Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Family Blood Lines - The Queer(ed) Family

We often times talk about one's family blood line. It is blood that creates the family line in the cultural imagination. The old adage "blood is thicker than water" seeks to illuminate that family ties bind and no matter what stay with one in the best of times and the worst of times (or so it is thought). This of course gets murkier as families become hybrid with step, half, and adopted siblings, each in a different way challenging or transforming the "blood line" and the concept of family.

But, I am not interested in the traditional family blood line, rather I want to think about how transmission and family operate in perhaps a different way when one examines HIV/AIDS. HIV is transmitted. It is transmitted through blood. It thus in a queer way creates a family blood line. Yet, this family blood line is not recognized as such because the blood through which transmission occurs and the genealogy that is present is occluded by the ways we tell history and its absence often times of the sexual encounter. What I mean by this is that the transmission of HIV through sex, does not just transmit the "virus" but also transmits a line of lives, the stories of those who had that "virus" as part of their body and transmitted it to an other...thus creating this web of connections and a "family". 

Why don't we talk of this family though? Is it because this family is seen as consisting of lives often times not wanted within the traditional family - kicked out of homes for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender? Is it because we have moral panic and hysteria around HIV/AIDS seeing it as causing death, rather than providing new ways of living, new modes of intimacy? I do not of course want to imply that HIV/AIDS is just a "gay disease" as it is something that impacts the lives of all - we all live with HIV/AIDS. Yet, if this is so, we do not want to admit it, rather we seek to distance ourselves from the possible disruption that these new families, these new family trees cause in our lives where the traditional family and its values dominate the political, religious, and moral realm. What then could the families look like if we did a genealogy of the family one acquires with the acquisition of HIV? What connections and relations could be formed if we looked for our family through the blood line created within/through HIV?

Perhaps we can look at it this way...we often times see reproduction as the transmission of life and HIV/AIDS transmission as the transmission of death. What happens if we change the frame at which we look at these issues to see them differently, queerly? Is not reproduction inevitably the transmission of death as that which is birthed will suffer and will die even in our feeble attempt to touch immortality through reproduction? Is not the transmission of HIV/AIDS not the transmission of life, providing those who have died previously because of the virus to live on through the bodies of others who acquire it - providing life and living in new ways not yet imagined along with space to create activism and possible lives hidden from view because of the HIV/AIDS panic(s)? 

I of course do not want to imply that reproduction is just the transmission of death but it is not just the transmission of life...it will produce death, just hopefully out there in the future when "we" don't have to see it or grieve it because we ourselves will have died. And I of course do not want to deny that HIV/AIDS does produce and has produced suffering and death (often times hand in hand with political and economic apathy) but it does not just produce these things. It also produces new modes of being and doing life with a "virus" that has historically created a space of shame...

My thoughts then are meant to perhaps re-think about the family and see that the virus transmitted often times through the act of sex creates a family blood line similar but queerer than the blood line often times thought of. I do not mean to deny that this virus can be transmitted through violence, through accident, through lies BUT that is the same for reproduction as not all "babies" are born out of choice, but sometimes by accident or through violence. 


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