Sometimes the most interesting parts of seminars are the heated discussions that rise up, even when they move away from the topic at hand. During the first day of the seminar, there were already several discussions that leave more questions than they give answers. But the questions themselves are maybe more important than answers because they point out the issues that we tend to assume and not think about it.
Language. The issue of language was coming up all the time. First, as there are genderqueer people at the seminar, the issue presents itself in the ways of thinking and talking about them and to them. Every one of us has at least two languages which have different ways of relating to gender and sexuality, and it adds to the confusion.
But the most important thing is the language used in politics and activism, and in the law, as it defines people and practices which are or are not protected from discrimination, which are or are not allowed, and so on. For now, language is very much about putting people into boxes: men and women, straight and gay and bi and trans, and as more and more boxes appear, it all becomes very confusing. In the ideal world, we would not need such boxes, everybody would be just themselves, without definitions which divide people. There was a discussion of whether we need those boxes as a temporary measure to achieve equality for all, or we should stop using them right now and work on the equality for everyone regardless of what boxes they can be put into.
Even in the LGBTQI community itself there is a lot of debates about who is and isn’t included, whose rights should we fight for and in what order. Sometimes it all comes down to definitions and labels. At the same time, the political process needs labels to work with certain groups, but labels are at the same time defining the ways the process goes.
Understanding of sex. The question of how we define sexual activity, and what activities we define as acceptable or not acceptable, was appearing in the discussion all the time. It is actually quite an interesting topic for queer community because in the society, sex I mostly defined by heteronormative culture and procreation, so the only definite kind of sex is penetrative vaginal sex between a man and a women, and all other kinds are either ‘not quite sex’ or ‘perverted’. It is also very much steeped in the patriarchal culture and thus, has a lot of connotation of power and violence, and hierarchy. While queer people have to invent their own sexual practices and definitions, they are often linked to the heteronormative understanding of sex in some ways.
The understanding of sex comes into question in relation to many issues raised during discussions. For example, is commercial sex (as in prostitution and pornography) a right or a wrong kind of sex? Can sexual activity be sold as a service without it being degrading and without supporting the patriarchy?
There was also an interesting issue of sexual relations with minors. How do we define the age of sexual consent? How do we decide that a young person is or is not able to make decisions about their sexual choices and activities? How does it correlate with the appearance and understanding of sexual and/or romantic desires? Those questions need answers, and the whole issue is in dire need of definitions and understanding.
Queer and political. We started by talking about the cooperation between green and LGBTQ organizations, where there are sometimes problems with mutual support being not quite mutual, and so on. The thing is, being queer isn’t by itself a political statement (at least for the majority of queer people), it’s an identity that should be private but is made public by being opposed, limited and discriminated against. So while queer rights are a political issue, and their protection can be part or political program of any party or organization, we can’t include support of any political party or movement as part of LGBTQ political program or statement. Some of LGBTQ organizations can choose to support some of the political parties or movements, but the queer rights movement in itself can’t be supporting any political programs because it consists of people with very diverse views and political alignments.