Queerness: The Color Blue

Sometimes I run across people commenting on literary analyses with comments like "how could they not see how gay this is?" or "how did they miss the obvious queerness?" and I feel the answer is that... you can't see something you haven't learned to recognize.

Like, I don't know if it's true that people can't see the color blue if they're never given a word for it, but I do know that I had to be taught to see fish moving underwater. My first instinct was to look at the top of the water and watch the reflections, the clouds moving above, the ripples and waves, not the soft subtle shadows underneath. If you give a block of malfunctioning code to an experienced software engineer, she's likely to spot the missing semicolon right away but someone who doesn't speak C+ will never find it because they don't know about semicolons. They can see with their eyes, but they don't know what they're looking for!

I was well into my teens before I even knew gay people existed, let alone how to recognize the full spectrum of queer possibilities and representation. I was in my twenties before I heard the word "transgender". I've had people--bright people, good people--read my very queer books and come away thinking that the trans neopronouns some of the characters use must be a persistent spelling error that I made. ("The narrative keeps referring to her as 'xie'. Did Word make a find-replace error before you published?")

I think some people miss queerness when it's in front of their faces because they just don't have enough exposure to queerness to recognize it. We don't teach queerness in schools, and what a lot of kids do pick up from their parents and society is a villainous caricature that is a complete distortion of reality. They aren't seeing blue because they've never been taught to recognize it.


Post a Comment