As a writer and a journalist I’m well aware of the fact that words have meaning and can be very powerful. Queer as one of those words that has significant power but its meaning is more complex than its surface understanding.
I don’t think anyone can blog about being a member of the lgbtqia plus community without getting into a discussion on the words that describe us. And there’s no word that is more divisive or confusing as queer at least in my experience.
I know when I tell somebody I’m trans that comes up pictures that in their mind they see a man pretending to be a woman who is very feminine and they don’t see a difference between that person and a feminine homosexual man who sometimes dresses like a girl or even a heterosexual or homosexual drag queen or crossdresser. I do have male genitals the terminology we use is assigned male at Birth but I’m not a particular fan of that myself I’m just trying it on but trans fits my identity because it’s how I feel and in my mind how I understand that word works for me and when I say I hope it conveys to others how I feel.
When I hear words gay or lesbian or bi as somebody in the community who has interacted with others I have a clear understanding what those words mean to me and when I believe they mean to other people so those have clear unambiguous definitions. Queer is far more complex and I think that makes it more complicated to wrap your head around.
I’m a child of the 80s I grew up in the 90s at a time when the queer community was just starting to be visible in society and were undergoing the early stages of the process of reclaiming the word for themselves. At the time I was an outsider looking in I knew I was different I knew I was weird and I couldn’t identify with weird I could identify with strange or freak I preferred the word freak myself as a descriptor because I knew it meant I’m not the same as everybody else but I shied away from where we are because it felt politically charged and it felt like it had its gay meaning or a gay leaning meaning and I didn’t identify as gay not at any point in my life did I ever think I was gay outside of that Moment of clarity when I decided I was a female in my mind and was attracted to females I decided I was lesbian but there was a complication I have a penis and so I felt like I couldn’t be a true lesbian as before I had an understanding trans’ or even transbian as a concept.
My first encounter with the word as a label that wasn’t a slur is the song queer by the band garbage. Now I’ve always told people garbage is my favorite band and when I was a teenager there was absolute truth to that their songs spoke to me in a way that nobody else’s music did or even could. But that was the very first song of theirs that I discovered and it was the song that made me attracted to the band. Nas I bought their CDs and discovered more of their music I fell further and deeper in love with them.
A few years later I heard the term but you read in the headline, we are queer and we are here used together as sort of a slogan in a way. I heard it in an episode of a TV sitcom called Everybody Loves Raymond wear the main character’s brother what’s going through a breakup with his girlfriend and the parents were questioning if he was gay. Having already adopted the term for myself in my own mind because of the song in my connection to it I had already accepted that to me it was a synonym of freak or weirdo or geek or nerd or any other label that I wore because I was tired of letting people call me those words so I started taking them on myself I saw this at something my black friends did with the popularizing of a certain word used in gangster rap music and so I followed their lead so to speak.
I’m at an age where I’m old enough to remember it as a prevalent slur and having that lobbed at me in that meaning in that context by people who it intended to hurt me. But I’ve also young enough to have seen it start to become used as an inclusive term.
As somebody who took a course of linguistics in college and has made a living writing words for other people any opportunity I get to examine an individual word or concept give me giddy feelings in my stomach I’m a total word nerd. And even now as I write this my understanding of the word itself is becoming more clear in my mind. For me personally I wear it as a badge because it says to me I’m different but I’m a part of something that is inclusive yet you have to be on the inside to fully understand.
When I’m writing I don’t mind using the rainbow acronyms because I want to be as inclusive as possible and respectful of others. But in spoken language especially in casual conversation I’ll just use Queer as shorthand partially because it’s easier but also because I was defining myself with that word when it was just becoming acceptable and my understanding of it is it makes more sense to me.
So what the word means to me is basically it operates as shorthand for non-binary non hetero non breeder if you will and so to me it’s anyone that’s outside of the so-called Norm. Now I noticed there are different variations of the acronyms the most common one is lgbt followed by lgbtq and I noticed that while there are some groups that leave out the T there are more who leave out the Q and that makes me wonder what their feelings are towards it.
The reason why I prefer it is because I’m used to it and it to me it fits. I consider myself a transgender female bisexual queer woman but that’s a very long way of describing how I feel. I’m trans but I find myself attracted sexually to females primarily but I also find myself romantically attracted to males and I will say curious about male sexuality but I’m not attracted in any way to masculinity which is kind of complicated.
Even as I become more public and more open about how I feel and who I am my understanding of the word is changing and my acceptance of the term is adapting and evolving as language does. It’s just like any other word that’s been reclaimed by a marginalized community if you call a woman a bitch and you’re not one of her bitches she may be inclined to claw your eyes out justifiably. It’s just like fag or faggot which I believe is more of a derogatory term targeted exclusively at gay men. So whereas I feel comfortable myself with the term queer I don’t want people who aren’t in the community calling me that I’d prefer you just stick to trans. I completely reject fag and all of its variants because I don’t identify as gay male. And I don’t want others to think of me like that either.
So however you feel about it just know that I’m trying to be in my mind and in my life inclusive as I can be and so for me the term is ours and I’m going to use it within that context. But only in those settings where I’m comfortable. And of course I’ll be mindful of those around me. Stay cool.