“The work you guys do with Everyone is Gay is an on the ground, active, accessible application of queer and feminist theories. That is fucking awesome. How do you reconcile the work you do with the theory side of things which in academia can be SO theoretical, intellectual, and jargon bound that it oftentimes seems to exist more for itself rather than any real world application? As someone who struggles to bridge the gap between theoretical and practical I find this endlessly frustrating.”
- Question submitted by Anonymous
A big part of me wants to scream ‘THANK YOU FOR NOTICING.’ Another part of me wants to scream ‘WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE DO IT THO?!!’
I struggle with this because I don’t come from an academic background. At all. I just straight up don’t understand most queer and feminist theory. I do, however, understand that the world around us has a massive impact on how we see ourselves and how we treat others. That’s a life experience I chose for myself. I decided to step back and examine why I felt so grossly uncomfortable in dresses and why I felt even more uncomfortable saying I didn’t want to wear dresses. I took the time to realize that I’d spent my growing up only seeing one type of family on TV and in movies and in magazines. That’s how I realized “holy shit, of course I feel weird wanting to marry a girl, I have never even seen it HAPPEN!!” I lived so much life feeling like being a feminist was gross and embarrassing and it took year to realize that simply thinking it was embarrassing was the exact reason it was so necessary.
It’s so hard to explain. I think if you took every queer and feminist theory and broke it down, you’d realize that what’s being said is, “we all deserve the same rights. The right to love who we want, the right to dress how we want, the right to explore sexuality the way we want, the right to the same careers, the right to feel safe when we’re alone at night, the right to voice our opinions, the right to speak up when we have been disrespected, the right to live life to the fullest and not be torn down. BUT Y’ALL we don’t all have those rights and that is fucked up, so let’s talk about why and where it came from…”
I think we can all agree and I think we all wanna make a change, sometimes it’s hard to talk about with big words, though, I’ll be real.
God I LOVE this question.
Unlike Dannielle, I was heavily immersed in feminist and queer theory when we began Everyone Is Gay – I was about a third of the way through getting my queer-theory focused Masters Degree, in fact. At that point, I felt just like you, Anonymous. How in holy hell would I ever be able to take what I was reading and make it accessible? How would the things I saw happening in real-time be affected by the piles of words I was sifting through by Kristeva, Foucault, Butler, and the rest of the theory-crew? I felt at once fascinated and passionate about the way my brain was being cracked open through the readings and the class discussions and overwhelmed and distraught at how to take it outside of those classrooms.
Everyone Is Gay was the place where I learned that the brain-cracking affect of all of those theories was the exact point of those theories. I couldn’t look at a 13-year-old who was scared and angry and start with, “well, you see, gender is performative so what you are experiencing is heteronormativity (bigwordsbigwordsmorebigwords),” and then hand them a copy of Derrida. What I could do, though, was see the existence of so many of these discourses and theories in their question and in their experience, and use what I’d learned to help guide me in answering responsibly. And by responsibly I mean two things: 1. Responsible in respect to their needs (aka not sourcing Derrida on our first conversation), and 2. Responsible in respect to larger discourses that are often nearly invisible (which I had only been able to see because of reading those theories).
Somewhere in my academic journeys I learned the word praxis, which was explained to me as the place where theory meets real-world practice. It was a legit lightbulb-moment for me, where I realized OHHHH OKAY, SO I DON’T NEED TO ACTUALLY LIVE OUT THESE THEORIES VERBATIM! And, Anonymous, neither do you. In fact, if you are only living theory, then the theory does begin to exist only for itself (and for your handful of friends who will geek out with you on feminist texts). What you do is let those theories crack your brain open, over and over and over again. Geek out with your friends and dig deep with those big words if that helps you expand even further in that crazy theory-spiral. Then, give yourself permission to let it go, and to learn from the world around you just as much as you’ve learned from those theories.
I hope this helps!
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