A Queer Theory Approach to On Dharun Ravi, Tyler Clementi and “It Gets Better”

“So Clementi’s suicide quite predictably, occasioned a vicious Anti-Asian backlash that was replete with overdetermined notions of Asian homophobia and predictable calls to go back to your country. This is all the more ironic because they came from New Jersey.”

This is a fantastic lecture by queer theorist Jasbir Puar, where she connects the dots between the discourse of [white] gay teen suicides to problematic assumptions not only about race, class, and gender, but also bodily health, debility, and capacity,

“This is the kind of post-civil rights multicultural liberal inclusion where the sexual other is always understood is being white. And the racial other is always understood as straight.”

She also reiterates her critique of “It Gets Better” project in the Guardian as “a call to upward mobility that echoes the now discredited pull ‘yourself up by the bootstraps’ immigrant motto. Part of the outrage is rooted in the belief that things are supposed to be better, particularly for a class of white gay man […] this desire amounts to the reinstatement of white racial privilege that was lost with being gay. It gets better means you get more normal.”

The lecture is part of the series The Subtle Racializations of Sexuality: Queer Theory, the Aftermath of Colonial History, and the Late-Modern State organized by Antke Engel, Institute for Queer Theory, in cooperation with the ICI Berlin.

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