[Content Note: I’m sorry, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot again. This is a post about the word “queer.”]
It keeps happening, is the thing. And I just plain don’t know how to handle it appropriately.
The last time, it was when the (trans, pan) mermaid friend was talking to me and the (trans, pan) engineer about coding/visibility, and she referred to the two of us as “a visibly-queer person and a half.” A bit flustered, I blurted out my first thought, which was just, “Which one of us is the ‘half’?”
I don’t know what I was supposed to say there.
I mean, sure, I could have reminded her “hey don’t call people queer without their permission.” But then that just raises the question of whether I’d give permission or not, and for me the answer isn’t (shouldn’t be?) “don’t call me queer because I experience it as a slur.” So… what do I say? “Don’t call me queer because I… don’t… experience it as a slur”…?
I just plain don’t know what to do there, because it’s not just a straightforward (ha) case of being asked how I identify; it’s been people — multiple people, like the copilot and the mermaid and the ex-catholic — reading commonality between themselves and me, and outright taking that for granted, even when the only identity label I’ve explicitly shared with them is “asexual spectrum.”
The one time I was actually asked, even, it was still in the context of this kind of assumption. A (“99% gay”) acquaintance was recommending OITNB to me, insisting that I watch it, and then she stopped herself midsentence to ask — “You’re queer, right?” As in, part of the reason she was insisting that I watch it had to do with having read me that way.
And, God, I don’t even remember what I said to that.
I don’t know what I’d choose now, if I could go back and change it.
Here’s what I do know: when LGBT people say these things to me, demarcating common ground, it feels like a token of something-like-friendship, it feels like an invitation, it feels like clasping hands together as you cross the street. And it feels rude to reject that, and it feels patronizing to tell them it’s for their own benefit. But even understanding why people don’t want me to touch the word… what do I tell them?
I need a script here.
And if you’ve noticed that I haven’t actually talked much in this post about my own identity/experiences/attractions: I can’t recall the SGAT model ever addressing gray-as who don’t have a romantic orientation, but I’m pretty sure those are right out.