by: Annie Brady
For years, I’ve been asked the question: are you gay?
It happens all the time. My friends ask, my mom asks, gay men ask, lesbians ask, random straight bros ask, everyone asks. I can always tell when it’s coming, too. I welcome it, of course, because there is no reason not to. These inquisitive individuals may be assuming, but at least they are checking the facts from the source.
So what’s my answer? Well, that’s a complicated story. It changes. But I’m not about to go all Kinsey on you, although I might really enjoy that. Nope, I’m going to explain how I, a woman who loves men emotionally and physically, am a big ol’ queer.
To clarify, I’m straight. Have I ventured across the sexual orientation fence into gayer meadows? Well, I’ve kissed a girl, and I certainly liked it. I even considered taking the lady home with me, but at the end of the night, I secretly wanted a man’s number taking up more space in my contact list. What can I say? I was born this way.
Lady Gaga quotes aside, let’s take a step back to the beginning of my queerhood. Much of it starts when I learned the word “queer.” My introduction to this term was in my fourth grade vocabulary book, where queer was synonymous with “weird.” And weird was my favorite word.
I felt a strong urge to be seen as different. I called myself a weirdo and embraced any other potentially hurtful words people called me in the hallways. I was known as the “freak” of my grade, but my peers loved me for my weirdness. Their labels became my badges of honor rather than tomatoes maliciously thrown at my back. In middle school, a friend even bought me a t-shirt that stated: “You laugh because I’m different. I laugh because you are all the same.” Being weird, ultimately, made me a celebrity at school. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that the synonym I learned a few years earlier was used against an entire group of people.
In high school, I learned the other definitions of “queer,” as they apply to the LGBTQ community. By this time, I was an active member of my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and had helped a few friends through their ongoing coming out experiences. While I don’t remember the exact moment I learned about being queer, I do recall hearing two twentysomethings at our school’s Diversity Day give a lecture about gay rights. During their talk, they mentioned that they had straight friends who called themselves queer. I was elated to hear such an idea. While I may like men, I didn’t see the need to confine my identity to my heteronormative orientation. Beginning at that lecture, I started to understand the meaning of being queer. While that knowledge has expanded throughout my collegiate years, it still remains, to me, the idea of falling outside the “normal” boundaries.
Being queer isn’t necessarily about being gay or lesbian, it can be a term to describe anyone who isn’t what we generally see in the media. Sure, it’s the entire LGBTQ community, but it’s also the fifty year-old who chose to remain single throughout life. It’s the person who has open relationships with a boyfriend, girlfriend and domestic partner. It’s the little girl who draws herself in beautiful dresses despite the fact that her parents insist that she’s a boy. It’s the woman whose best friend is her ex-husband’s ex wife (in other words, my grandmother.)
While these people may not identify as queer, they have something queer about them. They don’t live their lives exactly how our government or TV tells us to. They have transcended expectation and live how they want, or even need, to live. It makes perfect sense that our community has reclaimed “queer.” That label is such an all-encompassing term, and we are an incredibly diverse group. As a way of trying to include all our differences into our community name, we’ve brewed an alphabet soup that no one can remember, generally causing certain subgroups of our community to feel left out.
And what about the groups within each letter of our stew? Some transgendered people want to be either a man or a woman, but I know quite a few who would rather remain somewhere in between on the gender spectrum. Asexuals range in preference, as do bisexuals. Plus, we all know not every gay man is fabulous, although some certainly are.
So let’s call ourselves queer because we are queer. There is no possible way we could fit into society’s box of normality. We have fallen out of society’s boundaries so many times, in so many ways, and that isn’t negative. We are colorful. Why else would our symbol be a rainbow? Let’s embrace the fact that we are outside of the world’s expectations and we are so much better, brighter and more interesting because of it.
Annie Brady has been an ally to her whole life, although she didn’t officially “come out” as one to the queer community until high school. When she is not working toward queer rights, she can be found teaching ESL or children’s theatre. Annie currently attends Loyola University Chicago where she studies theatre and human services.