You won’t find it in Google Maps and googling about the old way will not get you near it, but Queeristan really does exist. Last weekend it fitted inside the walls of an Amsterdam squat and was described as a weekend of discussion about queer politics, a Queer Pride March and a queer party. LOVER was there: one of our editors served a panel discussion, her alter ego did a performance, a LOVER ambassador presented the saturday afternoon and LOVER’s web-editor watched it all to present you with an impression.
Allthough we have been able to locate Queeristan more or less, it seems impossible to trace its boundaries. The strongest point of ‘queer’ as a concept is its refusal to be defined. It appears to be inclusive to all and is most outspoken in one thing: all forms of exclusion need to be criticised. This was visible rightaway in the rich and colourful diversity of its visitors. Of course the anarchist squatters in their classic punk outfits instantly met the eye, but they mingled perfectly with the academics, artists, journalists, cleaning-women and whoever else.
So it seemed something of a paradox to discuss the world as a system of –isms, -phobia’s and –normativities. But the boards that showed the program made it clear that this was what it was about. I attended the workshop ‘Sexism and Transphobia’. Our editor Sanne Koevoets opened it with a statement out of which I take the liberty to quote:
"Sexism I take to mean the effect of the way gender is constructed as a system of to opposing poles (namely masculinity and femininity), where one pole appears as inferior to the other. Feminism is the movement which has struggled to undo some of this disbalance, and has therefore raised many questions as to where the disbalance stems from and how we can move beyond it."
She continued pointing out how the struggle of feminism had frequently based it’s solidarity on the oppositions implicated by the concept of patriarchy and launched the question:
"But how, then, can the movement relate to women who are not primarily different only from men, but also from other women? How do we relate to men who were not born into the privilege of heteronormative masculinity? And how do we relate to people who experience their gender differently, outside of the confines of the two-gender system? People who are in between, or neither one nor the other?
It is here where the danger of transphobia lurks. In our attempts to establish a strong sense of solidarity, feminists must be careful not to mobilize other norms, such as heteronormativity, cisnormativity or white normativity. When speaking about power, feminism must remain open to the many ways in which different, related systems of power operate on the lives of people, without becoming divisive. It is the challenge of feminism to remain open to the many differences between people, without turning to relativism."
The discussion went on in smaller groups and it focused on transphobia in our own circles. What struck me most was the assumption that seemed to exist that trans people were meant to be in some sort of frontline when it came to undermining traditional norms and expectations about gender. My question as to how a heterosexual transwoman would fit into this picture caused some confusion: what sex was such a person attracted to then? Well, .... eh, .... men, perhaps? Meanwhile I myself primarily saw a bunch of people that had taught me there are 10.001 ways to be woman, man or differently gendered ánd solidary as well.
I missed what is said to be the best queer party in quite some years and when the ‘queeristani’ went marching about the streets and danced on Dam Square I wasn’t around. But I have a treasurable souvenir from Queeristan.