MA Thesis

The Birth of the Cyberqueer Manifesto

Edmond Y. Chang | echang @ | MA Project Description

Written as the capstone of my Master’s program at the University of Maryland, this paper addresses the need for a queer reading and queer politicizing of cyberspace.  Taking on the stylistic tropes of a manifesto, I argue that cyberspace is queer.  It is a space of contention, differing definition, rich and revolving identities, fear and desire, loathing and luminescence.  Drawing on the work of Donna Haraway, Nina Wakeford, and Michael Warner, my project investigates the technological and experiential terrain of cyberspace where strangers, cyborgs, and cyberqueers provide a way to imagine a radical queer politics.


Fourth and finally, the end lesson is one of hope, inclusion, healing, and imagination.  We must possess and pass on the willingness, the frankness, and the openness to imagine a utopia, a cybertopia.  We must find and savor the strength and subversive instinct to pull away the mantle of oppressions, dissolve the grids of power, and recreate and reorganize in the manner of snowflakes, bee hives, fractals, and protests (maybe even riots).  The dilemma and destiny of the cyberqueer is a tightrope walk, a careful but acrobatic traversing of the thin and thick edges of ideologies, the sharp and smooth and sometimes slippery boundaries of gender, race, class, cyborghood, and citizenship, and the hypertextual and electromagnetic lines of old media, new media, and cyberspace.  We must walk, dance, run, wheel, roll, crawl, teleport through space, through life, through barriers with impunity, with pride, with promise.

Cyberqueer identity is elusive, effusive, erotic, ergodic; it is complexity rising out of simplicity.  Cyberqueer is the symbiosis of cyborg bodies, the flattening of public and private spaces, the welcoming of strangers into our midst, and the realization that true community, true coalition rises out of emergence.  Emergence theory has come out of economics, biology, sociology, philosophy, as well as cyberstudies.  Emergence is all about self-organization, about bottom-up systems (rather than top-down), about local particulars becoming global patterns. Emergence tries to understand “how ant colonies learn to forage and build nests; why industrial neighborhoods form along class lines; how our minds learn to recognize faces” (Johnson 18). It is “movement from low-level rules to higher-level sophistication” (Johnson 18).  It is how radical, disparate, disconnected individuals and groups can self-empower and self-organize to gather cultural power, to start progressive movement, and to sustain political momentum. Cyberqueer is emergence.  Cyberactivism is emergence.  Cyberspace is emergence.  And cybercitizenship is achieved through self-organizing coalitions, emergent counterpublics, and flash mobility.

Cyberqueers must embrace, inculcate, and imagine their slipperiness, their difference, their strangeness, their cleavages, their multiplicity.  But they must remember that play is not without responsibility, that resistance is not necessarily chaos, and that the many can be a whole and unity can must be made by many.  Shane Phelan says, “Fully accepting plurality means living with structures that fail to capture all, or all of everyone’s, concerns…The goal of this multiplication is not a larger ‘marketplace of ideas’ in which the best will win, or simply a space for a thousand flowers to bloom, but rather the formation of new hegemonic blocs that can produce changes in the lives of people” (145).

Cyberqueers must add all of this to their minds, bodies, lexicons, routines, and programming.  The usual channels to power and acknowledgement and diversity are well-worn and often passages equally fenced in by glass walls, glass ceilings, and glass gates.  Old paths need ripping up, repaving, or rerouting, and new channels must be found, tried, reconnoitered, and well-lighted.  Possibility comes from cyberqueer imagination.  Resistance comes from a cyberqueer politics.  Healing comes from a cyberqueer desire and need.  Haraway agrees, “We have all been injured, profoundly. We require regeneration, not rebirth, and the possibilities for our reconstitution include the utopian dream of the hope for a monstrous world with gender” (181).   Ultimately, hope comes from a cyberqueer aesthetics and poetics.

One cyberqueer manifesto has been written, imagined, digitized.

Others are on the way.  Let slip the digihounds.

We must rally.  We must make noise.  We must raise hell.  We’re here, we’re queer, and cyberspace is ours.  We are cybercitizens.  We can be, will be, must be anything we want on- and offline.  We have the advantage.  We have the technology.  We must build, invite, coalesce, and access.  In short, we are cyberqueer.  It gives us our ontology, our mythology.  It gives us our politics, our tools, our data, our lives.

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