ignoring catastrophes specific to queer and trans people both domestically and abroad, this administration, with its variously endorsed power structures by its side, posture their belief systems as indifferent agents of apocalyptic policy. Apocalypse might seem especially close if your worlds are queer.
All of this is obvious perhaps… However, the power and potentiality of queer people and queer lifeworlds continue. By ‘lifeworlds’ I mean the various relational communities that queer people create to survive, thrive, and forge vibrant families (blood, or not) that defy normative expectations. While the erasure of these life-worlds is sought by those in office and power, the sheer brilliance of these worlds cannot be muted. In his book Cruising Utopia, the late queer scholar, Josè Esteban Muñoz, says–
“We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an identity that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness’s domain.”
An inherent optimism shines through this passage. Muñoz is far from naïve and in fact explicitly alludes to the violence queerness is up against, however his central sentiment is one of optimism in spite of repression, and a kind of defiant and performative survival in spite of systemic discrimination. This is the stuff of futurity.
I share this idea of queer futurity in response to the present moment we are now coping with under the Trump regime. Muñoz asserts that “queer minoritarian” people cannot afford despair or despondency in public life. He argues for a queerness that must see through the status quo of how things are or, worse yet, the kind of institutional language that so often resolves itself to an indifference toward impending doom. The antidote then is the indelible fact of queerness that has always been fashioned in the world through life making, intra-communal intimacy, and a continuous gaze toward the horizon in spite of soul warping odds.
Queer futures are of paramount importance in a society (not to mention– a world) that constantly lives with ghosts of the past and the conflicts of the present. It is between these lines that futurity and queer futures gain meaning. Queer futurity is not “the bright future” lusted for in political speech or market values. Queer futurity is enacted every day by those who are radically discontent with the current workings of things; it reflects itself in the boldness of lived expression, compassionate intimacy, and yearning for the realization of bliss on earth among one another in spite of difference. Queerness says, “Yes, you do belong here.”
For those interested in the convergence of these topics and identities, I highly recommend Muñoz. Works include Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (1999), and Cruising Utopia: the Then and There of Queer Futurity (2009).
Muñoz might have been one of the first to popularize theories of queer futurity but it is up to us all to create relationships of belonging so that we might disavow a politics of cataclysm and imagine queer futures.