Queer Ye Queer Ye!
On Wednesday, January 26th at 5pm, CU professor Ximena Keogh Serrano hosted a “Queer Coalition” event in the Student Center at Naropa University. Keogh craft-fully led conversation regarding how to navigate the normative demands of this world and how identity and self-concept are wrongfully developed by false narratives (as told by who, and what makes them experts)? Together, the group explored concepts of the gender binary and the influence of language on society, the colors “blue and pink,” as self-constructed theories of “feminine and masculine,” the he/she assumption, labels, stories of “self” and other;” and most importantly, how and when to resist these ideals, lean into them, and continue to show up anyway.
The discussion, fueled with emotional charge and a willingness to be completely immersed in discomfort, Keogh facilitated how to strategize and operate in a normative world by “not attaching to any form of linearity,” and alternating our forms of existence as a global goal (Keogh). In order to develop one’s sense of self, there must be a practice of discomfort, in the same way one would practice meditation, or sport. Leaning in, sitting with, making the uncomfortable workable through loving-kindness and acceptance, are the types of conversations people at Naropa and CU are having in school to collaborate with those outside of school on how to create a more inclusive world.
This conversation streamed internal and external questions regarding how and why we are the way we are. The overall structure of the event revolved around ideas such as: “What guides our practices? What orients our desires? When do we enter a legitimate space in the world?” Everything we participate in is a reflection of what we’ve been taught. Space and time are products of linearity. Keogh mentions how socialization begins when we are in the womb, based on projections and assumptions from those outside of it. In referencing the dualistic framework of the world, we discussed the repercussions of engaging in an assumed binary system. Keogh points out, “With our very intonations, we are receiving and giving signals regarding something masculine and feminine.” We wear clothing “as an affirmation the gender binary” (Keogh). In this legal system, one is expected to be “registered” as male or female, all limiting categories to reflect our worth. What happens when we do not feel we belong?
Psychic damage and trauma are subtly encompassing those who have been lost in the void, or given no space…to be. Keogh claims that “the negation of speaking our own tongues is an annihilation of our identity.” The resolve? Fight. Fight for yourself. Your existence. Your identity. Nobody gets to choose to project or assume who you are. We are here to reverse the lessons we’ve been taught and develop our own individual self-concept. We are here to reclaim that which has been taken. Keogh resonates on the word “Queer,” not as an attempt to label, not as an attempt to categorize anyone in the way some might assume, but strictly “as a way to absorb the injury” (Keogh). We are here to “occupy spaces of potentiality and move beyond these impositions (which often come from privileged and unknowing places)” (Keogh). While we are often taught to fight or resist change, the one constant thing, Keogh reminds us to “constantly shift and be happy in the shifting; identify yourself outside of whatever ‘the powerful’ has identified for you.”
The lingering questions are quite personal: where do we show up in all of this? Are we replicating these things by engaging in the he/she dialect? Are our clothes representing “the aesthetic of empire? (Keogh)” As a group, we agreed that “silence is another form of harm,” and we all owe it to ourselves to fight for our existence, or to at least fight for the space to not have to know who we are. How incredible it is to have academic minds come together to discuss the “ugly,” or the shadow-side topics that this world needs to hear, see and feel. This is about inclusivity. This is about how to bridge the gaps that never should have existed in the first place. CU and Naropa aligning and allying to make a positive change through vocalization, through protest of language, through a willingness to progress and not reside with concrete principles, produces the most life-giving energy that will hopefully salvage or awaken those who have been sleeping. It is extremely difficult to lead such charged conversation, but Keogh showed up masterfully, not as an authoritative “expert,” but as a co-collaborative, humble participant of the greater exchange of knowledge.
Boulder is often a place of activity, one that presents itself as an external “go-go-go” energy. There is another form of activity, however, and it is one that is happening beneath the surface, quieter, within. There is an intellectual stimulation that balances the external, and together, shifts will continue as conversation transforms into action, and action into conversation. These conversations are not limited to academia or students or Boulder. These conversations may begin here, but it is your job to keep them going wherever you are, wherever your willingness takes you.