My ‘straight’ (what even is ‘straight’? Who even is ‘straight’?) housemate made a bewildering comment on the way courting seems to work in my (queer art) world. ‘It’s very European. Very intellectual.’ I suppose you could see it as pretentious, or romantic, or pretentiously romantic, or romantically pretentious — exchanging essays written, swapping books read — but we exchange ideas, possibly, as a prelude to ‘romantic love’ but more importantly, in order to live. If you exist so do I; if I exist so do you. We share secret knowledges to work against being silenced and surveilled. Our relation is one of infrastructure — our relation is equal parts inspiration and maintenance. All of which is to say, to be near someone who ‘gets it’ in the way that you ‘get it’ in a world that doesn’t ‘get it’ and wants to gaslight you into thinking that you’re wrong for wanting to not be treated with contempt ... can sustain you as much as it enflames you. And so the prioritising of relationships in my life has become a central part of my politics. Utopia is a lie and using optimistic queer theory terms is cliché. But there is something radically anti-capitalist and anti-a-whole-lot-of-things in friendship and in love and also, yes, in the weird, nebulous vibe that’s around friendships that aren’t completely de-eroticised. And, of course, in the fugitive sharing of bootleg PDF’s and emerging vocabularies in queer courting and friend- crushes. The skills-sharing in queer seduction is my/our lifeblood.
Coming back to art school (a place I, arguably, first found myself in years ago thanks to the searching, signalling, latent-but-active drive of my own gaydar) and meeting so many people who read so much and think politically about everything and make me so excited and inspired to be alive, I’m full of awe and attraction but unable to fathom actually dating any of these people. How could I condemn the fraternity I’ve waited so long to find with the contingency of romance? But also, how could I condemn all of this excited just-met-you feeling to the terminal punctuation of ‘just friends’? You can fall in love with someone’s politics or you can fall in love with someone’s work or you can just fall in love with someone but, most likely, you won’t really know where the line is or what’s happening to you until it’s too late. This was meant to be an essay about queerness in the art world but it’s also about the erotics of collaboration, isn’t it? Which makes sense, I guess, since what is queerness (in the art world, in the art academy, in queer academia) if not a sustained intellectual and political collaboration? When I think about the people I may have ‘led on’ or who I might be ‘leading on’ and those who may have ‘led me on’ or be ‘leading me on’, I just want to scream, please, please, please just let us just stay in ambiguity forever! I know that once we ‘resolve’ this question of whether or not we’re courting, some of the radical reaching in our intellectual, political sharing will dissolve; the collaborative google doc. as courtship will ossify into its final destination as a fossil; we’ll have to leave this space of quantum entanglement (spooky action at a distance).
Encounters in public are encounters with the self. Working on a relationship is working on yourself. A lot of this — politics, selfhood, entanglement, sharing, happiness, happiness as political strategy — is about who is near you and how they are near you and what that all means. We attempt to resolve ourselves in complicated equations of geographical, industrial, political, intellectual, social and erotic proximity. I was dm’ing someone and in response to them not feeling confident in their gay sexual power I said you’re definitely out of touch — multiple people at [art school we go to] have told me they have crushes on you. They responded with lol same for you. I dismissed their reciprocation with a joke about how I hope one of my anonymous admirers is some het-art bro who benevolently queers things. But I also felt, deeply, the weight of what we’d just co-confessed; we need our networks to validate that we are attractive, in a world that grinds away at debunking the total myth of our desirability and lovability. Fleeting crushes are powerful moments of affirmation for desire-ers, the desired, and those who witness and feel in the air the complicated circulation of attraction that hums in saturated spaces of queerness. We’re constantly re-learning to disbelieve our fate in the het-hole. We’re attracted to each other because we’re reaching for a certain politics and pining to be near people who validate that we have erotic currency.
You make me believe that I’m real and I can’t believe that this (feeling) is real. I can’t believe you’re real. I can’t believe you exist in my life. You’re a dream (I didn’t know I could have). So, how about a toast to the necessary hope of fraternal, homosocial, ambiguous, collaborating, co- validating intimacies? To every colleague who’s ever wondered if I want them or if they want me: I don’t not see your infinite erotic potentiality. I’m never not sensing the unfathomable depth of you. I can’t not feel the impossible fertility of loving and living with you forever. All the ways I could love you, all the ways I could want you, all the ways we could break and remake and reimagine and relearn together, are latent in our professional collaborations and friendships — because we’re more than friends, aren’t we? We have to be because we meet each other somewhere that transcends friendship.
Sometimes I might be little more than the public expression of top energy. But I’m also always that which floats around and above and near a queer sexual position. Do you feel that? Do you feel your politics? Is what we’re feeling for each other, politics? I want to put the daddy-BDE-impossibly-queer charisma-’top vibe’ energy that I could funnel into the seduction of one person, into a diffuser in the corner of the room. I want to feel it haze out into a collective politics of radical, homosocial eros. I want you to clock my public projection of endless, political, powerful, latent, conspicuous, tidal, gravitational desire, and deep interior sense of sexuality. And in doing so, I want you to drown in yourself and your own gaiety by proxy. I want to align the aimless flood of my libido with my politics of continually eroticising and de- traumafying and collectivising and socially-expressing queerness; I want every smirk I throw your way to make you feel like the only person in the room — and every look you give me to make me feel like we’ve reached that place where cis gay-men can meet each other; in the total homosocial recognition of the obviously implied truth of homoeroticism.
A crush can be transformative; in the past I’ve been radically changed and reoriented through the act of wanting. So, in gratitude to those who have given me myself through my brushes with their expressions of sexuality (and the hope that queerness would one day land on me), I offer my libido, to you — not as a possession or a promise, but as a galvanising force, an affirmational hand in the small of your back, that can support your ongoing project of recognising the transcendence, beauty, ultimate euphoria and total romance of y(our) existence. You and I and us are horizons and to be honest, I’d rather not ruin what we could be and our entire social scene with dating. Let me live not in sex, but in the idea of my entire life as an unexpected wet dream (dreams have their own logic and they work outside of time).
Please don’t resent me for not converting these DM’s into a legitimate romance. I’m just trying to (keep you[r politics] in my life by) hold(ing) you in your own romance, forever.
Em Size (@ genderauteur) is many things but a writer of one line bios isn’t one of them.