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Be Oakley is a writer, facilitator, and publisher based in Brooklyn, NY. They received their MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018. Oakley's projects look to what Fred Moten calls “the politics of the mess” by framing their identity as a white non-binary queer person in its intersections with failure and internationality.

Their work has been shown in programs, exhibitions, and events at Cue Art Foundation (upcoming 2020), Center for Books Arts (upcoming 2020) MoMA PS1 (NYC), The International Center of Photography (NYC), The Studio Museum in Harlm, Vox Populi (Philadelphia), EFA Project Space (NYC), Sediment (Richmond) and many others. Their publications can be found in the library collections at The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, The Metropolan Museum of Art, The Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection at The School of The Art Insututie Chicago, The Tate Modern Library, and many others.


A statement on
the Queer Voice - 2017

Recently I was at Ulises Books in Philadelphia, I picked up a 2010 publication released in conjunction with the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Queer Voice exhibition. Ingrid Schaffner invited 85 people to "describ[e] the queer voice" in an exhibition that looked to bring to the forefront "a queer voice- one that signals a disengagement both with gender norms and with everyday conventions of communication." Reading this catalogue I am reminded of the importance of the ways that I activate my own queer voice in my artistic practice. As an exercise I will respond to the instructions of Ingrid Schaffner to describe my queer voice.

Each day I am reminded of the agency some rural, white, cisgender men find in their voices. These voices continue to command overwhelming power in a society that is still poisoned with the ghosts of white supremacy, religious morals, and the blinding light of capitalism. These voices spew xenophobia, racist, and transphobic language that fuels the physical actions of others. Scrolling through my Instagram, I am reminded of this agency: personal accounts of queer bodies being denied a rideshare based on the visual cues of queered expression; stories of friends being assaulted in public spaces because of a catcall gone wrong after misgendering their queered body; continuous news articles about black trans women being killed. I feel a state of uncertainty every time I put on jewelry, act in ways that blur the expectations of my gender, or enter spaces populated by the actions of hypermasculinity.

The queer voice spits in the face of the continuous aggressions that aim to silence our thoughts before they ever articulate into words. It embodies a type of freedom that the heteronormative voice only dreams of; The freedom of not relating our happiness to capitalism, to social expectations, to marriage, to other forms of expression not based on equality of gender or financial privilege. The verbal screeches of queer slants; disconnecting a symbol with its signifier, looking at something that might be oriented in the wrong way and not quite understanding which way is correct.

The queer voice is collective and inclusive by changing, shifting, morphing, failing, rebuilding, and reclaiming. The queer voice builds on crumbling foundations and aims to create something unlike the original form. The queer voice is never perfected and is always awaiting its next break, its crack. The queer voice is in a constant state of puberty. It’s always imagining its own queerness by a “longing for a pre Stonewall version of queer reality [that] is a look towards the past that critiques the present and helps us envision the future”.


In 2015 they started GenderFail, a publishing and programming initiative that seeks to encourage projects that foster an intersectional queer subjectivity. For GenderFail, a queer subjectivity is one that pushes against a capitalist, racist, ableist, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-environmental ideology. Our projects look at various forms of failure - from personal, public, and political perspectives - as a boundless form of creative potential. GenderFail is fueled by the messiness of collaboration, education, and community to continue to push our goals of failing forward. GenderFail embraces failure as a site of cultural production.

They use they/them pronouns.

So, we came here to tear shit up, you know? Including ourselves. We came to fail.
Fred Moten

How else might we imagine failure, and in terms of what kinds of desired political outcomes?Jack Halberstam

A queer resistance is a lifelong commitment to failure, education, and refusal.
Be Oakley