What do I tell them?

[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.

5 responses to “What do I tell them?

  • Vesper

    every time i’ve read one of the conversations that you’ve had with someone in regards to their perception of you / your identity, i always come away from it a bit confused… your responses often (always?) seem to be more about how *other* people may not be happy if you were referred to using a certain word / included in a particular community / etc rather than being about how *you* personally feel / identify / etc. i realize that there’s a reason for that, but…

    for example, if you were to reject such words, telling them that you don’t identify as / think of yourself in that way, i think they’d understand. if you rejected such words, saying that you feel uncomfortable using them / being associated with them because of others’ feelings about it, i think they’d understand, even though they might still argue against it in an attempt to reassure you that you have every right to such words / identity, which would still not erasre any discomfort you may have….

    but beyond saying things like that which involve voicing your feelings in a way that you seem to have reason to not do…. i feel like there aren’t any other scripts readily available, which is the problem you find yourself in, no…?

    • Coyote

      I guess it’s one of those things where someone makes an innocuous comment and it’s like Surprise, You Have Encountered Emotional Baggage.

      • Vesper

        …in such cases, i often resort to stock responses like “yeah, except no. it’s complicated.” or “if only it were that simple…” unfortunately, people often misinterpret such response as an invitation to try and talk about things that i don’t want to / am not prepared to talk about with them (if at all)…

  • Clarissa Emiria

    (Note: I pressed like because I think you raise an interesting and important point, even if I don’t have any answers or helpful advice to offer up myself >_<)

    I don't think I've ever commented before, and I apologise for my ignorance and butting in, but if it comes up again I would think it would be okay to ask them why they assume you are queer instead of asking you, maybe? Make it clear that you have nothing against it, you just haven’t identified so, thus far, and you don’t understand why your friends think you are, or something to that effect?

    Again, I don’t know you and your friends intimately, it might not be possible to talk about openly, but I hope you can :-)

    With love and an open heart, and wishes of happy holodays..

  • queenieofaces

    This is actually part of the reason I started calling myself “queer”–other LGBTQ people seeing commonality and using the word to refer to me. In my case, it wasn’t that hard of a leap for me to make (I had never heard queer used as a slur and had very few previous associations with the word, I already identified as bi-ish, my attraction patterns were shifting more and more toward women, etc.), but I don’t know that I would have made it, given the massive baggage around the word in ace communities, if it weren’t for people outside of ace communities extending it to me as an option.

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