Some may strenuously object to the suggestion that queer identities like their “less radical” counterparts, homosexual, gay, and lesbian identities, are also implicated in ascendant white American nationalist formations, preferring to see queerness as singularly transgressive of identity norms. This focus on transgression, however, is precisely the term by which queerness narrates its own sexual exceptionalism. While we can point to the obvious problems with the emancipatory, missionary pules of certain (U.S., Western) feminisms and of gay and lesbian liberation, queerness has its own exceptionalist desires: exceptionalism is a founding impulse, indeed the very core of a queerness that claims itself as an anti-, trans-, or unidentity . The paradigm of gay liberation and emancipation has produced all sorts of troubling narratives: about the greater homophobia of immigrant communities and communities of color, about the stricter family values and mores in these communities, about a certain prerequisite migration from home, about coming-out teleologies. We have less understanding of queerness as a biopolitical project, one that both parallels and intersects with that of multiculturalism, the ascendancy of whiteness, and may collude with or collapse into liberationist paradigms. While liberal underpinnings serve to constantly recenter the normative gay or lesbian subject as exclusively liberatory, these same tendencies labor to insistently recenter the normative queer subject as an exclusively transgressive one.
Queerness here is the modality through which “freedom from norms” becomes a regulatory queer ideal that demarcates the ideal queer. Arguing that “more reflection on queer attachments might allow us to avoid positing assimilation or transgressive as choices,” Sara Ahmed notes, “The idealization of movement, or transformation of movement into a fetish depends on the exclusion of others who are already positioned as not free in the same way.” Individual freedom becomes the barometer of choice in the valuation and ultimately, regulation, of queerness.