Can non-gays/trans be "queer"?
In the 90+-comment thread for For drop-kicks anti-gay shareholder proposal post below, we got into an interesting discussion about the use of the term “queer” that I felt should be promoted to the front page.
Holly Capote got the ball rolling with this note:
I agree with Callie that queer could apply to everyone. I have straight artist friends that consider themselves queer, not by dint of sexuality, but by reason of clear difference…and outsider status. I don’t mind a bit. It’s nice to have more pals in the queer pool.
Which brought the following response from Sarah in Chicago, who commented:
oh, and as to ‘queer’, I personally I tend to restrict it to sexuality and gender nonconformities … while fluidity and non-static is at the core of the identity, to open it up to non-trans heterosexuals? Nah, would lose meaning.
Straights can perform queerness, but they aren’t queer themselves.
Now the context of this discussion had to do with the observation that in essence, we’re all different in some way, but some differences are more prominent because of society’s take on those differences. For example, some of us are blue-eyed, some brown, some green, but that’s not a meaningful difference because society treats people of all eye colors the same.
I think I fall right between Sarah and Holly (oh, get your mind out of the gutter!) in that I think “queer” shouldn’t be expanded to, say, multiply-pierced artists or tattooed dwarf amputees, because then “queer” becomes so broad as to lose its meaning. However, I do think “queer” applies to all “non-traditional” sexualities, not just gay, lesbian, or transgendered, but also polygamists, infantilists, BDSM enthusiasts, and foot fetishists.
My dear cyber-sister-wife Callie then expands the discussion to include “coming out”:
Take for instance, the use of the term “coming out” that some Christians have applied to themselves (i.e. that they are “coming out” as Christians). Personally, I take offense to their use of that term by non-gay people. The odds are that when a Christian professes their faith that all of the bad things that can happen to a gay person for the same thing will happen to them, such as potentially losing family and friends, losing their job, losing their kids, etc. The reaction of society is just not the same.
Hmmm. How do you feel about us marijuana activists and our reference to “coming out” as an open cannabis consumer?
On one hand, I see how you’d like that reserved for gay folks, but on the other, we face loss of family, friends, job, kids, and perhaps even our freedom if we “come out”.
In my view, there is so much in common between the gay rights movement and the marijuana legalization movement. We’re both stereotyped minority groups. We both face discrimination in the workplace, the church, and the courtroom. People will vilify us for a choice of lifestyle, we both respond that our orientation is inborn. Neither of us make any progress by remaining closeted. We both try to change minds by being out and proud. We both have martyrs, leaders, national organizations, shared history, culture, and rituals.
I get lots of flack on this one. “You don’t choose to be gay, but you do choose to smoke weed. You don’t have to get high, but you do have to fulfill sexual drives,” a gay activist once told me.
I responded, “ah, but you’re missing the forest for the trees. It’s not your homosexuality that is an inborn drive – it is your sexuality. Nearly all humans are sexual, but you choose to bed down with humans of the same sex to fulfill that drive. You are physically capable of bedding down with a woman, but that wouldn’t fulfill your drive as completely as bedding down with a man. Boy-on-boy action works best for you, and you have every right to do so, even if society in general disapproves. You don’t have to have orgasms, and you choose to smoke poles.
“Likewise, nearly all humans are born with an innate drive to seek pleasure and alter their consciousness. Some use beer, some use food, some use gambling, some like to bungee jump. I’m physically capable of doing any of those things, but they don’t fulfill my drive as well as marijuana. That works best for me, and I have every right to do so, even if society in general disapproves.”
Now, I’ll grant that stoners don’t face the violence and volume of scorn from society that homosexuals do, if you’ll grant that there’s no pee test to detect homosexuality and no prison terms for being caught in possession of gay porn. I never said the movements were identical, just similar.
So, I hope I don’t offend you, because I’m going to continue to refer to myself as having “come out of the (cannabis) closet”.