Karl Marx wrote a workers' manifesto; Betty Friedan wrote of the housewife's discontent. Communist thought was originated by a white man who never worked a day in his life; second-wave feminism was originated by an established leftist radical. Similarly, queer identity has been viewed as a primarily Western construction. Are the histories of our theories as important as their uses?
In Queer Marxism in Two Chinas, Petrus Liu problematizes the narrative of globalization, homonormativity and neoliberalism that dominates the study of sexuality. This "postsocialist" discourse minimizes the role that postwar communism played in shaping conceptions of sexuality unique to China and Chinese cultures. Though he only discusses these issues in relation to the mainland and Taiwan as a means of "historicizing the implications of their coexistence for queer practice" (4), Liu offers an alternative framework for defining sexual political consciousness in a "non-Western" context. Rather than positioning Chinese queerness as an imperfect carbon copy of the "original" gay liberation of the West (thus obscuring China's own history and agency in the development of its sexual politics), Liu pushes us to examine the interiority of our cultures and the theories forged within them.
I had the opportunity to present my research at the 2017 National Council on Public History Conference this past week. This was my first experience meeting and interacting with public history professionals outside of Philadelphia. It was a wonderful experience listening to, learning from, and networking with individuals from a variety of disciplines and specialties. I got to connect with other students ("Out to Lunch – Grad Student Edition"), LGBT historians ("Dine Around: Presenting LGBTQ History"), and people of color (Diversity Task Force Roundtable).
When it came time to present my project, I found that the comments and questions of the people who visited my poster echoed common contemporary conceptions of gayness. Most notably, remarks on the gender demographics of early queer activists predominated. This observation (that the most visible activists of the time were men), while very accurate, is informed by a continued resistance to androcentric historical narratives – something with which we must still contend. In fact, 2017 NCPH attendees' identification of this issue touches on a larger question; could we, in fact, view the origination of queer activism by men as "the root of all evil" – a major part of the reason why women have been sidelined in our histories and continue to be, rather than the circumstances of our past merely mirroring those of our present?
"Land is at a premium, and cemetery plot prices are skyrocketing." Last week, as we burned joss for Qingming ("Chinese Memorial Day"), my Kai Ma made a passing remark about Hong Kong's land shortage. I was reminded of when we found that the hillside shantytown where my father had grown up had completely vanished. In its stead, on the newly razed land, now stand towers of luxury condominiums (which no doubt contribute to the "wall effect").
Then, this article popped up in my feed: "Hong Kong LGBTQ groups ‘reluctantly’ support gov’t columbaria bill." In Hong Kong, only relatives, “authorised persons,” and interment right holders can claim the ashes of a deceased individual. However, last December, over thirty LGBT organizations requested that a new bill include "related persons" – defined as those who were "living with the deceased in the same household for at least two years." The government agreed, but relatives will still be given priority over “related persons.” One politician subsequently suggested that the definition of "relatives" be expanded to include same-sex partners in a marriage, civil partnership, or civil union (from overseas jurisdictions, of course). The government declined, citing that such changes would “arouse serious controversy in society" and that the bill was not an appropriate "forum" through which to address the issue.