Monday, October 18, 2010

Why I'm Queer-- More Thoughts

All your fabulous comments on my last post got me thinking: Why is it important to me to identify as queer? As some of you mentioned, of course, we can identify as whatever we want, no matter what other people say about it. But it's something I wanted to explore further.

I know some people identify as queer before identifying as asexual. However, I wasn't one of them. I identified as asexual first, and I don't even remember where I first heard the term "queer", or when I started thinking of myself this way. Maybe it was when I started reading about other peoples' queer experiences, and saw the parallels to my own. The "queer" label is something that hasn't been forced on me. As someone that tends to pass for straight whether I like it or not, I haven't had to reclaim "queer" after it was used on me as an insult. If I really wanted to, I could easily pass for straight for the rest of my life. I have many chances to opt out of being queer. Maybe that's why some people say I shouldn't be able to identify myself in this way. Maybe they think it has to be something forced upon you. Obviously, I disagree.

One reason I disagree is because I see "queer" as being a very political identity, and while we might not be able to escape our sexual orientations, our political identities are our choice. To be queer means that we're not going to be silent in order to make other people more comfortable. It means that we're actively going to work, in some way, to break down the rules and barriers that I mentioned in the last post. For me, the main political aspect of being queer is being anti-assimilation. My political beliefs are such that I don't believe we all need to be integrated into mainstream society. In fact, I think the ideals of "mainstream society" have been damaging to too many people. I believe that acceptance should not hinge on conformity. Rather than trying to be like everyone else, my version of "queer" is the project of finding ways to radically be ourselves. (Of course, I acknowledge that other people may define "queer" in very different ways than I do.)

As a further example of what I mean, I want to talk about the term "neuroqueer". This is a little-used term to refer to people whose brains function outside of "normal" ways, most commonly people on the autistic spectrum. I've heard some politically correct folks refer to such people as "neurodiverse". To me, this term implies a passive acceptance. Sure, it's better than something derogatory. But I much prefer "neuroqueer" because it's active and political. It implies to me that we're going to come together as a group to change something about our situation and about society. It implies that not only can we be okay without magically becoming "normal", but that we're going to make sure you know it.

There are various theories about what causes the learning disability that I have. Maybe I don't have enough white matter in my brain. I can't control that, and I can't control the fact that in many situations, I think differently from how a "normal" person might. What I can control is how I view my experience of being different, and how I might use it for the better. That's why I choose to identify as both neuroqueer and "regular" queer.


Noskcaj Llahsram said...

very uplifting post

Naomi D. said...

Sorry to do this in a comment, but could not find a link for an email.

My name is Naomi Davis and I am currently a Senior in Tisch Film/ TV and I would just like to share with you a film that I'm currently working on. The film is called "DADT". The film is a narrative of a gay American solider dealing with life during and after the Iraq war.

I am extremely passionate about spreading the word on the injustice of Don't ask,don't tell, and the cruel rejection and pressure many homosexual Americans face. I went to lobby for repeal in Washington DC and met the men and women who have been discharged. This policy is disgusting and needs to be gotten rid of, since cinema is a language that I am fluent in, I have decided to fight the best way I know how.

I have been reading your blog sporadically over the last few months and I know that you are also very passionate on topics such as DADT. I was hoping that you would take a look at my website and kickstarter page and maybe say a few words about what my friends and I are trying to do or even link to us or send out a few tweets. Any acknowledgment would be amazing.

Besides the fact that I am raising awareness on a policy that I feel very strongly should be repealed, I am also a student and must complete my thesis film in order to graduate. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated. I've attached the links below.

Thank you so much,

Naomi Davis

writingfromfactorx said...

I actually had a slightly different experience in that I was tagged as not-straight long before I was ever ready to come out as asexual to anyone. In fact, one of my original motivations for coming out in the first place boiled down to wanting people to get the right not-straight sexual orientation.

I didn't start identifying my asexuality as a form of queerness until relatively late, though. And I agree with you, I think that term implicitly contains a quality of activism and of not staying silent about one's orientation to it. My growing identification as queer definitely correlated very strongly to my increasing belief in the importance of coming out, for example.

Also, I'd never heard "neuroqueer" before. I like that quite a lot! I usually use "neuroatypical" if I'm wanting to talk about the broad group of people whose brains don't function neurotypically (i.e. not just people on the spectrum), but that has the problem of being easily misread as neurotypical.

Ily said...

Noskcaj-- Aww, glad you thought so! :-)

Naomi-- Sorry, I'm still not sure whether to put an e-mail up. I know DADT is a bad idea, but honestly I'm not as well-versed about it as I should be. I'll check out your project though, and hopefully any other interested readers will do the same.

WFX--Yeah, you'd have to say "neuroAtypical" for people not to misread it, I think, since it's a less common term than "neurotypical". I'm surprised that no one ever told me I must be gay (at least to my face) since that seems to be one of the most common responses. But I remember being scared of people perceiving me as gay, before I knew about asexuality.

Whale_Bone said...

This is the first time I've come across the term "neuro-queer" and I really, really like it.

>I'm on the Autism spectrum, but I can mostly "pass" as NT.
>I'm grey-A; bi-romantic... aka "(A)sexual-ish"

blah blah blah...
so these silly wenches are telling me I don't have a say in who counts as queer since I have "hetero-privilege". Such nonsense.

I agree that queerness is a deeply political orientation, which is why it is so awesome!

I say everyone is welcome to queerdom. Queer-heteros included.

Ily said...

Yay! I'm glad to be spreading the term. I think I mostly pass as NT also, although I could be horribly wrong ;-)

Anonymous said...

I agree about "queer," although it does produce a short of whiplash: if it's a "queer" this or that, I'm in, if it's LGBT, I'm out. And it seems like most LGBT folks use the terms interchangeably most of the time. But the LGBT Students Association at my uni did change its name to the Queer Students Association. On the other hand, the alumni group is called the 'Gay and Lesbian Caucus'.

Elizabeth said...

Hello! I'm LizzieGoneAstray over on Tumblr. I've been having some problems with trolls, but someone dropped a couple of links to your recent posts about queerness into my ask. I'd like to post them, but I don't know what kind of trouble it might attract to your comments section, so I wanted to ask first and make sure you're okay with that. I don't want anyone to have to deal with the possibility of trolling if they're not up for it.

Ily said...

@Elizabeth: Checked out your Tumblr (and followed you, I'm "the-pineapple"), and you got death threats?! Damn, that is terrible and scary. I've been lucky in that I've never had trolls here. Maybe there is some kind of force field. Normally I'd just delete the comments. But my anxiety is high right now, and I'm not sure I can really deal with vitriolic stuff at the moment. I know, I am like the mildest blogger ever. Thanks for asking. Maybe you could post them when the fury has died down?

Ibby Grace said...

Hi, I'm Ibby Grace, and I was wondering if I could put a copy of this on which is the community blog we started a little while ago to get the word out. Please check it out and let me know by pinging me on Twitter? I think I set it to get you to the blog by clicking on my name. @tinygracenotes