Lavender Ain’t Pink: Emerging Queer Self-Expression in a Non-White World

John Hawley, Santa Clara Univeristy

Published in Postcolonial Whiteness: A Critical Reader on Race and Empire, Alfred J. López, Editor. State University of New York Press, 2005. Available at


The collection edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, entitled Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror (1997), is fascinating on a number of levels, and apparently rather comprehensive—with sections dealing with the question of how whites see themselves and see others; how history, biology, gender, law, and culture have played their roles in shaping the issue; how one might approach the question of multiracial people and of “white consciousness”; and finally how whites who wish might become part of the solution. But in none of the lengthy volume’s 114 essays is the topic of queerness discussed at any length, as if it were as invisible to the editors as “whiteness” appears to be to so many in the United States and western Europe. Robyn Wiegman elsewhere surveys the field of white studies and points to certain “omissions” in its interests, and notes that “whiteness studies tends to be described as a project devoted to dismantling whiteness from a white perspective, which disturbingly disassociates scholarship from the various ethnic studies areas as being part of the scholarly archive on the social construction of whiteness.” She goes on to suggest that “early feminist work . . . is also jettisoned from the new multidisciplinary scheme,” and concludes that “these moves reconvene the logic of white masculinity as the generic subject even as the ideological hold of that subject is supposed to be under abolition” (Wiegand 122).2 In the present essay I hope to take a few steps to counter this oversight, briefly turning the reader’s attention to those who are not only “non-white,” but also “non-straight.” Why should we want to do this? The two questions Alfred J. Lopez seeks to address in this present collection (“What happens to whiteness after it loses its colonial privileges?” and “To what extent do white cultural norms or imperatives remain imbedded in the postcolonial or post-independence state as a part–acknowledged or not–of the colonial legacy?”) are interesting in their own right, but they use a more complete palette when questions of gender and sexuality are included. This is especially true when queer theory becomes the prism through which those colors fan out, since, as becomes increasingly clear, queer theory and postcolonial theory have a great deal to say to each other (see, for example, Vanita 2002; Hawley 2001a, 2001b; Cruz-Malave 2002; Povinelli 1999; Goldie 1999; Harper 1997)—and, by implication, have a great deal to say to whiteness studies.