“Why are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots (AK Press Publishing) is an emergency intervention. It’s also a deeply personal project for me. As a genderqueer faggot and a queen with a certain amount of notoriety, I find myself incredibly inspired by the politics and potentials of trans, genderqueer, and gender-defiant subcultures. Simultaneously I find myself less and less hopeful in the male sexual spaces I also inhabit. I wonder: if the desire I hold dear has only led to a product-driven sexual marketplace, what are the possibilities for transformation?” Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s introduction to this important anthology indicates its logical progression from her two previous compilations, That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation and Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity. Bernstein (who favors feminine pronouns) having been involved in ACT UP, Fed Up Queers, and Gay Shame, is one of our most outspoken queer critics, having authored two experimental novels and edited two additional anthologies.

The 29 personal essays offer a refreshingly heterogeneous antidote to the pervasive subcultural norms, an attempt to subvert the idea that “…the intoxicating visions of gay liberation have given way to an obsession with beauty myth consumer norms, mandatory masculinity, objectification without appreciation, and a relentless drive to police the borders.”

Collected from across a continua of class, age, race, gender, sex, and geography, these academics and activists, professionals and students–for whom the personal is political and vice versa–raise their voices in complicated and varied attempts to problematize and deconstruct the assorted issues related to homophobia (externalized and internalized).

George Ayala and Patrick “Pato” Hebert concur that HIV/AIDS work often identifies the “disregard for gay men’s feelings and for how gay men have sex and how gay men inhabit their bodies and what sexuality might mean across cultures.” They posit that a more effect response would benefit from a “more frontal and honest and critical conversation about the hatred of queer men, including our fears of one another.”

Several pieces condemn the contradictory power of the Internet: “The Internet is a viral contagion slowly deteriorating the flesh of our community; no one will really meet with others anymore, no one will really infect anyone but himself,” writes Francisco Ibáñez-Carrasco in “Rehab for the Unrepentant.”

The contributors more frequently pose provocative questions than positing definitive responses. In “I’ll Tell You What I Want,” Harris Kornstein confesses, “…that in many ways I still lack a sense of knowledge and confidence in how to interact with other fags, especially when it comes to negotiating the sticky boundaries between friendship and sex.”

Knowing the age of the participants and/or time period of the events being described might have helped contextualize some of the pieces, which include both contemporary and historical perspectives. In “Appearances and All That” Tommi Avicolli Mecca masterfully situates a 1974 sexual encounter: “Queens knew better. We lived on the outskirts. We saw things that other people didn’t see… We watched the parade of gender-obsessed people in the world with amusement. We knew it was all more complicated than dreamed of in anyone’s philosophy, even our own.”

 

Why are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots?
Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform

Edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
AK Press Publishing
Paperback, 9781849350884, 207pp
February 2012



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  • Ron Fritsch

2 Responses to “‘Why are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform’ edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore”

  1. Gregory Henry 17 February 2012 at 11:25 AM #

    I love Mattilda.


  2. Steve Susoyev 3 March 2012 at 4:29 AM #

    Beautiful review, Jim. Thank you for the touching personal note. A generation ago, Harry Hay observed that “We pulled the ugly green frog skin of heterosexual conformity over us, and that’s how we got through school with a full set of teeth.” These essays provoke us to question our devotion to causes like the defeat of DOMA and DADT: If our highest priorities are access to the patriarchal institution of marriage and participation in the international killing machine of the U.S. military, what have we forfeited?



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