Queer working class disabled writer, artist and activist Jet Moon on togetherness at the heart of a new writing project for survivors
BY JET MOON
Today I am surprised when a new generation of LGBTIQ+ people (usually on social media) raise concerns about the word “Queer” being offensive.
I use the word Queer to describe myself. I also use Dyke, GenderQueer Femme, Pervert, Crip, Survivor, Artist, Writer. I have a lot of words and I’m happy to have them!
I grew up in another time and country where homosexuality was illegal. The first demonstrations I attended were in support of Labour MP Fran Wilde’s Homosexual Law Reform Bill in New Zealand in 1985, picketing the Salvation Army early on weekend mornings with a few friends, and later that year joining the hundreds strong march up Queen Street with other queer people and our Allies.
My hope in stating these counterpoints of “Queer” is not to create division but to note how things change over time, and how similar arguments arise again and again.
How many times I have seen marginalised groups split into smaller and smaller factions over disagreements. The heartbreaking irony being that we both yearn for connection, while expecting an unrealistically stringent similarity of ideas among our peers. Bitterly disappointed when this proves not to be the case.
Not all of the contributing writers in Playing With Fire – my peer to peer survivor writing project – would identify as queer, although many would.
When I made the call for participants, I set the specification of Women, non-binary, trans people who identify as survivors and live in the UK. With an open definition of survivorship including but not limited to surviving sexual violence, because there are many things people survive, including homophobia, racism and transphobia.
What I sought and had craved for a long time in creating this intimate space of sharing with other survivors, was a place where it was possible to be together in difference. To feel the cohesion of shared interest, experience and knowledge, without any need for uniformity.
In the workshops, attendees shared hugely different experiences and styles of writing. It was a rich and deep and moving exchange, which helped me to make sense of myself in new ways. That elasticity of the terms of belonging added to the richness; it meant we had MORE information rather than less.
The same can be said of our commissioned and guest Writers, whose contributions are gathered in our zine publication and who will read at the live online event on Saturday 24 April.
Myself, Andie Macario, Dolly Sen, Ayotomi If, Elinor Rowlands, Emem Amana, Helen Bowie, Bella Violet Quinn, Frankie Blomfeild and Nosheen Khwaja present a huge range; of memoir, confessional, hymns to the body and nature, political treatise and “THE FUCK NORMAL MANIFESTO”. Styles and topics of writing that defy easy categorisation and seem bolder and more powerful due to their contrasts against each other.
I don’t want to wrap this up in some shabby “rich tapestry” cliche, but it is where boundaries are pushed, where uncomfortable disjunctures exist that I find enough interest to want to sit for a while. To commune with others who have been similarly made to feel they don’t fit.
That after all was the original meaning of “Queer”: odd, strange. Gifted with the ability to throw the stultifyingly normal off course and to create something fresh anew. That is why I celebrate the importance of queer togetherness.
Jet Moon is a queer, working class, disabled, writer, artist and activist making politically engaged creative work often in collaboration with the LGBTIQ, kink, sex worker, disabled and survivor communities they belong to. Playing With Fire: a live reading of Survivor Writers, takes place on Saturday 24 April at 6pm, hosted by The Live Art Development Agency. Register for this free online event here. Playing with Fire is funded by Arts Council England.
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