Queer(ing) popular music culture is a diverse field. It focuses, on the one hand, on the adjective “queer” and describes and analyzes what makes certain music queer. On the other hand, there is a strong emphasis on the verb “to queer,” on the doing, on how music culture can be made queer. Queer music is directed against not only norms concerning gender and sexuality, but also other intersectionalities correlating to the body and desire, such as disability, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and so forth. Early on, queer music culture stood for “homosexual” musicians, performances, taste, or audiences, but has now opened up toward other identities and queering practices showing the construction of identities in an interplay of dominant power mechanisms (e.g., racialization). To queer music culture is to step outside of binary normative assumptions and dichotomous thinking and to introduce more subtle in-betweens in music, which are directed against the hegemonic power structures at place in music culture and the society in general, and aim to dissolve them. Queer musical performances and how to queer music culture depend strongly on the cultural and historical context the music is placed in. Two key concepts for the analyses are the performance and performativity (repetition of performances) of gender and sexuality and other intersectional identities. Both concepts are crucial because they form the foundation of queer theory. In terms of music culture, this means that it is not only about how a musician performs their gender during a show, but also that this gendered performance needs to be repeated over time and in society. For example, members of the same audience could emulate the gendered performance of the musician in their own social life. Gender is performed and performative, as are other kinds of identities such as sexuality and other intersectionalities (race, class, age, dis/ability). Analyzing how a gender/sexuality/class/race performance is done and how it is repeated in everyday life (performativity) helps to find queer acts and gestures. In music culture this means to look at not only musical performances or at the appearance and behavior of the audience during the performance and in their daily lives, but also in doing music culture differently—hence “queering” music culture—and not corresponding to the heteronormative production and consumption scheme. This kind of “queering,” for example, happened in the Riot Grrrl movement when they produced their own labels and escaped the male-dominated studio productions. Other examples are their self-produced zines to spread queer-feminist knowledge or their DIY archives (see History of Queer(ing) Popular Music Culture), and the queering of the production/consumption scheme is also seen in the ballroom culture as explained in the following section. Further musical periods and genres will be examined critically for their queerness: blues and jazz in the early 20th century, glam rock in the 1960s and 1970s, Black hip-hop from the 1990s until now, and contemporary trans music.
African American queer cinema was born as a reaction to the AIDS/HIV epidemic as well as the blatant homophobia that existed within the Black community in the 1980s. It began with the pioneering works of queer directors Isaac Julien and Marlon Riggs and continued during the new queer cinema movement in the 1990s, particularly including the works of lesbian queer director Cheryl Dunye. However, these works were infinitesimal compared to the queer works featuring primarily White lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) protagonists during that time. That trend continues today as evidenced by looking at the highest-grossing LGBTQ films of all times: very few included any African American characters in significant roles. However, from the 1980s to the 2020s, there have been a few Black queer films that have penetrated the mainstream market and received critical acclaim, such as The Color Purple (Spielberg, 1982), Set It Off (Gary, 1996), and Moonlight (Jenkins, 2016), which won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Picture. The documentary film genre has been the most influential in exposing audiences to the experiences and voices within the African American queer communities. Since many of these films are not available for viewing at mainstream theaters, Black queer cinema is primarily accessed via various cable, video streaming, and on-demand services, like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO.
Isaac N. West
Queer perspectives in communication studies vary greatly, but they tend to share some common assumptions about the communicative force of norms, including those related to sexualities, genders, bodies, races, ethnicities, abilities, and desires. In general, queer perspectives question the legitimacy of hegemonic assumptions about bodies and sexualities, opting instead for more fluid and porous discourses and norms. Influenced by Michel Foucault’s theories about the productive and generative nature of discourses and Judith Butler’s elaboration on the performativity of identity and agency, communication studies scholars have mined queer theory for insights into our collective and individual investments in naturalized norms as well as efforts to resist them. One of the difficulties in corralling the varied meanings of “queer” into an encyclopedia entry is that it can operate as a noun, adjective, or verb, which has different implications for critics interested in its employ.
Wendy Gay Pearson
Speculative fiction, like queer, can be an umbrella term; it can cover any writing in which reality is not mimetically represented. In other words, speculative fiction is a fuzzy set whose boundaries are permeable, capacious, and capable of definition and redefinition by readers and writers alike. The set includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, the Gothic, and most or all magic realist writing. Because of its focus on spaces and times that have not (yet) happened, may never happen, and may, indeed, be impossible, speculative fiction as a supergeneric category leaves open a great deal of room for queerness in all its forms. Queer theory illuminates depictions of sexuality, gender, and their intersectionalities as they are represented in speculative fictions of all kinds. In doing so, it traces several specific queer theoretical interventions, including: questions of queer representation; histories in which queer representation has been suppressed; queer dismantling of all types of normativity; queer theorizing about intimacy, kinship, reproduction, and family; questions of posthumanism and the queering of embodiment and/through technology; and issues of queer time versus the power of chrononormativity to reinforce assumptions about linear time and “normal” life. Speculative fiction is a powerful medium for both queer readers and queer writers because it empowers narratives, characters, and/or settings that disrupt the many ways in which dominant assumptions about race, gender, and sexuality are produced by, and in turn reinforce, colonial aspirations and expectations. Some speculative fiction may be dystopian, but some speculative fiction may also read the past reparatively in order to imagine more hopeful worlds.