Tag Archives: queer

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.

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it was strange

Very strange to be talking to a 42-year-old trans man who has lived so much trans community history — who knows Monica Helms, the woman who designed the first trans flag, and who used the very original copy to drape over the coffin of one of his friends, and who has been personally targeted by the KKK for his activism — and to have to explain to him the phenomenon of trans medicalism.

Very strange to be talking to this man who told me that the trans flag and the trans symbol were both originally designed to include nonbinary people, who kept following up what he was saying about trans history by saying “I was there,” who emphasized the initial, intentional value of “unity” in the trans community, and to find myself trying to explain to him why there are people who don’t feel like “transgender” is truly the broadest umbrella term.

Very strange to be talking to this man, who explicitly believes that “queer” is useful and appropriate as a substitute to “the alphabet soup,” who explicitly counts an a-for-asexuality as part of that string of initials, and to try to relay my personal sense that it’s wrong of me to even get my fingerprints on the word “queer.”

He looked at me like that shouldn’t even be in question.

It was strange.

I just have a question

for all those folks who post their LGBTQIA posts in the #asexual and #asexuality tags on WordPress — posts that typically have little to nothing to with asexuality specifically, like a post about gay and bisexual representation in novels, or that are about the notion of “queerness” generally, such as advertising your 1-inch pin buttons with the word “queer” in capital letters:

if this is a bid to get more views rather than a failure of the internal logic of your own blog’s tagging categorization system, then should this choice on your part be read to indicate that you fall on the “asexuality is queer” side of the asexuality-and-queerness debate?  And if you somehow or another stumbled upon that debate taking place, would you assert that belief or defend the people who do?  Would you know what you want to say to allos who police asexual people’s use of “queer” as an identity label and their access to LGBT spaces?  And then, if you saw that happening, would you actually say it?


Labels: Looking Forward vs. Looking Back

a picket fenceThere’s something strange about the rhetoric of “don’t limit yourself” in response to identity labels.  The idea, or argument, rather, seems to be that you shouldn’t neglect the possibilities — i. e., if you feel a new kind of attraction toward a gender for which you didn’t previously have those feelings, or if you no longer experience a kind of attraction to a certain gender, you should be open to acknowledging what you feel.

This line of thinking seems to be predicated on the idea that labels are about looking forward and predicting the future.

Perhaps it’s meant to encourage acknowledgement of the fact that sexuality is fluid rather than static.  Things could always change.  I agree that orientation isn’t set in stone, and a reminder of such can be warranted — but what “don’t limit yourself” neglects to consider is that in order for “things” to change, there must be a “thing” in the first place.  And perhaps we would like to give a name to the current state of that thing.

While acknowledging that, perhaps, there are people who use labels for a different purpose than I do, I’d say one of the (available) reasons for using orientation labels is not about looking forward, but looking back.  If you’ve only experienced sexual attraction to people of the same gender as yourself your whole life, or if you’ve experienced it toward multiple genders regularly, or if you’ve never experienced it at all, and so on, you’re not “limiting” yourself by giving a name to that experience.  That’s because describing a personal history is not the same as placing a “limit” on anything.  Calling yourself what you are and have been makes no other statement than what you are and have been.

I can recognize some of the objectives and intended sentiments behind the rhetoric of openness (as applied to orientation labels), but I’d recommend they take a more effective route, because at present, this kind of warning only causes consternation by implying that an individual does not have the authority to describe their own experiences.