by: Ariana Barreto
In the 90’s the label “queer” began as a negatively conotated slur/insult. It was originally meant as being different or weird. Much like other negative slurs have sought ways to reverse the connotations’ effect into a positive manner. Lesbians gather proudly as self-proclaiming Dykes and now more social media attention is empowering the word Faggot, like the documentary 50Faggots. Queer is very similar in this way; we have in fact labeled our differences in non-comformites from the cisgender and heterosexual world this way. Because we are indeed different from everyone else and we’re proud of it. Besides the much debated controversy of sexual identities and gender identities becoming “umbrella-ed” under one label, this term has in some ways united us. We’ve even changed some concepts of the word being in that to identify as queer is to reject any label given or made by the straight or LGBTQAIP community. (For the sake of this argument, this is the definition that I refer to.) That labeling your sexual identity is not needed. This is something that I whole heartedly agree with.
In a perfect world there would be no need for labeling our sexual identities or having to explain our gender identities and/or why these might be subject to change. This unfortunately is not the world in which we reside, which is why straight people should not identify as queer. As much as I’d love you for straight folk to say, “Screw labels!” and, “Let’s show the rest of the ignorant world why it doesn’t matter!” it unfortunately does not have the same effect because the rest of the world is in fact ignorant. If we continue with that argument that straight people should reject labeling their sexual identity, the rest of the ignorant world will (unfortunately) associate a heterosexual queer label with a non-conforming sexual identity. Let me say again, if all heterosexual couples and people rejected labeling their sexual identity to further insure the world we live in that sexual consisitancy or fluidity is irrelevant, I would be absolutely elated. This concept for the world that we will in is unfortunately much too radical for comprehension.
As much as our intelligently priviledged minds would like to accept this our fellow Americans cannot. Our LGBTQAIP community is still being silenced and ignored in more than half the states in our country. Gender non-comforming folk jump through rings of fire to get their identities recognized. By having a non-conforming sexual identity and identifying as queer, we are (in some cases, for the sake of this argument) rejecting the labels that have been imposed on us by the privledged heterosexual community (privledged-being that their sexual identity is seen as “normal” to the masses).
Awhile back our community tried to “normalize” a community that was rejected for not being normal. We allowed outsiders to tell us what our physical and emotional attractions were going to be called and we were demonized for it. (Camps designed to ‘cleanse the gay out’, harassments, killings, police brutality, etc.) After defining each letter of the acryonm (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) we were all isolated from the masses and clumped together to be one “other” when each letter (fully homosexual or not) represents communities that are worlds apart and sometimes even rejected by one another. This is the concept that people of the queer community need to remember.
This is embedded into our culture and our history as a community. The people of the LGBTQAIP community should identify as queer to the larger masses or everyone, if they should so choose, only to further demonstrate that the letter and label that they were assigned by someone else or themselves shouldn’t be needed to be disclosed in the first place unless it is by the person’s wishes and wants. This, my friends, will open a window for the masses (larger heterosexual community) to see that our community doesn’t need to be defined and then further restricted in that label by just identifying as one label.
I know that some people are completely comfortable with identifying as gay, lesbian , bisexual, etc. to clear up confusion or just because they want disclose their sexual identity.
I also realize that if everyone within our community decided to identify as queer, we would then be labeling ourselves as we try not to label our sexual identities though these logisitics is not what I’m concerned with. I’m concerned with our current straight community striving to know the details that should be private to us. By identifying as lesbian, I’m letting everyone know that I am with women emotionally and mentally. While some women have no issues with this, this identification can open doors to stereotypes or policing within sub-communities. When we say the label, “lesbian” to someone who isn’t as educated on sexual or gender identities as the readers on this blog, they think that a lesbian is someone who will always want or stay with women. They don’t understand that a person can identify one way and still have feelings, wants and attractions that differ with that label. By identifying with or as something as vague as queer we are allowing ourselves and our community to expand and grow. We are allowing the masses to see us as people with sexual identities that differ from normal and that are in fact subject to change. These are the components to the revolution that should have happened decades ago and not just movements.
I fully and undeniably respect any which way that someone identifies as. I love that my straight folk are trying to boycott sexual identity labels and/or have some fluidity in their identity or whatever the case may be. There is just too much of our history that still is invisible to the masses that still needs to be seen. As members of the LGBTQ community, it is our duty to show and demonstrate to our heterosexual peers that we should respect our privacy and wear our differences proud. Just know that we are not confined to a label or stereotypes. We can prove to them with and by labels that were once used to hurt us that we are powerful, present and fierce.