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.