What does it means to be queer in the world of gardening, and more specifically, (urban) farming?
The question has been on this queer lady’s mind since I heard about the Queer Farmer Film Project some time ago. Does queer farming look the same? Act the same? Is it done for the same reasons? The Project is coming to Seattle (Feb.15th) and I am really excited to attend and find out more. While I have similar questions for more rural queer farms/farming, my curiosity is primarily urban based.
Queer? What does that even mean you ask? Why not just say gay or lesbian or LGBT or LGBTQITS? Round up 100 queers and you’d get (roughly) 217 different reasons. So, for a decent explanation I made a visit to our dear friend wikipedia:
…queer has sociopolitical connotations, and is often preferred by those who are activists, by those who strongly reject traditional gender identities, by those who reject distinct sexual identities such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight, and by those who see themselves as oppressed by the heteronormativity of the larger culture.
For some queer-identified people, part of the point of the term ‘queer’ is that it simultaneously builds up and tears down boundaries of identity….For some people, the non-specificity of the term is liberating. Queerness becomes a way to simultaneously make a political move against heteronormativity while simultaneously refusing to engage in traditional essentialist identity politics.
Merriam-Webster defines queer as “differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal.“
Urban Dictionary has 39 definitions. One defines queer as “once a pejorative, now a reappropriated term used by those who are attempting to dismantle the gay/straight binary and replace it with the idea that human sexuality is less an ‘either/or’ thing and more a spectrum onto which people fall in many different places.”
Jennifer Self summed queer up as “a term full of potential. It is such a contested term folks can’t really co-opt it, own it or solidly define it. And, it is constantly in motion and hard to pin down, which is part of its beauty.“
There you have it. Queer 101. With me so far? Good. Then let’s proceed shall we?
Identity, Oppression & Privilege (oh my!)
My interest in social justice and liberation politics stem from both my oppressed & privileged statuses. To name a few: I was raised middle class. I’m white. Able-bodied. College-educated. Employed. Well-traveled. A home-owner. And, I’m a woman. I’m non-Christian. And I’m queer.
Queerness is but one marginalized identity– people often hold multiple oppressed identities that intersect. Racism, classism and sexism run rampant. The intersection of multiple oppressions has been written about by lots & lots of super smart people.
In “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer?” Cathy Cohen (1997) expands our understanding of queerness: ”At the intersection of oppression and resistance lies the radical potential of queerness to challenge and bring together all those deemed marginal and all those committed to liberatory politics.“
Queerness is my politic.
Queering the Urban Farm
The scene: A person in their yard likely pruning tomatoes, picking at some weeds, sniffing rosemary or trellising some unruly beans. Perhaps picking strawberries with toddler.
At first glance you might just see a person growing a bit of food.
Look a bit deeper and you’ll see active engagement in building community/family around food & food issues.
However, what is at the core of my gardening is my queerness. My queer politic around urban farming is one of resistance. By tearing out my lawn and replacing it with space for food production, I am resisting. By purchasing non-GMO, non-Monsanto, heirloom seeds: I am resisting. By refusing to use chemicals, I am resisting. By sharing knowledge, seeds, tools and skills: I am resisting. By growing enough food to eat, preserve and share: I am resisting. By engaging in local food justice projects, I am resisting. Resisting the agro-industrial complex. Resisting systems that multiply oppress. So, while I grow, I also resist. See?
Grow and Resist.