Queering Intersectionality

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Title: Queering Intersectionality Practical Politics and Southerners On New Ground
Physical Description: 1 online resource (98 p.)
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2011


Women's Studies -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Women's Studies thesis, M.A.
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Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis aims to generate knowledge and discussion about the state of queer activism in the United States by detailing current practices in queer intersectional community organizing. Although feminist scholars and activists theorize the importance of intersectionality, little is known about the practical implementation of intersectional political work. Even less research focuses on groups whose work is based in a framework of ?queer politics.? This thesis contributes to our understanding of how contemporary social movement work that addresses the intersections of identity is done by Southern people who think of themselves as LGBTQ and who take a queer, or non-normative approach. This study focuses on the group Southerners on New Ground (SONG), a sixteen year old organization working to build, connect, and nurture Southern individuals who believe in liberation across all lines of race, class, culture, gender and sexuality. Informed by queer theory and social movement theory about gender, I use participant observation, interviews and textual analysis to trace the collective action frames and organizing philosophies of this self-identified queer group?s intersectional work. This examination identifies distinct and promising strengths of the group?s work outlined through the concept of a coalitional political logic. This logic, defined by and practiced through queer notions of ?whole selves?, self-sovereignty, counterpublics, and utopian longing, allows for the successful practice of intersectionality where other groups have struggled.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by SARAH M STEELE.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2011.
Local: Adviser: Broad, Kendal L.

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Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2011
System ID: UFE0043001:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0043001/00001

Material Information

Title: Queering Intersectionality Practical Politics and Southerners On New Ground
Physical Description: 1 online resource (98 p.)
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2011


Women's Studies -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Women's Studies thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis aims to generate knowledge and discussion about the state of queer activism in the United States by detailing current practices in queer intersectional community organizing. Although feminist scholars and activists theorize the importance of intersectionality, little is known about the practical implementation of intersectional political work. Even less research focuses on groups whose work is based in a framework of ?queer politics.? This thesis contributes to our understanding of how contemporary social movement work that addresses the intersections of identity is done by Southern people who think of themselves as LGBTQ and who take a queer, or non-normative approach. This study focuses on the group Southerners on New Ground (SONG), a sixteen year old organization working to build, connect, and nurture Southern individuals who believe in liberation across all lines of race, class, culture, gender and sexuality. Informed by queer theory and social movement theory about gender, I use participant observation, interviews and textual analysis to trace the collective action frames and organizing philosophies of this self-identified queer group?s intersectional work. This examination identifies distinct and promising strengths of the group?s work outlined through the concept of a coalitional political logic. This logic, defined by and practiced through queer notions of ?whole selves?, self-sovereignty, counterpublics, and utopian longing, allows for the successful practice of intersectionality where other groups have struggled.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by SARAH M STEELE.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2011.
Local: Adviser: Broad, Kendal L.

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Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
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2 2011 Sarah M. Steele


3 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This thesis would not have been possible without the fundamental assistance of Dr. Kendal Broad She provided guidance through every step of this project and this work is indefinitely better because of her support. For me, Dr. Broad is an inspiration of what good teaching and mentorship can be. Thank you Dr. Kim Emery and Dr. Milagros Pea for serving on my committee and offering me your time and knowledge I am extremely grateful for your thoughtful comments and critiques. Having such an am azing committee of scholars help me with my work is an honor I n addition, I would like to thank Dr. Judith Page, Donna Tuckey, and the Center Studies and Gender Research. Your support during my time as a graduate student made much of this research possible and truly enjoyable I am also extremely grateful to my friends in POSSSE. Your encouragement, insight, and honesty have supported my work throughout this e ntire process. Thank you. Finally, I would like to thank two of the many amazing women in my life, Laurel Hill and Jessica Steele. Thank you for always supporting me and pushing me to be my very best.


4 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 3 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 6 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 8 2 METHODOLOGY ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 17 3 QUEERING OF IDENTITY POLITICS ................................ ................................ .... 24 Identity Construction in Social Movements ................................ ............................. 24 ................................ ................................ ................ 31 Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 36 4 COALITIONAL POLITICAL LOGIC ................................ ................................ ......... 38 Political Logic ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 38 ................................ ................................ .......... 42 ................................ ............ 42 ................................ ................................ ...... 44 .................. 49 Coalitional History ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 59 Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 63 5 PERFORMING UTOPIA: QUEER COUNTERPUBLICS AND SOUTHERNERS ON NEW GROUND ................................ ................................ ................................ 65 Counterpublics ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 65 The Need for Queer Counterpublics ................................ ................................ ....... 69 The CampOut as Queer Counterpublic ................................ ................................ .. 70 Envisioning Queer Utopia Through Counterpublics ................................ ................ 73 Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 77 6 CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 79 Queering Interse ctionality ................................ ................................ ....................... 79 Further Research ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 84 APPENDIX A INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPLICATION (REVISED) ............................ 86


5 B INFORMED CONSENT FORM (REVISED) ................................ ............................ 90 C CAMPOUT ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 92 BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 94 BIOGRAPHICAL SKE TCH ................................ ................................ ............................ 98


6 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts QUEERING INTERSECTIONALITY: PRACTICAL POLITICS AND SOUTHERNERS ON NEW GROUND By Sarah M. Steele May 2011 Chair: Kendal Broad Wright Major: This thesis aims to generate knowledge and discussion about the state of queer activism in the United States by detailing current practices in queer intersectional community organizing. Although feminist scholars and activists theorize the importance of intersectionality, little is known about the practical implementation of intersectional political work. Even less research focuses on groups whose work is based in a This thesis contributes to our understanding of how contemporary social movement work that addresses the interse ctions of identity is done by Southern people who think of themselves as LGBTQ and who take a queer, or non normative approach. This study focuses on the group Southerners on New Ground (SONG), a sixteen year old organization working to build, connect, an d nurture Southern individuals who believe in liberation across all lines of race, class, culture, gender and sexuality. Informed by queer theory and social movement theory about gender, I use participant observation, interviews and textual analysis to tr ace the collective action frames and organizing philosophies of this self intersectional work. This examination identifies distinct and promising strengths of the l logic. This logic,


7 sovereignty, counterpublics, and utopian longing, allows for the successful practice of intersectionality where other groups have struggled.


8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTI ON I began this study interested in examining political work that was based in the strategy and ideology of community organizing Community organizing generates long lasting power by increasing direct representation and fostering social reform. While th e study of social movements is vast and extremely variable, little research looks specifically at the relationship between gender, sexuality, and community organizing. Rather than thinking of community geographically, but instead as a group of people with some commonality, I began to seek out groups who organized around issues of sexuality This choice was based on my particular interest in the relationship of gender and sexuality to social movements Scholarship in these areas often looks at the gendered nature of traditional social movements and/or the mainstream Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) movement. While scholarship certainly exists on Queer Movements, it is less common and l argely focuses on movements in the United ideological challenges posed by queer social movement actors to ward the mainstream Gay and Lesbian Movement continue to be relevant today I was interested in w hat a c urrent queer politic looks like; particularly one that enlists community organizing as a strategy. Examining scholarsh ip on queer social movements le d me to the work of Jane Ward. In her book Respectably Queer (2008), Ward offers a look at queer activists in Los Angeles and their relationship to neoliberal 1 ideas of difference and diversity. Ward theorized the increased requirement among non profit organizations to measure 1 LGBTQ social movements towards rights based strategies of inclusion and political representation. See Duggan, 2003 for a full discussion of United Sta tes neoliberalism.


9 diversity and categorize difference in a way that was incongruent with id eas of queer resistance. This contemporary look at queer movements provides an interesting examination of one aspect of the current political queer climate. Building on her work in Respectably Queer (2008) and the work of other social movement scholars, Ward collaborated with Rachel E. Luft, to produce, Toward an Intersectionality Just Out of Reach: Confronting Challenges to Intersectional Practice (2009) This article examines the practical implementation of feminist intersectionality across institution al and grassroots social movements. Luft and Ward identify and explain five challenges to intersectional practice including misidentification, appropriation, institutionalization, reification, and operationalization (Luft & Ward 2009) T he practicality of intersectionality seems particularly pertinent to the ideology of both queer work and community organizing. Given the challenges outlined by Luft and Ward I was interested in examining how intersectionality was practically working, or not working, for contemporary queer community organizers. Through this process, I discovered Southerners On New Ground (SONG) and their work on intersectional queer community organizing. Founded in 1993, SONG is a 16 year old Southern regional org anization working to b uild, connect, and nurture Southern individual s who believe in liber across all lines of race, class, abilities, age, culture, (S.O.N.G. About SONG, 2011) SONG is a membership based organization that consists of working class, people of color, immigrants, and rural LGBTQ people Ibid) Two co directors currently run the organization, which has a physical office in Atlanta, Georgia and a strong affiliate program in D urham, North Carolina. Southerners On New Ground is a 501(c)3 non profit organization funded


10 through membership dues (starting at a $15 sliding scale annual membership), fundraising events, and by grants from foundations. SONG currently has over 700 mem bers who they describe as rooted in southern traditions like non violent social justice activism, storytelling, music, (DonateNow, 2011) This unique group of individuals working for social change provides the basis for this study. Grounded in feminist methodology, my work aims to examine, through the words of the organization and its parti cipants, the queer social movement work of Southerners On New Ground Hopefully, this study will con tribute to our understanding of how community organizing work that practically implements intersectionality is done by people who think of themselves as le sbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or allies (LGBTQA). Further, this look at a contemporary social movement organization helps inform our understanding of why these queer movement actors work to challenge neo liberal politics and envision a differen t future. My research methodology and involvement with th e group is outlined in Chapter 2 Using mixed methods that include participant observation, interviews, and textual analysis I examine the wo rk of SONG Three main themes emerged from my data and are examined in Chapters 3 5 In C hapter 3 I ground my discussion of the first theme in social movement scholarship about the concept of collective identity. Beginning with the Gay and Lesbian Movement, I look at how scholars theorize the formation and use of identity in LGBT social movement work. Queer social movements, which are often mar ked by their opposition to the larger Gay and Lesbian movement, critique and challenge the


11 essentialist nature of an identity based political logic. This critique remains relevant today and can be examined through the work of SONG. As a queer organizatio n, SONG values a fluidity and right to self determination similar to historical Queer Movement actors. They however offer a new way to envision sexual identity through promotes gender and sexual self SONG, allows for a fluidity that speaks to the unstable, or queer, nature of identities. People should and can identify as they choose, when they choose and no identity is privileged within the organization. SONG goes further to explain that all parts of a issues of oppression. Shared concerns and experiences with these larger system s link people in a way that specific identities may not. C hapter 3 sovereignty queer politic by creating unity a round individual autonomous bodies through which members report feeling whole and represented. In doing so, they offer a new model for queer politics Chapter 4 builds upon this model for organizing around identity and describes work through the concept of a political logic. Elizabeth Armstrong developed this notion in her book Forging Gay Identities (2002). Armstrong lays out a history of the Gay and Lesbian Movement in San Francisco by examining the different political logics of movement o rganizations over time. She argues that crystallization occurred in based political logic that is still present today.


12 Dissent within the movement about this choice of political logic has been present since the beginni ng including challenges from queer so cial movement actors. In C hapter 4 I examine another political logic, a coalitional political logic, which is being articulated and practiced by Southerners On New Ground. c about how society works, the goals of political action, and appropriate strategies to (Armstrong, 2002, p. 14) intersecting. Similar to feminist scholarship of intersectionality, SONG articulates this view and believes alignment and solidarity are a basis for social change. These assumptions about society fuel the goals SONG outlines for their political action. Creating shared power, the idea that power should and can be shared rather than used or ganizational structure, SONG works to change power relations through community organizing. SONG also strives for individual self determination of ide ntity, as discussed in Chapter 3 This goal creates a valuing of multiplicity, both within individual peo ple and in political strategy, which works to shift cultural values. SONG creates spaces where multiplicity can be valued as they work towards building communities that share competitive and work s using a strategy of coalition building, or alliance for combined action. They believe that liberation depends on groups working in coalition rather than using a single issue strategy.


13 To achieve this end, SONG has created a framework to help members b uild intersectional thinking and understand the connections necessary for coalitional work. Using four main issues (land, spirit, work/economy, and bodies), SONG examines the intersectional nature of political struggle with its members. While this work d oes not come without challenges, SONG works to strategically frame issues in a way that emphasizes the connections between different groups and liberation struggles. For SONG, this intersectional work always involves a bottom line of queer visibility with in work is community organizing, or working to build collective power within communities. SONG uses a variety of community organizing strategies in local, regional, an d national coalitions. I provide examples of SONG campaigns at each level and examine how issues are framed and chosen to be intersectional and advance the rights of queers in local communities, throughout the South and across the nation. SONG acknowle dges that perfect issues and perfect coalitions are not likely but that as an organization, they must choose specific campaigns and work to maintain the values of their political logic within that work. Finally, in Chapter 4 I examine a history of this c oalitional political logic. Coalitional work and intersectionality can be grounded in the ideology and political work work to this history, an examination of the developm ent of Black Feminist political thought helps illuminate a history that clearly relates to the current pol itical work of SONG. T


14 intersecting and simultaneous nature of oppression and an articulation of political Chapter 4 an example of a distinctly different logic, one that has n ot previously been identified within an LGBT or Queer Movement context. Building upon the queer identity politic of self sover eignty I describe in Chapter 3 based on the idea of coalition building and worki ng within the intersections of oppressed groups. This logic, historically grounded in the movement work of Black Feminists but practiced by a group seen as distinctly queer, looks like a new queer politics, a specifically queer and intersectional politica l practice. Chapter 5 spaces and places where their members can live who le and self determined lives. I begin with an examination of a specific SONG event, The CampOut, and conceptualize (Warner 2002) In his book Publics and Counterpublics (2002), Warner analyzes notions of public and ner, counterpublics are marked off from people or citizens as a whole. They are demarcated from the distinctly dominant public and characterized by their shared membership and discourse; discourse ordinary citizens would not be want to participate in. Qu eer counterpublics offer an alternative to heteronormativity and an altered discourse of acceptable sexual standards. The need for queer counterpublics becomes clear through a historical examination of minority exclusion from public spheres.


15 SONG combat s such exclusion and the isolation that comes from it through the CampOut as an alternate form of CampOuts are organized in a way that makes them open to anyone interested in attending. This building block, what Warner calls stranger sociability (Warner, 2002) begins the event, but participants do not stay strangers for long. Strangers who gather f or a CampOut become part of a space where their queer sensibility creates an immediate sense of belonging. SONG members speak to this belonging and the ways in which it allows for the potential of transformation. From within this space, acting out and p racticing alternative modes of gender and sexual identity formation allows participants to envision and create new ways to express themselves and relate to others. These spaces also offer participants the opportunity to envision a future that is not Cruising Utopia (2009) offers a conceptualization of po (Muoz, 2009, p. 1) This envisioning a queer utopia is based in a politics of emotion. Hope is both key to emotion SONG puts at the Studio provides an example of how hope plays a key role key in the spaces they create. These spaces, particularly a CampOut create literal moments of queer potentiality through the practice of queer performativity. They allow participants to not only envision another world, but to live in it temporarily and carry that feeling with them


16 ional creation of queer space sustains and rejuvenates their work towards a queer utopia, not yet here. Chapter 5 argues that through the intentional creation of counterpublics and the performativity of queer utopian spaces, Southerners On New Ground sus tain their how in our current political climate queer political actors continue an investment in futurity. Instead of accepting the ways in which queers exist in our worl d, SONG actively works to create spaces and communities that fulfill their vision of a queer utopia. This creation sustains the potentiality of that future while they continue to work towards it. I conclude this study in Chapter 6 with an analysis of how each aspect of work relies upon the others. I elaborate on the connectivity of Chapters 3 5 and argue coalitional political logic is queer because it is defined and practiced sovereignty, counterpublics, and utopian the successful practice of intersectionality where others have struggled Finally, I offer suggestions for further research based on this project.


17 CHAPTER 2 METHODOLOGY This chapter outlines the research methods I used to study Southerners On New Ground (SONG), a queer social movement organization in the Sou thern United States. This research aims to examine the state of queer activism today and the practical implementation of intersectionality Southerners On New Ground provide one example of a current queer social movement organization working from a self defined intersectional approach. To begin collecting data, I sent each of the co directors of the organization an email describing my research interests and my interests in the group. I introduced myself as a graduate student and explained my universi ty affiliation. I described that I had learned about their organization on their website and expressed interest in getting involved with SONG for this project on intersectional queer community organizing. I requested to volunteer with the group over a su mmer and attend the 2010 US Social Forum, a conference they would soon be participating in. I also included a short biography about myself and both my personal and educational interests. I received a response and participated in a phone conversation to d iscuss the possibility of becoming involved with the group. I was invited to attend the 2010 United States Social Forum in Detroit, Michigan from June 22 26, 2010 to meet the group and observe their organizing methods. I began researching the group thro ugh their website prior to attending the staff and board members, organizing strategies, and recent activities and events. This information guided my understanding of SONG and my preparation of initial interview


18 Social Forum, including activities directly sponsored and facilitated by the group and Forum 2010!!, 2010) This guide allowed me to meet up with the group and observe their organizing strategy at the Forum. Prior to traveling, I sought and received permission fro m the University Institutional Examining the interview intent for the Forum and included the info rmed consent documen t that I would use ( Appendix A and B). On June 20 th I travelled to Michigan and attended the 2010 United States Social Forum in Detroit for 5 days. The United States Social Forum is not a conference in a traditional racial, multi sectoral, inter generational, diverse, in clusive, internationalist movement that transforms (About USSF 2010, 2010) The Forum consists of a action, cultural events, youth activities, and grass roots fundraising. The goal of the Forum is to support social movement building. They work to create space for social movement convergence, collaboration and solidarity (United States Social Forum, 2010) Groups and individuals from throughout the United States working on a wide variety of social movement issues, including labor, climate, sexuality, education and health, etc. attended the Forum. An estimated 15,000 people participated in the event


19 (Howell, 2010) As a regional organization, Southerners On New Ground represented queer and trans people from the South at the Forum. While at the USSF, I participated in multiple workshops hosted or sponsored by other LGBTQ or queer groups from around the nation. Organizations participating in the coalition in cluded, for example, The Sylvia Rivera Law Project which Affinity which n African American lesbians (Echeverria, 2010) I condu cted two interviews on site at the conference with members active in SONG. After revising my applicat ion with the University Institutional Review Board, I also followed up with those members whom I met but did not have a change to interview and conducted phone interviews with those people. The group also allowed me to post a call for participants on both their website and their Facebook page to gather more participants. Overall, I conducted both personal and telephone interviews with 7 members 1 and/or l eaders of the group which overall consists of about 700 members with varying levels of involvement. The sonal experiences and feeling towards SONG, and community organizing strategies. I also questioned how the en 12 and 65 minutes. Most (5 of 7) of those interviewed were women of color, and all were between 21 and 30 years 1 After I completed the interview phase of this study, one additional person contacted me and was interested in participating. This person was not interviewed due to time constraints.


20 of age, queer identified, with regional ties to the South. In order to maintain the confidentiality of participants, I have substituted pseu donyms for all participants and removed all identifying information from quoted text. events, the CampOut because it was regularly mentioned in my interviews. With the enc ouragement of SONG members, I registered for and attended the Fall Camp Out on the Gulf Coast of Florida as a participant observer. The event consisted of approximately 15 attendees (including myself) and lasted for 3 days and 2 nights. We stayed at the Gulf Islands National Shore in Fort Pickens, Florida. Over the course of three days participants relaxed on the beach, went swimming in the ocean, played games, cooked food together, and talked about their personal and political lives. Dinner was the onl y planned event for each day but participants generally stayed together and printing skil ls to make 2010 CampOut postcards that we all had a chance to send out before we left ( Appendix C ). At the end of 3 days, people shared contact information with one another and expressed having an excellent time. Participants in the CampOut were made aw are of my research though our personal conversations and interactions. All participants took an opportunity to inquire made no attempts however, to solicit information f or this study. Rather, I participated/observed as any member of SONG might. The event was primarily attended by queer and Southern identified people of color but was mixed in regards to


21 gender. Throughout the weekend and after the event, I took notes on the overall environment, the way in which the event was coordinated and how it felt to participate in this type of event. Over the course of my research, I also examined a variety of documents published general information about the group, the beliefs they base their work on, core agreements with in their organization and documentation about their overall strategic plan. I also received further documentation from interview participants. This information is not available online but is available to all members of the organization. This included an agenda for their traveling Organizing School a list defining their Key Terms and a document about The Elements of Creating a Collective Space what they observational data I coll ected from members of the group. I also followed their online networking media, specifically their Facebook site. The group regularly posts links to political stories and campaigns they support. They also have produced short videos that are linked to both their website and their Facebook page. One video outlined their new strategic plan, unveiled in 2010 and the other spoke to issues of community organizing in the South. These videos were mbership base uses these online sources to obtain information about the group and that these sites are part k at the 2010 United States Social Forum and the CampOut I attended as a participant observer.


22 Overall, these online resources and documents provided me further information about to day event planning and organizing strateg ies. All information supplements my interviews and participant observations. A textual analysis of this material contributed to my greater understanding of how the group began, the philosophies on which their organizing is built, and how they communicate with/present themselves to their members and the public. Throughout my research I have used an overall methodology that is feminist and incorporated feminist methods, particularly in interviewi ng and participatory research. While participating in resea rch events, I attempted to be as non intrusive as possible while still making my role as a researcher know. I worked maintain on going self reflection and examine the emotional aspects of participant observation (Naples, 2003) My methods have worked to be non exploitative in nature using the words of SONG members to give voice to Southern organizers working for change My use of semi s tructured interviews follows a feminist tradition used to achieve the active involvement o f their respondents in the construction of data about their lives (Reinharz, 1992, p. 18) examining my role as a researcher and the power dynamics involved in conducting research (Cancian, 1992) This research offers a contribution to our understanding of current models of social change using mixed methods. Femini st use mixed methods for a variety of commitment to thoroughness [and] the desire to be open (Reinharz, 1992, p. 231 ) My overall philosophy on conducting research fits with the history of feminist methodology.


23 Over the course of six months, I gathered data on Southerners On New Ground through participant observation, interviews, and textual analysis. This mix ed method, feminist process allowed me to identify three key themes within the data. These themes are each examined individually in Chapters 3 5 Chapte r 3 ontemporary queer social movement organization.


24 CHAPTER 3 OUTHERNERS ON NEW GR OUND AND A NEW QUEERING OF IDENTITY POLITICS Working at the intersections of identity and taking a queer approach challenges traditional social movement noti ons of collective identity (Gamson, 1995) While queer challenges to identity based movements have been criticized (Hammers, 2008) (Jeffreys, 2003) or deemed functions of the past (Armstrong, 2002) the work of Southerners On New Ground shows us a new queer politics. This politic, as this t gender and sexual self Identity Construction in Social Movements Scholars attempting to understand social movement proc esses and actors, over time, have created a variety of explanations for the way in which movements develop and challenge notions of authority. Historically both theories of political process and resource mobilization have dominated the field (Goodwin & Ja sper 2009) In traditional theories of social movement process, like political process and resource mobilization of rational and individual motivation could not expla in why people were participating in these movements. With the rise of the New Left, Civil Rights Movements, and the ticipation without material benefit. These scholars take a cultural approach to the study of movements, developing theories of both collective identity and framing, to further expand the notion of what a social movement can be.


25 Collective Identity can b (Taylor, 1999) Verta Taylor and Nancy Whittier in their essay Collective Identity and Social Movemen t Communities (1999) outline three elements of collective identity. First, individuals begin to see themselves as part of a group when some part of their identity becomes feel as though they belong to. By drawing boundaries of who can belong to the group wh Taylor & Whittier 1999, p. 122) and involves a direct opposition to the hegemonic order of s differences by politicizing common personal experiences (Taylor & Whittier 1999) Scholars have used this notion of collective action to explain the work of new iden tity based social movements working to build and sustain a collective identity. The Gay and Lesbian Movement has adopted this identity based model of social (Armstrong, 2002) This identity (Armstrong, 2002, p. 21) In the Gay and Lesbian Movement, identity building functions differently than in than relying on or requiring similarity, difference and a focus on individual expression


26 became the point of similarity within this movement (Armstrong, 2002) The LGBTQ rights movement has built a strong identity politic based in a quasi ethnicity status, or in other words, the idea that gays and lesbians as a minority group, wi th minority status, deserve equal rights. Within this model, shared oppression and collective identity are necessary for successful resistance and political gain. The gay and lesbian movement ght people, but as (Armstrong, 2002, p. 3) This political logic has become the dominant ideology of gay and lesbian organizations formed after 1969 and continues to be the dominant political logic today. Scholars who examine Queer Social Movements often draw the distinction between queer work and the larger Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) reformist, in o pposition to the (Walters, 1996, p. 833) The mainstream LGBT movement, as we have seen, uses an identity based/quasi ethnic politic and works to reform the American system to gain r ights for those people who fall within the categories of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. This mainstream movement has often been criticized for its lack of inclusivity particularly around people of different races and gender identities. In many ways the queer movement rejects a minoritizing logic of toleration or simple political interest representation in favor of a more thorough resistance to regimes of the normal" (Warner, 1991, p. xxvi) Rather tha n attempting to portray themselves as similar to the larger straight society, queers assert a fundamental difference between themselves and both mainstream culture and the mainstream LGBT movement. S cholars often refer to queer m


27 their politics as "reject[ing] the liberal value of privacy and the appeal to tolerance which (Duggan, 1992, p. 12) Instead, for many of these assimilationist liberal emphasis on similarity with other groups Ibid). This difference speaks to the politics as well as the ideology of Queer Movement actors. Ideologically, queer actors maintain produced binaries that are the basis of oppression; fluid, unstable experiences of self become fixed primarily in the (Gamson, 1995, p. 391) This ideology creates t he basis for a those categories, refusing rather than embracing ethnic minority status, is the key to (Gamson, 1995, p. Ibid) Queer politics thus calls into question the very basis (Gamson, 1995) This combination of destabilization and difference is fundamental to a queer politic. that time was beginning to face criticism from within. Gays and lesbians of color, particularly lesbians of color, were challenging the movement for marginalizing and served as the fo undation for building a community and organizing politically was criticized as reflecting a white, middle (Seidman, 1994, p. 172) These "long simmering internal differences around r (Gamson, 1995)


28 (Seidman, 1994, p. 172) Identity politics, whi le successful for creating collective identity within social movements, can also create challenges to movement social change. Ideas of identity formation and the develop ment of queer politics have many racist, anti classist and anti sexist work have been important features of lesbian communities during at least the last thirty years, even though the success o f that work is often limited Shugar 1999, 17). Lesbians of color have offered thoughtful critiques and challenged essential notions of identity within these communities. Women like Gloria Anzalda and Audre Lorde asserted claims against strict lesbian identity politics (Moraga 1981; Lorde 1982), and challenged the dominant discourse of the white lesbian community through articulating their different lived experiences (Lewin 1996). Along with other sexual minorities, lesbians of color helped lead the push for the development of a less essentializing sexual identity. Even with this push for more inclusive sexual categories, the white male nature of queer politics is still criticized. As Dana Shugar notes, If we deny the social power that concepts of fixed identities still carry, the goals of our activism are too easily boiled down to, by default, the agendas of white, well to any analysis of their privilege (Shugar, 199 9, p. 17) Many see the move to queer as an erasure of the gendered component of gay and lesbian analysis and politics. Michael Warner states this concern, that notions of queer, as a partial re attempts partially to separate


29 questions of sexuality from those of gender (Warner, 1991, 16). This separation can lead to a male center ed politics according to some scholars. der neutral one, ( Jeffreys 1994, p. 460). Critics contend that lesbians are welcome in queer arenas as long as they are willing to assimilate to gay male notions of sexuality and identity. Sheila Jeffreys in her book Unpacking Queer Politics (2003) sees this playing out in two p articular ways: the notion of camp and ideas of sexual pleasure. She is particularly critical of the acceptance of sadomasochism and the eroticization of inequality she views being incorporated in lesbian sexuality from gay male culture (Jeffreys, 2003, p queer lesbians are complicit in their own invisibility due to their emulation of gay men and the fact that within queer politics, gay male concerns (notably the tr aditions of camp 2008, p. 152). That said, most who embrace a queer approach view the core components of a queer ideology as a challenge to t he socially constructed ideas around heteronormativity (and homonormativity) that pervade our culture. By working to dismantle binaries of sexuality, including hetero/homo, man/wome n, public/private, etc., Queer M ovement actors challenge people to examine the very foundation on which our societal ideas on sexuality are built. Many scholars have noted however that this ideological challenge to hegemonic sexuality is not always as successful as movement actors might hope. In addition to racial and gender based critiques, scholars note that


30 sexual identity, queer politics has served to reinforce simple dichotomies between (Cohen, 1997, p. 438) With its attempt at a destabilizing politic, wh ether it is successful or not, queer m ovements provide interesting challenges and contributions to the study of social movements. Queer politics challenge the usef ulness of collective identity as a social movement strategy. This debate over collective identity exists both between the Gay and Lesbian Must Identity Movements Self Destru ct?: A Queer Dilemma, discusses the challenges eam Gay and Lesbian Movement. Queerness in its most distinctive forms shakes the ground on which gay and lesbian politics has been based organizing: the instability of identities both individual and collective their made up yet necessary character (Gamson, 1995, p. 390) While this debate will likely continue, the very existence of queer political actors continues to challenge our knowledge and assumptions about se xuali ty and social movements. Thus the strong claims of queer politics and theory that this is not how it must be, that political and social organization can and should be more true to the inessential, fluid, and multiply sited character of sexuality; and that gay ethnic movements make a serious error in challenging only the idea that homosexuality is unnatural, affirming rather than exposing the root cultural syst em (Gamson, 1995, p. 400) From the height of its pop truggle of queers today, Queer M ovement work challenges the hegemonic order and attempts to smash the boundaries our society holds dear. The emergence of queer movements and the queering of identity politics has cre ated a different set of challenges for collective


31 identity in social movement organizations. These challenges continue to be relevant in today. Some scholars 1 believe that the Queer M ovement is a thing of the past, risis, and a radical wing of a movement that has been sidelined by the neoliberal corporate politics of the mainstream LGBT agenda today (Armstrong, 2002) of the LG BTQ movement that focuses largely on stable identity categories in obtaining rights, provides a continued space for queer critique. Queer movements build a politics around embracing the fluidity of identity. As Lisa Kahaleole Chang Hall astutely notes, our identities never become final because new experiences continue to affect the way we see ourselves, and these new identifications in turn affect the kinds of experiences we can have and the kinds of communitie (Chang Hall, 1993, p. 229) This version of identity formation opens the door to community organizing and collective action that was once bound up in identity categories and exclusivity. Southerners On New Ground seek to create a space in which the politics of identity are never final and rarely privil eged. While as an organization they are committed to centering the experiences of people of color, they actively work to create a space where participants feel as th known and referred to by its members as a queer organization. One member describes 1 er Movement, particularly one that occurred in the infer red given scholarly analysis of p! and Queer Nation (see Walters 1996, Gould 2002, Highleyman 2002 as examples).


32 Avery, a member who does not self iden tity as queer explains the queer nature of the organization further, Avery: I think as a queer organization that they focus on a lot of the specifics of how a queer identity affects life, affects what folks go through, affects the frame that people see th ings through, affects how other people interact with someone. They use that as an analysis and a major component of their work but not to the extent where it excludes other are doi ng it. While members and the organization use the term, they understand that not everyone does and that it is not a term or identity necessary for participation. ot everybody is on board with the term queer so especially around elders, I thi nk th at we Jamie, a leader in the group, explains, Jamie: T here are some elders that would really be opposed to SONG they would never identify that wa y, but they identify very strongly with SONG. So we try to keep an openness arou nd that Many participants do identify strongly with the term and use it regularly. The term o me, it makes me think of not just thinking about sexual orientation, but thinking about gender expression and gender identity and sexual identit Rather than relying on traditional work s to create fluidity through new concepts of self determination. It is this concept of self definition that SONG members hol d as most important, and for some, the term queer is a way to express that. One SONG member, Avery, described the concept when I asked about how he got involved in the group:


33 Av ery: me in and kept me in, was the amazing people and the whole self deal, the of taking everything that you have and bringing that all together because it influences everything th SONG defin Essential Concept of SONG honored and affirmed no one is asked to prioritize one over the other, and no one is left behin (S.O.N.G. About SONG, 2011) Many organizers who now work with SONG, have previous experience working in other organizations and on issues that may not be joining SONG. Kim, a very active member expressed a surprised excitement upon finding SONG. She explains, oh my god there is this place that I can be my full s elf that actually invites all of the different pieces of who I am, like Black daughter of immigrants, partnered with a man non monogamous, all of these things in one possibility was expressed and thoroughly valued by many of the members who spoke with me throughout this project. This concept is also a very intentional creation of SONG. The concept and this feeling expressed by members has everything to do with s over eignty. creates spaces in which people can grow and be challenged, and are expected to strive to be their best whole selves. SONG expects that members will not hinder the self determin ation of others through acts of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, hatred,


34 (S.O.N.G. About SONG, 2011) Jamie, a leader in the organization further explains this notion: Jamie: We really started to think and talk about gender and sexual sovereignty. Being the idea that, gender and sexual self determination is to an individual what sovereignty is to a community and drawing from really profound work and amazing work in indigenous communities all over the is that folks get to decide who they are, who they love, and how they live This intentional move is one that is clearly felt by members of the organization. As one they are and trusting that we know our own exper ien ce better than anyone else does determine my own identity in that way and each definition is equally valued and respected. This concept of logic might consider incongruent or outside of a collective identity is not the case for SONG. sovereignty creates a space for people to identify in any way they choose without the privileging of certain forms of identification. This concept allows for a certain type of fluidity not only of id entification but speaks to the ever changing and unstable nature of the identities that are or can be chosen. Jamie explains, particular way as long as they are able to identify the way that they want allows its members to self define the important aspects of their identities and political lives.


35 Kim: I could have a sexual identity as a top or as a bo ttom, or as a femme or whatever, and I could have a sexual orientation that looks different than that and a gender expression that looks different depending on the day, or not, I could be super high fe mme, wear a dick and be a top, or a bottom and have that all not be inconsistent ( emphasis mine) 2 This ideology of sovereignty allows SONG to look at the intersections of identity and promote the freedom of self oppression is based simply on their sexual orientation but all parts of their identity, whate ver they may be, are influenced by systematic and structural conditions. Kim suggested, In other words, SONG determination allows them to work collectively on what might be called queer issues without organizing in terms of a confining gay or lesbian collective identity. Leaders within SONG speak to the issue of traditional identity politics a nd queer politics in interesting and telling ways. When asked whether the group was a queer These questions speak to larger issues with identity politics as well as t he specific Jamie: w hat we see in the South is that a lot of people who experience what would be referred to as trans phobia are in fact gender non 2 Due to the nature of this quote, it was specifically formatted for easy of understanding.


36 you identify as trans or not. Every single drag queen in every small town in 3 time they walk about of the club. ify ( emphasis mine). This explanation suggests that regardless of how people choose to identify, they share common concerns and experiences throughout their everyday lives. Identities are not only personal, but also hold significant meaning for many peop people have gone through a lot necessarily want to lose that and I never want to take that away from anybody ( emphasis original). Whether young or older, SONG maintains that a ll of its members, and all people, have a fundamental right to self determination. Analysis SONG clearly takes a different approach to social movement strategy and identity formation than many identity based social movements previously examined by scholars By queering identity politics and not relying on a rigid collective identity that draws ented incisive and persuasive critiques of gay identity politics but did not provide a persuasive (Armstrong, 2002, p. 182) persuasive alternative. More SONG understands the importance of identity in the lives of its members. Their emphasis on gender and sexual self 3 Bracketed text represents an unclear portion of the recorded interview and t


37 to organize pol itically, while avoiding the rigidity of traditional identity based models. They are practicing a new que er politic not present in many q ueer movement groups of identity logic (Seidman, 1993) By working to create unity around individual autonomous bodies in which people hey offer a new model for queer politics. This model successfully sustains an intersectional approach to organizing around possibility for building across and amongst d ifferent notions personal identification Chapte r 4


38 CHAPTER 4 ERSECTIONALITY AND A COALITIONAL POLITICA L LOGIC model for queer politics, based on the ideology of personal identificat ion. This Chapter 1 elaborates on that possibility by examining the specific political beliefs and practices of SONG. Using the notion of a political logic (Armstrong, 2002) coalition political logic is one example of a political logic that has not previously been identified within an LGBT or Queer Movement context. Building upon the queer identity politic described in the ategies, based in the idea of coalition building and intersectionality between oppressed groups. This logic, historically grounded in the movement work of Black Feminists, but practiced by the group in distinctly queer ways, presents a new queer politics. Political Logic Forging Gay Identities, while not a history of the Gay and Lesbian Movement in itself, provides a historical background for LGBT politics. Although her examination focuses specifically on San Fran cisco, her larger analysis of what she calls the political logic of the movement is useful in a larger millennium, Armstrong offers an idea of how the politics of the Ga y and Lesbian Movement have changed over time and argues for a crystallization of a political logic in 1 This Chapter relies predominantly on interviews conducted with the two Co Directors of SONG and organizational documents.


39 polit ical logic (Armstrong, 2002, p. 14) Similar to the idea of a master frame (Snow & Benford 1988) social movement studies. David Ideology, Frame Resonance, and Participant Mobilization argues that social movement participants actively engage in meaning making within a movement. What they call framing to and interpret, relevant events and conditions Snow & Benford 1988, p. 198) in ways that mobilize participants, garner support from the public, or challenge their opposition. Snow and Benford add this idea to traditional social movement theories of political process and resource mobilization. While this theory begins to take a cultural political logic pushes the cultural aspect of social movement scholarship further to examine a wider range of collective efforts while allowing for a greater distinction between types of collective action (Armstrong, 2002) These distinctions of different political logics outline a history of Gay and Lesbian politics in San Francisco. ir use of an interest group political logic. composed of intersecting constituencies, each of which has a fair opportunity to (Armst rong, 2002, p. 16) Within this logic, problems that might arise in society can be corrected though reform, particularly when a group creates a unified voice to advocate for rights. The larger the group, the more


40 legitimate they are considered. By influencing elites through traditional democratic issue organizations, each of (Armstrong, 2002, p. 18) Early Homo phile groups, like the Daughters of Bilitis, used this logic to begin the process of gaining rights for gays and lesbians in the United States. These Homophile organizations legitimized creating public organizations of homosexuals and started the idea tha t homosexuals are a group deserving of rights (Armstrong, 2002, p. 3) analysis, these liberation organizations were torn between a redis tributive political logic and an identity political logic. capitalism, believing that change would come through a total transformation of society. (Armstrong, 2002, p. 20) These groups used large scale political activism to change society, including tactics like marches and demonstrations. This logic however was continually in contenti on with and challenged by a new type of identity politics (Armstro ng, 2002, p. 21) Difference became a point of similarity because historically identity movements create communities of similarity. The gay and lesbian movement centered on the idea, als, we ar e different from (Armstrong, 2002, p. 3) This political logic became the dominant ideology of gay and lesbian organizations formed after 1969 and continues to be the dominant political logic


41 such a way that the pursuit of inte rest group was defined as comple (Armstrong, 2002, p. 23) By examining this history and these differen t political logics, Before this moment, the project of expanding homosexual social space did not have the stable, orga (Armstrong, 2002, p. 23) In her book, she discusses not only the crystallization of the field, but the implications that this institutionalization had on the growth of the movement. These implications included the exclusion of non white and no n male people and influenced the prospects for future change. Exclusion, dissent and infighting have always been part of the Gay and Lesbian Movement. In his book Dividends of Dissent (2008), Amin Ghaziani traces a history of the US Gay and Lesbian move ment by specifically examining the presence of conflict Lesbian marches on Washington focusing on the debates present among local and national movement groups. Building on (Ghaziani, 2008, p. 8) Each time a march was organized, leaders grappled with infighting around quasi and questioned the stability of essentialist identity claims Ibid). Arguing about the details of the march allowed activists to continually define the movement, set strategies, and ho throughout the


42 issue social justice politics were outweighed by national corporate organizations promoting an interest group politic (Ghaziani, 2008) Thr oughout these four marches, women, indigenous people, people of color, bisexuals, trans people, and queers all worked to challenge liberal models of identity and organized around a different, less essentialist politic. ncluding groups like ACT UP and Queer Nation was one of many challengers to the exclusionary nature of the larger Gay and Lesbian Movement. To this end, queer politics made a return to the redistributive political logic of the earlier Gay Liberation Mov could have provided a coherent way to reorganize the movement but the vision of a multi issue, multiracial social justice movement was a hard sell in the political climate of (Armstrong, 2002, p. 182) queer groups today have not fully abandoned it. Based on this concept of political logic created by Armstrong, I argue that an additional political logic exists in the work of some queer movement actors today, specifically in the work of Southerners On New Ground Again, Armstrong defines political log (Armstrong, 2002, p. 14) Each part of this definition provides the basis for an in depth look at the work of SONG and how that work resides in a specific new political logic. The idea that oppression is systematic and interrelated is the key foundation for Feminist scholarship offers us a developed way to think about


43 how oppressions are interrelated. Systematic oppression involves the exercise of authority or power in such a way that a given group or social category of people are subordinated in an unjust m anner. When oppression is institutionalized through laws, organizations, government, and societal norms, it is distinctly thorough and regular. To see oppression as interrelated implies that each subordinated group in a system of oppression is connected in some way. This is best understood by the feminist concept of intersectionality. Intersectional ity, a phrase coined by Kimberle Crenshaw (1991) and further developed by other feminist scholars ( Collins 1998, 2000, McCall 2005) 2 examines how various so cially and culturally constructed categories of oppression interact on often simultaneous levels, contributing to a system of social inequality. Today, a large amount of feminist scholarship acknowledges that various forms of oppression such as race, gend er, class, sexuality, disability, etc, do not act independently of one another but instead, interrelate creating a system of oppression that reflects an "intersection" (Collins, 2000) Intersectionality as defined by SONG selves (S.O .N.G. Key Terms, 2008) Similar to the academic understanding of the (Armstrong, 2002, p. 14) SONG states Race, Class, Culture, Gender and Sexuality are intrinsically connected. Oppression is systemic and intersected, as are its methods and the peo ple 2 For social movement schol arship on intersectionality see Abraham (1995), Kuu mba (2002) and Lawston ( 2009 ).


44 targeted by it. Alignment and solidarity among those who experience injustice provide the possibility of broad based social change (Beliefs Our Work is Based On) These beliefs shape the work of SONG and other groups with whom SONG chooses to work. In organizations with a different logic, identities can be seen as separate, static, multiple identities are often asked to fragment t hemselves. We believe everyone should (Beliefs Our Work is Based On) The multiple identities of movement actors are not just present, but important to intersectional work. Chapter 3 One SONG leader noted how this multiplicity and connection are imperative to their work. tually our fates are really deeply connected around this [type of] contain people with different and multiple identities. The work of seeing those connections and building between them rather than upon them directs the goals of Basic assumptions about society fuel the goal s of political action. In the coalitional shared power (SONG Organizing School 2008) This statement challenges the systematic nature of oppression suggesting that in society, power should and can be shared rather than used by some over others. This also means that the use of power within a n


45 organization ascribing to such goal s must be considered. In the case of SONG, core Specifically, we agree to not use our privilege around age, race, culture, language, gender, immigrant status, or ability to intentionally hurt or disadvantage any other (SONG Leaders Core Agreements and Code of Conduct For Our Work Together, 2008) This required leaders to constantly ask themselves, as Angel did, re that we are engaging in fights that do not come at someone She They are specifically no t talking about trans people of color because they know it is going to be the one factor that is going to make their side been seen as too threatening or to anti assimilationist against taking or using power while ignoring the struggles others. While not often (SONG Leaders Core Agr eements and Code of Conduct For Our Work Together, 2008) Through this agreement, SONG acknowledges how power in our society can be abusive to a variety of groups but commits to only use that power dynamic, created by institutionalized oppression, to their benefit but never against one another 3 Another goal of Southerners on New Ground that defines their coalitional political logic, is their goal of creating a world defined by individual self determination. As 3 Breines observed in the student movements of the New Left and ca While Breines concludes that the New Left and student groups practicing prefigur ative politics struggled to maintain this foundation, I argue that


46 defined by SONG, self determination i (S.O.N.G. Key Terms, 2008) ex (Ibid). Individual self determination changes the way society views people, their identities, and the choices oppres sion these choices are limited and heavily shaped by societal norms so the goal is to create a world where there is freedom for self determination of identity. Thus SONG works to gradually create spaces, places, and cultures that value self determination. This can happen in a variety of ways. We value different approaches, skills, leadership styles and we understand and value that we often have different needs in our various communities. We do not believe in social, political, or religious fundamentalism; the idea always creatively looking for ways to incorporate many ideologies, approaches and skills in service of community liberation. (SONG Leaders C ore Agreements and Code of Conduct For Our Work Together, 2008) identities, but also in the goals and work of the organization. In order to shift ideas about power an d create individual self determination, SONG also stresses the necessity for shifting cultural ideas and creating space for these ideas to flourish. These spaces serve multiple goals and purposes. SONG develops spaces of mind, body, and spirit and pract ices that combined individual and collective good (Beliefs Our Work is Based O n) In a society filled with systematic oppression, envisioning this culture allows participants to concretely understand what an end goal might feel like. SONG begins this work by


47 asking, as one leader did, have a right and They answer by we really need to hold our own communities accountable around cr eating wholeness This accountability is a process and a struggle that SONG continues to pursue. create a temporary expanded space so people can think what it feels like, feel what it feels like, and then move on from there intersectionally building together can combat a larger society that oppresses. These spaces allow people to live their lives i n a way that may not otherwise be possible. Jamie noted, they can stay home, or so that they can come home, because they love the South, they love the communities, they want to stay her e; but they want we want to have space to be able to live as ourselves with dignity openly (S.O.N.G. Why the South?, 2011) This history and the resulting physical and cultural conditions makes it a particularly challenging place to practice anti racist queer intersectional work. Creating space within the South is signifi cant because while SONG clearly acknowledges a history of oppression, they know the South is also more than that. It is a place of redemption and hope for many a place where folk reconcile with past in an honest and painful way, a place where people can st ay in lands riddled with pain and remember old traditions, and birth new ways. (Ibid)


48 event the CampOut This seasonal camping trip allows members to come toget her for (S.O.N.G Spring CampOut, 2008) This event creates a space in which people can live openly and with that groups and members say about why SONG is crucial in their lives is the way that SONG can create a space for conversation (Alchemy: The Elements of Cre ating a Collective Space, 2008) Based on my participation in the 2010 Fall CampOut the space created by SONG provides this opportunity and these be currently availabl e, especially in the South, but that they struggle towards with their e is the subject of Chapter 5 This logic and these goals are intrinsically non competitive, according to SONG individuals, groups and organizations to work together to challenge systematic th e entire human family living in the South. There is only one set of conditions; there are just really different locations in that The view is that one human family shares goals that are linked together by their desire for liberation. This means, m ore a BP oil spill only for queer people or only for people of


49 means everything in how you are affected Larger conditions, like in the case of the BP individua l location shapes how they are a ffected, not the social location of a group or ire the multiplicity own lives and have the right to self determination. It is through (Beliefs Our Work is Based On) These conditions shape the overall strategies of a coalitional politic, as I will detail in the next section. Coalition is an alliance for combined action. Groups and organizations that use this logic, see social issues as interrelated and therefore they must be addressed together. ted to moving past our own scars and our own pain around homophobia and trans phobia and moving in those scars and being a part of that work That work, as challenging as it may be, cannot be done alone. Groups must work together coalitionally for liberation. coming together across lines of difference. Our hope for change is bringing people together in multi issue, multi (Beliefs Our Work is Based On)


50 relationship, I understan understanding of alignment shapes their framework for capacity building within communities. SONG uses a specific framework to build capacity throughout the South that focuses on the intersecti onal nature of issues. They developed this framework component of their political logic is not an easy one to practically implement. As Angel, intersectional person? Having a framework to build intersectional thinking and understanding helps SONG develop this core value with its members. Angel: One of the more practical ways that we talk about it is in the SONG organizing school, the main sort of like flagship capacity building program we have. We wanted to be able to talk about the issues that affect our base work/economy, and bodies as in individual physical bodies and collective bodies. These four main issues we re chosen because they are issues that SONG leaders heard For example, a SONG leader explained, bodies, whether it is their own phy issues around reproductive justice, issues around disability, issues around anti violence work. Land is also an issue that S ONG sees as affecting everyone.


51 affordable housing, communities based housing, etc Both bodies and land serve as over arching issues tha t affect all people, allowing alignment, even while each The issues of labor and economics were chosen because economic survival is a s huge n the Southeast and the massive political discourse and misinformation around immigran t labor in the Southeast the conversations are present and the issue needs to be t sustainability and resiliency Issues of depression, isolation, and heart break are ir struggles, Angel: what are things that sustained them; what are strategies that have helped people address really harsh conditions; what are some of the things that people have done to create more cohesive communities that are not just speaking to the pragmatic, but the other level of things that people are also experiencing. ( emphasis original) supports personal experience and coalition building among people on a very basi c and engage a lot of people in intersectional conversations These conversations bring peopl e together to form strategies that address the intersectional conditions i n their own


52 these four containers, what is the relationship of your own community to these four SONG leaders say th at talk about strategies absolutely understand why my life as an LGBT or a queer person in Southern Appal achia is absolutely connected to the land struggles of people in the Deep South and I know my relationship to that. This coherent strategy allows people to align their builds this coalitional base first on a personal level then locally, regionally and nationally. This intersectional work, this coalition building is not easy according to SONG. One challenge SONG faces, for example, is balancing the need to do coalition al work that it not the place for coalition building. Jamie: thing around our safe space; we just want not home Y feel do work and have wins. In order to achieve this expansion, SONG creates both spaces where its members can feel at home and safe, as well as spaces for coalitional work. Mu ch of the work on active, ongoing construction of collective identity, and that deciding who we are required (Gamson, 1997, p. 179) Safe space involves distinguishing


53 this boundary and as Anne Enke shows in her book Finding the Movement (2007), this space can both contest and reinforce hegemonic ideas around race, class, gender and sexuality (Enke, 2007) create between safe space and coalitional space prevents a strong exclusionary identity from forming by insisting on coalitional work through an alignment strategy. They are Jamie: we are part of this movement, we need a place withi m SONG and its members are not willing to accept being o Angel: grounds for right wing ideology or the deliberate crumbling of civil liberties and the intentional isolation of poor people, working class people, people of color and immigrant people. Movements have gone one way or the other; one [way] has been to shrink access and to shrink the lives of people. There has been the movement for liberation that has wo rked to broaden that stuff, so that more and more people have been a part of having access and having entry into sustainable lives. SONG specifically places themselves, through coalition, at the center of that larger fight, ess to liberty and connectedness. e are of you, we are from you, we need to be in the movement with other people to feel container to be able to do that. As I understand Jamie, SONG meets the challenge of needing to provide safe space while doing coalition politics by creating what she calls a members to have a political home wher e they can feel safe and respected while


54 constantly pushing members towards collaboration, coalition and building a larger movement for liberation. These coalitions are challenging but by having a home or container with SONG, members are encouraged to par ticipate in more difficult situations, including those where personal respect and dignity may be lacking. This strategy of building coalition and a larger liberation movement involves more than just willing involvement. It involves framing issues in suc h a way that creates possibilities for coalition that are clear and pertinent. For SONG, so much of this unquote LGBT issue. In an interview, SONG leader Jamie provid ed an example. Within the last few years, SONG members were working on a specific issue in [and] only This issue was one that affected many groups of people including poor people, immigrant and migrant workers, and LGBTQ people whose family structures differ from traditional heteronormative structures. Looking at the issue by examining the ways it affects a variety of groups, allows SONG to work intersectionally. It allows them to build coalitions, and see themselves as undeniably connected to the fates of other groups and liberations struggles. Jamie: ot trying to take on 6 different projects because this one relates to racism, this one see those connectio to build in those communities.


55 According to SONG, this logic creates possibilities rather than limiting them. It builds on the core philosophies of both SONG and a more general coalitional logic by seeing oppression as interrelated and creating alliances to build a larger movement. While groups use collaborating campaigns as a strategy, they do not often participate without still being attentive to their own core concerns. For SONG, as Jamie notes, LGBT visibility is a bottom line. This means that if the group cannot be visible and open about their lives, SONG will not collaborate on a campaign. Jamie offers a nice example, Jamie: c ampaign and they say, absolutely we want you r help T not very high profile about your what our base is about and what our membership is. According to SONG, a coalitional politic can only be successful for everyone involved if groups and organizations are not expected to compromise their core values. As SONG leaders and literature makes clear, in coalitional work it is important not only to see the connections and coalitions available, but also be sure those coalitions work fr om a shared set of values and assumptions about the world. In addition to coalition building, c ommunity organizing is also a key strategy in the coalitional work of Southerners On New Ground SONG defines community organizing in terms of their larger g building a base that has the shared vision to act together to build power, challenge power, and change power relationships and communities. This is important because the power to make change lies in the hands of the people that those changes affect most (S.O.N.G. Key Terms, 2008) This power not only lies in the hands of the


56 ssed people. SONG supports organizing that builds collective power and leadership among (Beliefs Our Work is Based On) To begin with, people who suffer injustice create a very different leadership strategy than can be seen in other political logics. When people who suffer injustice take on leadership roles, power comes from within rather than from outside. This way according to one SONG lead er as opposed to just advocacy. This notion of representation and centering oppressed people in the work of community organizing is key to resistance as a strategy. Jamie s long as there has been oppression, there has been resistance. Organizing provides an opportunity to create the necessary sys tems that Southern queers need to survive while holding larger systems of government accountable along the way. As another leader Angel explains, Angel: We absolutely need our own alternative infrastructure. But I think that the safety net that people need to be able to stay here in the South has we pay taxes just like everyb ody else, we are a part of the South, and we need to figure out how to have sustainable lives here and we need to hold the State to that as well. Angel explains the complicated relationship between community organizing struggles and larger systems of the State and nations government. Building power within communities through community organizing allows SONG to create new systems while also working to change the ones that exist and effect the lives of people.


57 Not only does SONG strive to do resistance in the form of community organ i zing led be those facing oppression, but SONG also strives to employ strategies of coalitional work that include both works towards social transformation but does not discredit positive social reform along the way. According to SONG, social transformation often begins at a local level. At this level, groups can begi participatory democracy, as well as figuring out what real representation and s elf governance looks like As this SONG leader explains, this building and testing of practical innovations allows comm unities to envision a different world. By working locally within a community rather than focusing on an identity, multiplicity can continue in regions being able to de fine themselves. Like notions of self sovereignty, local work begins with the central belief and tactic of letting communities lead the work. Strategies are diverse because only a community knows what is needed and what will work locally. Linking toget Southern identity allows them to focus on a region where they believe people share common struggles. At a Southern level, SONG works as [coalition], lead by Pr oject South, called Building A Movement (BAM). It is a Southern regional leadership cadre of folks that have already been playing key roles within This regional coalit ion serves an example of how local groups and different social movement organizations come together regionally to affect change.


58 SONG also believes that beginning locally does not discount the ability to take on national issues and work in national coali tions. SONG is quite aware of a history of community organizing that has created national reform and improved the lives of wo day weekend for workers, an end to segregation of certain public spaces, and the legal rights of people with disabilities to demand equal access to public spaces" (S.O.N.G. Key Terms, 2008) This history of success mot ivates SONG to work in national coalitions to create change on a larger scale. Currently, SONG is working as part of the Roots Coalition, a national network of 14 collaborating organizations located in a variety of cities throughout the United States. To gether, these groups are working as Jamie explains, unquote, and pick an issue. One issue they are considering is based around the idea of identity policing. This concept involves state and national institutions regulating or by the State. This concept is, however difficult to define because it is a work in progress and was not specifically defined by the activists in my research. The Roots C o aliti on has are certain issues that have a lot of heat that are naturally intersectional. In relation to this issue, the Roots Coalition is working on the Real ID Act, which was passed by Congress on May 11, 2005. This Act creates new standards for creating and issuing for people to obtain or change information on a license or ID car d, and stricter screening of people seeking asylum in the United States (The Roots Coalition, 2010) This is an


59 example of an issue that SONG sees as naturally intersectional, or strategic for coalitional work. Jamie notes, It affects undocumented people, it affects gender non conforming and trans people, it affects African Americans in rural communities who have been disenfranchised who have never gotten birth certificates, [and] it affects poor people wh sing Rather than working individually in identity specific groups to address this issue, coalitions work together to frame issues in a way that illustrates the collaborative potential for a coalitional strategy. Whether it is a local or a national effo rt, as one SONG leader notes, Jamie: sometimes campaigns, sometimes projects. There are going to be timelines, there are going to be goals, there are going to be concrete wins in some form. That always means selecting an issue. So I think that the framing [of that issue] is where the intersectionality comes though. These realistic constraints to movement work mean as Angel articulates, to be able to move with strategies tha t they are not 100% sure are going to work, they are not 100% sure that they are going to be able to fly. You still have to do it. You just In creating a platform to do concrete work, SONG strives to carefully select issues and frame them strategically. They work to frame issues in a way that promotes coalition, Coalitional History By examining the history o coalitional political logic becomes clear. While members of SONG did not explicitly documents, coalitional work and i ntersectionality are historically grounded in the work and ideology developed by Black Feminists. lot of


60 the early [work of SONG] was really spent trying to get and successfully getting regional organizations and lead ers to start thinking more intersectionally and doing more intersectional work. feminist, a womanist, a racial justice and an LGBT lead view of what [early leaders] saw was really needed in the South. An examination of the development of Black Feminist and Black Lesbian Feminist activism and political thought illuminates a history of coalitional politics and intersectional practice. This history clearly relates to the current political logic of SONG and offers a distinction between other historical accounts of queer politics rooted in the development of queer theory and those of SONG. conditions of heightened cultural (Armstrong, 2002, p. 14) These conditions were present and flourishing during the development of the black feminist/lesbian gave (Springer, 2005, p. 1) Black Feminist politics and organizations developed in conjunction with both the Civil of tremendous political upheaval and ideological struggles in the United States and (Springe r, 2005, p. 9) This period allowed for the creation of a coalitional political logic grounded in intersectionality, a logic that SONG draws upon and expands today.


61 organizational and identity formation, black feminists found, sometimes in difficult ways, that black women held a plurality of visions for social change because of their dif ferences from one another in sexual orientation, class, color, and educational achievement Ibid, p. 4). These differences pushed women of color to examine the intersections of this plurality. Kimberly Springer in her book Living for the Revolution arg theorize and act upon the intersections of race, gender, and class Ibid, p. 2). This sted sexism and normative models of womanhood Ibid, p. 21). These women frames into new theorizing on the connections between oppressions Ibid, p. 26). This new the ory of oppression, particularly the work of lesbians of color (Ferguson, 2004, p. 126) As Gladys Jimnez Munoz explains, black lesbian feminists because as lesbians of color oftentimes this meant being located in positions in which one could not take for granted the social solidarity characteris tic of racially oppressed/cultural ( cited in Ferguson, 2004, p. 126). This lack of social solidarity provided the impetus for the creation of a black feminist consciousness. The development o f these organizations of black activism from key integrationist civil rights organizations to black nationalist (Springer, 200 5, p. 9) Black feminists challenged ideas of nationalism that


62 were becoming ever present at the time, particularly their investment in social arguing that if id entity is posed, it must be constantly contravened to address the variety (Ferguson, 2004, p. 127) A new black lesbian identity was created that was not im bued with socially constructed Towards a Black Feminist Criticism (1979), Roderick Ferguson, in his book Aberrations in Black (2004), explains s, not as an identity, but as a set relations are rife with unrest and contradictions and that these disruptions rebuke Viewing identity as a set of social relations ( Jimenez Munoz cited in Ferguson, 2004, p. 126) This n ew usage paved the way for a larger analysis of oppression and the possibility for coalition building. In her intro duction to Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (2000), Barbara ity of oppressions has helped to create a political atmosphere particularly conducive to coalition building (Smith, 2000) This notion of simultaneity is the significant difference of a coalitional political logic. This mov and third evelopment in (Ferguson, 2004, p. 133) The Combahee River Collective serves as an excell ent example of black lesbian feminist theorizing of the intersections of oppression


63 lesbian feminists were actually rearticulating coalition to address gender, racial, and s exual dominance as part of capitalist expansion globally Ibid, p. 134). This oppr essions, oppressions constituted through normative undercurrents, modes of exploitation that would characterize globalization in the late twentieth century Ibid, p. pol Analysis itical logics, political logic is individual self determination as well as creating shared power. Goals authenticity, and broadening the range of expression. In the case examined here, they include changing power dynamics as well SONG uses diverse strategies based on the idea of coalition building and working within the intersections of oppressed groups. They do not participate in mass movement, specifically not the mainstream LGBT movement. Strategies focus on starting at a local level, but working regiona lly and nationally when an end but as a set of social relations that are influential for every individual given the societal implications of those categories.


64 This analysis shows how SONG does a coalitional and intersectional politics that centers on self determination, coalition, and working within intersections. Given that SONG and its members see the organization as queer and as doing a queer politic of self sov ereig nt y as I describe in Chapter 3 it is fair to conclude that this looks like a new queer politics. It is a queer intersectional political practice. The extent to which a large number of social movement organizations practice this logic requires furth er research. However, in the era of global capitalism, post modernism, and queer theory, I believe it is an increasingly popular political logic for non bureaucratic LGBT groups and leftist social movement groups. Chapt er 5 examines more specifically one practice of


65 CHAPTER 5 PERFORMING UTOPIA: Q UEER COUNTERPUBLICS AND SOUTHERNERS ON NEW GROUND As C hapters 3 and 4 have illustrated, Southerners On New Ground use coalitional queer politics to blur identity rhetoric and resist neo liberal assimilation. In this process, they create spaces and places to envision a future where queer lives are wh ole and self determined. This C hapter will examine use of Camp Outs as a tool for rejuvenation and social connection among Southern organizers. (Warner, 2002) SONG creates intentional spaces through which a queer utopia can be envisioned. These spaces for alternative expressions of gender, sexuality and racial embodiment create opportunities for affective and expressive politics that combat the isolation of queer personhood in the larger public sphere. T hey allow for queer connection and illuminate the potentiality of a future not limited to the present. Counterpublics In his book, Publics and Counterpublics Michael Warner (2002) provides an analysis of public and private life and a conceptualization the United States. Through the critical discussion of gender and sexuality in public and (Warner, 2002, p. 21) This examination leads him particular relationship to space and place within queer culture. Scholars have offered a variety of different ways to examine the use of space in a cultural and political context, notably the work of Anne Enke in her book Finding The Movement examination illustrates how movements can be shaped by space, how space can shape


66 movement parti cipants, and how conflicts are mediated through space (Enke, 2007) Movement organizations, including SONG, create space both within a movement context and in the larger society. As Chapter 4 illustrates, ideas and strategies around more closely resemble the ephemeral and transformational nature of a counterpublic. of longer lasting and even institutional spaces within social movements. While the examples I use are is for understanding their current queer political practices. Counterpublics are in many ways defined by their relation to a larger public. (Warner, 2002, p. 56) This demarcation of difference suggests that counterpublics are not just different but are someti mes seen as inferior to publics; against which it marks itself off is not just a general or wider public but a dominant one ( awareness of its subordinate status Ibid, p. 56). The discourse within this type of counterpublic often conflicts with the rules of the dominant public discourse. It is Ibid). In queer counterpublics for example, the cultural assumptions and discourses of heteronormativity are not present. conflict with the norms and contexts of the ir cultural environment Ibid, p. 63). This


67 conflict comes in the form of discourse because publics, and counterpublics, are by not merely a different or alterna te idiom but one that in other contexts would be because this discourse conflicts with accepted standards of good conduct, not just anyone would willingly associate themse publics, a counterpublic comes into being through an address to indefinite anybody Ibid, p. 120). This is precisely becau se of the conflicting discourse presented in counterpublics. Participants are marked by their participation because there is an person who would participate in this kind of t alk or be present in this kind of sc (Ibid). While this may carry a negative connotation in the dominant sphere, counterpublic participants see the critical power present in such an environment. One example of a counterpublic, specifically one that r elies on alternative notions of gender and sexuality, is the performances of an artist from New Orleans know as Big a variation of hip hop music that has a deep histor y in New Orleans. Freedia however (Dee, 2010) This subordinate status and marks it off from the larger


68 (Warner, 2002, p. 56) of gender a man; but neither she nor anyone who knows her uses masculine pronouns to refer to (Dee, 2010) with, or for, one another they danced for Freedia, and they did so in the most sexualized way imaginable Ibid). While New Orleans has historically accepted more freedoms of gender and sexual expression than other US locations, the gender relations aggressive sexuality instead of its object Ibid). This discourse of aggressive female the [venue is] restored and they represent a queer counterpublic with alternative discourses of gender and (Warner, 2002, p. 57) for a short period of time. possible transformative nature of remains, then, is a need for both concrete and theoretical understandings of the conditions that currently mediate the transformative and creative work of counterpublics ( Ibid, p. 62). Examining the current work of Southerners On New Ground and the queer counterpublic that they create, can offer one example of this transformative work.


69 The Need for Queer Counterpublics Counterpublics, particularly queer counterpublics, are necessary and even essential for many reasons. Historically, marginalized groups have been systematically excluded from participation in publics. Historical examples range from the enslavement of Afr public and private sphere. P eople who do not practice heteronormative sexual relationships are also marginalized from participation in the public. As Warner notes, (Warner, 2002, p. 24) Public displays of sexuality are seen as appropriate only when they follow heteronormative scripts while alternative forms of sexuality are ex cluded or deemed inappropriate for the depressiveness, a blockage in activity and optimism, a disintegration of politics towards isolation, frustration, anomie, [and] for getfulness Ibid, p. 70). The desire and even need for counterpublics becomes clear through this historical understanding of public exclusion. To this end, Southerners On New Ground w ork to combat this isolation and cynicism through the creation of intentional space. Being queer in the South poses particular challenges that go hand in hand with exclusion from a public. SONG members regularly speak of these challenges and the need for alternatives. Kim: I thin South is really under resourced in terms of queer folk so there is a scarcity and a lot of isolation. This happens to queer people all around the country h where the religious right has such a strong hold and where real violence is being perpetuated on our bodies and each other.


70 Angel: One of the conditions that people talk a bout all the time is the heart break of what it means to break away from your family or just isolation, issues of depression in our community, the really high rate of suicide in our community and this constant thread of both heart break and heartache but a lso resiliency on the other side of that. Jesse: want, bu t it comes from a place of need S ONG brings Southern qu eers together by creating what I identify as a queer counterpublic that is open to a certain type of stranger and that offers a space, and sometimes a place, for developing an alternate form of citizenry, one that the SONG members above explain as somethin larger work of SONG creates this counterpublic, I focus particularly on a gathering that is part of this counterpublic: the CampOut The CampOut as Queer Counterpublic According to Warner, while some coun terpublics happen by chance, others are intentionally created for their ability to alter power and transform individuals. The work of SONG and the space created at a CampOut is an example of an intentional creation of space. CampOuts are seasonal gatheri ngs of queer people from across the South. While members of SONG typically coordinate CampOuts they are open to anyone interested in registering and attending. Typically a call for registration is posted and passed through networks of Southern queers ca CampOut 2008). They work from a philosophy of counterpublics that Warner calls stranger sociability. For the Fall 2010 CampOut on the Gulf Coast, only 5 of the 15 attendees were members of SONG. While a few were friends or acquaintances, most had heard about the gathering and traveled to meet other Southern queers who were


71 strangers. Strangers in this space are not however stran gers for long. As Warner of imagining stranger sociability and its reflexivity; as publics they remain oriented to stranger circulation in a way that is not just strategic but constitutive of membership and (Warner, 2002, p. 122) Strangers who gather for a CampOut become part of the space where their queer sensibility creates an immediate sense of belonging. hen I go back to the South to say a CampOut it is an illuminating There is an assumption present in this space, as in a ll signifies a specific type of belonging. or discourse but contains the potential for t ransformation from within. SONG creates spaces in which people, who are often isolated or discriminated against on a regular things that groups and members say about why SONG is crucial in their lives is the way that SONG can create a space for conversation and community that makes people feel (Alchemy: The Elements of Creating a Collective Space, 2008) This space allows people to develop a sense of themselves that is not possible within the larger public, but which can be carried into it. Where a traditional int (Warner, 2002,


72 p. 57) es of mind, body, and spirit and practices (Beliefs Our Work is Based On) This development of (Warner, 2002, p. 57) SONG members speak of the CampOuts as welcoming to that away One key feature of this ability for identity formati on that was regularly discussed by CampOut attendees was the initial introductions that take place at the beginning of each weekend. Each person has a chance to say, among other things, which gender pro nouns they prefer to be addressed by. This simple s elf naming allows participants to develop, explore, and expand their gender identities in any way they choose. During my experience at the Fall 2010 CampOut these introductions pushed some participants to think about gender in a new way. P articipants co mmented about these introduction s as offering them a different way to view gender S ome shared a larger description of their personal experience s with notions of gender identity It is as one member notes, a nt to be addressed and for what feels most comfortable for you. This intentionality allow for a wide variety of expressions all of to be respected for whatever you want to call that. elaborate new worlds of culture and social relations in which gender and sexuality can


73 be lived...[and] can theref ore make possible new forms of gendered and sexual citizenship meaning active participation in collective world making through publics of (Warner, 2002, p. 57) Envisioning Queer Utopia Through Counte rpublics Queer counterpublics not only provide a space for transformation, both personal and collective, but they also allow participants a space to envision a future not restricted to the present. In Cruising Utopi a, Jos Esteban Muoz pushes readers to invest in the notion of utopia. He argues that queerness is not something that has arrived yet, but (Muoz, 2009, p. 1) That missing thing is not just absent, but something queers can and should strive for. toward the future. Que erness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world Ibid). Different spaces and times allow us glimpses of this future world that sustains our investment in it. This fu blueprints of a world not quite here, a horizon of possibility, not a fixed schema Ibid, p. 97). Based on my observations and interviews, I feel that this potentiality exists wi thin the world of queer counterpublics and particularly within the work of SONG. CampOuts allow queerness to flourish and provide a necessary glimpse of the future that sustains queer activists today. Particularly useful in examining the futurity presen t in the work of SONG is (Muoz, 2009, p. 97)


74 Emotion, particular ly hope, is the mode though which queers are permitted to access world without utopia Ibid). SONG embraces a similar notion of hope and utopia. In their Core Leadership A and longing at the center of our thinking and work, instead of and before working out of (SONG Leaders Core Agreeme nts and Code of Conduct For Our Work Together, 2008) transformation to a just, fair and liberated society that meets the needs of its people (Belief s Our Work is Based On) The transformation to a society not yet here is impossible without the notion of hope. By working from a place of desire and hope, The centrality of hope and a uto particular exercise SONG uses in their traveling organizing school. This exercise, which they call a Studio, involves a concept called Third Space. According to SONG organizing literature, Third Space is an ide a developed and evolved by Black revolutionary thinkers. The concept involves three types of space that can be inhabited the space of trade and stealing within this co (SONG Organizing School The First Space is the world often struggled against by second space: the space of resisting and pushing back on oppression the space where we do anti racist work, anti sexist work the space where we oppose something


75 ( Ibid). Both the First and the Second space are regularly inhabited in our world. The Third space pushes indiv iduals to think into the future. The third space is the space of creation, invention, innovation, and birth. It is the space where we dream a new world, with new words that are shaky on our tongues. It is an exhilarating and scary space. Some would liken it to standing on the edge of a great cliff. (Ibid) This Third space allows people to envision a utopia. A place not yet here but that is often hoped or longed for. Given the work many queer activists do fighting the oppression of the First Space the T hird Space asks, as one SONG leader did, two can become contributing (Muoz, 2009, p. 127) (SONG Organizing School counterpublic. utopian longing and a vision of the future not yet here can lead to spaces of utopian CampOuts (Muoz, 2009, p. 100) Queer performativity creates literal moments or times of utopian potentiality. Applied to CampOuts I argue not con form to the mandates of cultural logics such as late capitalism, heteronormativity, and, in some cases, white supremacy Ibid, p. 111). That space


76 provides comfort for people working through and working against the hegemonic order of society. SONG membe r, Courtney, speaks to this comfort, taking solace in the fact that, Courtney: t here was an organization that is out there working for me to be trying to navigate in this world and t rying to figure out who I am, there is this organization that has done it and if I ever ne eded a place that was a haven to go out there and try to find other things. This work allows people to connect with each other in a different way and feel connections that are not present outside of these queer spaces. Riley: I think going to the CampOut was just amazing for me. It was a breath of fresh air because [before that], I had not had a chance to conn ect with my people in that way. Utopian feelings of hope and belonging are also associated with these spaces. Riley f hen I come into space with SONG people, my spirit is just lifted by the fact that there are other queer people, there are other Southern people, there are people of color, and there is just real love. These connections last beyond the experience of camping and provide a potentiality for future community. In thes e spaces, always on the horizon and, like performance, never completely disappears but instead, lingers and serves as a conduit for knowing and feeling oth er (Muoz, 2009, p. 113) With CampOuts the connections do not end with the weekend but as one member noted, Riley: I feel like those connections have really stayed strong. So even if it was just meeting ust like real love and support that came just through that experience of going to the CampOut


77 This continuation, this buildin g, and this potentiality help members physic ally understand, even in small ways, a vision of queer utopia. is situated historically and materially, it is never just the duration (Muoz, 2009, p. 99) present, and illuminate our future Ibid, p. 104). CampOuts serv e not only as rejuvenating and welcoming spaces, but as fuel for futures and visions of utopia that stay with the participants: Riley: this community or the handful of us that exist in this community doing it, there are people struggling in other ways. It gives you that boost to want to stick with it. In this way, CampOuts inspire queers to keep working t owards their vision of a queer utopia. In Muoz (Muoz, 2009, p. 99) This new mode of being in the w orld allows queers to maintain a utopian vision while the world around them challenges that ideal. Analysis Through the creation of counterpublics and the performativity of queer utopian spaces, Southerners On New Ground sustain their vision of a world that is not yet here. Their work contributes to our understanding of how, through this creation of counterpublics, queer political actors can continue the investment in a futurity that is challenged in their everyday lives about a desire for another way of being in both the world and time, a desire that resists


78 mandates to acce (Muoz, 2009, p. 96) Southerners On New Ground refuse to accept the ways in which queers exist in our world. Instead, they actively work to create spaces and communities that fulfill their vision of a queer utopia while sustaining the potentiality of that future while they work towards it.


79 CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION Although this thesis has analytically separated the political work of Southerners On New Ground The following discussion elaborates on the connectivity of Chapters 3 5 and argues that new and queer not simply because they rely on models from former social movements, but because their coalitional political logic is defined and practiced sovereignty, coalitional work and allow for the practice of intersectionality. Queering Intersectionality Southerners On New Ground or SONG, is a sixteen year old organization working to build, connect, and nurture Southern individuals who believe in liberation across all lines of race, class, culture, gender and sexuality. SONG is a distinctly queer organization and is known and referred to by its members as a queer organization. SONG practices community organizing across the South with a focus on coalition building amongst organizations with similar goals. Although notably challenging at times, tice of intersectionality allows the group to successfully implement intersectional work where others have faced difficulty (Luft & Ward 2009) They are striving to put into practice a new queer intersectional politic. Rather than using a traditional q ueer politics of deconstructing the identity based and social categories of society, SONG understands the complexity of identity politics and does complicating identity based and social dichotomies like man /women and gay/straight. This concept is based on


80 sovereignty discussed in Chapter 3 They believe each individual has a right to self determination of their gender and sexual identities and that no choice should be privileged. People should be lives. This is a unique take on queer politics. Its uniqueness is clear when compared to the historical deconstructi ve strategies within queer social movements. Recall Joshua ideological challenges to the usefulness of sexual identity categories in political work (Gamson, 1995) where q ueer actors contested the Ins tead, as I detail in Chapter 3 level whil e deconstructing the privilege and meaning that identities have in society. The nature of is queer in that it allows the group to avoid reification Luft poststructuralist momentum of early intersectional theory, many projects that have since laid claim to intersectionality have struggled to recognize racial, gender, and sexual differences while also keeping in view their social construction Luft & Ward 2009, p. 25) SONG strives to reinforce the fluidity of identity and the importance of self determination and individual experience. This political practice is arg uably queer, but in a new way in part because intersectional coalitional political logic and as I will also argue, practiced through utopian performativity in queer counterpublics.


81 As I discussed in Chapter 4 at oppression is systematic and intersecting. This logic is also found in the academic understandings of feminist intersectionality. In this thesis I have outlined SONG that alignment and solidarity among oppressed people provides the best possi bility for social change today. They work to value multiplicity in people and ideas and strive to see and build upon on intersections and connections of identity. As this thesis has argued, t cal logic I also argue that this political logic is centered in an understanding approach to identity formation is a new queer politic. Recall that Chapter 4 has explained how t inherently non competitive and work to create shared power in society. SONG resists (Luft & Ward 2009, p. 19) through structures and strategies that power relations are explicitly stated within their organizational documents and are clear in the overall structuring of their organization. This notion of shared power can be understood as queer by recognizing ho in fact dependent upon their unequivocal valuing of self determination and their refusal to privilege any specific identity as discussed in Chapter 3 Rather than simply talking about the importance of int (Luft & Ward 2009, p. 16) SONG actively centers their work on marginalized groups and builds at the intersections power and self deter mination, sometimes creating specific avenues, or as I discuss in Chapter 5


82 in a queer intersectional way such that they can foster a fundamental understanding of the value and ben efits of this type of work. As I illustrated in Chapter 4 coalition or alliance for combined action Coalition is essentia l to the work that they do but is described by SONG leaders as continually challenging on both a personal and political level. Movement organizations examined by Luft and Ward (200 9) struggled with the practical in a way that does not compromise facets of identity, reproduce oppressive patterns, nor sabotage long term movement goals Luft & Ward 2009, p. 27) To address this challenge, SONG uses an intersectional framework to fos ter coalitional thinking and action. Recall from Chapter 4 t his framework contains four core issues that facilitate discussion and strategizing in an intersectional way. These core issues include land, bodies, work/economics, and spirit. SONG uses thes e issues, which they believe everyone has some relationship with, to help members see their relationships to each other even if that relationship is not a direct one. As Chapter 4 shows SONG also strives to frame political issues in accordance with their beliefs around intersectional thought and coalitional possibility. To that end, they choose issues that they see as naturally intersectional, or that clearly affect a variety of people, different parts of Looking at issues in this way allows for local, regional, and national coalition building with groups of people who are also affected by systematic oppression. Within their strategy of coalition, SONG specifically use s community organizing as a political


83 strategy to shift unequal power relations or as discussed, to create the queer intersectional practice of shared power As illustrated in Chapter 4 t hese core beliefs, goals of political action, and strategies make u p what I call, coalitional political logic an intersectional politic, but a new, queer kind. Outlined in Chapter 5 u space for shared power and self determination. SONG sees t hese spaces as particularly necessary for Southern queers. Recall from Chapter 5 t his necessity comes from the experiences of isolation, depravation and exclusion from the larger public discourse that o develop these spaces in communities throughout the South while also creating temporary spaces particularly for the purpose of feeling respect and self sovereignty a concept detailed in Chapter 3 An example of this type of space examined in Chapter 5 is CampOut These spaces work on a set of relationships between people that differ from society as a whole and contain the potential for personal and political transformation. SONG is creating what this thesis argues are queer counterpu blics, as outlined by Michael Warner (2002), that are based in the emotions of both longing and hope. Longing creates the need for these spaces, or counterpublics. SONG understands this need and works to meet it while focusing on hope and utopia througho ut their work. Creating utopian counterpublics as discussed in Chapter 5 their whole but transformed selves detailed in Chapter 3 As this thesis portrayed, t his constant capability for transformation is queer in nature and allows participants a space to CampOut


84 allow individual queerness to flourish and provide a necessary glimpse of the future Th is potentiality, created in the queer counterpublic s examined in Chapter 5 helps to sustain queer activists As previously illustrated, members because it functions as a per formative for a queer utopia. A utopia t hat SONG and its members work towards using a coalitional pol itical logic described in Chapter 4 and dependent upon in the queer Chapter 3 but that is not yet here. success comes from a u nique history of social movement work. As this thesis has shown, SONG builds upon the work of Black Lesbian Feminist and Queer M ovement actors with a new queer approach that is distinctly different from these previous movements. Their politics outlined in Chapters 3 5 are practiced through que self sovereignty counterpublics and utopian longing that allow fo r a fluidity of identity and fee ling of hope necessary for intersectional work. This discussion of SONG informs our understanding of why and how these contemporary queer movement actors work to challenge neo liberal politics and envision a different future. Their work offers a queer intersectional teractive and inclusive it has not yet been achieved Luft & Ward 2009, p. 16) This thesis has outlined that queer u topian longing pushes towards an intersectional vision of personal and community transform ation that ha s not yet arrived. Further Research During my research, SONG unveiled a new seven year strategic plan (S.O.N.G. New Strategic Plan!, 2010) While certain successes of the group are clear from this st udy, the outcome of their organizing work was not examined. It would be interesting


85 to observe the group as they expand their work and implement this plan over the next seven years. Examining how the group ga u ges success and whether or not the group will deem the plan successful, could further this study. This type of inquiry would also member voices. In addition, t his research has also only skimmed the surface of interesting questions about space and its role in queer social movements. A further examination of the spaces and places used or created by queer movements may provide a different or better understanding of how the movement functions and characterizes social movement action.


86 APPENDIX A INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPLICATION (R EVISED) UFIRB 02 Social & Behavioral Research Protocol Submission Form This form must be typed. Send this form and the supporting documents to IRB02, PO Box 112250, Gainesville, FL 32611. Should you have questions about completing this form, call 352 392 0433. Title of Protocol: E XAMINING THE P RACTICAL M ANIFESTATIONS OF I NTERSECTIONAL Q UEER C OMMUNITY O RGANIZING Principal Investigator: Sarah Steele UFID #: 9982 0441 Degree / Title: BA/Graduate Student Mailing Address: ( If on campus include PO Box address ): PO Box 117352, UF Gainesville, FL 32611 Email : s.steele@ufl.edu Department: Studies and Gender Research Telephone #: 517 980 1442 Co Investigator(s): None UFID#: Email: Supervisor (If PI is student) : Kendal Broad Wright UFID# : Degree / Title: PhD/ Associate Professor Mailing Address: ( If on campus include PO Box address ): PO Box 117352, UF Gainesville, FL 32611 Email : klbroad@ufl.edu Department: Studies/Sociology Telephone #: 352 273 0389 Date of Proposed Research: June 22, 2010 April 30, 2011


87 Source of Funding (A copy of the grant proposal must be submitted with this protocol if funding is involved): NONE Scientific Purpose of the Study: Intersectionality is a key framework through which feminist academics and activists attempt to frame their work. Available data has explored the ways in which different groups and organizations implement an intersectional approach and the challenges this process brings. This data has a limited amount of information on groups whose work is based in community organizing. Furthermore, this information fails to explore onstructive) politics in creating grassroots collective change. Therefore this study will fill that gap and contribute to our understanding of how community organizing work that addresses the intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality is done by p eople who think of themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ). Describe the Research Methodology in Non Technical Language: ( Explain what will be done with or to the research participant. ) Research will begin at a political network and organizing conference called the US Social Forum in Detroit, MI. This conference is designed as a national gathering space for social movement convergence and strategic discussion among activists to advance social movements, bu ild relationships and strengthen capacity for change. Groups attending the conference who participate in self conference. In addition, participan ts in these groups will be asked to participate in non structured interviews about the work of their group. The interviews will take place at the conference in a private space (a private meeting room or a quiet sitting area in the conference hotel) and ove r the telephone and/or email if time during the conference cannot be arranged. I will ask people to describe their participation in the organization and recount their past experiences with intersectional community organizing. They will also be asked to s peak about the successes and challenges of this type of work. Describe Potential Benefits: Empirical research has not fully examined the concept of intersectional organizing by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) organizers. The results from this study will illuminate the challenges and possibilities for intersectional communi ty organizing within distinctively LGBTQ organizations.


88 Describe Potential Risks: ( If risk of physical, psychological or economic harm may be involved, describe the steps taken to protect participant.) Participants may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about answering certain questions or when recalling past experiences. However, these feelings are no greater than those they would normally experience in daily life. To protect the participants the principal investigator will remind those who seem uncomfo rtable for any reason that they can stop the interview. Participants will also be informed that at any time they have the right to discontinue the study and may refuse to answer any questions without penalty The investigator will occasionally pause and as k participants if they still wish to continue the interview In addition, the researcher will keep the records of that the researcher might publish will not include a ny information that could identify individual participants. Research records will be stored securely and only the researcher will have access to the records. After the research project is completed, all the audiotapes will be erased. q Describe How Participant(s) Will Be Recruited : P articipants will be recruited by contacting group leaders, participants and/or representatives at the 2010 US Social Forum Participants will be asked to offer suggestions for other group members who may be willing to pa rticipate. Interviews will begin during the conference (between June 22 and June 27, 2010) and continue over the telephone and the Internet. I will attend the 2010 US Social Forum conference, observe the groups participating, introduce myself, explain my research and ask if anyone would like to volunteer to participate (sharing with them a copy of the attached informed consent form) I will follow up with those who expressed interest in participation but did not have sufficient time available to participate in an interview during the 2010 US Social Forum (sharing with them a copy of the attached informed consent form). I will also contact those suggested group members who may be interested in participating but who did not participate in the confe rence to seek there informed participation. Maximum Number of Participants (to be approached with consent) 100 Age Range of Participants: 18+ Amount of Compensation/ course credit: No compensation Describe the Informed Consent Process. (Attach a Copy of the Informed Consent Document See http://irb.ufl.edu/irb02/samples.html for examples of consent.) Participants will informed of the purpose of the study, the length of the interview, tape rec ording of said interviews and their rights to refuse to participate at time before or during the interview process. They will also be informed that the study does not provide compensation for their time This will all be explained on an informed consent f orm (see attached). Those who participate over the telephone or email will be


89 provided a consent form prior to participation and their confirmation of willing participation will be taken as consent. Principal Investigator(s) Signature: Date: student): Date: Department Chair Signature: Date:










94 B IBLIOGRAPHY Armstrong, E. A. (2002). Forging Gay Identities: Organizing Sexuality in San Francisco, 1950 1994. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Cancian, F. M. (1992). Feminist Science: Methodologies T hat Challenge Inequality. Gender and Society 6 (4), 623 642. C hang Hall, L. K. (1993). Bitches in Solitude: Identity Politics and Lesbian Community. In A. S tein ed., Sisters, Sexperts, Queers: Beyond the Lesbian Nation (pp. 218 229). New York: Penguin Group. Cohen, C. J. (1997). Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queen s: the Radical Potential of Queer Politics? GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 3 (4), 437 465. Collins, P. H. (2000). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (Second Edition ). New York: Routledge. Collins, P H. (1998). It's All in the Family: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Nation. Hypatia, 13 (3), 62 82 Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review, 43 (6), 1241 1299. Bending Rap The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com Duggan, L. (1992). Making It Perfectly Queer. Socialist Review, 22 (1), 11 31. Duggan, L. (2003 ). The Twilight of Equality?: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack On Democracy Boston : Beacon Press. Echeverria, R. W. (2010, October). The Roots Coalition: A Queer Lesson in Movement Building Counter Point Journal. Retrieved from http://www.counterpointjourna l.org Enke, A. (2007). Finding the Movement: Sexuality, Contested Space, and Feminist Activism. Durham: Duke University Press. Ferguson, R. A. (2004). Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Gamso n, J. (1997). Messages of Exclusion: Gender, Movements, and Symbolic. Gender & Society, 11 (2), 178 199. Gamson, J. (1995). Must Identity Movements Self Destruct? A Queer Dilemma. Social Problems, 42 (3), 390 407. Ghaziani, A. (2008). The Dividends of Dissen t: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


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96 Smith, B. E. (2000). Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Snow, D. A. (1988). Ideology, Frame Resonance, and Participant Mobilization. International Social Movement R esearch, From Structure to Action 1 197 217. Southerners On New Ground. (2008). Alchemy: The Elements of Creating a Collective Space. Southerners On New Ground. (n.d.). Beliefs Our Work is Based On Retrieved from http:/ /www.southernersonnewground.org Southerners On New Ground. (2011, January 31). DonateNow Retrieved from https://secure.groundspring.org Southerners On New Ground. (2008, February 20). S.O.N.G Spring CampOut Retrieved from http:/ /www.southernersonnewground.org Southerners On New Grou nd. (2011, January 1). S.O.N.G. About SONG Retrieved from http:/ /www.southernersonnewground.org. Southerners On New Ground. (2011, January 29). S.O.N.G. Why the South? Retrieved from http:/ /www.southernersonnewground.org Southerners On New Ground. (2 008). S.O.N.G. Key Terms. Southerners On New Ground. (2010, August 18). S.O.N.G. New Strategic Plan! Retrieved from http://www.southernersonnewground.org Southerners On New Ground. (2008). SONG Leaders Core Agreements and Code of Conduct For Our Work Tog ether. Southerners On New Ground. (2008). SONG Organizing School North Carolina. Southerners On New Ground. (2010, June 18). Social Forum 2010!! Retrieved from http://www.southernersonnewground.org Springer, K. (2005). Living for the Revolution. Durham: Duke University Press. Taylor, V. a. (1999). Collective Identity in Social Movement Communities. In J. a. Freeman, Waves of Protest: Social Movements Since the Sixties (pp. 169 194). Lanham, MD: Rowm an & Littlefield. United States Social Forum. (2010). About USSF 2010 Retrieved from http://www.ussf2010.org Walters, S. D. (1996). From Here to Queer: Radical Feminism, Postmodernism, and the Lesbian Menace (Or, Why Can 't a Woman Be More like a Fag?) Signs, 21 (4), 830 869.


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98 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Sarah Steele hails from the great s tate of Michigan where she received a Bachelor s Degree from Michigan State University in 2005. Before entering graduate school, she developed a passion for community organizing through work as an organizer in Lansing, Michigan. Sarah is particularly passionate about feminist, queer, a nd working class concerns. Now living in Florida, she received a Master of Arts from the University of Florida in the spring of 2011 and is continually excited about possibilities for new relationships and new ideas about social change.