Friday, March 6, 2015

UKIP, Queerness, and Non-Reproductivity

This week, Vice published an amazing piece about the UKIP spring conference. The whole article is worth a read – every time you think it must have exhausted the cornucopia of preposterousness, along comes another sentence like 
A leaflet that was handed out as he spoke helpfully pointed out that foreign aid is actually spent on "giving dance lessons to Africans" 
"At the risk of sounding melodramatic, let's suppose our leader was issued with a European arrest warrant for allegedly stealing a chicken from a Carrefour in France"
Before I read the article, though, I saw this image circulating in isolation.

Image: a page from a flyer. A highlighted text box states that "What the LGBT is achieving, of course, is a recruitment drive. As such people cannot reproduce their own kind, they must recruit fresh 'blood' and this is best done among children in schools, the younger the better. The Government, through Gove and Morgan, has given them carte blanche."
It's easy to laugh at the naked scaremongering – the appeal to the tired old "predatory gays" trope, the implie conflation of queerness and pedophilia, the othering language of "such people" and "the LGBT" (which, ???) – but I think it's worth devoting some attention to the focus on reproduction.

That queers cannot reproduce is, of course, an anti-queer argument of long pedigree (see what I did there?). The Catholic church has thrown most of its anti-LGBT eggs into this philosophical basket, despite the elaborate theological hoop-jumping required to maintain this position while still justifying sex between infertile hetero couples. Its demonstrable falsity notwithstanding, the non-reproductivity argument still holds powerful rhetorical sway.

Look again at the flyer's language: 
As such people cannot reproduce their own kind, they must recruit fresh 'blood' and this is best done among children
See that must, both bolded and italicized. If queerness and pedophilia are conflated, as in the popular queerphobic trope that is certainly being invoked to some extent, the fresh blood to be recruited is a rainbow army of child prey, new meat for the insatiable sexual appetites of those voraciously vampiric queers who drain the bodily fluids from each victim before tossing them aside like so much offal. On this reading, queers need fresh blood because we are going through our finite supply of single-use sex partners at a rate of knots.

Simultaneously with this subtext, though, runs a second set of implied reasons for the queer recruitment drive, and that is simply "to reproduce their own kind." If this reproduction is intended to be analogous with human reproduction in its idealized form, in which parents are assumed not to prey sexually on their own children, then presumably queers are not recruiting these young schoolchildren to be our own sex partners. Recruitment, in the minds of the anti-queer flyering brigade, is the queer version of reproduction.

Queerness is definitionally non-reproductive to the creators of this flyer. Why, then, do queers wish to reproduce their own kind? They must do it, and the reason that they must do it is that they cannot do it. Self-evidently, non-reproductivity is a defect, and reproduction is the goal. For those who subscribe to the non-reproductivity argument against queerness, there is no "why" to reproduction. It's simply what living beings do.

I can't help wondering what would happen to this discourse if it came face-to-face with Lee Edelman. Edelman (No Future, 3, 4) exhorts queers to refuse the very terms of the argument that we must reproduce our own kind:
queerness names the side of those not 'fighting for the children,' the side outside the consensus by which all politics confirms the absolute value of reproductive futurism.  [...]
Rather than rejecting, with liberal discourse, this ascription of negativity to the queer, we might, as I argue, do better to consider accepting and even embracing it.
If we're talking pure biological fact, queerness is not definitionally non-reproductive, and straightness is not definitionally productive; but that's not the argument I want to have. Frankly, I don't want to have any argument that accepts the parameters UKIP sets.