Enduring “Straight Time” to Build Our Own Radical Queer Utopia

Bear with me.

A standard recap of the world — it is on fire, from the roots to the sky. It is impossible to live, to survive; impossible to thrive. We keep treading. But I suppose the real question is: How can we thrive? Can we?

I, like many of us, feel the almost-hopelessness of it, the impossibility of it — as if the systems upholding the world as we know it are eternal; enduring, shaping and reshaping the world in a continuous, violent cycle. Pulling those systems down seems like an impossible task — we could more easily pull down the sky itself, could more easily hang it on the trees like a canopy, the sun a shining ornament. In his iconic work of queer theory, Cruising Utopia, José Esteban Muñoz tells us that this is “straight time”, and what a tale straight time tells us.

These institutions, these systems, this rotten, cored-out world: This is the way it is, they say; this is the way it has always been. Straight time not only does not see us, but is deliberate and violent in its blotting out of queerness; in its blotting out of a different past, a different future. For us queers though, we know that there can be something better. When we go to a queer bar — and I mean a proper queer bar, you know the kind, with heavy-liquored drinks lining sticky countertops; with peacocking queens and fearless pole dancers; Black femmes and Latinx dykes and trans men and women, the ever-present suave and turned out enby (and their sibling, the rolled-out-of-bed cryptid: just as hot); all fully embodied, all fully present, all seen — that, that right there, that’s queer time. Most of us know the feeling of going from queer time to straight time. When we stumble knock-kneed out the door and feel our heel go down further than we think it should — a moment of vertigo, a moment of unease: Oh, it’s still straight out here.

José Muñoz, a queer Cuban immigrant who died suddenly in 2013, did much of his most influential work at the intersection of queer politics, performance studies, and visual culture. His work was foundational in the establishment of queer of color critique within academia, but his theories found their roots, first and foremost, within and for the queer community. Muñoz was writing for queers before any other audience. He urges us to recognize queerness as “that thing that lets us feel that the world is not enough, that indeed something is missing.” Queerness shows us the deficiency of the world, but more importantly it lets us imagine a world that is not deficient — the very shape of the thing that sees us whole; sees us free; sees us.

There are a lot of ways queer people escape straight time, but it gets harder and harder the more the world eats itself alive. Well. No, posiblemente no tengo razón. Maybe that’s wrong — maybe it’s always been this hard. We’re just having to find new spaces to carve out. Burrow-holes of freedom. Hollows of wholeness; the traces, what Muñoz might call ephemera, of something else; something better; something bigger and bolder than the thing we live in now. These moments don’t last – they can’t last — but we keep them close, right under our skin, right up against our beating hearts: There can be more than this, I can see it, just there. That is what Muñoz is talking about when he speaks of queerness almost as a second vision, an ability to see what isn’t, an ability to feel what can be. An ability to make the potential of your life come into being, if only for an instant; in small, protected pockets; in breathless, breathtaking, fleeting moments — held just there on the edge, held just there against the violence that waits at the doors.

See, when mi gente — mi familia, my “friendmily” — and I make plans, we make them like the only thing standing in our way is Time. “Plans”, I say, but maps, more like. Mapping out our future, mapping out our desire in the same stroke. Wanting is such a queer project. Wanting, wanting so much that through sheer wanting we believe it can happen (maybe; possibly; one day; but most importantly: It doesn’t matter). Want, whether it comes to you or not. Want like it’s just there, on the horizon; like you can taste it in the air. Hold that want on your tongue, in your throat, in the cavity of your chest. Want like it’s freedom itself. The world tells us that we should not want anything beyond what is here and now, right in front of us, but what’s in front of us is violent and harmful. What’s in front of us is killing us. Muñoz is urging us to want into utopia itself; to want like a pulling, like fighting, like a challenge. What a project — queers have always been good at wanting. Queremos muchísimo, siempre, siempre.

So, what does my queer found family want?

We want a piece of land, with plenty of trees, plenty of dogs, maybe an old, half-lame draft horse; one of us wants a herd of sheep, so they will have their herd of sheep; we’ll have chickens and some cats to keep the mice population under control. We’ll have herbs and fruits and vegetables. We’ll have dozens of small homes, walking distance, and a central hub, for cooking and family meals and family time. And yes, we do have every square footage of this mapped out. We want to open it to people who need haven; we want haven. We want to be self-sustaining; generous; welcoming; abrimos la casa, let in the sun, let in life, let in the wounded, the shattered, the angry, the damaged.

Muñoz says, “Take ecstasy with me…[is] a request to stand out of time together, to resist the stultifying temporality and time that is not ours, that is saturated with violence both visceral and emotional, a time that is not queerness. Queerness’s time is the time of ecstasy. Ecstasy is queerness’s way”. What we want, most of all, is to take ecstasy. We start with an empty piece of land, somewhere forgotten; we start with a piece of land that was once not empty, but is now blood-soiled; we start with a piece of land and honor the lives of the Indigenous peoples who were once there, now often forgotten, and we suffuse it with as much love and freedom and respect as we can; cut it out of the apocalyptic wasteland of capitalism and despotic government and make it something beautiful. Yes, queers can work miracles, can make ecstasy of the ruins. Bear with us. Just there, on the horizon, our haven is alive, and we are constantly moving towards it.

I believe that cultivating and building and tending to queer families, found families, is in and of itself, escaping straight time. It is “feeling queerness’s pull”, as Muñoz says. I want, in the end, to encourage queer families to move towards the horizon. To want it, to want whatever it is with everything in them — never mind straight time that reminds us that we’re scraping by, that the world is on fire, that the world is corrupt; está mal, está roto. We know that. We know. Ya sí, sabemos. But we know, too, that queerness’s pull is pulling us toward something, something that doesn’t yet exist but that we must, we must, want. In the end, I want to convince people that wanting is in and of itself giving into queerness — even when it hurts.

Muñoz tells us that “the future is queerness’s domain.” Within the queer body, the queer spirit, the queer mind, within queer vision, exists a potentiality for not just radical change, but radical joy, pleasure, and desire. It’s our job to want it. It’s also our job to work for it, to enact it. It’s a lot to bear, but what else is new?

And so I ask, not rhetorically: What future does your queer-found family want? 🔮

Edited by Carmen

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Nik Valdez

Xicanx. Writer. Always making trouble. Will meet you in the parking lot whenever. Doctoral Candidate at the Grad Center @ CUNY: English Lit., Queer Theory, Decolonizing Education, Accessibility. dsjkhalkjs idk just doing my best.

Nik has written 1 article for us.


  1. This. So much this. This yearning for land and space and queer time. Killing me softly with your song, friend. 🌱

  2. “It’s a lot to bear, but what else is new?”

    This is the most succinct, purely perfect description of the queer (& trans) experience. Love this.

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