Queer words

In an ideal world, maybe, we would be free of labels. We would respect and care for one another not because of what we’re called by others but because of who we are. People often claim to have moved beyond labeling but clearly we have a need to hold on to some types of categorization as a way to understand and evaluate each other.

“What are you?” we ask, squinting at the light-skinned girl with freckles and an afro.

“Wait, are you gay or straight?” we ask the guy whose ex-girlfriend introduced him to his boyfriend.

So, though I’d ideally rather not label my sexual identity, the closest I come is identifying as queer. I’ve heard and participated in many debates and discussions regarding this term, queer, and about categories in queer communities in general. I’d like to explain my use of “queer” and what it means to me, but I want to emphasize that this is my perspective on terms as they apply to me. Part of what can make these conversations so difficult, I think, is assuming that what works for me works for everyone else, which simply can’t be true.

That said, since I could ramble for days about queerness, I’ll organize my thoughts into reasons I identify as queer:

1) The pressure to identify as something. I suppose if I wanted to I could refuse to succumb to all labeling when asked about my dating experiences or attractions, because it’s frankly nobody else’s business, but for the sake of those whose minds seem to be BLOWN if they can’t identify someone as gay or straight, I identify as queer so that I have something to say if asked. They might get it then, or they might still be confused, in which case it’s a chance to teach them about something they don’t know much about.

2) Also because I’m very proud to be queer. Don’t think that wishing I didn’t have to label my sexuality means that I’m ashamed of it. I’m proud of who I am, and one advantage of finding a word that fits is being able to declare it proudly. I love that identifying as queer means taking a word that was once used to oppress people and declaring that we have nothing to be ashamed of.

3) I find it easier/more inclusive than trying to find an all-encompassing acronym. Besides simply rolling off the tongue easier, I feel more comfortable using queer than LGBT… (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender…) because the acronyms always seem to leave someone out. In some circles saying “GLBT” is sufficient, while in others it’s “LGBTQQI…” and so forth. While I don’t have a problem adding on letters for the sake of inclusion, our attempt to do so suggests that we can include everyone. We might say, “well, as long as I include both Qs and the T I’ve got everybody!” when in fact we’d have to include every letter of the alphabet, twice, if we were to truly seek out how each person in the world would like to identify. There are many other questions too, like why is the “T” so often added at the end as a sign of inclusion while transgender concerns are ignored? But on the other hand, perhaps it’s a mistake on my part to use “queer” as a substitute for all these terms, because inevitably there are some within those categories who are uncomfortable being identified as such.

4) “Bisexual” doesn’t cut it. I guess if I were to find myself in the often-used LGBT acronym, I would fall under B, because I’m attracted to both men and women, which implies bisexuality. But in my experience, identifying as bisexual often leads to a fundamental misunderstanding about my sexuality. For one thing, in our society the term comes with several negative connotations, such as a person being “confused” or “slutty.” I could reclaim the term and fight for its true meaning, of course, but its true meaning doesn’t resonate with me either. The prefix “bi” supports the binary gender system that I believe is so hurtful to those who don’t fall under typical understandings of gender and sexuality. To say that I’m bisexual would imply that I’m attracted only to traditional men and women, disregarding the genderqueer folks in between. And I view my sexuality as fluid, rather than strictly defined, so I feel that “queer” comes closest to capturing that.

5) And finally, queer can refer to more than who I’m sleeping with or dating or attracted to. Like the dictionary definition, it can refer to someone who’s just different in some way. I feel that it encompasses more about me, supporting what I believe about my identity, that I am who I am regardless of the romantic partners in my life. So often we base our opinion of people on who they date, labeling them straight or gay and piling on all of the ideas we have about either identity. For the love of all divine things, I am not confused. I’m not going through a phase. I am. I just…am. I only ask to be accepted for who I am today. Because let’s face it, I’m a fucking weirdo. I do things like take myself out on dates, and have conversations with my cat, and then I don’t even have the sense not to blog about it. So yes, I truly am queer, in more ways than one. It works for me.

But like I said, this is only what works for me. What do you think of the word queer, or the acronymns? Are there any arguments against queer that you think I’m missing or don’t understand? I’m always open to conversation about this.

Published in: on June 17, 2010 at 9:48 AM  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] that this is necessarily a bad thing. I’m all about letting go of labels, after all. And I have great respect for writers who can pull off these sorts of things. But with […]

  2. […] kind of like the question of why I’d taken on the label of queer. I’ve been asked why queer people want to “flaunt it,” why they would have to […]

  3. […] discussed sexuality, of course, mostly in the context of sexual orientation. I briefly mentioned erotica when I judged […]

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