William Trlak: Queer Humility and Futurity
In his critical text Cruising Utopia, queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz distills the relationship between queer identity and the burden of time: “Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality.” My undergraduate thesis entitled “‘Mejor soñar lo que hacemos’: Queer Humility and Futurity in Loco afán and AIDS and Its Metaphors” examines this assessment of queerness in AIDS literature, particularly in these texts emerging from Chile and the United States, respectively. I take up these countries for the extant relationship between them, forged particularly through the U.S. backed Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, but also to imagine new relationships between these spaces and queerness as represented in these texts.
I root my study of these texts in Muñoz’s invitation to understand and find potential in queerness’s “ontological humility.” That is, to imagine queerness beyond the constraints of a political here-and-now dedicated to a restrictive idea of heteroreproductive society. I contend that Pedro Lemebel, in Loco afán, inhabits this space of ontological humility by imagining typically taboo modes of queer affinity, like sex work and anti-normative gender expression, to be directly implicated in the deconstruction of the neoliberal remnants of dictatorship and U.S. empire.
While I find that Sontag remains bound by the constraints of her U.S. positionality and its reliance on hierarchy, I ultimately contend that what is important in a transnational study of AIDS literature are these interstitial spaces and generic contradictions that Lemebel and Sontag exemplify. The study of AIDS literature and queer futurity seems to be, after all, a glaring contradiction. By attending to this though, I believe that the potential of comparative analysis can help us to understand how a collective queer past can be mobilized towards a generative future.