Pace's Queer, Lesbian, Transgender, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning, and Ally magazine.
Queer Theory Series
Introduction by Yahdon Israel
I have written somewhere else that our ideas about danger and safety are transient and we carry them with us wherever we go. We cannot escape these ideas, and if we ever hoped to reconcile the connection between danger and safety—because there is a connection—we need to cease being foreign to our own xenophobia.
My fear of things “strange” and “foreign” brought me here—to queer theory. Nothing about the class, the people who would take it, or the ideas represented, would be strange to me. My fear wasn’t of the “strange” and “foreign” in the other people of the class or the ideas even; my fear was the proximity to which I was putting, or would put, my ideas about danger and safety in contact with my ideas of the foreign. Queer theory would put me, Yahdon Israel, in contact with a foreign part of myself.
There was an immediate danger for me and it was this: how receptive would a class of LGBTQ students be to a heterosexual male? I knew that my presence in this class, aside from my own personal journey and my sincerity in wanting to be a student of myself as well as others, presented the possibility that I would be an intruder—walking on ground not yet fertile. I knew the dangers of being the dangerous one in a “safe space.” I still remember the beat of bleeding-hearts. Immature, innocent, white kids who thought their presence in a room compensated for a past too large for them to take responsibility for because they didn’t understand it. How could they? It was a history that wasn’t theirs—no one had put them in a direction to learn this history and they had not gone out of their way either. Their idea of danger was compromise—and that’s fine if you’re giving up some things that you don’t know you have (the privilege of it all)—but we knew that our safety relied solely on sacrifice, and that meant giving up everything.
I wouldn’t be so lucky this time. My safety wasn’t contingent upon my sacrifice in the same ways as the people you are about to read are. It wasn’t my place to create or cultivate a “safe space” for anyone in this class. My presence was to convey that as transient as our ideas of danger and safety may be, eventually you have to unpack, you have to settle down. We have to cease being vagabonds in a house of nomads. We can’t spend our lives moving from place to place, hoping for a safe space. Even at the expense of the very safety we’re hoping to cultivate, we must relinquish our ideas of danger—because it is a compromise and embrace the reality that safety relies solely on sacrifice.