Monday, December 6, 2010

Quare Studies and Gay Hip Hop

Gay hip hop, homohop, lesbian hip hop, transgendered hip hop -- all these are the domain of, or OHH. OHH's goal

is to be the primary destination on the internet for ALL 'out' hip hop artists (and their FANS) - an all inclusive home for Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender (Male to Female AND Female to Male) artists who make ALL forms of rap and every variation of hip hop and are 'out' with their sexuality. Rappers in the closet won't touch us with a 10" pole!

This website represents a group of voices who are not widely represented by the "queer agenda" found in queer theory and mainstream queer movements. E. Patrick Johnson's in his article “Quare Studies” (blog entry on this article by Allison found here) speaks to the invisibility of people of color and working class people in these mainstream movements, particularly in queer theory. Johnson articulates a race- and gender-focused critique of queer theory which he terms 'quare' theory. He describes his theory as a "theory in the flesh:"

Theories in the flesh emphasize the diversity within and among gays, bisexuals, lesbians, and transgendered people of color while simultaneously accounting for how racism and classism affect how we experience and theorize the world. Theories in the flesh also conjoin theory and practice through an embodied politic of resistance. This politics of resistance is manifest in vernacular traditions such as performance, folklore, literature, and verbal art. (p. 127).

Out hip hop is a striking example of this "embodied politics of resistance" of which Johnson speaks which affirms the diverse experiences of queer people of color. Refusing to be closeted, these mostly black hip queer hop artists refuse to be silenced by homophobia, despite the stigmas they suffer from being out. A black lesbian artist, Lady L.U.S.T. speaks to this stigma in an interview with OHH:

I understand the internal battle that it takes to even come out to your own family, let alone the world. You literally have to be prepared to go to war for yourself and a whole community of people, this path is not for everyone.

Johnson names the place where this stigma happens through bell hooks' concept of 'homeplace' – “the one site where one [can] freely confront the issue of humanization, where one [can] resist” (hooks cited in Johnson, p. 148) – saying that

it is from homeplace that we people of color live out the contradictions of our lives.... I do not wish to romanticize this site by dismissing the homophobia that circulates within homeplace or the contempt that some of us (of all sexual orientations) have for 'home.' (p. 148-149).

Homeplace represents the unique experience of black family and community in which queer black people must deal with their identities and homophobia. It is in this space that Lady L.U.S.T. finds she must fight in order to defend her queer identity. And yet it is through hip hop, a product of what Johnson calls African American vernacular tradition, which she expresses and empowers her marginalized identity.

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