What is a queer narrative?

The word queer meaning LGBTQIA+ was first a slur, then reclaimed, then it got hijacked in the 1990s. (Some) people stopped using it. Now it’s back. Again. But because gender, romantic and sexual minorities continue to experience bigotry, the words used to describe those identities will be under attack for as long as bigotry continues.

This week’s misinformation campaign: That the term queer “bobbed around” in academia and was only then adopted by activists in the last 10 years. This was an error published by the New York Times by an op-ed writer who knows dangerously little about LGBTQIA+ history.

In fact, the word ‘queer’ took off as an identity in the mid 80s punk scene, in tandem with the AIDs movement. Even then, the word ‘queer’ described more than ‘gay’. Academia started using it after that. Academia has been part of the continued spread and use of the word as a wide umbrella term.

A cursory look — at the New York Times itself, even — will provide evidence of widespread use of the word queer among queer communities dating from around the middle of last century.

Queer is a short novel by William S. Burroughs written between 1951 and 1953, though it wasn’t seen fit for publication until 1985.

Stanley comic strip from 1994 using the word queer
Stanley comic strip from 1994 using the word queer

But not everyone in the community likes the word.

Labelling issues are as old as the hills. Look back on twentieth century queer history and you will find letters dating from the 1940s. Gay men complain about having the word ‘gay’ forced on them. Nobody likes a label forced on them.


Sherronda J. Brown sums up why people shy away from identity labels and also cautions against using labels in ways that limit rather than in ways that free.

if ever i use a label, it is because that is the term—selected from the few available, established terms—that most accurately describes a complex set of experiences. i want more queer people to understand that labels do not exist to completely or neatly encompass who we are. […] use labels to find and build community, as avenues to better understand yourself and how you experience the world, not as tools of policing and staunch, hierarchal categorization. that’s some colonialist, carceral shi‌t.


In October, well-known humourist David Sedaris ranted on CBS about how he is sick and tired of how labels keep changing. He rejects the word queer. He feels he shouldn’t have to keep coming out every time there’s a new word to describe him.

What bothers me is not that it used to be a slur. I just don’t see why I have to be rebranded for the fourth time in my life. I started as a homosexual, then gay, then LGBT and now queer. And for what? Why the makeovers? And what will it be next?

I read an interview with a woman who identifies as queer because she’s ‘tall’. That’s it. She’s never had a relationship with another woman — doesn’t care to, for all I know. So what does it mean that we’re both suddenly queer? … Is it just to make the parades easier?

I’m going for heterosexual, because like the words “Jewish” or “female” it rarely if ever changes*.

David Sedaris, declaring himself ‘straight’ in the name of comedy

*Sedaris has failed to keep up with the reality that pick-up misogynists and incels have weaponised the word ‘female’ as a slur to the point where it is no longer a good idea for anyone to use ‘female’ as a noun outside scientific discussions.

David Sedaris has made the mistake of complaining that other people’s use of the word ‘queer’ to describe themselves and their community is a compulsory demand and an imposition on him.

Dear queer community there are too many labels these days i am not a crackpot simpsons meme

One reason we’re seeing pushback on the use of the term “queer” from people like the former NYT book editor Pamela Paul and TERFs is because—for many (not all) of us who identify as queer—the word connotes not only non-normative sexuality/gender but also a more radical politics.

Not all queer people are satisfied with assimilation and many never wanted assimilation in the first place. For many, identifying as queer means being dedicated both to fighting for rights and to dismantling systems of oppression.

I am not here to tell anyone else how to identify. I am here to observe that overt fascism is ascendant and efforts to divide marginalized communities and to pit marginalized people against one another are only going to increase in frequency and intensity in the near future.


I won’t ascribe the label queer to anyone who personally doesn’t want to use it, that’s fine like, but the word “queer” has been reclaimed by a vast majority of people (just like the word gay, and most shorthand labels in our community) and there is power in using it.

Let me just add more clarity…

The most common misunderstanding … is people think I’m saying most elder gay people don’t like the word queer.

I’m not saying that, elder queers fought for our rights using that word. However there are some gay people from all demographics who don’t like the term queer and of that very small number of people, it seems that most of that group who use the specific argument of “queer is a slur so nobody can use it” are older than many people like myself who were bullied with “gay” and not “queer”.

And from that my point was that just as how it would be ridiculous for us to say “you can’t use the term gay”, so to is ridiculous for that very small group of people to say we can’t use the word “queer”, whilst also being completely valid in saying we can’t use it personally for them.

I think however most people understand what I’ve been saying but I thought I’d just clarify again this time because I think people have misunderstood me honestly on this point.

However there also seems to be a lot of deliberate misrepresentation of what I said or just plain making things up and taking what I have said beyond anything resembling context so I’m just going to not say anything more on this. I’m certainly not attacking an entire demographic of gays based on age as some have claimed and I thought would be clear from context

Owen J Hurcum

Also as of 2022, why are so many celebrities coming out as pansexual compared to the tiny number of non-celebrity queers describing themselves as pan? Hypothesis: Perhaps celebrities are being told to avoid the word queer for image purposes.

This imbalance was pointed out in a Gender Reveal podcast episode, Monday 28 November, 2022:

JS: I’ve been told this by enough people just because of my line of work. A lot of people are asked to play up on [their queerness] by their agents, casting directors. They believe that is what the market, specifically young people, are wanting. And so you need to be that. Because then we can sell you.

And that’s this very interesting dichotomy we live in, where celebrity culture has never been more removed from our everyday lives, because it is not the same for your everyday queer person in American right now, right? My advice is not to show up to your job interview and be like here’s my pronouns, here’s my gender. I’m trans and I’m queer. Like, to the everyday person it’s just not as safe to do. […]

TW: They do seem to exist in a different world just in terms of what language is used. I’m gonna say this and everybody’s gonna be like this isn’t true but I did do Twitter surveys about it so I feel [laughs] fifty per cent confident in it. I’m looking at celebrities who are not straight. Like, ninety-eight per cent of them use the word pansexual. And when I’m looking at just day-to-day people who not straight, like five per cent of them use the word pansexual. I did make those numbers up, but it stands anyway. I believe in me. [laughs] Somehow you’re in this little bubble where this is the word we’re using. Like, my reps said you can’t say queer cos it’s a slur, and like, who are you talking to? It’s not bad, it’s not wrong, but just like clearly different.

JS: You bring up such a good point. I think I’ve devoted like six hours of recorded podcast time to this very thing. Because, listen. This is my favourite thing to say to people. Just because somebody has a microphone, does not mean that they are intelligent or smart or know what they are talking about. Specifically if someone is in the movies, the chance of them being smart of intelligent does plummet. I’m not trying to be broad [laughs] I’m saying from experience…

Joan Summers in conversation with Gender Reveal host Tuck Woodstock


I personally like GRSM (gender, romantic and sexual minorities). It’s such a shame it hasn’t taken off because it encompasses literally everything. No one can complain that the acronym is getting too long. No one is ever left out.

The following three-step evolution of terminology mainly applies to the United States and its cultural sphere of influence (e.g. here in Australia as well).

Basically, words to describe gender, romantic and sexual minorities have passed through three, broad evolutions in the last century or so.

  • “cross-dresser”
  • “sodomite”
  • etc.

We don’t use those anymore.

  • lesbian
  • gay
  • asexual
  • trans
  • etc.

Importantly, sexual and gender identity words do not describe behaviour. It is a common mistake to think so. If you know someone’s identity label, you know nothing about their sexual behaviour (or non-behaviour).

The word asexual has only referred to human sexuality since the end of last century, and has referred specifically to orientation more recently than that. Young people are increasingly disidentifying with the word ‘gay’, as exemplified by Peggy Orenstein in her 2020 book Boys & Sex in which she is interviewing a college-aged queer man:

Like many “not straight” boys I met, Zane referred to himself as “gay,” even though the word felt dated to him, as constricting and antiquated as “homosexual” to a previous generation. “The way I think of ‘gay’, at my school is the white boy who takes on the hetero ideals instead of questioning or undermining them,” he said. “He presents as ‘masc’ and has an aversion to the more ‘twinky’ boys and feels more entitled than ever, with the sexuality difference ameliorated, to blend in and embody the privilege of his straight brothers. So it’s strategic and political to call myself ‘queer’. It describes everything about me. I like the ambiguity. It feels safe.”

Boys & Sex, Peggy Orenstein, 2020, p120
  • queer
  • gender, romantic and sexual minorities

This new generation of words avoids describing behaviour or specifying identity. Modern words describe only which groups are marginalized in any given time period.

Queer is the most succinct of these words, and it has caught on. A unifying term threatens efforts to divide the LGBTQIA+ community, which is the other reason it’s a great word. It also takes fluidity into account.

The chart below is useful because it draws a distinction between medical and community language. This is used to advise a medical community.

The word queer appears here much later than minority communities started reclaiming it (decades earlier). This chart instead shows when ‘queer’ achieved mainstream proliferation to the point where it attracted conservative pushback.

Etymology flowchart of evolving language relevant to gender-affirming care by Kloer et al, and appears in the GAS special edition of Journal of Gynecologic Surgery. (Shame about the spelling mistake, twice.)


So what does it mean for a text to be queer? When used as a verb, what does it mean to queer a text?

Queer by definition is whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence. ‘Queer’ then, demarcates not a positivity but a positionality vis-a-vis the normative—a positionality that is not restricted to lesbians and gay men, but is in fact available to anyone who is or who feels marginalized because of her or his sexual practices: it could include some married couples without children, for example, or even (who knows?) some married couples with children.

Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography By David M. Halperin
Jason Tester shows us how Queer culture might offer advantages of resilience & adaptability to the human population as a whole.


In this broader, more inclusive meaning of queer, to queer a narrative is to challenge expected social norms via storytelling.

The aim: Solidarity and visibility, leading to acceptance.


David Sedaris scoffed at the tall woman who considers herself queer.

Even if queerness referred only to gender, romantic and sexual minorities, when a tall woman lives in a culture where women are expected to be shorter than their male partners, and if her height leads to real, observable impacts on her settling into a normative romantic life, then yes. Within that culture, a tall woman is queer, because queerness challenges cisheteronormativity.

Julia Serano, who wrote Whipping Girl, Excluded, Sexed Up and other influential works on gender and transmisogyny happens to use the example of height to illuminate how ‘marked’ identities and stigma works. If we are uncomfortable describing a tall woman as ‘queer’, Serano’s ‘marked/unmarked’ mindset might do the job:

We may face different ‘isms’, but how it plays out in our lives is sometimes very similar. We’re invalidated in similar ways. Or similar tactics are used against us.


From a feminist standpoint, a lot of times sexual harassment or what are sometimes called street remarks that women experience is a lot of the time framed in terms of sexism or sexual objectification, which a lot of times it most certainly is. But there are huge parallels between those experiences I would have and the experiences I would have when people were aware that I was trans. There’s entitlement about commenting on you, or questioning you in ways I’d never experienced back when people viewed me as male, but also when people viewed me as cisgender. In that chapter [of Sexed Up] I talk about some anecdotes I experienced as a woman, and some I experienced as a trans person. People felt it okay to comment upon me, or even touch me sometimes.

Then I had this other experience that I call being a ‘sublebrity’ which is a word a friend of mine came up with to describe someone who’s a kind of celebrity within a particular subculture. For the most part, people in the world don’t know who I am. But within certain queer or feminist trans settings people sometimes know who I am beforehand. And they also will act that way in those spaces too. Obviously, it’s very different being seen as a celebrity as opposed to being seen as a marginalised person. But in both instances you’re marked. People feel it’s okay to approach you, to comment about you. They get offended if you don’t acknowledge you in those situations, even though it can be annoying when you’re on the receiving end of that.

In both cases, those people are seen as marked, and marked people are seen as asking for any kind of attention that they receive. When I was first moving through the world [as a trans woman], this helped me understand why people would get really upset when I didn’t acknowledge the remarks. That didn’t make sense to me. But it does make sense when you realise that when you’re a member of a marked group, people imagine you’re sending out phantom invitations. And they consider you a public spectacle they can comment upon. I feel it really helps make sense of a lot of different people’s experiences.

Even if you’re not a member of a marginalised group, you might be marked in certain ways. So for instance before I transitioned I was very small for being a boy. My whole life I’d walk into a room and people would be like, Wow, you’re really short! It was really bizarre that people would just make all these comments. Even if they weren’t trying to put me down, they had to talk about it. There was a co-worker I had this conversation with and she was a very tall woman. She gets the exact same things. We were telling our stories and basically they were very similar. Any room I walked into I was the shortest boy and she was the tallest woman. And people react in these awkward ways.

It plays out differently for every person, for every given trait. I’m not trying to say everything is the exact same. But there are these common themes that come up over and over and over again that I was really trying to get across in the unmarked/marked mindset.


Some things are taken for granted. Particular hair colours are taken for granted. so if you’re walking down the street and you see people with brown hair or blonde hair or black hair, whatever, you won’t necessarily think about that. But then you see someone with red hair or blue hair, like, they kind of jump out at you. The underlying aspect is probably the way humans are programmed to view the world. But there’s obviously cultural aspects to it, too. When I go into queer spaces where a lot of people do have blue hair or red hair you don’t notice it, because in that cultural setting it’s normal, whereas in other cultural settings it might be marked.

Some marked traits are stigmatised in our culture whereas others might not be stigmatised. For example, if you are a celebrity you’re glorified or seen as more special than everyone else, even though you’re marked. Then there are some traits like, if you have a different hair colour people might be surprised but they won’t necessarily look down upon you or treat you poorly because of it. So sometimes things are just marked, whereas other times they’re associated with a lot of stigma, right? So coming out as trans. People are like, Oh, you’re trans, and then treat you in a completely different way. It’s not just that you’re different, but they’re sensing something more from that that is likely related to stigma. Understanding the difference between being marked and being someone who has a stigmatized marked trait helps to distinguish between what it’s like compared to being a relatively short boy or tall girl. Those are marked. You might get a little flak for that, but people don’t feel they have the right to stigmatize you. […] Most of us have a marked trait, something that’s a little bit different, and if you feel annoyed that people always draw attention to this aspect of you, for people with stigmatized marked traits, it’s like that on adrenaline.

Julia Serano, “Sexed Up: How Society Sexualizes Us, and How We Can Fight Back”, New Books in Sex, Sexuality and Sex Work

David Sedaris points out that he is short, meaning to make the point that his height has nothing to do with queerness. But because men are expected to be taller than women, if he were seeking heterosexual partnership, his shortness may indeed make him queer. Gay culture is not subject to the same conventions around hypergamy, which is partly the very thing that makes gay partnership queer.

The same romantic and sexual restrictions can apply to anyone with a non-normative body, hence the word ‘straight sized’ when talking about fat politics. Few would argue that intersex people are queer. After all, intersex people are the ‘I’ of the LGBTQIA+ acronym. But once we start policing who counts as intersex, now we get into trouble. Some medical professionals make the case for, say, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) being counted as an intersex condition. PCOS alters a cis woman’s hormonal profile more typical of masculine individuals. Some women with PCOS are able to grow a full beard. So what if a cisheterosexual woman with PCOS were to identify as queer? Would Sedaris allow it?

What unites the queer experience: Across different contexts, you feel like the outsider. You will (hopefully) find your people, but when you’re not with your people, you are never able to forget some essential difference between yourself and the dominant group. This feeling perseveres and is more than just a ‘feeling’. It is based on some immutable fact of your selfhood. You will have felt this way even before you were able to point to that immutable fact and name it. You are drawn to others who share this experience of navigating through life. Queer communities feel like your family.

Of course, being LGBTQIA+ constitutes a huge subset of queerness. I’ve just attempted to describe what binds all queer people together. Here’s what binds all LGBTQIA+ people together:

What binds LGBT people together is we are all deemed to be traitors to our gender. It’s very straightforward! The rationale behind homophobia and transphobia is ‘You are not behaving as you should be based on your gender recorded at birth’.



Diminishing Good: A good which decreases in value and benefit the more a person/persons use that good. This comes from The Law of Diminishing Utility, and comes from the field of economics. Anyone in the business of selling will be interested in this phenomenon, because when it comes to goods and services, customers seek alternatives elsewhere once they use your product a lot and start to receive less and less benefit from it.

But identity labels are not goods and services. They don’t work like that. The error of thinking at play: If more and more people start calling themselves queer, that makes my own queerness less valuable and less valid.

There is no such thing as Queer Enough.


Aside from gatekeeping the term queerness, based on the error of thinking in which there is any such thing as ‘queer enough’, he is also falling into the trap of measuring queerness against cisheteronormativity. Since ‘a woman’s height’ has nothing to do with how cishetero norms are maintained, it makes no sense to Sedaris that something separate, such as tallness, could possibly be considered queer.


One thing is clear: queerness is not (only) about who you have sex with, because studies have shown that even when queer people are not having sex, bias and discrimination still applies. (Look for the MacInnis-Hodson study.)

But does that mean someone has to experience bias and discrimination before calling themselves queer? Also no. A queer person who grows up in a queer utopia of acceptance would still be queer.

In their book Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens On Our Sex-Obsessed Culture, Sherronda J. Brown considers the ‘connective tissue’ uniting definitions of queerness.

All queer communities are facing the same enemy: white supremacist cishetero patriarchy and sexual, relational, and gender normativity. Exclusionary politics keeps us focused on fighting each other for space, connection, and resources rather than using our collective power to combat the beliefs and systems that oppress us.

Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens On Our Sex-Obsessed Culture, Sherronda J. Brown

Queer people are:

  • Fetishized
  • Hypersexualized
  • Considered aberrant
  • Considered perverse
  • Seen as sinful
  • Regarded as spectacle
  • Feared
  • Punished
  • Stigmatized
  • Othered

In Brown’s words, queer people ‘depart from cisheteropatriarchal gender and sexual norms’ in some way.

This builds on the work of bell hooks:

All of our lives we have experienced ourselves as queer, as not belonging, as the essence of queer … queer not as about who you’re having sex with — that can be a dimension of it — but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.

bell hooks

Here’s another asexuality inclusive definition of queerness, this time by Canton Winer:



Extrapolating from the above:

  • A queer story features characters who don’t belong because of who they inherently are. There’s a disconnect between a character’s setting and who they are.
  • Belongingness is dependent on social setting (milieu) and era. What’s queer in one time and space may not be queer in another time and place.
  • Being queer is about power, and one’s refusal or inability to fit into power structures which seek to control.
  • A queer story does not have to be about sex and gender, though that can be a dimension of it.
  • Queer stories are subversive, shining a light on power structures and how they are applied to non-conformists.
  • Celebratory queer stories craft new possibilities for audiences, expanding upon white patriarchal cisheteronormative ways of being in the real world, whether the fictional setting is speculative or realistic. Queer stories can exist as a means of achieving queer euphoria.


It just so happens that queer people are in the best position to tell queer stories. But it’s not as simple as that.

It always happens, unfortunately, that the hegemonic group co-opts small (tiny) numbers of members from marginalised groups to perpetuate hegemonic power structures and gives them massive platforms to perpetuate hegemonic ideas which look better when the messaging seems to come from a member of the marginalised group.

Since this is a thing that always happens, we must look instead at the actual messaging of a narrative, not at who wrote it. Authorship by queer people is less important than the effects a theory can generate when appropriated to serve political purposes.

Currently, authors of queer stories are under huge obligation to sell themselves as product. However, their story is the product, not the personal details and trauma of their own lives, including who (if anyone) they have sex with, how they experience sexual attraction and how they personally experience gender.

Queer works of art should be allowed to speak for themselves, and artists should be judged for their work.

Therefore, we should abstain from requiring authors (and actors) to explain and defend and detail their own queerness.

This also applies to actors. Actors should not be expected to explain how their own sexuality works before accepting queer roles. At the same time, actors with marginalised identities must be given every opportunity (and also priority) when telling marginalised stories. Those two things are both true at once, and is apparently very difficult balance to get right.

We are currently in a publishing/reading environment in which young actors are being told to reveal the details of their own sexuality before being ‘allowed’ to take queer roles. We are also in an environment where queer authors are forced to reveal their queerness, and scolded for writing about queer labels which are different from their own.

This is an absolutely impossible position to put writers in, not just for privacy reasons. Since queer people find other queer people in a wider community, and since communities are diverse, no single author can possibly share all the identities they write about when depicting the community of authentically queer characters.


How the IKEA Shark Became a Trans Icon

Cf. The exhausting 2022 discourse around non-binary ace Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series adapted as a TV series by Netflix, and the young actors who played the main characters. A teenage actor was accused of ‘queerbaiting’ for not declaring his sexual orientation until pressured. Likewise, author Alice Oseman was accused of appropriating transgender experience despite being a non-binary (ie., transgender) person themself.

if gay people have sex on screen it’s fetishization but if they don’t it’s queerbaiting so to create the optimal mid point you must write a scene so erotically baffling that it is unclear whether sex is happening or not like a black & blue vs white & gold dress of fvck scenes

it must function like a gay sex rorschach test where if you saw g*y sex that is simply your internal projection and therefore on you but also if you didn’t see gay s*x that was just your internal projection and therefore on you

the number of people underneath this tweet and in the qrts who do not seem to have gathered that this was a joke about writers being held to impossible standards when depicting queer intimacy and thought it was a real suggestion is mind boggling



people who have a straightforwardly reactionary political orientation will get right to the point: you, as a man, admit that a woman has something you want? Sounds gay. Only a gay man would want something a woman has. […] Men are not allowed to want [pleasantness, pleasure, comfort, care, or affection] because they are coded as feminine in our society. Admitting of desiring—perhaps even needing—them is tantamount to an admission that one’s masculinity is insufficient.

What can men want? So straight you’re gay, by Nathan Rochelle Duford at P&rapraxis Magazine

For examples of how the word queer is used (as a noun and a verb) see the following:

LGBT Inclusion in American Life: Pop Culture, Political Imaginations, and Civil Rights

LGBT Inclusion in American Life: Pop Culture, Political Imaginations, and Civil Rights (NYU Press, 2023) is a tour de force that weaves together the various narratives about the transformation of a counter public, in this case, LBGT citizens, into rights bearing citizenship, and the transformation of mainstream political and cultural narratives, incorporating shifting conceptions that open up space for this integration. As Political Scientist Susan Burgess explains throughout the book, a basic exploration of public opinion data reflects the substantial shift that many Americans have had in their thinking about individuals who are part of the LGBT community, and about the community itself. But the public opinion data only goes so far in telling the story of this rapid transformation. Using the American political development framework of political time, Burgess sees profound political transformation, but through what she describes as queered political time, noting that substantive ideas in this context are vitally important. Thus, the focus of LGBT Inclusion in American Life is on the space where narratives and imagination are able to project new ideas that can then open up our thinking and provide opportunities to re-imagine fundamental social and political concepts.

Political imagination gives us a chance to consider alternatives; we can see new or different worlds that provide us with different ways to think about institutions and power, about families, about gender and sexuality. This space also provides us with paths into thinking about the future. Burgess focuses on worlds that have been created in popular culture that construct different situations, or that deconstruct our ideas and we can imagine what might come out of that deconstruction. Through plays, television shows, and movies, as are the focus here, we can see power—which is at the heart of politics—differently conceived, implemented, constructed, wielded. Burgess integrates nuanced and important analyses of popular culture artifacts like Bond films, war movies, and family-focused television series to tease apart the shifting ideas of individual and community moral standards (movies about military service), masculinity (Bond films), and the family (Leave It to Beaver30somethingThe Americans). Each section of the book examines the particular theme that is connected to the “central pillars of LBGT freedoms” like the right to marry legally, the right to serve openly in the U.S. military, and the right to have consensual adult sex without fear of criminal penalty. The legality of these rights shifted rather quickly over the past twenty years, and Burgess’ research dives into the connection between popular culture’s imagined spaces and the demand and reality of lived experiences. LGBT Inclusion in American Life: Pop Culture, Political Imaginations, and Civil Rights essentially provides the “rest of the story” – analyzing how these spaces of political imagination supplemented Americans’ understandings of the LBGT community and the individuals within that community, not necessarily through representation, but through changing narratives and expansive storytelling and world building.

New Books Network
The Queer Fantasies of the American Family Sitcom

Perhaps no form of popular art has appeared as poised to resist subversive sexual themes as the television situation comedy. But Tison Pugh writes that the sitcom’s historic dogmatic insistence on an earnest innocence was doomed to fail, and that the weight of this strain reveals itself under close scrutiny. In The Queer Fantasies of the American Family Sitcom (Rutgers University Press, 2018), Pugh looks at six beloved sitcoms throughout television history in a way you have probably never viewed them before. “Sexuality and queerness can never be banished from family sitcoms but instead percolate throughout various story lines that attempt to quell their disruptive force,” Pugh writes. “In brief, queerness as a critical concept fractures cultural constructions of gendered and erotic normativity, dismantling rigid binary codes of licit and illicit desires and identities. Queer refers to contested sexual and gender identities but extends further to include identities that challenge regimes of normativity. More so, queerness exposes how deeply heteronormative narrative frameworks, such as that of the family sitcom, are structurally incapable of suturing over their aporias and contradictions, such that their surface normativity cannot withstand the steady erosion of their symptomatic queerness.” Pugh is a professor of English at the University of Central Florida, and the author or co-author of several books on sexuality and literature, including Precious Perversions: Humor, Homosexuality, and the Southern Literary Canon (Louisiana State University Press, 2016).

New Books Network
Queer authors talk about why they write cosy queer fiction. When the world is hurting you, you can avoid hurting the queer community in your fiction. This is different from keeping your queer characters from experiencing pain. “You can exist as you are, and it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it is.” Newitz explains that their term “ambient queerness” isn’t just about having gay, lesbian or bisexual characters in work but is about imagining completely different ways of living in the world, and how people might have relationships with each other. Perhaps gender isn’t an important binary. Perhaps polyamory is the normative way of living. “It’s about imagining radical new forms of otherness that aren’t demonized, that are just fun and cozy.” This is “baked into the genre of science fiction.” It makes sense to get rid of genders when characters are, say, trains or cats.

On paper, things look fine. Sam Dennon recently inherited significant wealth from his uncle. As a respected architect, Sam spends his days thinking about the family needs and rich lives of his clients. But privately? Even his enduring love of amateur astronomy is on the wane. Sam has built a sustainable-architecture display home for himself but hasn’t yet moved into it, preferring to sleep in his cocoon of a campervan. Although they never announced it publicly, Sam’s wife and business partner ended their marriage years ago due to lack of intimacy, leaving Sam with the sense he is irreparably broken.

Now his beloved uncle has died. An intensifying fear manifests as health anxiety, with night terrors from a half-remembered early childhood event. To assuage the loneliness, Sam embarks on a Personal Happiness Project:

1. Get a pet dog

2. Find a friend. Just one. Not too intense.




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