Is the post- in postgay the post- in posttraumatic stress disorder? : echoes of queer trauma in Heim's Mysterious Skin and Palahniuk's Fight Club
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2009.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. The psychic toll of the AIDS epidemic on gay communities became increasingly unbearable in the 1990s. When the "protease moment" hit in 1996, many gay people were ready to turn away from the trauma of disease. I argue that the so-called "end of AIDS" was itself traumatic, in that it interrupted the continuity of queer history. Emerging from this rift was the incoherent neologism "postgay," representing the desire of (especially younger) homosexuals to move away from the gay identity and embrace more normative lifestyles. I posit that the postgay condition is marked by posttraumatic stress disorder, which makes itself known through cultural amnesia toward the gay past. By attending to that symptom and others, I attempt to "cure" the postgay of PTSD and unlock its critical potential. Looking at Scott Heim's Mysterious Skin, I elucidate the strange intersections between various queer traumas--the trauma of (homosexual) child abuse, trauma resulting from AIDS, and "everyday" traumas like homophobia. I assert the importance of the author's traumatic past on his work and show that his autobiographical narrative shares much with the traumatic narratives he creates for his two protagonists. I then use James Creech's concept of the wink to search for traces of homoerotic desire in Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, who only "came out" in 2003. I suggest that Palahniuk demonstrates an inadvertent wink in reference to traumatic queer subjects like the epidemic. Although Palahniuk avoids the word "AIDS," I show that his narrative reveals a haunted connection to the disease and what it means to contemporary gay consciousness.