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175 5. REMEMBERING A NEW QUEER POLITICS Ideals in the Aftermath of Identity Idealizing Loss The previous chapter showed how appeals to the future risk unremembering the past. This chapter turns to the converse: how memories of loss sited in the past may become occasions for the invention of idealistic futures. We turn here to visual texts—art by Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Delmas Howe, Miguel Arteta’s 2000 film Chuck & Buck, and Alexandra Juhasz’s 2005 “Video Remains”—to analyze how ruminations on loss may become powerful means to articulate and defend particular social ideals. Our analysis places memory at the vanguard of a politics of ideality, a creative and forward-looking process that continues the social, political, and sexual idealizations that make the imaginative innovations of queer world-making possible. Exemplifying the vital relationship between loss and idealism, Charley Shively, at the conclusion of his 1974 manifesto “Indiscriminate Promiscuity as an Act of Revolution,” presented what at first appears a troubling paradox: I think this may be my own greatest fantasy and fear—that of loss and abandonment. I’ve always worried about loss, what happens when the 176 Remembering a New Queer Politics lover goes away, what if he leaves me, where then will I be. Such fear leads one to shut off, to be closed to loving, to protect oneself for fear of being wounded. And even coming to love the wound too deeply. Doubtless my own fantasy is my own particular one and cannot be exactly imposed on others, certainly not all faggots nor all society. Yet, I offer my humble solution, Indiscriminate Promiscuity, and wonder if it wouldn’t allow for a society in which each person could be free to provide for themselves without dependency. (263) That one might feel fear in the face of losing something or someone one loves, of experiencing a deep sense of abandonment and grief, and of accommodating oneself to that experience to the point of “loving the wound” is not surprising. What makes Shively’s confession startling is how quickly he moves between loss and fantasy, even suggesting that loss leads to fantasy. What is gained from fantasizing loss? What pleasures attend the translation of fear into fantasy? One answer to these questions can be surmised from Shively’s conclusion, which shifts from grievous loss to an idealistic vision of a free society of citizens made self-sufficient through indiscriminate promiscuity. For Shively, paradoxical as it may seem, loss does not derive from a utopian idealism that is necessarily fated to fail and therefore must lead to disheartening loss; rather, loss precedes and generates vision. This chapter explores that counterintuitive causality. First, however, we want to foreground another paradox implied by the joining of loss and fantasy. To put it simply, loss implies experience, while fantasy implies the absence of that experience. Although Shively presumably experienced the pleasures he fears losing, the ideal that loss generates (of a free and self-sufficient society) has yet to be experienced. This is sensible enough, so long as loss and fantasy remain temporally distinct, one rooted in the past, the other in the future. What happens, though, when both are fused in the present, as they seem to be for Shively? When loss becomes simultaneous with fantasy, memory and idealism merge, suggesting that idealism may arise from traces of past experience, yes, but also that memory might arise from a projective imagination rather than from a recollected past. In other words, one need not have experienced an ideal in order to “remember” it or to craft memories that transmit and safeguard ideals. Or to quote Greta Garbo in the title role of the 1933 camp classic Queen Christina, “It is possible to feel nostalgia for a place one has never seen.”1 By the same token, if one conceives memory as a Remembering a New Queer Politics 177 progressive and inventive articulation of yearning rather than as a naïve effort at transparent recuperation, one can feel nostalgia for a time through which one has not lived. Memory unyoked from experience and reattached to imaginative idealism lies at the heart of Patrick Moore’s 2004 study of gay life “before” and “after” AIDS. Moore contends, as we have, that shame over sexual memories of the past has led gay culture to a “dissociated assimilation that excludes all except those leading the most traditional of lives” (Beyond Shame, xxvii). Because shame “defines our view of a sexual past that segued into AIDS...


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