“Those were the bad old days”: challenging straight histories of anti-queer violence

Curtis Redd


The context of queer history telling is different from that found in many other social movements and identity-based organising, due to the absence of familial intergenerationality. Therefore queer history telling is significantly influenced and defined in the public imagination by heteronormative representations. When queer histories of violence are told by heteronormative sources, especially those implicated in the events and their (re)telling such as police and the state, the consequences can include subjugating queer knowledges and setting the limits of acceptable queer anger and grief, as well as the political priorities of queer communities and divisions within them.

The telling of this history, and the creation of a homophobic past in the public imaginary, also has to do with a shifting heterosexual subject and identity. With an increasingly socially acceptable queerness, heterosexuality must reconfigure itself. I argue that the historicizing of anti-queer violence is part of a larger shift—one that involves queer politics being oriented towards homonormative goals such as marriage in which queers are made more palatable, while straights become more tolerant and by extension more queer as is shown by the rile of “ally” as an identity, and that is incompatible with a recognition of violence against queers as continuing.


Sexuality; Violence; Homophobia; Queer; Heteronormativity

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