What Makes Sustainability Queer

I think for many of our readers the use of the word "queer" in our site name and our handles on various social media venues goes without saying.  We're two seemingly female-bodied people in a romantic relationship; that is queer by most definitions of the word.  You can find dozens of definitions of the word queer, but for the sake of this discussion, I am thinking of the word in a wider understanding than in regards to gender or sexual politics.  Queer, as a pejorative or reclaimed term for an individual, indicates that one is not aligned with what society expects. A queer is at odds with the dominant culture.  David Halperin, in his book Saint Foucault, explains queer as "whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant."  Halperin is onto a definition of queer that has a wider scope than one about only sexuality and/or gender.

First though, for the sake of an example, being in a lesbian relationship makes us queer, because the majority of people in the culture are not lesbians or in lesbian relationships. We both identify as queer and choose queer as a blanket term because there are connotations with the word "lesbian" which do not correctly define our sexual and gender identities. Choosing to be queer rather than a certain label is a means of freedom of expression. No matter what you choose to do in life, folks will try to squish you into a box that already exists. To claim queerness is to defy boxes. Queerness says, I'm not really like most of you, and I am not required to explain or defend who I am.

How does this jive with sustainability? We see it fitting perfectly. If someone queer is "at odds with" the normal and the dominant, then doing so much as recycling could make you queer. The status quo for how to live in the United States is to consume as much as you can, as quickly as you can, with no regard to how your consumption is affecting anyone or anything else. It is normal to throw away anything you do not need; it is normal to take any and all prescription drugs without question; it is normal to be out of touch with nature and with your body; it is normal to base a person's worth on "what they do"; it is normal to unquestioningly do what a small collection of multinational companies tell us to do. Educated or not, it is so easy to fall into these patterns laid out in our society.

It is VERY queer to challenge these assumptions about how we should live. It is queer to live in contrast to the status quo. It is queer to recycle, to keep composting worms in the house, to spend hours a week in a kitchen garden, to try to eat no GMO and no conventionally grown vegetables (even there you can see the divide, when you choose vegetables, you choose between "conventional" and "organic", as if the inorganic practices by giant farms are "the way it's always been"). It is queer to try to replace factory produced chemical cleaning products with homemade alternatives. Is it queer to want to know what is in my food? Is it queer to want to have a waste-free existence? Is it queer to choose your clothing and household items based on where they were made and how humanely they were produced? Of course it is.

The list could go on. I think queerness begets queerness.  If I weren't gay, I may not be as inclined to go against the grain in other parts of my life. When you are born outside of the norm, it's easier to step back and look at all parts of your life. We are here to give you tools to make your lifestyle more queer, but we are also here as an indication that you can (and should) choose to be more queer. You can be as queer as you want to be. Personally, I feel all human beings are queer, they just don't know it yet. For now, though, we're focused on transforming the consumerist, disposable culture into something really queer. Kristl and I will do our best to keep you informed and to tell you about all our various queer activities so you can tag along.

This is the first time I've put my theory of queer sustainability to paper, so I'd love to hear your thoughts. I wouldn't call it fully-formed, but it is certainly a start. And those of you who have actually studied queer theory may have more insight and nuance when it comes to my interpretation. We're all in this together. We'll look forward to any comments, and thank you for reading!