“The Birth of the Queer T-Shirt”

Jonathan Katz writes about the power of activist drag: “[F]rom our current vantage point, the advent of sloganeering clothing seems vastly less of a defining break with the past than in fact it was. Queer fashion once spoke sotto voce to insiders, at once defining membership in a subculture while excluding interlopers; its illegibility to the straight world was very much to the point.

But wearing a tee-shirt that literally reads ‘queer’ articulates a very different kind of politics, one that no longer ratifies any distinction between the inside and outside of a culture, but instead sees the overcoming of that distinction as a central tenet. In this sense, the rise of the tee-shirt was predicated on the development of a new historical identity, one that embraced the forthright declaration of visible difference as a strategic political advantage.”

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