Introduction: While the contemporary civil rights movement claims that homosexuality is innocent and ordinary, fearsome notions of queer people persist. Exploring the stereotypes and archetypes associated with queer is a way to amplify our difference, and claim our power.
Water: Water is the quintessential queer element. Like water we have no beginning and no end.
The River: Queer people swim against the current. Through this salmon’s journey, we make our home in the world.
Fluidity: Although homosexuality has been endlessly scrutinized and interrogated, queer identity remains open and fluid. Perhaps everyone has the capacity for homosexuality, but few have the courage.
The Sea: Being queer means posing an alternative to the sex-gender system. We refuse its processes and values.
Surfaces: Jacques Lacan describes the mirror-phase as formative of self-consciousness – an initial misrecognition that comes to characterize the ego. While loving someone of the opposite sex reinforces this misrecognition, those who love someone of the same sex can develop a different kind of self-consciousness.
The Aquifer: Becoming queer is an archetypal journey underground, beneath the surface of things.
Slime: The psychological and social processes of domination, disavowal and wounding create a Self-Other binary for white Western man. As the despised Other inside the dream of whiteness, homosexuality can be a site of resistance to the reproduction of racism.
Earth: Earth is soil, dark mystery, the energy and complexity of wildness. Earth is the woman we love, when we are lesbians.
Wildness: While family binds us to service, friendship carries us out of the city and away from the marketplace, into the wild.
Dirt: “Unnatural” is the most common invective hurled at us by the homophobes. Yet careful observation of nature yields a different world than the homophobe imagines. The wild is exuberant, polysexual, emotionally complex and culturally intricate.
Money: Same-sex passion has always existed, throughout history and throughout nature, but the possibility and promise of being queer has never been so thrilling as it is today. 21st Century capitalist culture affords queer people unprecedented capacities to create new modes of thought and ways of life.
Family: In each queer person there is a spirit that cannot shine in the dead forms and obligatory gestures of nuclear family life.
Darkness: We undermine the psychic space of both whiteness and heterosexuality when we eschew normalcy, and embrace the darkest aspects of self and world.
The Mother and the Maid: Every lesbian relationship engages the Demeter-Kore archetype. The Maid and the Mother invite us to the full dimensions of our lives.
The Tree God: The Tree God is a symbol that is male and female, mortal and immortal, powerful and vulnerable. As contemporary representations of this ancient archetype, queers suffer the scapegoating, and carry the possibility of healing.
Air: Gay is frivolity and laughter. Air is the language that conceives us, and the silence in which we disappear.
Laughter: Trickster, Clown and Fool – these images are powerful and shaping presences in the lives of queers, and in the stereotypes that oppress us.
Innocence: We can honor the polymorphous perversity that curiously belongs to the deepest innocence. Purity of heart, playfulness, trust and openness are pathways to defilement, self acceptance, and integration of the shadow.
Effeminacy: Effeminacy evokes the recuperation of anal eroticism, and the corresponding penetration and violation of phallic masculinity.
Annunciation: We know in our bones the deadly effects of silence. Yet the silence surrounding homosexual identity also carries its gifts.
Sky God: The sky god of Judeo-Christian tradition hates and punishes homosexuality. Being queer, we are called to enter a gigantic imagination of god.
Fire: Fire is passion, suffering and danger. We grieve until we are ready to erupt in flames.
Suffering: Even as we fight against the violence that threatens us, we can use suffering as a guide to claiming full lives and authentic relationships.
Rage: Time after time, queers relinquish their rage, and greet homophobia with gentleness, acceptance and love. When we are furious, we are empowered by the great lesbian goddesses of Death and Destruction.
Sex: Sex turns us upside down and inside out, erasing certainties and separations. No matter how ordinary and obedient our personal sexual choices, we can enjoy the ways in which homosexuality is identified with sexual transgression.
Pedophilia:The notion of childhood innocence has possessed our culture like an evil demon. The sexual exploitation of children is only possible when they are as trapped, abject and dependent. Homosexuality invites us to work for the empowerment of youth.
Danger: Queers can be deprived of the requisite components of moral agency: a sense of self, and a sense of community. We can be de-moralized, or we can go through the fire to a deeply ethical – yet radically open – way of living in the world.
Space: To be homosexual is to have no space; inextricable with the notion of homosexuality is its exclusion from both private and public realms. Queer liberation is tied to spatial claims, and expressed in spatial metaphors.
Another Country: We dream of another country, where being queer can characterize our lives. In private homes, queer people find many ways to approximate this Utopia.
Environments: Homosexuality invites us to see that nature is not something separate and distant we can either exploit or protect. We find a kinship with all life, while we see and celebrate strangeness in the world and in ourselves.
Absence: As homosexuality becomes increasingly visible in the culture, it is increasingly absent from same-sex relationships. “Absent homosexuality” continually manages the possibility of same-sex eroticism, confining it ghettoized enclaves and pathologized persons.
The Body: In the mechanistic world-view of modern science, questions about the meaning of life are answered by the body’s reproductive functions. Queer bodies are anomalies, mysteries and metaphors.
Placemaking: Queer space is no sooner built up than it disappears: ghettoized, annihilated by violence, overwhelmed by the vast and overwhelming silence of heteronormative thinking. Being queer means we are continually engaged in building a place for both self and community.
Limits: If we aspire only to tolerance and integration, the mythic journey we bid the world to undertake will stop before it begins. Being queer will only find its limit when the world is queered.
Stereotypes, Archetypes and Activism: If we attend to homophobic stereotypes, we see that queer is not and cannot be made unimportant. As activists, we can only choose whether or not we embrace and use its importance. We can seek acceptance through representations that affect a disavowal of homosexual meanings. Or we can use queer as a space of agency and a form of power.