18 June 2012

Book Review: Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is an American author and anthologist and was the editor of this book.

I have to admit that some of the pieces in this book don't really move me. Others I felt identity with and some I felt as though I was writing myself in a parallel universe.

In one piece entitled "It Gets Better?" (having some vague notion of what this was alluding to, I googled it and discovered that the It Gets Better campaign was developed by a well known white American who wanted to counter bullying of LGBT youth. What struck me more about the piece than writer Matthew Blanchard's precise and haunting description of how his jaw was amputated due to a mix ending up in the wrong position in a drug induced stupor and the compromised state of his immune system due to HIV infection was the following passage in the story of how he got into the drug induced stupor with a compromised immune system was how his internalized homophobia seemed to be the playwright of the tragedy he himself was living.

There are pieces in here that were just uninteresting. But then there were more stories that I found by writers like Debanuj DasGupta, Ali Abbas and Ezra RedEagle Whitman which seemed to speak to experiences I myself went through (in different places, in different times).

I found the Willow Aerin Fagan's short piece about his own struggles with coming to understand and accept his sexual identity  growing up against his father's insanity, sexual violence towards him and his father's conversion to evangelical Christianity. He speaks so clearly for all adult survivors of childhood sexual violence when he says: "If some of my desire was rooted in or shaped by the abuse, how could I know which parts weren't? Was all of it tainted? Was I only attracted to men because I had been abused? Would I have to give up being queer in order to heal?" Mysterious Skin anyone?

This book is in an autobiographical collection that follows up a decade later on the themes in Warner's The Trouble with Normal and Chasin's Selling Out. It is this kind of autobiographical writing with some self-reflection but also unrestrained, unpolished truth which, in some sense, may be more useful than the It Gets Better campaign, which may be more honest with It Can Get Better. Because, for some, they are trapped "in the sleep of death, what dreams may come."

The version I read was a 232 page paperback published by AK Press (January 31, 2012), ISBN-13: 978-1849350884. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was at amazon.com used.

2 comments:

  1. "If some of my desire was rooted in or shaped by the abuse, how could I know which parts weren't? Was all of it tainted? Was I only attracted to men because I had been abused? Would I have to give up being queer in order to heal?"

    There is always this need for us to separate the bad from the good, no? Or more importantly, to think about classifications, the process of. From my own experience, which has nothing to with abuse but everything to do with blurry dichotomies, it's exasperating — which makes a split seem more necessary.

    I hope in the future I will learn to just whatever some things, and save some energy.

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  2. childhood sexual trauma is about flooding a child's psyche with chaos and classification is a mental attempt to bring order to chaos.

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