Having risked his neck to convince his fellow panellists that the Orlando assassinations were an attack on the LGBT community and not just an attack on random people having fun at a nightclub, the British journalist Owen Jones leaves the TV studio (June 16, 2016). First comes the shock that after decades of continuously growing acceptance and tolerance such an attack – motivated by suppressed desire, self-loathing and homophobia – is still possible, and then the insight that the open society is not as open as we think, but twists and turns circumstances into any form that suits its own purposes. The clash is most extreme where the foundations of sexual self-determination are touched upon.
In Clash, performative documents from the past illuminate the Orlando attack: on the one hand, the documentary film Paris is Burning (1990) about the black and Latino gay and transgender community and its survival strategies in 1980s New York (when voguing was born) and on the other hand, the solo evening Roy Cohn / Jack Smith performed by the Wooster Group actor Ron Vawter from 1993, in which Vawter played first the Republican gay-basher and closeted gay district attorney (incidentally, also Donald Trump’s mentor) Roy Cohn, and then, as a counterbalance, a gay icon, the experimental filmmaker and performer Jack Smith, a trailblazer of contemporary queer culture during the 1960s. The embodiment of these opposites by one and the same actor was so precise, so psychologically revealing, that one was tempted to believe in a historically encapsulated set of symptoms.
As Orlando has shown, that was absolutely not the case – on the contrary.
Why has repression reached such an explosive strength instead? How would repression and demonstrativeness, hiding and transparency, silence and imposition have to be mixed so that an open society would be spared such clashes?
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