Queer values: on being femme in LGBTQIA+ Sydney
(University of Sydney)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper I discuss the specific ways that queer femmes in Sydney, Australia continually re-make non-heteronormative femininities as a moral/ethical practice within their local queer value regimes. In doing so I argue for the value of a queer anthropology that places queer lives at its center.
Paper long abstract:
To ask questions about femininities, queerness, and queer femininities is to consider questions of value, ethics and morality. Certain forms of femininities have been valued and devalued as more or less transgressive, queer or feminist within differently situated social and academic value regimes. The moral dimensions of femininities constantly shift across different temporal, sexual, gendered, classed and racialised contexts, and remain a central feature of queer and feminist lives, activisms and analyses. In this paper, I discuss the specific ways that queer femmes in Sydney, Australia continually re-make non-heteronormative femininities as an everyday moral and ethical practice. Drawing on Foucauldian and phenomenological approaches in the anthropology of moralities, I take moral experiences to be the mundane, profoundly relational moments in which Sydney femmes do the ethical work of reflexively enacting what they understand as 'good' femininities. Based on 12 months of participant observation ethnography with self-identified femmes in Sydney's queer communities, I consider femmes' ethical work in light of the community-specific hierarchies of value that their lives shape and are shaped by. In doing so, I argue that ongoing processes of ethical problematisation are a fundamental feature of Sydney femmes' enactments of femininities. It follows that I understand Sydney femmes as engaged in queer world building projects. I consider my turn to the moral dimensions of femininities to be a queer one, enabling me to attend to the desirous, imaginative and inventive possibilities of being feminine.
Gender, sexuality and beyond: valuing queer anthropology