If you know me on Facebook or in person, you know I usually say queer, not gay – I’m proud to be queer. I think “gayborhood” is something straight people came up with who are trying to be supportive but trying too hard, but I’d really like to see more “queerborhoods.”
Okay, so this was on the wall at an art museum
in St. Louis…hard to resist the urge to ask
if I could buy it and put in my house (it’s HUGE!)
Lots of people have strong reactions to the word queer. Truth be told, whereas “gay” started as a code word so that we could communicate discreetly and not raise the attention of straight people, as far as I know, queer started as an insult. We reclaimed it, much like we are reclaiming our streets, our environment, our government, our civic life. So, reason number one that I like the word queer is that my small part in our work to reclaim our world is reflected in how we reclaimed our word.
The next qualm is that we have a long tradition of what we “really mean” when we talk about things like gay rights. We really mean rights for gay men, and maybe lesbians. And social acceptance of gay men, and maybe lesbians. Oh, and we hope they’re white, and affluent, and gender normative, and we hope that the men are flamboyant queens who can give us fashion recommendations and the women can help us with home improvement projects. Trans people led the revolt, before my time, at Stonewall, and yet we are just beginning to see a glimmer of a world with room for us. It’s not okay for us to be pushed to the back burner, with talk of empowering us in 10 or 30 or 50 years when we’ve got all our gay and lesbian rights down. And we need to be talking about poor queer people. And intersex and asexual people. So choosing queer is a visible and open declaration of my intersectionalism and my desire that we build something that has room for all of us (and all of me).
Beyond that, now, I don’t want to play the queerer than thou card (today!). But some of us are…well…more than one kind of queer. I’m not only transgender, but I’m also a somewhat heterocurious practicing lesbian, so if pushed on it, I identify as bisexual, although I’ll just accept the L word one of these days. Some of my trans friends are asexual, and this is a whole learning experience to me, because I don’t understand, intuitively, what it’s like to be asexual any more than I really understand what it’s like to be a man (it’s really a good analogy…the years I spent when I was single and celibate were no more asexuality than the years I’ve tolerated he/him pronouns and bathrooms that have urinals in them (eww, incidentally) make for much of manhood). So third, queer is inclusive not just of more people, but more of the whole person, including all the people who are gender/sex non-conforming in one way or another, from their orientation, to their identity, to their physiology.
To sum this all up, the rainbow we use to advocate for our cause is really emblematic. We need to not just create little chinks in the wall, that say it’s okay to be a flamboyant gay man or a butch lesbian woman, or even okay to be a feminine trans woman or a masculine trans man, when it means that we are, implicitly, saying someone else’s identity or orientation is not okay, and we’re building ourselves up on their backs. So, I choose queer. Whether you are queer or an ally, I hope you do, too.