Sexuality and social change movements (part 2)

March 4, 2007

Part 1, in case you missed it

So what is it, exactly, about sexuality that still makes us so uncomfortable that we can’t acknowledge it as a key part of what makes us who we are? At last week’s panel, the moderator asked, “Why do radical movements have so much trouble with sexuality?”

Surina Khan addressed the problem of funding, that the political risks of including sexuality are high. She also spoke about sexuality being a difficult issue to talk about, even for the people who are pushing to have it as a part of their movement. This is an interesting point, I think, and is something that is a struggle for queer people. We were still socialized in this (straight, heteronormative) culture and have had to build the tools we have to talk about our sexuality. It’s a constantly evolving process, we learn new words for something we felt for years that we never knew had a name; we meet other people who share experiences and histories we thought we had alone; and we find people to date after years of being ashamed of our desires. This is all part of a difficult and often long learning process – one hugely affected by race and class, by geographic location, by age. We cannot expect that all queers across all radical movements will be able to articulate their identity in a way that their peers will understand it (and it goes without saying that talking about our identities is really exhausting).

Scott Nakigawa tackled the practical side of organizing around sexuality – the potential targets and solutions are difficult to identify. One of the key struggles that we have to come to terms with is the fact that the people we are trying to change are the people we share our intimate lives – not some faraway evil politician. Nakigawa asked, how do you collectively wage a campaign against those people? Internalized homophobia runs deep. And as I mentioned in the last post – the solidarity you need in order to really bring sexuality into the fore requires the involvement of people who have been socialized to keep their sexuality hidden away.

Sex is a key part of who we are as human beings. The only people who can afford to say sex doesn’t matter is hetero folks who don’t notice that heterosexuality is so pervasive in our culture that they don’t even notice how much their day-to-day lives are saturated with it. Sex is everywhere, the good and the bad, feminist and misogynist, it’s all there, all the time. Queer sex feels forced on you (à la the horror of the gay pride parade) when it’s not yours – but you know what? Queer people are assaulted with images of heterosexuality all the time – the straight pride parade happens every day, folks! One of the key parts to bringing sexuality to the fore, then, is figuring out how to reveal the ways that sexuality already is pervasive. It’s like acknowledging the power of the elephant in the room. And then we move from there.



  1. Yes, I’m going to be in New York in late March, and hanging out with Sarah some Saturday night – she mentioned visiting you, and I think it’d be really awesome to meet you.

    Oh, and I went ahead and changed the blockquote to match yours.

    Keep up the awesome work!

  2. Thanks! And I will be in touch about meeting up while you guys are here, that would be very excellent.

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