The poster series centralizes confrontational language that emphasizes the difference between sexuality and gender, the limitations of perceiving desire as compulsory and fixed, and the importance of dismissing a political narrative that implicitly suggests queerness is a problem to be scrutinized, subdued, and solved.
‘Sexuality is not determined by anatomy,’ ‘Queerness is not determined by the body’
These posters challenge a foundational undergirding the “Born This Way” narrative: the idea that biology prescribes our desires. Our designs feature (actual, published) images of comparative anatomy and, by divorcing them from their self-serious journalistic contexts and juxtaposing them with anti-determinist slogans, gesture toward how silly they are. Really? We need a reason for same-sex desire so badly that scientists spent years studying hair whorl patterns?? The impulse to find a biological origin of homosexuality echoes other, more dangerous impulses—namely, the impulse to pathologize and the impulse to find a cure. We don’t mind shaming that.
‘Gayness is not an evolutionary problem to be solved,’ ‘Not wanting to reproduce doesn’t make me a freak of nature’
‘“Queer” is an activity,’ ‘My estrogen levels aren’t what makes me a lesbian’
Maybe it’s easier to rally tolerance around a definition of “queer” as a thing someone immutably is, but this definition is pretty flawed. As sociologist Jane Ward points out, if sexuality is biologically predetermined, then why do even liberal parents worry their daughters will turn into lesbians if they get too into feminism in college? Why do they worry that allowing their kids to watch too many queer TV shows might “encourage” them to explore homosexuality? To some extent, we all know that our desires are socially-conditioned and cultivated—this doesn’t make them any less real (Jane Ward notes, Isn’t religion also a “choice”?). Acknowledging this opens up our understanding of “queerness” to include all those transgressive acts performed by people who didn’t identify as “homosexual” (let’s recall that the English word “homosexual” has only been around since the late 19th century, and that corresponding terms in other languages, such as Arabic, are even younger). If “queer” is something we do—if it’s defined by those acts we perform that resist heteronormative expectations—then suddenly our politics become much more active.
So what if queer people sometimes resist the dutiful evolutionary task of reproducing the species! Does this mean we should think of queer sex acts as Darwinian mysteries to be solved? We don’t think so. Otherwise, wouldn’t we all think of non-reproductive heterosexual sex as a species-level problem, too? We want to challenge the idea that straight people who don’t reproduce make a “choice” based on personal values, while queer people who don’t reproduce are biologically hardwired to do so. Framing queerness as the “problem” is heteronormative and pathologizing, and it denies queer people their agency.