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65 4 Gesture, Ephemera, and Queer Feeling Approaching Kevin Aviance T h i s c h apte r h a s two beginnings.1 One is a story culled from personal memory, and the other is a poem by a prominent twentieth-century North American poet. Both openings function as queer evidence: an evidence that has been queered in relation to the laws of what counts as proof. Queerness has an especially vexed relationship to evidence. Historically , evidence of queerness has been used to penalize and discipline queer desires, connections, and acts. When the historian of queer experience attempts to document a queer past, there is often a gatekeeper, representing a straight present, who will labor to invalidate the historical fact of queer lives—present, past, and future. Queerness is rarely complemented by evidence, or at least by traditional understandings of the term. The key to queering evidence, and by that I mean the ways in which we prove queerness and read queerness, is by suturing it to the concept of ephemera. Think of ephemera as trace, the remains, the things that are left, hanging in the air like a rumor. Jacques Derrida’s idea of the trace is relevant here.2 Ephemeral evidence is rarely obvious because it is needed to stand against the harsh lights of mainstream visibility and the potential tyranny of the fact. (Not that all facts are harmful, but the discourse of the fact has often cast antinormative desire as the bad object.) Ephemera are the remains that are often embedded in queer acts, in both stories we tell one another and communicative physical gestures such as the cool look of a street cruise, a lingering handshake between recent acquaintances, or the mannish strut of a particularly confident woman. In this chapter I want to approach the idea of queerness and gesture. So much can be located in the gesture. Gesture, I argue throughout this book, signals a refusal of a certain kind of finitude. Dance is an especially valuable site for ruminations on queerness and gesture. This theoretical work is anchored to a case study, a living body, a performer who is a master of 66 Gesture, Ephemera, and Queer Feeling the pose. Kevin Aviance is a mainstay of New York City’s club world. He is something of a deity in the cosmology of gay nightlife. He is paid to perform , to sing, and to move—at clubs in New York City and throughout the world. He has been flown all over North America, Europe, and Asia and has performed for devoted cognoscenti, men and women who share a global sphere of queer knowing, moving, and feeling. At the center of that international sphere of queer experience are gesture, Aviance’s resonant poses, and the force of queer ephemera. This chapter builds on and speaks to themes that animate at least three of the other contributions to the edited volume in which an earlier version of this chapter appeared.3 Like Jonathan Bollen, I look at the dance floor as a stage for queer performativity that is integral to everyday life. I am on the same page as Bollen when he considers the dance floor as space where relations between memory and content, self and other, become inextricably intertwined. Furthermore, I also align my project with Bollen’s Maurice Merleau-Ponty–inspired proposition that the dance floor increases our tolerance for embodied practices. It may do so because it demands, in the openness and closeness of relations to others, an exchange and alteration of kinesthetic experience through which we become, in a sense, less like ourselves and more like each other. In my analysis that does not mean that queers become one nation under a groove once we hit the dance floor. I am in fact interested in the persistent variables of difference and inequity that follow us from queer communities to the dance floor, but I am nonetheless interested in the ways in which a certain queer communal logic overwhelms practices of individual identity. I am also interested in the way in which the state responds to the communal becoming. To this end I consider Paul Siegel’s contribution to that aforementioned volume, “A Right to Boogie Queerly: The First Amendment on the Dance Floor,” a valuable resource for students of queer dance who wish to understand not only the social significance of queer dance but the various ways in which a repressive state apparatus counters queer movements both literal and symbolic...

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