What Gave You the Right?
In addition, the challenge also sits at the heart of what "civil rights" means and has meant for the general population. When lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered subjects yoke their claim to citizenship through an appeal to "civil rights," or "equal protection under the law," there is the implicit demand that the psychic dimension of that connection also have its place. Regardless of whether or not such claims are politically or morally efficacious, we have to also consider the psychic life of the connection being made. Such a connection is visceral, such a connection necessitates a simultaneous emotion and responsibility: To feel, and to act on that feeling. I am not sure that queer studies, as a discipline, has ever fully considered what it means to be connected to the fate of black people in this particular and sometimes visceral way. I am anticipating that such an understanding is beginning to take shape. In their introduction to the collection, Left Legalism/Left Critique, Wendy Brown and Janet Halley offer the following scenario:
So left, feminist, queer, and liberal constituencies together have celebrated these reforms [in same sex and domestic partner recognition and adoption] as a way for the law to recognize brave, exploratory "families we choose" as they evolve into ever new forms of intimate attachment. But our loose, fluid normativity stiffens when, in the aftermath of a breakup between lesbian co-parents who had not secured a second-parent adoption, the biological mother asserts a unique status as parent to deny her legally unprotected lover access to the(ir) child. (15)
Brown and Halley interrogate the fantasy of a "fluid normativity" that exposes the catch-22 of law and family. For them, civil liberty is not only about the law; it is also about the very idea of "family," a space/place where the emotions that engender calls for legal justice or legal reform might reside. What is the point of jurisprudence that does not recognize the devastating subtlety of emotion(s)?