What is happening to QUEER?!

I don’t identify as Lesbian. I identify as Queer. To me, the differences between the two identity packages are profound and significant. I wander through the world in a quest for fellow Queers, I seek them out hungrily as friends, allies, dates, play partners, sounding boards.

For a while now I’ve been questioning the usage of Queer, the ways in which the label is being applied, and, dare I say, coopted? I don’t know if I can blame it on media (always a tempting option) a la Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, or I can ascribe my discomfort to my own exposure to Queer Theory, Queer Studies, Gender Theory, and a whole lotta academic schtuff about identity politics. The fact remains: there is a disconnect between what I understand Queer to be and what others seem to mean by the term.

I was recently reading a transcript of a lecture by Laura Antoniou where she was speaking of her journey through sexuality and leather and she said something that stuck with me:

“Long before it became chic for lesbians to get it on with gay and bisexual men, I was doing it and wondering what on earth made my orientation so queer that it made it okay for me to be with a man only if he sucked dick.” (Antoniou, 1995)

Yep, that’s Queer. And fabulous! I’m a big fan of hers but that’s a whole nutha story.

The reasons I identify as Queer, and not at all as Lesbian are numerous.

The first reason is the Gender issue. Lesbian is inaccurate for me: women who are sexually/sentimentally involved with other women. Nope. I partner with people who fall outside of the binary for the most part: Butch identified butches (ie butch as gender identity), woman identified butches, transgendered/transmasculine butches, boys of the trans flavor, bois too, ftm, femme identified femmes (ie femme as gender identity)… I don’t limit my sexual/intimate interactions to women identified women only. So, technically I’m not a lesbian.

And, like Ms. Antoniou I can relate to male bodied people sexually in unconventional contexts. Yet I’m not really bisexual.

I’m Queer because I’m a pervert (in the most positive sense of the word, and why I feel it necessary to add a disclaimer is a diatribe in and of itself), and I don’t hold heteronormative relationships as my model for building my own attachments.

I heart genderfuck, also quite Queer. Femmes in drag tend to be Queer.

I am Queer because I define labels, I don’t let them define me. I tend to subvert them and play with them.

I’m a Switch, which by default enters me into the running for Queer PosterGrrrrrrl.

I was talking to a new friend last night who made a comment about being a “Bad Queer” because of the ways in which she participates in her relationships. And to me, what she was describing was quintessential Queer and I said so! Polyamory? Queer. Check. Kinky? Queer. Got it. Switch? Queer. Check. Long term relationships without cohabitation? Yup, Queer. Butch and bi *tongueincheekgasp*? Quite Queer. That to me deserves a Queer medal! A Queer trophy to put up on the mantlepiece, with or without rainbows.
Perhaps even a Queer Hall of Fame nomination. So, if I use her as a standard for Queer (use me baby!) the dissonance becomes evident between what Queer means to me, and what I am hearing as Queer in daily interactions.

Queer seems to have become a synonym for ‘gay’ or perhaps a shortcut at times to not have to say ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual.’ Queer is used in contexts that are normative, homonormativity is the rule. Queer is used in contexts where boundaries are being solidly defined: Lesbian, not into Butch-Femme (ew!), usually vanilla (or won’t admit otherwise), gay. To me, the essence of Queer (eau de queer) is non-normativity. Eau de Queer smells like leather, stale beer, organic produce, heavy flowery perfume, musk, hairspray, bbq, the beach, threedaysexfunk, cinnamon, hair pomade, nail polish, roses (thorns in), latex. It crosses sexual orientation and gender identity to become more than, to blur lines, and unite under a common umbrella of other. Queer resists binaries. Queer surprises and sometimes shocks. Queer subverts existing models and creates possibilities.

I’m not letting go of Queer. They will have to pry it away from my cold dead fingers. BUT I am a lot more cautious now of the ways in which it’s used. And I’m a lot more given to ask for clarification before assuming commonalities. I delicately sniff around and see if I recognize the tantalizing aroma of Queer. IT’s different each time, but oh so deliciously familiar! Queers rawk and we’re keeping it real. Fear not, we won’t let the Queer flame go out! (had to go olympic with it!)

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2 Comments »

  1. untilthewheelsfalloff Said:

    Great post and really informative. I’m new to identifying as “not straight” and this post was very elucidating for me.

  2. phdinfunk Said:

    Oh my god, this is awesome. You’re describing “queer” in such a vibrant way. I think of myself is queer, too… I love queer, I date queer, I live queer. Queer foreva!

    Okay, props aside (whoo hoo! Queer queer queer!), will you tell me more what you mean by “Switch” like you said, “I’m a switch.” I never hear this word used much but a buddy of mine pulled it out and said that’s what I am…. I graduated with my degree in Sociology a couple of years ago so I’m, like, falling out of current… I’d love to hear YOU say more about it.


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