Why aren’t straight people arrested for sex in public? I know that they are sometimes, but I have heard stories from many people about how they were caught in the act by a police officer who just let them go home. Not usually the case if you’re queer. And Oklahoma City wants you to know that. Sixteen men were recently arrested in OK City for so-called “lewd public acts.” All in the name of keeping public places safe for the family. When queer interests conflict with family interests, the family always win.
Last night was the annual Kenneth Burke lecture on campus, and George Lakoff gave a lecture (more on this later, if I get inspired to write). Lakoff, in his books and lecture, describes how conservatives and liberals see the state as akin to a family: conservatives want an authoritarian father, liberals want a nurturing, empathetic family. I wonder if Lakoff thought to explore other frames for relationships between the state and the family. What about the father/state that shames you?1 Queer shame (shamed by those in power; you can’t be shamed by someone who doesn’t have the power to deny your dignity) has led to secrecy, to reading the “wrong stuff” late at night while the parents are asleep, to sex in public in dark parks. Many queer theorists are arguing for a queer refusal to see hope for a future in the institution of the family. What if we could get outside this state = family frame? There are certainly other frames out there (e.g., state = polis; state = collection of strangers).
1 How much do these pictures really differ from the names or pictures posted in papers in 1960s of queers arrested in public spaces, shamed in the newspapers, and then found themselves without a job when their bosses read them?