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That's Revolting

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That's Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation
edited by Matt Bernstein Sycamore, reading at Powell's, 1005 W Burnside, Wednesday Sept. 29, 7:30 pm

The introduction to That's Revolting disappointed me: "Of course we're enraged and depressedÉby the ways in which mainstream gay people steadily assimilate into the dominant culture that we despise," it reads. "The radical potential of queer identity lies in remaining outside--in challenging and seeking to dismantle the sickening culture that surrounds us." I know he had to find some way to paraphrase the anthology, but I found these conclusions from editor Matt Bernstein Sycamore vague and abstract, indicative of a rigid mentality shared by many of the subsequent essayists. Quite a few of the contributors have failed to resist assimilation in their own thought, and are bound to a two-valued orientation that only recognizes black and white, queer and straight, sexual liberation and sexual slavery, radical and antiquated, queer identity and assimilation. The language teeters at the heights of abstraction, and the applicability of many arguments is unclear.

For example, Rocko Bulldagger's essay "Dr. Laura, Sit On My Face" (a good title, anyway), begins as an entertaining sendoff of Dr. Laura, but disintegrates into a self-righteous polemic: "We don't just want gay marriage, we want sexual liberation where every single person can choose who, when, and how they fuck. We want that choice to be meaningful and informed." I'm not really sure what that looks like in practice--some specifics would help. The essay comes to the conclusion that "Being a threat is sexy." So what? Why should I give a damn if you feel sexy? How sexy you feel shouldn't have anything to do with Dr. Laura.

You'd be well advised to NOT assume that "liberation" and "assimilation" are logical opposites. Flexibility of mind is available to everybody, not just queers. In spite of all I've said, do not dismiss this anthology. There are plenty of entertaining, educational, and expansive essays (like Carol King on equal marriage), and it does what a good anthology should do: keeps you returning to reread the essays as the contributors' perspectives inform one another.

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