I have been hesitant – and I believe I’ve mentioned this before – about using the label ’queer’. This was somewhat ironic, seeing how I throughout my childhood had no qualms about proudly calling myself ‘weird’. I was weird. I am. The label ‘queer’ is really mine to use; the people who have claimed it are people much like me. But even though I wasn’t sure why, it seemed scary, somehow. I saw people calling it a word to be reclaimed, much like the N-word and the T-word, a practice that I held – and still hold – some objections to. But mostly I think my hesitation and fear stemmed from ignorance – like hesitation and fear often do. I didn’t know exactly what the word meant, exactly how it was supposed to be used. I can’t say I know that now – and really, that’s the whole point of the word. But I do believe I’ve figured out what kind of word it is.
My revelation was triggered by my attending an event by the activist group Queer Jihad, and the subsequent reading of their book “Se! Den heteroseksuelle verdensorden går i stykker” (Look! The heterosexual world order is breaking). In the book is written a lot of things and especially a lot of things about queerness and being queer. I won’t repeat it all here, although I recommend buying the book if you can read Danish. I do want to highlight the main point I learned from Queer Jihad, or that Queer Jihad perhaps made me teach myself:
Queer is a political term.
My being androgynous/nonbinary/genderqueer, asexual, and panromantic are aspects of my personal identity; being queer is an aspect of my political identity. ‘Queer’ is a term that describes what I believe in, and not just who I am.
So what is queer? Who am I and what do I believe in? I could paraphrase something from the aforementioned book, but instead I’ll present to you my personal interpretation.
Being queer is being who you are and letting everyone else be who they are. Not just letting them; being queer is thinking that it’s wonderful and amazing that people are who they are. Being queer is about having no expectations or assumptions about people; it’s about having no default. We live in a world where most people think that being white, cisgender, and heterosexual is the default, with everything else being the exception. Being queer is rejecting that idea. Queer might be mostly associated with gender and sexuality, but it’s about diversity and acceptance in every other aspect of life as well.
Having figured out what ‘queer’ means feels much like it did when I first discovered that it was okay to identify outside the gender binary. The word has gone from something far off and threatening to a warm embrace. It’s purple and soft. It’s me. I’m queer.
Thinking about my essay from yesterday, it occurred to me that it might sound like I’m rejecting the idea of queer being an identity. That isn’t the case. Of course, being queer is also a question of identity. It’s a catch-all term for anyone who isn’t straight and cis, and some would argue that even nonheteronormative cishets can claim the term. It’s also a very useful term to use for anyone who doesn’t feel that other, more specific terms are applicable to them, or that those terms aren’t applicable all the time. The reason that I consider (my) queer a political term, however, is that I don’t need any more words to define my identity. I have enough. I’m an androgyne(/nonbinary), I’m asexual, I’m panromantic – and then I have the catch-all term “person”.
I’ve mentioned before that I have always been wary of identifying with groups, and this is even more true when it’s groups of people who ARE something and not groups of people who BELIEVE IN something. I have no control of my gender and sexuality, but I do have some degree of control of what I believe in. It’s a more active part of me, where my gender and my sexuality, much like my hair colour and the shape of my nose, are passive parts. Just like I’ve met many people with the same hair colour as myself with whom I had nothing in common, I’ve met queer (as in non-cishet) people who weren’t really in the same ‘group’ as I. A lot of them were perfectly nice and pleasant people who just happened to view the world in a different way, and some of them were jerks.
Needless to say, I don’t agree with everything anyone whose beliefs are queer, so to speak – but there’s more of an accord between our beliefs than there probably would be with any random person. So while I’m queer both in terms of identity and beliefs, the latter seems more relevant to emphasize.