While it is difficult to determine an exact definition of queer performativity, Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick outline its nature indirectly, creating a vague idea of the concept. In Bodies that Matter, Judith Butler explains "queer" through the idea of performativity. She encourages her readers to understand queer as a verb instead of a noun; queerness is not a stable or fixed identity. Instead, queering the notion of queer destabilizes the notions of power and agency. In her understanding, the idea of queerness should be constantly reworked; this is "necessary to affirm the contingency of the term" (230).

In Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick writes about queer performativity in Chapter 1, "Shame, Theatricality, and Queer Performativity: Henry James's The Art of The Novel." While this Chapter is focused on Henry James' novel, in it she suggests a framework for understanding queer performativity in relation to notions of shame. She writes, "In this usage, 'queer performativity' is the name of a strategy for the production of meaning and being, in relation to the affect shame and to the later and related fact of stigma" (61). While Sedgwick does not define queer performativity, she suggests that “most of the performative identity vernaculars that seem most recognizably ‘flushed’ […] with shame consciousness […] cluster intimately around lesbian and gay worldly space” (63). She also writes of the “‘torsions’ or aberrances between reference and performativity or indeed between queerness and other ways of experiencing identity and desire” (63). By queering performativity, she refigures the nature of performance in an attempt to create new dialogues about identity.


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“Persons who self-identify as queer will be those whose subjectivity is lodged in refusals or deflections of (or by) the logic of the heterosexual supplement; in far less simple associations attaching to state authority and religious sanction; in far less complacent relation to the witness of others. The emergence of the first person, of the singular, of the active, and of the indicative are all questions rather than presumptions for queer performativity” (Sedgwick 71).