Saturday, March 7, 2009

Open Forum: How Inclusive Should 'Queer' Be?

The term queer has been evolving rapidly as of late, and has become an inclusive term of more identities, some people consider this positive, others confusing and unnecessary. In your mind is queer just an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities or does it stretch beyond that? Is queer radical and political in the sense that anything non hetero-normative can be described as queer? Could a straight couple consider themselves queer, or is it impossible for them to be considered non-hetero normative? Are people who practice BDSM and kink, queer in the sense that they engage in alternative sexuality or is the term limited for those with sexual preferences as opposed to sexual orientation? What are the social and political connotations of limiting or extending the definition of queer identity?


Lyndon Evans said...

For my parents generation, born in the early 30's, queer meant that a person was odd and it had no inflammatory notation.

When I was a kid (mid-boomer '53) the last thing you wanted to be called at school was queer. It was an insult in high school ('68-'72), much as being called a gonad, but still didn't have the inflammatory notation.

In the later 70's to early 80's when even if in the shadows of dark we were starting to find a place of our own in bars and P-Town and Fire Island, because the more "flamboyant" were "coming out in the daylight" and at a time when we started to celebrate Stonewall, to me, that's when queer took on the inflammatory notation.

But as QUEER was picked up in the 90's as both a politcal statement as well as a celebration of one's self, the inflammatory notion began to wane again.

If I was called queer in high school, I would say Go F**k Yourself.

Today if someone calls me a QUEER I say "YES I am and damn proud of it. Anything else you'd like to add?"

They're so dumbfounded they don't !

Progress, it can be a wonderful thing.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate the word queer, but as an adjective, not a noun.

I am queer.
I am a member of the Queer community.
Please do NOT call me "a queer."
(Similarly, do NOT call me "a homosexual.")

I think the queer is a pretty unifying term for people who aren't just LGBT, but queer, questioning, genderqueer, intersexual, and even allies. All of us whose sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity defy the norms of society can work together as one queer community.

Gertrude Stein said...

A Queer is a Queer is a Queer..:)

Anonymous said...

I use queer to mean anything not hetero-normative. Straight and queer? Totally possible. And if you're aware of the fact that sexuality can be fluid, queer is a good term to use because it too is fluid.

Anonymous said...

I tell'em thats "MR" Queer to you

Robyn Dodge said...

I feel by us using it, gives the hetros a foot in the door for total disrespect.......I would never call ANYONE queer. Its slang for odd.....who the hell am I to judge even that?

genesjockey said...

Personally, I think eventually the Queer Rights Movement needs to come up with one word. Honestly, LGBTQIAAABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ just gets to long, and moves people nowhere. Having just LGBT leaves out A LOT of people. For me, queer is an umbrella term for all of those who are not heteronormative. It gives a common banner to fight for rights, rather than lesbian and gay rights, bisexual rights, transgender rights, asexual rights, intersex rights, et cetera. Queer should be unifying and inclusive of everybody who feels left-out by the heteronorm, and those in the heteronorm who dislike the "Heternormative Priveldge"

Diane J Standiford said...

I'll say it again---I do not like our use of the word queer. Yeah, it ryhmes with "here" so let's get a new slogan. I don't see school kids being teased any less because we "claimed" queer. I am not queer. My sexuality is in my brain and I can't/won't be labeled. (Though I stay dry under "gay." I, like Germans, need more words to properly describe my sexuality.)

Queers United said...

Diane to play devils advocate I don't think you really hear schoolkids saying queer these days, more like "that's so gay" or "fag and dyke" but that just might be time changes not due to reclamation of the word.

As for the word I think it should be inclusive of orientations like gender identity and sexual orientation. These are the identities that make up the individual whereas preferences for BDSM, kink are fetishes, and they may be very much part of the persons life and circle of community but I think it still isn't at that same level of sexuality or gender identity. It is a separate entity.

Ali said...

Honestly, I don't think straight can be queer. Unless you actually have a queer sexual orientation, you can't fully understand what it is to be queer. The system of viewing relationships and society and politics is markedly different.

I think there are definitely straight people outside the mainstream in terms of their sexual *practices*, but when straight people who are into kink or BDSM or whatever identify as queer, it seems like an appropriation, a choice to take on the fashionable parts of "otherness", "counterculture", etc., and the idea of queerness, without actually taking any of the risks of being out or being discriminated against. Straight people have had kinks forever. Kinky straight people may be a subculture within heterosexual society, but their relationships are still heteronormative even if they have paddles and whips in a trunk at the end of the bed. What goes on in their bedrooms might shock some easily-shocked people, but they fit within a long heterosexual tradition and their relationships can be just as white-picket-fence as any other straight couple's by light of day.

Queer is a term that, for me, unites the variety of people who identify as partially or wholly same-sex in sexual orientation and/or who resist a binary and unalterable view of gender. It necessitates a personally experienced break with the dominant heteronormative standard of sexual orientation or gender identity.

tiresias said...

Wow, I'm sorry I missed this discussion -- it's something I've been thinking about a lot.

In a sense I agree with Ali that to identify as "queer" necessitates a personal experience of a break with heteronormativity. But that certainly doesn't exclude straights. I am more or less straight, but that's the result of 30 years of thinking hard about my gender and sexuality, and it hasn't been easy. In the real world you'd assume I was straight, but that doesn't mean that I don't have a deeply felt understanding of a nonnormative experience. I consider myself very queer in that sense.

(The kink stuff is important, too; being kinky in this culture, at least beyond the fuzzy-handcuffs stage, is for some people a powerful break from heteronormativity. I'm not sure whether being kinky alone necessarily merits the term "queer", but it certainly can.)

In fact, I have noticed a trend towards redefining "queer" in my own thinking. I know a great number of young gay people who grew up with virtually no backlash, and hardly had to worry about being gay; one of my good friends is marrying her partner this summer. I don't mean to diminish their experience as queer in any way, of course. But there are many people you might casually identify as "straight" who have much more complex gender and sexuality issues, and who have suffered much more at the hands of the dominant heteronormative culture. Those folks need to also be recognized as having a (type of) queer experience.

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