Founding Fruit

Apricot's Becoming

'Fruit' as a homophobic epithet really doesn't play anymore. It was still around a bit when I was a kid. But even as crappy names went, it felt old, something your grandparents might say. It also felt relatively benign and even pleasant: he's fruity; he's a fruit; a bowl of fruit; fruit of the loom. I wish people would have called me a 'fruit.' 

The queer community has a tradition of reclaiming derogatory language and flipping its intent. Fruit hasn’t really made it back into our vocabulary and honestly, it is not my intention to help it find its way back. The fruit in question here is the apricot and comes from Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Café.  Apricot is also the title of NOGO Arts' online peer-reviewed journal.

The apricot seems to be the queer cousin of the fuzzy peach and the smooth nectarine. It is smaller, its flesh softer (to my palette), and tends to be most recognized in its desiccated snack form. It is easy to imagine someone picking up an apricot thinking it might be a peach or nectarine, to bite into it and be surprised that it is familiar and clearly not what it was thought to be. If we judge the apricot by its non-peach-ness or non-nectarine-ness it will invariably disappoint. If we meet the apricot on its terms, as an apricot, or even a fruit we do not know, then perhaps we can appreciate the apricot's own color, texture, taste, and fragrance without measuring it against the standards of the fuzzy peach or the smooth nectarine.  

From fruit to community

The metaphor is not subtle. For many people who find themselves, or a self, in the quasi-acronym of LGBT, or LGBTQ, or LGBTQ+, or LGBTQI, this uncomfortable experience of being assumed to be something known and ultimately not being that is very familiar. This mis-identification tends to happen first on a broad social level: straight v. gay, cis v. trans, and so on. Being clocked by the establishment can shake us, make us strive to present as more peach or nectarine: I'm fuzzy and juicy or I'm smooth and juicy! That tactic usually is exhausting and really unfulfilling.

The other option of saying yes to one more of the letters in LGBTQ can feel invigorating and empowering. These are my fruits!  Of course, the simple fact that LGBT is fairly ubiquitous now as an identifying label does not mean that we are of one mind or one body. Within the LGBTQ world we do not have equal experiences. White gay men have largely been the focus of gay liberation and protest. Being white within the LGBTQ landscape means something very different than being a person of color. Being a cisgender male affords a lot more cultural and social capital than identifying as female (trans, cis, or otherwise). 

There has been a lot historical emphasis on the normalization of LGBT identity. (I intentionally left off Q, because Q will always slip away from this centering impulse). An early demarcation in the gay liberation movement was made when certain men chose to emphasize their masculinity and distance themselves culturally and politically from other gay men who did not live within the boundaries of traditional masculinity. Trans people were also quickly moved to the margins. If LGBTQ is a community, then we have done a poor job of recognizing the diversity of it.

Things just got tense

That statement may make some people bristle. I am okay with that. As I was thinking of the founding values of NOGO Arts, tension kept sneaking into my head space. The most difficult thing to do is to hold tension. There can be an overriding drive to resolve disagreement or to remain firmly where you started without ever really engaging in conversation or even argument. When I think of tension I tend to think of the body. Tension can be debilitating; a cramp is a muscle seizing refusing to let go. This is not the tension I want to encourage in the work of NOGO Arts or Apricot. I want to tap into the tension our body revels in when it is physically engaged. Tension is necessary to do anything. Breathing is tension. Blood flow is tension. To force the metaphor back into this, the composition of the apricot is tension: its skin holds its flesh and juice and stony heart. 

Another part of tension that felt important in founding NOGO Arts is that it is relational; tension is felt in contrast to something seemingly less tense. The point is that tension does not mean the decimation or erasure of something else. 

NOGO Arts is committed to exploring productive tensions within our larger community of LGBTQ. In its performances and exhibitions NOGO Arts will present work of, from, by, and for the LGBTQ community. Apricot is the publication of NOGO Arts where scholars, critics, and artists can present written work to engage in conversation and tension. 

I recognize that we will often not make everyone happy all the time. We will likely publish work that you disagree with outright and work that makes you want to print t-shirts and totes. As Apricot gets underway, I want to encourage the readers and the authors to think about the human on the other side of the text. Our goal is to bring us back together and share ideas and research, to break down walls of privilege and access.

Fruity threads

NOGO Arts and Apricot intend to hold the constructive tension that lives between the L, G, B, T, and the Q to give space and voice to the myriad ways we live and experience culture. Having an inclusive and broad editorial board is one small way to do this. Inviting guest editors to work on special issues is another way. Without always chasing trends, it will be responsive to the culture and the moment.  If a journal can have an identity, then Apricot will follow José Muñoz’s assertion that “queers are people who have failed to turn around to the ‘Hey, you there!’ interpellating call of heteronormativity.”[1] We won’t turn around simply because an authoritative voice shouts at us.

Citing Mu­ñoz isn’t sufficient. It is important to recognize that this possibly familiar quote comes from Muñoz’s discussion of a queer lantix performance artist, Marga Gomez. In this way, it is specific and perhaps not a general rallying cry for all queers. Muñoz's book looks at queers of color, so it is important that I notice my own desire to use his language in a different  context. In all our editorial writing, we will follow the thread and strive to put things in context and recognize the source. This is not just a way of following standard research practices; it is a way of highlighting the people we may too easily forget or unwittingly erase.

Again, we know that we cannot be everything to everyone at all times. We will be serious. We will be playful. We will be many things, but we will always be responsible for the questions we raise.

Apricot will be (yes) fruity.

 

 

[1] José Muñoz. “Introduction,” in Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), quote on 33.

 

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Todd Coulter