Veriqueer

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m a little tired of making accommodations for straight people.

Actually, that’s not a fair statement; I’ve never actually made accommodations. I’ve just always lived in a world where heterosexuality was the dominant paradigm, the standard, and the assumption. As such, I’ve had to convince others to accommodate me.

Here’s the context for my fatigue: A local GSA, of sorts, of which I have been a member, is going to sell hooded sweatshirts. Now, I’m all about a nice hoodie. Until I loaned it to a friend, a green hand-me-down hoodie was my prized possession; I currently own four hooded sweatshirts, one of which becomes my everyday outfit in winter. The real problem, of course, is not the hoodie itself, but what to put on the hoodie. Only a few slogans and logos have been discussed, but yours truly suggested a mildly clever play on words (that apparently had been used in the past by this same organization, though long enough ago as to be before my time) involving the word queer.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an advertising genius, or someone who’s totally conversant on the history of (for lack of a better word) queer rights and so on–but it is my understanding that quite a number of people could be referred to under the umbrella label of queer. Gay is pretty limited, and could conceivably cover both women and men, although it is largely understood to refer to gay men in particular; homosexual is somewhat stiff, and ignores a good portion of the non-heterosexual population; and sexual deviants tends to have sort of a negative ring to it.

Queer, however, can cover a lot of ground. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans folk, genderqueers, women who used to identify as lesbians but now date trans men and wouldn’t call themselves straight… the list goes on.

I understand that not everyone readily identifies with this label. Members of older generations, for example, still hear the negative overtones of a word once used to describe them pejoratively, just as many will never self-describe as “faggots” or “dykes.” Academics, younger non-hetero individuals, and theorists and historians, however, have increasingly accepted “queer” as a useful catchall descriptive, and as a state of mind.

So you can imagine how disconcerted I was when someone responded to my suggestion by stating that “people have different feelings about the word queer.”

Uh, okay. Congratulations–you’ve made a discovery on par with realizing that some people don’t like bananas.

Later, someone offered the explanation that “queer” leaves out the straight supporters who are, in fact, a big part of this particular organization. Well boo fucking hoo. I’m sorry, but I don’t think queer groups should be walking on eggshells to make sure heteros feel included.

Someone else mentioned that maybe not everyone would feel comfortable wearing something that said “queer” on it. Fair enough, but I bet not everyone’s comfortable wearing gay little rainbows, and we still hand those out all the damn time.

I’m just a little sick of every conversation being derailed by someone who needs to explain that not everyone feels exactly the same way. Of course we don’t. No one, to the best of my knowledge–except for crazy fundie right-wingers, who still believe homos recruit–thinks queers all operate with the same mindset. But we absolutely can’t move forward in any kind of constructive way if even a conversation about a damn sweatshirt devolves into a question of how we can avoid making people uncomfortable.

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