Who’s offended? Why?
I’ve written before about how, after divorcing my wife and months of counseling and so forth I decided I needed to do something definitive or symbolic about coming out, so I went to a National Coming Out Day march. I didn’t realize until I got there that it was sponsored by Queer Nation, which was controversial for both their radical attitude but mostly (among the LGBT people I knew at the time) just for insisting on using the word “queer.” I marched, because, damn it, it was National Coming Out Day and I was doing it!
For a variety of reasons that don’t bear repeating at this juncture, my late partner, Ray, and a bunch of our friends saw me marching (actually, we were doing the Queer Hokey Pokey at that point) past a restaurant in the gayborhood. For a while I got teased mercilessly by those friends who despised Queer Nation. And while discussing why I wasn’t embarrassed to have marched with Queer Nation, I went from being ambivalent about that word, to saying, “I am going to call myself Queer if I want to, and fuck you if you don’t like it!” to one friend who was getting in my face about it.
I had been teased and bullied just as much as he had with that word (and many others) as a child. So I understood the reasons that friend (and many other people) didn’t want to embrace the term. But I had also been teased and bullied with a lot of other synonyms for “homosexual” including “gay.” And some of my friends who were girls or young women during those years had been harassed and bullied with the word “lesbian.” So if we could use those two words to describe ourselves proudly—hell, the official name of the Seattle Pride Parade at the time was the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade, Freedom Day March and Rally”—then why couldn’t we use the word “Queer?”
Another reason I happen to prefer the term Queer is because of intersectionality and bi-erasure. I’m gay. I’m a man who loves other men. I am not bisexual, despite having once been married to a member of the opposite sex (no, seriously, I mean it!). My husband is a man who is married to me, a man. We’ve only legally been married a bit over 3 years, but we’ve been together for more than 18 years. People assume my husband is gay. He is not. He is bisexual. Saying that he is gay, at least to me, feels as if it is erasing part of his identity. And I love all him, not just half of him, so I take it kind of personally.
I have a rather large number of friends who are bisexual who have married members of the opposite sex. People assume they are straight. They aren’t. Some of them have told me they aren’t terribly bothered by that assumption, but some of them really chafe under the label. I have friends who have transitioned after marrying a partner who was opposite sex when they married, and they’ve stayed together since. Calling either of them gay or lesbian again, at least to me, feels like I’m erasing part of their identity or history. I have a few polyamorous friends who present as straight, and describe themselves as mostly straight… but who sometimes have threeways with their primary partner and one of the partners of their primary who happens to be of the same gender.
And then there’s one straight friend who once told me, “Describing myself as a straight ally doesn’t feel true, because I think I have a queer perspective—and I feel a closer connection to LGBT people—even though I don’t want to have sex with another guy.”
And as I mentioned recently, in the ’90s everyone in the LGBTQ community who wasn’t a cis white male seemed to be offended if we tried to use “gay” as an umbrella term for the whole bunch. So, for the record, I’m a cis white (and old and fat) same-gender-loving man who identifies as queer, uses queer to encompass the whole community (including allies who consider themselves part of the community), and I don’t intend to stop. I mean, yeah, if you tell me that you, specifically don’t like the term, I will try not to call you that… But I refuse to stop using the term in front of you. Because it is who I am.
We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re FABULOUS!