Historical Queer Data (Or, the Lack Thereof)

I began my reading for this week with my post from our last meeting and my presentation from the Text as Data conference fresh in my mind, so naturally I was thinking about Queer data. My own project is currently archiving Queer, naturally occurring writing in a way that has never been done before. Now, in my last post I came to the conclusion that for queer data to be ethical, it must be collected by Queer people (or at the very least, close close close allies who deeply understand Queer Theory).

In Markup Bodies, Johnson writes: “Black digital practice is the revelation that black subjects have themselves taken up science, data, and coding, in other words, have commodified themselves and digitized and mediated their own black freedom dreams, in order to hack their way into systems (whether modernity, science, or the West), thus living where they were “never meant to survive.”’ It is in this exact way I believe Queer data currently exists. Unlike this historical legacy of Black people, Queer people do not have a history of data at all, even data that is incorrect and twisted, really.

Most of modernity has been spent trying to be rid of the idea of Queer people to begin with. Especially in recent years, as far as I understand it, due to a smear campaign in the 1950s and 60s, Queer people have been painted as pedophiles (as in ‘Watch Out for Homosexuals’ and ‘Boys Beware’, both of which are available on YouTube). Naturally, being the scum of the Earth, people would like to rid themselves of all records of pedophiles. That’s something you want to forget. And not to mention the fact that, as recently as the early 00s, articles in Evangelical publications were still asserting this as fact (and I’m sure they continue to do so). Prior to that, we have been subject to eugenics at such young ages that the records simply don’t exist. From the systematic killings of Gay people during the Holocaust, to the AIDs epidemic where our health was ignored to protect straight people from us. And so, there is no historical queer data.

But I pose that we must gather data, for we need to prove that we survive in the world that the cisgender heterosexual society wants us gone from. We must live where we are never meant to survive. For future generations to know that we were here. We have been systematically killed by plagues like the AIDs crisis, and lost many of our community elders. A lot of Queer stories are strictly oral stories, because often our lives are at stake if we dare put these tales to paper. So now, in our more free world (as much as it can be at present), we must take advantage of this and archive, archive, archive.

PS: I will henceforth be capitalizing the word Queer when in reference to the community, in an effort to divorce ourselves from the notion of queerness and establish ourselves as a distinct group. I highly encourage everyone else to do the same.