Fuck off! recasting queer anger for a politics of (self-)discomfort


  • Tommaso M. Milani University of Gothenburg and University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg




affect, activism, anger, intersectionality, queer


While anger is often treated as a ‘dirty’ feeling or a pathology, queer anger holds the potential for a renewed politics of (self-)discomfort. I draw upon queer theory in order to strategically highlight that anger is what constitutes queer both as a homophobic slur and as a reclaimed label of self-identification. Put differently, it is impossible to understand how ‘queer’ works pragmatically without its affective loading. Moreover, inspired by the Black feminist tradition, I argue that it is imperative to forge angry coalitions with other activist and academic projects against discrimination. Fuck off! is the rallying cry for building a broader defying alliance that not only marshals together various streams of anger directed at different sides of the same Leviathan, hegemony, but also does not shy away from internal annoyances and is not afraid of constantly discomforting itself.

Mentre la rabbia è spesso trattata come un sentimento ‘sporco’ o una patologia, la rabbia queer detiene il potenziale per una rinnovata politica di (auto) scomodamento. Attingo alla teoria queer per evidenziare strategicamente che la rabbia sia costitutiva di queer sia come un insulto omofobico che come una rivendicata etichetta di auto-identificazione. Detto diversamente, è impossibile capire come ‘queer’ funzioni pragmaticamente senza la sua carica affettiva. Inoltre, ispirandomi alla tradizione del femminismo nero sostengo che sia necessario creare coalizioni infuriate con altri progetti accademici e militanti contro la discriminazione. Fuck off! è il grido di battaglia per costruire una più ampia alleanza provocativa che non solo metta insieme varie correnti di rabbia dirette a diversi aspetti dello stesso Leviatano, l’egemonia, ma anche che non rifugga dai contrasti interni e non abbia paura di scomodarsi costantemente.

Author Biography

Tommaso M. Milani, University of Gothenburg and University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Tommaso M. Milani is a critical discourse analyst interested in the ways power imbalances are (re)produced and/or contested through semiotic means. His main research foci are: language ideologies, language policy and planning, linguistic landscape, as well as queer approaches to language, gender and sexuality. He is coeditor, with Susan Ehrlich, of the journal Language in Society.


Ahmed, Sarah (2014) The Cultural Politics of Emotions. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

alQaws (29 Jul 2020) alQaws’ speech at the ‘Rallying Cry for Queer Liberation’ in Haifa. alQaws. Retrieved from http://www.alqaws.org/news/alQaws-Speech-at-the-Rallying-Cry-for-Queer-Liberation-in-Haifa

Anzaldúa, Gloria (1991) To(o) queer the writer – loca, escritora y chicana. In Betsy Warland (ed) InVersions: Writing by Dykes, Queers and Lesbians 249–263. Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers.

Bhabha, Homi (1994) The Location of Culture. London: Routledge.

Borba, Rodrigo (2019) Injurious signs: the geopolitics of hate and hope in the linguistic landscape of a political crisis. In Amiena Peck, Christopher Stroud and Quentin E. Williams (eds) Making Sense of People and Place in Linguistic Landscapes 161–182. London: Bloomsbury.

Bucholtz, Mary (2003) Sociolinguistic nostalgia and the authentication of identity. Journal of Sociolinguistics 7(3): 398–416. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9481.00232 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9481.00232

Butler, Judith (2015) Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674495548 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674495548

Cameron, Deborah and Kulick, Don (2003) Language and Sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791178 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791178

de Lauretis, Teresa (ed) (1991) Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities. Special issue of differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 3(2).

Forsberg Lundell, Fanny (22 January 2019) Hänvisa inte till forskning när det handlar om värderingar [Do not refer to research when it is about values]. Tidningen Curie. Retrieved from https://www.tidningencurie.se/debatt/hanvisa-inte-till-empirisk-forskning-nar-det-handlar-om-varderingar/

Freed, Alice (1992) We understand perfectly: a critique of Tannen’s view of cross-sex communication. In Kira Hall, Mary Bucholtz and Birch Moonwomon (eds) Locating Power: Proceedings of the Second Berkeley Women and Language Conference Vol. 1 144–152. Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group.

Freed, Alice (2021) The politics of difference in twenty-first century America: women, men and language. Gender and Language 15(1): 104–110. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.19527 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.19527

Hiramoto, Mie, Borba, Rodrigo and Hall, Kira (2020) Hope in a time of crisis. Gender and Language 14(4): 347–357. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.42609 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.42609

Leap, William L. and Motschenbacher, Heiko (2012) Launching a new phase in language and sexuality studies. Journal of Language and Sexuality 1(1): 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.1.1.01lea DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.1.1.01lea

Livia, Anna and Hall, Kira (1997) Queerly Phrased: Language, Gender and Sexuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lorde, Audre (1984) Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Trumansburg: The Crossing Press.

Makoni, Busi (2021) Black female scholarship matters: a black female’s reflection on language and sexuality studies. Journal of Language and Sexuality 10(1): 48–58. https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.00013.mak DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.00013.mak

Milani, Tommaso M. (2015) Sexual cityzenship: discourses, spaces and bodies at Joburg Pride 2012. Journal of Language and Politics 14(3): 431–454. https://doi.org/10.1075/jlp.14.3.06mil DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/jlp.14.3.06mil

Miskolci, Richard (2014) Queering the geopolitics of knowledge. In Rodrigo Borba, Branca Falabella Fabrício, Elizabeth Sarah Lewis and Diana Pinto (eds) Queering Paradigms: Global Dialogues on Queer Epistemologies, Embodiments and Activisms 13–30. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Motschenbacher, Heiko (2021) Language and sexuality studies today: why ‘homosexual’ is a bad word and why ‘queer linguist’ is not an identity. Journal of Language and Sexuality 10(1): 25–36. https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.00011.mot DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.00011.mot

Motschenbacher, Heiko and Stegu, Martin (eds) (2013) Queer Linguistic Approaches to Discourse. Special issue of Discourse & Society 24(5). https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926513486069 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926513486069

Msibi, Thabo (2014) Is current theorising on same-sex sexuality relevant to the African context? the need for more African voices on same-sex desire in Africa, Pambazuka News 667.

Peterson, David (2016) Homophobic grammar: the role of transitivity and phoricity in homophobic formation. Journal of Language and Sexuality 5(1): 61–93. https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.5.1.03pet DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.5.1.03pet

Spivak, Gayatri (1988) Can the subaltern speak? In Larry Grossberg and Cary Nelson (eds) Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture 66–111. Houndmills: Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-19059-1_20 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-19059-1_20

Tannen, Deborah (1990) You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. New York: William Morrow.

Tannen, Deborah (2021) Three decades in the field of gender and language: a personal perspective. Gender and Language 15(2): 232–241. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.20312 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.20312

Zerilli, Linda (2015) The turn to affect and the problem of judgment. New Literary History 46(2): 261–286. https://doi.org/10.1353/nlh.2015.0019 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/nlh.2015.0019



How to Cite

Milani, T. M. . (2021). Fuck off! recasting queer anger for a politics of (self-)discomfort. Gender and Language, 15(3), 439–446. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.20885



Theme Series