Странността на чуждия // Queering the Other

(Българска версия на тази публикация може да се намери на следващата страница.)


The greatest tragedy of being alive is perhaps having only one life. It is sheer fact you cannot experience more than your own lifetime. Unless, of course, you read a little. Be wary of spoilers, but here are some things I suspect you have not come to know:

Hamlet (1603), William Shakespeare

What is it to have your father, the Danish king, suffer treason by his brother? And you, ultimately torn between your responsibility and your love for a young woman, question whether suicide is a valid course of (in)action? 

Jane Eyre (1847), Charlotte Brontë

What is it to marry a man only to find he has already has a wife that he keeps locked in one of the rooms in his house? What if you had been that wife in the room, the impure of descent, who does not fit in contemporary society? Do you fit in society, or does society fit you in?

Les enfants terribles (1929), Jean Cocteau

What is it to be in love with a schoolmate, but have him bullying you, not responding to your feelings? What if you, as a teenager, meet life's hardships with an unprecedented amount of opium, where you are led to perpetually commit incest in a room you never quit for several years - and perhaps never leave at all?

Surfacing (1972), Margaret Atwood

What is it to leave your French-speaking home at an early age, only to come back years later, hardly speaking your 'mother tongue', in search of your missing father? What is it to be traumatized by the abortion you were forced to have by your ex-husband?

Indeed, there is a limitless body of literature that can enrich your personal life by introducing that of another. The problem is that the other is usually a victim of Othering, whereby we are pushed away from empathizing with them. (The wife in Jane Eyre – do you think Charlotte Brontë offered a deep and profound insight into this non-English creole woman, between empire and colony?)

There is a link between the four texts I presented. Namely, they all deal with the topic of desire (in an erotic sense), implicitly or otherwise. Yet desire is not something people often discuss in literature or in their everyday lives – and that is truly a grave mistake.

For, you see, it is not the fact of our desire, but the socialization of that fact which influences our lives and experiences. To take a different example from the previous four, in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (1905), the main character Lily Bart struggles to find her place in society as she cannot decide which man to marry – she is used to living in the lap of luxury, so she seeks to marry not out of love, but also for money and social status.

And here is the important thing: one can argue she is portrayed as dependent, weak and indecisive not because of the fact of her liking men, but because of the socialization. Because she likes men and lives in a society where they have economic leverage over the opposite gender (1900s America), the circumstances of her attraction ultimately shape her as a character.

If you think about it, this is why people (don’t) marry – a society does (not) offer them social and economic advantages if they (don’t) follow a behavioural model according to their desire. Marriage is very often an economic affair – the very thought it might be solely out of love is utterly and hopelessly romantic.

But enough propaganda. Have you ever wondered what it is to chase wind?

Windchaser

Will you let me chase,
To run full of hope?
A symphony takes place,
An elegy of elope
From birds of a choir
Static on wire
Ever so joyful, in euphoria
They shall look below and sing: “Gloria
To the dreamers, respect we show it!”

The birds now celebrate the doomèd poet.   


What is it to chase wind? To know there is no end to fatigue and pain, but to continue running? What is it for birds, lesser yet higher, more numerous and mobile, to laud your tragedy? How can one make the birds relate?

And finally, what do we do when we become one of the windchasers?

What, oh what, oh what…


This post is available in two languages. You will notice that there is a difference in tone when talking about queer and ‘странните’ (lit. ‘the strange ones’). If I desire to uphold the impeccable saintliness of my mother tongue, I am forced to attribute the meaning and quality of ‘strange’ to ‘странните’ (‘the queer’).

I would like to highlight that if you want to use ‘to queer’ or ‘queering’ in Bulgarian, the etymological equivalent from the word ‘strange’ (страннен, lit. ‘of the side’) would be ‘отстранявам’, but that word unfortunately has the meaning of ‘putting aside’, ‘getting rid of’.

Have you ever thought what it would be like to be on the other side; on the side of the Other? To be bashed and looked down upon by people who know nothing of your experience?

Perhaps it’s time to start wondering.

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