Interview with Ryan Conrad
"Why did you decide to edit this book, and how do you hope that it will contribute to the conversation around LGBTQ struggles?
Ryan Conrad: I began archiving radical queer critiques of mainstream gay and lesbian politics in 2009 as a founding member of the Against Equality collective (AE). The books produced by AE, especially this last one, are really important to me because it is the culmination of many years of collective work that challenges the celebratory discourse around gay marriage, gays in the military, and LGBTQ inclusive hate crime legislation within broader queer and trans communities. I think AE’s work has played a critical role in opening up space to question the logic of equality and inclusion that has recently become more common in the mainstream press, academic publishing, and activist rhetoric. It is through this questioning of legal equality that I believe new ways of thinking up and being in the world is possible.
Who are you trying to speak to with this collection? What does this book do differently than other books focusing on LGBTQ rights, justice, and activism?
RC: This anthology is meant to serve as an introduction to the diverse array of radical queer and trans critiques leveled against mainstream gay and lesbian politics. AE’s hope is that by engaging with the ideas in this book, readers can go on to build broader and more nuanced critiques that best reflect the specificity of their own communities. This collection is by no means exhaustive or complete, but represents some of the most dynamic and convincing arguments assembled in AE’s online archive.
Beyond the immediate purpose of building a larger, more critically engaged community of radical queer and trans folks, the relevance of this collection is even more important today than ever before. The United States has seen the repeal of DOMA in the summer of 2013, the end of DADT in autumn 2011, and the passage of LGBTQ inclusive federal hate crime laws in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act; this anthology ensures that more radical voices are not erased and written out of history. These essays are like bread crumbs, laying out different pathways to justice and resistance for those that dare to imagine a more just world. When people look back on these desperately conservative gay times, AE hopes these collective voices can be an inspiration to those who come after us—those that look to our queer histories, just like AE did, as a site of rejuvenation, excitement, and hope.
What was the most challenging aspect of putting together a book like this? What was the most rewarding?
RC: The most rewarding aspect of putting this book together are the occasional emails and in-person conversations at our events when people tell us that our work has, in some way, greatly impacted or saved their lives. When AE began as an archival project there was a clear intention to breakdown the isolation many of us felt as mainstream gay and lesbian political organizations were soaking up every last ounce of energy, emotion, and dollar we had. Being able to shatter that illusion of general consent amongst LGBTQ people by assembling this chorus of voices demanding something better is an accomplishment in itself, and more importantly, it functions as a jumping off point for the conversation necessary to building the worlds we might find more inhabitable. One of the more challenging aspects of this work has been the death threats, hate mail, and being refused space to talk about our work because our politics would make students feel uncomfortable. As radicals and leftists, we are in some very depressing political times.
What do you want readers to take away from this book? What are the essential lessons and narratives?
RC: Marriage, militaries, the prison industrial complex… these are all institutions we, as queer and trans people, would be better off abandoning in our pursuit of a more just world.”