Swings Both Ways... Queer There and Everywhere

by - December 06, 2017

With heartbreaking headlines such as 'More LGBT people killed in 2017 so far than all of 2016', there's a clear need to not only celebrate LGBTQ-ness but foremost to showcase how bigoted homophobes & co are the odd ones out. Especially considering that 2016 was previously crowned as "deadliest year for the American LGBT community on record", and surely we don't want this bloodshed to be our decades prom king.[1]

"Why has no one ever thought of this before?"

So when I saw Queer There and Everywhere by Sarah Prager innocently displayed on a table in my local Urban Outfitters (which was quite the experience in itself as I had never been inside an UO before), I immediately picked it up and gave it a loving home. Because isn't it GREAT but also SAD that this is apparently the first LGBTQ history book for young adults. Why has no one ever thought of this before?

That's life

A sense of history is important to get a sense of self and community. It not only shows how 'you' relate to this world but also all the swings and turns that went before you and possibly lies ahead of you. History can lead you the way by example; empowering you through stories, happenings and (physical) memories. As is mentioned on the back flap of the book: "(...) [N]ot knowing any other queer people, [Sarah] taught herself LGBTQ history as a means of gaining a sense of community." Of belonging.

Our history books used in school are occupied representing a straight cisgender world. A world that's subjective, exclusive and plainly ignoring or purposely leaving out -what could be- vital details. Details that can not only create a sense of belonging, but also shows how certain aspects of our existence are made to look abnormal in the name of 'normality' (aka straight cisgender aka European colonisation burning and banning anything 'not Christian' leaving a stain on society and the way history has been made and told).*

In this way history taught in school creates the distance between the idea of them and us, as us are not invited to sit next to them; abnormalising the normal and institutionalising it while -as this book and basically, you know, LIFE demonstrates- it's part of humanity. It's what you get with people.

*That's not to bash on Christianity or faith, but it's historically how the world was changed for the -in many aspects- worse. This is no reflection of contemporary interpertations of Christianity or faith.

Are YOU experiencing historiographical problems?

Although there are a few flaws within this book regarding who but mostly how the author (re)presents these 'queer' figures, I felt a certain relieve and peacefulness when reading it (interchanged by appreciative snorts at bad and time sensitive yet sometimes enjoyable puns). What I particularly loved about it is that Prager not only addresses the before mentioned historiographical problems, but also tries to explain the specifics behind the language she uses when discussing certain people. This creates a clear and easily understandable basics that -in my eyes- invites the reader to do some further research of their own. Can I get a big 'whoop whoop' for self-education?!

"I felt a certain relieve and peacefulness when reading it (interchanged by appreciative snorts at bad and time sensitive yet sometimes enjoyable puns)."

By first giving a backdrop or a sense of history lead by the more general consensus of it, Prager plays into the familiarities the reader might recognise within these stories and how their understanding of some specific characters can be twisted to fit either the known-image or this 'newly presented' one. Think for instance of Abraham Lincoln and Joan of Arc who are in this book celebrated for their queerness within history while generally that's not how the story goes (although funnily enough the inclusion of these two characters is quite often questioned by some Goodreads reviewers in regards to 'incorrect interpertation' or lack of evidence, but it's the thought that counts).

I basically could've just reposted Goodreads-user pi's review of this book and be done with it: "[Queer There and Everywhere] makes you question everything you (think you) know, [it] teaches you things aren't always as we've been told."[2] This book is a good (and casual) introduction to re-envisioning history as learned in school, but it certainly asks for more research; if not only because of the shortness of the biographies (generally three to five pages). However I think Sarah Prager did a good job producing the first (pre)teen book on Queer history. May many follow.

RECOMMENDED: You Better Think Millennial Pink

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[1] A. Cafolla, "More LGBT people killed in 2017 so far than all of 2016" (14 August 2017), http://www.dazeddigital.com/life-culture/article/37045/1/more-lgbt-people-killed-in-2017-so-far-than-all-of-2016?utm_source=Link&utm_medium=Link&utm_campaign=RSSFeed&utm_term=more-lgbt-people-killed-in-2017-so-far-than-all-of-2016.
[2] Goodreads, "Queer There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed The World", https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35046241-queer-there-and-everywhere.

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