Social Protest and the Performance of Gay Identity

by

Alan Sikes

Don't Rein In My Parade

April 25, 1993. I am standing on the Great Mall in Washington, DC. Just to my right, the Washington Monument towers over me, and for a moment I wish that I could fly to the top of the great stone obelisk to survey the enormous ocean of humanity sprawled across the lawn of our nation's capital. I am participating in one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in the history of the United States: "The 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Equal Rights and Liberation." Quite a long title, I suppose, but then the march that it so designates is rather long as well; my fellow Wisconsinites and I are located near the end of the demonstration lineup, and we wait more than four hours for all the delegations ahead of us to begin their own procession down the parade route. At last, around five o'clock (the demonstration itself began at noon) the delegation just in front of us take off, and we finally assume our positions among the other marchers. I am holding hands with a very cute boy that I met on the bus from Madison; we exchange playful kisses as we stride behind a banner proclaiming Wisconsin's status as "the nation's first gay rights state." We march past the White House lawn, and I realize how proud I feel to be a part of this event: proud to represent Wisconsin; proud to agitate for an end to discrimination and homophobia; proud to kiss this very cute boy in front of the White House gates.

Difference

Four years have passed since that spring day in DC, and I still feel proud of my participation in the March. Recently, however, I have begun to review my memories of the demonstration--along with the program guides and broadsheets that I saved as souvenirs--and these days I detect a certain tension in the rhetoric that surrounded the celebration. As I peruse the documents I'd so lovingly preserved within a box of keepsakes in my closet, I notice a sort of discursive "flutter" that ran through all the organizers' arguments--a hidden contradiction in their constitution of gay and lesbian identity that hinged upon a troubled relation between the two terms "sameness" and "difference." On the one hand, the notion of "difference" figured prominently in the discourses that framed the conceptual contours of the event. This usage, of course, is hardly surprising, for civil rights campaigns have traditionally employed terms such as "difference" not only to distinguish their constituencies from the larger population, but also to posit this difference as the causal agent of the group's marginality and oppression. In this, the rhetoric of the 1993 March resembled those utilized by many other movements from the past. In an open letter to demonstrators, for instance, U.S. Representative Barney Frank implicitly reinscribed the discursive boundaries between gay and straight citizens of this country when he claimed that the marchers' "presence here in Washington is an invaluable part of our fight against bigotry, which will not end until lesbians and gay men enjoy the rights, priviliges, and responsibilities of every other American without regard to sexual orientation," or later when he argued that "It is important that we let the broader society know not just how many of us are here, but who we are, where we live, and what we do every day" (6). In a very strategic sense, then, the rhetoric of civil rights seems predicated on the discursive constitution and preservation of these "differences" among various segments of the population, as the first plank in the 1993 March's platform clearly demonstrates:

We demand the passage of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender civil rights bill and an end to discrimination by state and federal governments including the military; repeal of all sodomy laws and other laws that criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults. (16)

Sameness

On the other hand, a great deal of the discourse that revolved around the March seemed to play upon the notion, not of a "difference," but of a "sameness" among the gay and straight citizenry of the US. I distinctly remember, for example, the unwritten but no less pervasive request for the demonstrators to "conduct themselves properly" during the event. Whispered from ear to ear, passed on from delegation to delegation, the unofficial directive reminded marchers that the straight world was watching them very closely; while the drag queens, the leather boys, and the dykes on bikes still stood out among the crowd, "outrageous" or "offensive" behavior was quietly discouraged at every turn. Apparently, the organizers of the March wanted to send a message to heterosexual America, an assurance that gays and lesbians, despite their "unusual" predilection for same-sex partners, were really no different from the average straight man or straight woman on the street. The discourse of "sameness," in other words, seemed tactically--if unofficially--employed as an attempt to "sell" the gay and lesbian civil rights movement to the heterosexual masses; gay and lesbian political pundits apparently hoped to convince straight America that homosexuals were fundamentally "the same" as heterosexuals and were therefore deserving of "the same" rights and privileges enjoyed by everyone else. Indeed, couched in terms of citizens' rights, this rhetoric of "sameness" also surfaced in the official publications produced by March organizers; while formal requests to eschew outrageous activites surely would have met with heated resistance from demonstrators, most marchers embraced similar tactics that likewise aimed to efface the differences between the homo- and heterosexual populations. As Eric Rofes argued in the official newspaper issued by the March Committee:

Instead of framing our discussion on "anti-discrimination," "human rights," or "freedom of choice," we need to state our community's current struggles for what they are: a fight for freedom, justice, and democracy in the purest sense of these words. When we articulate our struggle under the limited category of "gay rights," we play into a strategy that considers this as a movement for "special rights" for our community. Let's not be afraid to say that we are fighting for civil rights generally and the civil rights of Lesbians and Gay men specifically. (2)

Discursive Instability

This hidden tension within the discourse of the March--a paradoxical play of signification that turns upon the notions of "sameness" and "difference"--seems to revolve around a largely unproblematized and implicitly essentialist understanding of gay and lesbian identity. Frequently, civil rights campaigns launched by homosexual communities rely upon an ill-defined conception of an innate or intrinsic gay identity; cast as a foundational "core of being" to be cherished and protected by gay rights activists--and alternately reviled by their conservative naysayers--this notion of a stable homosexual subjectivity promises a firm and solid "base" for further political action. Discursive instability quickly arises, however, when these campaigns attempt to define their constituencies in relation to the heterosexual majority; while gays and lesbians must emphasize their essential difference in order to constitute themselves as a viable political entity, they must also insist upon their essential sameness in order to qualify for equality of rights and social standing. Recently, however, a number of post-structuralist theorists have sought to extricate identity from its untenable position as the site of this "essential" contradiction between sameness and difference. Judith Butler, for instance, has abandoned the notion of an innate or intrinsic identity and speaks instead of the discursive constitution of the subject; according to Butler, identities are produced in discourse, through the repetition and reiteration of various subject positions that circulate within the linguistic system itself. Drawing upon and extending Louis Althusser's theory of interpellation--in which the subject is constituted through an address uttered by the figure of "authority," Butler writes:

The mark interpellation makes is not descriptive, but inaugurative. It seeks to introduce a reality rather than report on an existing one; it accomplishes this introduction through a citation of existing convention. Interpellation is an act of speech whose "content" is neither true nor false; it does not have description as its primary task. Its purpose is to indicate and establish a subject in subjection, to produce its social contours in space and time. Its reiterative operation has the effect of sedimenting its "positionality" over time. (33-4)

As Butler's remarks indicate, this process of subject formation seems to mask its own iterative operations; the "sedimentation" of "positionality" to which she refers gives rise to the perception that these subject positions--produced in and through language--are actually the intrinsic foundations of personal identity. Under such a schema, discourse "naturally" appears as merely descriptive, rather than constitutive, of subjectivity. This masking of the subject's discursive origins constitutes a powerful form of social regulation, for social power--itself always operative through discourse--authorizes some ostensibly "essential" identities as legitimate, while rendering others abject or perverse; identities such as "gay" or "lesbian," of course, fall all too often within the purview of perversity. And yet, the subject's constitution within discourse also marks his or her entry into discourse, and for Butler this fact holds some hope for positive political action. Identity, formed as it is within a discursive matrix of citation and iteration, is consequently open to resistant acts of re-citation and re-iteration; the subject produced through language also gains access to language, which he or she may utilize to contest the dominant configurations of his or her identity. This potential for discourse to reshape or rearticulate the contours of individual subjectivity offers the promise of real political power, as Butler elegantly observes: "The terms by which we are hailed are rarely the ones we choose (and even when we try to impose protocols on how we are to be named, they usually fail); but these terms we never really choose are the occasion for something we might still call agency, the repetition of an originary subordination for another purpose, one whose future is partially open" (38).

Perhaps a glance at the various ways that protest movements of the past have positioned gay and lesbian subjectivity along the axis of "sameness" and "difference" will help to illustrate the potential for discursive re-configurations of homosexual identity. While some campaigns have emphasized the fundamental "sameness" of homo- and heterosexual individuals, others have urged the recognition of an essential "difference" between gay and straight identities. During the early 1950's, for example, fledgling gay rights groups in the U.S. constituted homosexuality largely through a relation of its likeness to heterosexuality--specifically white, middle class, and sexually "respectable" heterosexuality. Organizations like the Mattachine Society routinely commended police crackdowns on homosexual cruising in city parks, presumably to foster an image of homosexuals that complied with more "mainstream" sexual mores. Above all, these early groups stressed the commonalities of homo- and heterosexual identity, as the following quote from Ken Burns' 1956 speech to the 3rd annual convention of the Mattachine Society makes clear:

In his efforts to be recognized, the homosexual has channeled his actions into super-colossal productions to demonstrate and accentuate differences. The result has been an ever widening chasm based on a premise that there is a difference. . . . There are some who would say that homosexuals are superior, "the chosen of God." But I say, "show me the facts. I am not interested in your egotism. Look beyond your self- interest and emotions. You are different only in that way you think you are different." (in Blasius, 289)

In contrast to the rhetoric that emerged from the Mattachine Society, however, the discourses of gay liberation that followed in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall riots stressed the radical difference between gay and straight identity. A number of gay polemicists from the late 1960's and early 1970's--aligned as they were with various leftist-political and countercultural movements--equated heterosexuality with social evils ranging from the subjugation of women to U.S. involvement in Vietnam; within the fiery rhetoric of these gay liberationist agitators, homosexuality is constituted as a subversive challenge to the oppressive heterosexual establishment. Naturally, much of this radical potential is predicated upon the homosexual's visible difference from the straight majority, and to this end gay liberationist discourses adamantly advocated the process of "coming out," the public celebration of one's intrinsic--and by extension intrinsically different--homosexual identity. In his "Gay Manifesto," for instance, Carl Wittman urged gays and lesbians to abandon their imitation of straight sex roles in order to discover their true self--their homosexual self--that has long lain hidden beneath a heterosexual charade:

We are children of straight society. We still think straight: that is part of our oppression. . . . We've lived in these institutions all our lives. Naturally we mimic the roles. For too long we mimicked these roles to protect ourselves--a survival mechanism. Now we are becoming free enough to shed the roles which we've picked up from the institutions which have imprisoned us. Stop mimicking straights, stop censoring ourselves. (in Blasius, 382)

I believe that the definitional shifts exhibited by these campaigns--shifts between the two twin poles of "sameness" and "difference"--represent profound modifications in the discursive constitution of gay and lesbian identity. Of course, the rhetoric emerging from these movements does not reflect the sort of post-structuralist sensibility that recognizes identity as discursively produced; both of the excerpts above appear to rely upon a fixed and stable--indeed, a "pre-discursive"--notion of gay and lesbian subjectivity. Viewed from a post-structuralist perspective, however, homosexual identity does not denote this sort of intrinsic homosexual "essence" that exists in an ontological relation of relative "sameness" or "difference" to a similar and complementary heterosexual "essence." Instead, homosexual identity appears as the product of specific rhetorical strategies--a densely-formed "knot" of signification formed precisely through the circulation and intersection of ever-shifting discursive practices.

Queer

Recently, a number of gay and lesbian civil rights organizations have drawn upon the insights of post-structuralist theory and have begun to view subjectivity as discursively constituted; while older movements like the Mattachine Society and the various Gay Liberation groups depended upon essentialist notions of homosexual identity, these newer organizations conceive of identity as the repetition of subject positions operative within discourse. In certain political circles, this reconception of identity has prompted a major shift of terminology; several groups, for instance, have replaced older labels like "gay" and "lesbian" with the newly rehabilitated term "queer," an appellation of identity understood not as the manifestation of an intrinsic essence, but as the unstable locus of variously sexed and gendered discursive positionalities. Frequently, queer activists--along with the academics who theorize their political practice--employ the notion of "performativity" to describe this translation of discursive reiteration into embodied lived experience; according to the new queer paradigm, the assumption and articulation--or, to borrow from theatrical parlance, the "performance"--of a particular subject position actually shapes subjectivity along the contours of the position in question. Inherent within this concept of performativity is a program for radical political action, for if identities are formed through the repetition and reiteration of subject positions, then these same identities--reliant as they are upon the citational process--are open to other, potentially subversive forms of re-citation. Indeed, parodic repetitions of normative identity positions may hold the power to expose the discursive constitution of subjectivity, revealing the pretense of "essence" as mere masquerade; in circumstances where privilege and domination are predicated upon these notions of essential identity--and here the hierarchical relation between homo- and heterosexual comes immediately to mind--these discursive deconstructions of subjectivity may prove themselves valuable political weapons.

I'd like to explore the political potential of these subversive strategies by taking a look at the activities of the aptly-named "Queer Nation," a loose confederation of local organizations whose defiant de-naturalizations of normative heterosexuality frequently hinge upon parodic rearticulations of "straight" society and subjectivity. Founded in the early 1990's, the various chapters of Queer Nation often exhibit a postmodern-chic version of "camp" sensibility, and their political activities regularly involve outrageously "campy" send-ups of heterosexual identity. While the term "camp" has proven notoriously difficult to define with any degree of precision, critics usually agree that camp signifies a certain aesthetic attitude--commonly ascribed to homosexual communities--that parodies mainstream heterosexual culture through an exaggerated mimicry of heteronormative practices and behaviors. This strategy of subversive re-signification effectively turns straight culture inside out, revealing the pretension of heterosexual privilege as the radically unstable product of discursive repetition; as Jack Babuscio has noted in his essay "Camp and the Gay Sensibility": "Camp, by focusing on the outward appearances of role, implies that roles, and, in particular, sex roles, are superficial--a matter of style. Indeed, life itself is role and theatre, appearance and impersonation" (24). Queer Nation's deployment of this camp sensibility manifests itself in a variety of political projects; one example that springs quickly to mind is the group's bootleg production of modified "Bart Simpson" T-shirts that soon became known as the "Queer Bart" shirts. As Lauren Berlant's and Elizabeth Freeman's insightful description of the T-shirts demonstrates, Queer Nation's campy re-vision of the supposedly "straight" Bart Simpson exposes the fundamental instability of all heterosexual signifiers, their vulnerability to various forms of discursive re-appropriation:

Queer Bart reconfigures Matt Groening's bratty, white, suburban anykid, Bart Simpson, into the New York gay clone: he wears an earring, his own Queer Nation T-shirt, and a pink triangle button. The balloon coming out of his mouth reads, "Get used to it, dude!". . . . Queer Nation's Bart implicitly points a finger at another bootleg T-shirt in which Bart snarls "Back off, faggot!" and at the heterosexuality that normal Bart's generic identity assumes (209).

Another camp strategy frequently employed by Queer Nation--and one which clearly demonstrates the peculiarly performative nature of its political project--is the group activity commonly known as the "Queer Night Out." During a typical Queer Night Out, several dozen Queer Nationals invade a well-known "straight" establishment like a bar or nightclub and stage a minor revolution by parodically mimicking the practices of the heterosexual clientele. I believe that the Queer Night Out effectively illustrates Queer Nation's performative paradigm of identity formation--a schema in which the repetition of certain acts or gestures effects the assumption of a subject position in discourse. Traditionally, such acts have been viewed as the material "manifestations" of a fixed and stable subjectivity; much like forms of linguistic discourse, they are seen as "expressive" of an identity that exists "before" or "beyond" the act itself. Within the post-structuralist milieu of Queer National identity, these acts also resemble linguistic discourses--indeed, they seem to form a sort of physical, "embodied" discourse--but here the discursive repetitions are not merely descriptive, but actually constitutive of identity itself; subjectivity, in other words, emerges as the very site from which these repetitions take place. Of course, as repeated acts these various "heterosexual" practices are open to appropriations that expose their discursive constitution and dispel the myth of their origin in an essential and unproblematized straight identity; once again, Berlant and Freeman provide an illuminating description of Queer Nation's "Nighttime" activities:

In one report from the field, two lesbians were sighted sending a straight woman an oyster, adding a Sapphic appetizer to the menu of happy hour delights. The straight woman was not amused. . . . Maneuvers such as this reveal that straight mating techniques, supposed to be "Absolutely Het," are sexual lures available to any brand of pleasure: "Sorry, you looked like a dyke to me." This transgression of personal space can even be used to deflect the violence it provokes. Confronted by a defensive and hostile drunk, a Queer Nation gayboy addresses the room: "Yeah, I had him last night, and he was terrible." (207-8)

In the scenario outlined above, Queer Nation's campy send-ups of heterosexual behavior deconstruct any notion of an innate or intrinsic identity--gay or straight. Here there are no essential homo- or heterosexual subjectivities that exist in a fixed relation of "sameness" or "difference" to one another. Instead, the very concepts of sameness and difference seem to fold back into one another; the Queer Nationals clearly perform "the same" activities employed by their heterosexual counterparts, but with a decided "difference" in their intentions and object choices. Within this continual oscillation of sameness and difference, straight and gay identities appear as the unstable products of discursive play, untethered to fixed foundations of subjectivity.

Essentially Disguised

Curiously, the same camp strategies that enable this discursive reconception of identity may also effect a recuperation of essentialist identity positions, often through a re-stabilization of the very categories they ostensibly deconstruct. Ironically, the same camp practices that promise to "de-essentialize" straight identity may unwittingly cast heterosexuality as the fundamental "source" of camp's own parodic imitations; rather than troubling traditional notions of an innate straight subjectivity, the camp aesthetic may actually reinscribe heterosexuality as the original and underlying "foundation" of camp's merely "surface-level" subversions. Conversely, these same parodic practices, while pointing to the potential mutability of the queer performer's own identity, may also work to reify that performer's position of sovereign subjectivity; the camp performance, in other words, acts as a sort of mask that conceals the "true" identity of the queer performer underneath.

Frequently, this recuperative power of camp collapses the productive instability of the new term "queer" back into the ossified identity associated with the older term "homosexual." Indeed, gay and lesbian theorists often employ camp's "destabilizing" force to re-establish--paradoxically, of course--the poles of homo- and heterosexual identity vis a vis the now familiar tropes of "sameness" and "difference." According to these scenarios, homosexuals--trapped as they are in an oppressive heterosexual regime--cover over their longing to be "the same" as their heterosexual counterparts by using a camp aesthetic to signal their "difference" from the straight majority. The camp sensibility thereby becomes the hallmark of a fixed and stable homosexual subjectivity; such a formulation, in fact, even appears in the Babuscio essay already quoted above. While Babuscio claims on the one hand that camp exposes sex roles as absolute artifice, he argues on the other hand that camp acts as the distinguishing feature of a largely unproblematized homosexual identity: "As a means of personal liberation through the exploration of experience, camp is an assertion of one's self-integrity--a temporary means of accommodation with society in which art becomes, at one and the same time, an intense mode of individualism and a form of spirited protest" (21).

Unfortunately, Queer Nation's camp strategies of social protest often fall into a similarly essentializing trap; rather than engaging in a sustained interrogation of supposedly stable identity positions, Queer Nation's parodic practices frequently effect the reification of traditionally sexed and gendered subjectivities. Specifically, Queer Nation's various political projects often deploy camp to reinforce the notion of a radical "difference" between the "queer" subject and his or her "straight" counterparts; all too often, Queer Nationals seem to launch their attacks not against the ossification of identity, but against a heterosexual majority unproblematically constituted as "the opposition." I believe that Frank Browning's description of a Queer Nation "Mall Action" usefully illustrates the way in which camp performances can paradoxically police the boundaries of subjectivity. Much like the Queer Nights Out detailed above, the Mall Action involves the strategic takeover of an ostensibly straight environment; several dozen Queer Nationals descend upon a suburban shopping mall and proceed to parody the largely heterosexual clientele. As Browning notes, however, the leaders of the Mall Action that he attended expressed real concern over possible negative reactions from the straight mallgoers and warned the group of potentially violent repercussions. While such precautions make perfect sense in this era of increasing violence against gays, lesbians, and "queers," I want to call attention to the sort of divisive rhetoric used to prepare the participants for the threat of violence: "Don't go anywhere alone. We are deep behind enemy lines, in enemy territory. We don't know what could happen. So please, go everywhere with at least one other person" (33). Here camp sensibility is installed as the distinguishing feature of an oppositional queer identity, the visual display of which could apparently incite straight shoppers to acts of aggression. This same sensibility, furthermore, seems preemptively denied the "mainstream" mallgoers, whom the Queer Nationals assume will be automatically hostile to their parodic performances. While I in no way wish to mitigate the potential for violence implicit in the Mall Actions, I do believe that here the camp sensibility serves not to question the constitution of identity, but instead to mark a distinct--even radically reifying--sense of "difference" between queer and straight subjectivities.

At times, Queer Nation's oppositional rhetoric abandons the strategies of camp altogether, relying instead on outright assertions of the fundamental differences that obtain between queer and straight identities. In the now infamous essay "I Hate Straights," first circulated anonymously in 1990 at the genesis of the Queer Nation movement, the boundaries between queer and straight identity positions are clearly constituted through a vitriolic attack on all aspects of heterosexual subjectivity:

I hate the fucking Pope, and I hate John fucking Cardinal fucking O'Connor, and I hate the whole fucking Catholic Church. The same goes for the Military, and especially for Amerika's Law Enforcement Officials. . . . I hate the "respectable" art world; and the entertainment industry, and the mainstream media, especially the New York Times. In fact, I hate every sector of the straight establishment in this country--the worst of whom actively want all queers dead, the best of whom never stick out their necks to keep us alive (In Blasius, 776).

Perhaps even more significantly, the essay provides a virtual blueprint for a program of radical queer separatism from the larger straight community. In the following quote, for example, this position of difference is maintained and enforced by the performance of specific sexual acts. Once again, performative practices play a central role in the constitution of identity, but in an uncritical, essentializing way that casts these practices as descriptive, rather than formative, of queer subjectivity; instead of suggesting that performative acts delineate the subject as an unstable discursive construct, "I Hate Straights" posits these acts as demonstrable "proof" of an anterior queer identity--an identity of absolute difference from the heterosexual majority:

Being queer means leading a different sort of life. It's not about the mainstream, profit-margins, patriotism, patriarchy or being assimilated. It's not about executive director privilege and elitism. It's about being on the margins, defining ourselves; it's about gender-fuck and secrets, what's beneath the belt and deep inside the heart; it's about the night. Being queer is grass-roots, because we know that everyone of us, every body, every cunt, every heart and ass and dick is a world of pleasure waiting to be explored. . . . Every time we fuck, we win (In Blasius, 774).

Not surprisingly, Queer Nation's confrontational politics--their shocking parody of heterosexual behavior, their bitter invectives against straight society, and above all their assertion of a radically different form of "queer" identity--have created something of a backlash, especially among conservative gay and lesbian activists. Critics like Bruce Bawer, for instance, argue that organizations such as Queer Nation will never gain the legal reform and social acceptance that they desire unless they profoundly alter their political strategies. Countering the claims of radical "difference" with an alternative rhetoric of "sameness," Bawer contends that the straight majority will only concede to the demands of gays and lesbians when they realize that both homo- and heterosexuals share a common "humanity" with one another. Bawer dismisses the flamboyant--and especially the sexually explicit--antics of gay pride parades and other forms of social protest as counterproductive, arguing that the display of homosexual difference only prevents heterosexuals from recognizing their fundamental likeness to their homosexual counterparts:

The Gay Pride Day march provides a first-class opportunity to exhibit the real face of gay America, to demonstrate that the gay population is in every way a cross-section of the country--black and white, rural and urban, rich and poor. If the gay population put that real face forward on Gay Pride Day, it wouldn't look alien to anyone. But instead, the march represents gay America by means of what seems at times to be a veritable circus parade, a parade that too often underlined the sexual aspect of gay life--and underlined the most sordid elements of that sexual aspect. It presented homosexuals less as human beings than as sexual beings (156).

Doubled Awareness

What are we to make of this situation, in which the deconstructive strategies of groups like Queer Nation slide into declarations of radical "difference"--declarations which in turn spawn calls for the recognition of a similarly essentializing "sameness" from the gay right wing? Apparently, the political interrogation of fixed and stable identity positions is a fiendishly difficult project to sustain; while theories outlining the discursive constitution of subjectivity play out well on paper--or, indeed, upon my own computer screen--these same theories tend to fall apart when applied to the realm of social activism. Why does the need to assert a sense of essential identity continue to manifest itself within gay and lesbian--or, now, queer--political activity? Why do we keep returning to this notion of an intrinsic homosexual identity--an identity which we define, again and again, in its relation of "sameness" or "difference" to a similarly unproblematized heterosexuality? I think we must remember that our identities, while discursively produced, nonetheless mark the material sites of our embodied lived experience; the discourses that constitute our subjectivities may be unbound to any foundational "essence," but they are still the means through which our lives are rendered knowable, intelligible, communicable. And so I believe that one must live with a sense of "doubled" consciousness--aware of the contingency and instability of one's own identity position, yet cognizant of the powerful way in which this position organizes and even enables our existence. Looking back, from the end of this essay, to the reflections that I made at its beginning--the memories of my own participation in the `93 March on Washington--I sense a need to apply this doubled consciousness to my personal experience. I am aware now, in a way I never noticed at the March, of my own position--indeed, my own constitution--within its multiplicity of discourses; in some sense the "I" who marched that day was produced within the matrix of the March itself. And yet that part of me--formed in discourse, but empowered thereby to brandish that same discourse as a tool for social change--still feels, like an ontological tickle, the pride of my own accomplishments, and the power of my "essential" individual agency.


Works Cited

Anonymous. "I Hate Straights." We are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics. Ed. Blasius, Mark and Shane Phelan. New York: Routledge, 1997. 773-80.

Babuscio, Jack. "Camp and the Gay Sensibility." Camp Grounds: Style and Homosexuality. Ed. David Bergman. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1993. 19-38.

Bawer, Bruce. A Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society. New York: Touchstone, 1993.

Berlant, Lauren, and Elizabeth Freeman. "Queer Nationality." Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory. Ed. Michael Warner. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1993. 193-229.

Browning, Frank. The Culture of Desire: Paradox and Perversity in Gay Lives Today. New York: Vintage, 1993.

Burns, Ken. "The Homosexual Faces a Challenge." We are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics. Ed. Blasius, Mark and Shane Phelan. New York: Routledge, 1997. 285-9.

Butler, Judith: Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Frank, Barney. Letter to the Participants of the 1993 March on Washington. A Simple Matter of Justice: Program Guide to the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Equal Rights and Liberation. 1993: 6.

"Platform of the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Equal Rights and Liberation." A Simple Matter of Justice: Program Guide to the 1993 March on Washington. 1993: 16.

Rofes, Eric. "Mobilizing for a Freedom March in 1993." Newspaper of the 1993 March on Washington. 1993: 2.

Wittman, Carl. "A Gay Manifesto." We are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics. Ed. Blasius, Mark and Shane Phelan. New York: Routledge, 1997. 380-8.


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