Recently I was having a conversation with some people about identity and labeling – specifically around sexuality. One of my friends asked me what queer meant to me. He felt it was vague and unspecific, whereas for me, I feel it’s more meaningful and a better descriptor than the other options that are available.
Erika Moen drew a comic a couple of years ago that encapsulates fairly well how I feel, but yesterday after another friend asked me what queer meant to me, I realized it didn’t tell the whole story.
I came out as bisexual over twenty years ago, and I felt that identity/label fit for a long, long time. I was (and am) attracted to both men and women. But over the last several years, as I learned more about the gender spectrum, I felt constrained by this particular label. As the comments and discussions around Facebook’s decision to allow people to indicate a “custom” gender illustrate, there are far more than the two genders we’ve been led to believe.
But there are a few other components that Erika’s comic doesn’t touch on. Just as lesbians and gay men get a label that doesn’t have sexual in it, neither does queer. If you ask most people along the spectrum of gender and sexuality, I’d guess that while sexuality is a component of who they are, it’s not THE defining quality.
Finally, as I indicate in the title of this piece, I like queer for its OTHER and much OLDER meaning: odd, strange, or weird. I’ve always felt a little bit like an outsider, even within supposedly queer space. I’m too much this or not enough that. I like that queer is inclusive, broad and maybe a little slippery. It makes it that much harder for other people to define me, and that suits me just fine.
I hesitate to label anyone as anything unless they’ve used the term to describe themselves. For the most part, labels are unnecessary to begin with.
When I’m getting to know a person, I don’t care what their sexual preferences are (excluding pedophilia which is inexcusable, and maybe a few other REALLY far out things). Same goes for religion. You can be a Gay Baptist. We can still be friends. You can be a Catholic Straight. We can still be friends. You can be an Atheist Lesbian. We can still be friends.
A person’s sexual preference is not something that needs to be brought up unless that person is interested in forming a romantic relationship. And even then, it isn’t strictly necessary.
I’m an open minded, talkative, person. So if you want to talk about sexuality, that’s totally cool. But I’m not going to introduce you to someone as my Gay friend so and so. I wouldn’t introduce you as my Mormon friend so and so.
(In the example that follows, when I say you I refer to this pretend person who I am using to make an example, in this case, a male member of the audience) When you meet someone you’re attracted to, do you make it a point to say, “Hey, I’m a guy who likes to bang chicks. Ya know, just sayin’.” No? Why not? Because you’re a guy chatting up a chick, so even though establishing your sexuality is a necessary step in the process of possibly banging that chick, you don’t need to specifically label yourself as heterosexual to get the point across. Ya dig?
Take a write tip for your sex life: Show, Don’t Tell. You want her, show her. And if she wants you, she’ll show you. The labels aren’t necessary. There’s a better way to make your point.
Great article! 😀
Thanks for all the thoughts, Jess!
I think there is a BIG difference between choosing a label for one’s self, which can be quite empowering, and having someone else label you. Labels and identities have really helped me to find community (hello weirdos!). Unfortunately, due to privilege, if we fall outside the default, it often becomes necessary to remind people of our various identities (even when we aren’t romantically inclined). I think this is what the LGBT civil rights movement has worked on.
I do love your vision as something that I think many people are working toward, when things like sexual identity won’t be important for people to know (unless there ARE romantic leanings). Yay!
I like this post a lot, Jill. While I’m not queer in my sexuality, I’m queer in just about every other way lol. So…I can relate. I dig it!
Thanks, Jeff! Appreciate you stopping by. Weirdos unite!