Monday, April 1, 2013
Like many people, Poppets, I have a love-hate relationship with labels. On the one hand, life is a lot easier when we can use a word or two and be on the same page. On the other hand, too often labels are used to pigeonhole us, to confine us. To label us. Yes, I am a rubenesque, Pagan, cis-sexual, non-gender binary conforming, liberal-leaning, Southern, married, Bostonian brunette who dyes her hair red. But I’m also just…me. See the issue? That first paragraph tells you far more about me than the second one, but the second one is far more complete.
Which brings us to the issue I have with talking about “the LGBTQ community.” What exactly do we mean when we talk about that? Sure, we mean lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, transgendered people, and queers. However, anyone who knows much about sociological spectrums knows that there are far more than five points on any scale. Thus, I have come to appreciate the word “queer.”
Now, I know for many people, queer is an insult. This is not to invalidate or negate that. It was for me for a long time as well. I considered it a word we could not reclaim, regardless of our best intentions, akin to the n-word for black people or “girl” for women. A word that was too derogatory for too long – still currently, even – for us to ever be able to adopt it without the stigma hanging over it. If you still feel that way, I get it and you have my respect around it. However, my feelings on this have changed.
For me, the word queer has come to include every point on the spectrum, not just the four LGBT points. You can be a gay man, or a non-transitioning, lesbian, transgendered woman and both be “queer.” I have written here before about the prejudices bisexuals often face, and the biases against bi-gendered people. Non-transitioning transgendered people struggle for acceptance and validation. I have friends who, while they are indeed gay men, reject the implications of the word gay. I have lesbian friends who have been called out for identifying themselves as gay when they “are really lesbians.” The label we adopted in order to include us all has become something we use to exclude each other instead. If we don’t fit neatly into our label, our specific alphabet soup, we can be more easily outcast. More easily judged. And really, isn’t that what we were trying to end in the first place?
So I have come to embrace “queer.” Queer includes the whole non-heterostandard spectrum, regardless of sexual identity, regardless of gender identity, regardless of comfy settling into accepted alphabet soup. Queer says enough. It labels enough. We can be on the same page, without pigeonholing ourselves or each other. It works the way labels are supposed to work, by making us freer instead of holding us back. And that’s a label I can live with.
Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.