This presentation is based on a book chapter that looks at intersectional queerness in the context of health/medical rhetorics—an area of rhetorical study often overlooked—and offers suggestions for the future of queering the rhetoric of health and medicine. We envision that bodies are always already queer. Yet, in Western health and medicine queered conceptions of bodies are too often described as diseased, deficient, and even disgusting (cf. Sontag, HIV/AIDS epidemic, depictions of trans bodies, etc.). We respond to this by borrowing the feminist media concept of symbolic annihilation (Creswell), which describes the erasure of marginalized groups when they are absent, under-represented, and maligned in media outlets. We apply symbolic annihilation to the queer body in health and medicine. Doing so, we argue that Western health and medicine practices and neoliberal discourses have symbolically annihiliated the queer body. We pose two questions for speculation: how may rhetoricians queer health care so that its practices better care for the seemingly always aready erased queer body? And in doing so leads us to ask: how may Western practices of health and medicine be reimagined through a queered framework? We envision this speculation as one entryway for queer rhetoricians to contribute to the critical work required in reorienting health care by centering queerness as a potential future.
Katie Manthey is an assistant professor of English and director of the writing center at Salem College. Her research and teaching are focused around professional writing, cultural rhetorics, dress studies, and fat studies. She is a body positive activist and moderates the website Dress Profesh, which highlights the ways that dress codes are racist, cissexist, ageist, classist, etc. Her work has appeared in Peitho: The Journal of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric & Composition, Jezebel, and Computers and Composition.