Anonymous asked: What do you mean by "almost everyone is queer"? Does this mean you think anyone can call themselves queer regardless of whether they face oppression for their gender/sexuality or if the word has ever been used againt them? I'm all for more inclusive definitions of queer and for queering the world but it would strike me as appropriative if someone whose never been called queer tried to reclaim the word or if someone who has not been systematically oppressed for their sexuality/gender tried to
I agree that disenfranchised populations’ experiences/identities should not be exoticized or minimalized (though they frequently are). I hear your concerns, and here is my take on queer and appropriation. Queer is a word that, in the most general sense, represents a lack of normalcy and cultural recognition/legitimization – most often directly related to personal sexuality and/or gender identity and expression. When I say “almost everyone is queer”, what I mean is that despite the projected norm, the majority of people have/are non-normative behaviors, expressions, and/or identities. An easy example of this is found in the sexuality research of Kinsey and Kline (whose studies have been repeated globally with the same results). Their research showed that the average person was somewhere on the non-heterosexual (or “queer”) spectrum. Is it considered normal for two people with similar bodies to partner with one another? No. Is it more normal for two people of increasingly different bodies to recognize the legitimacy of variance? No. Gender thickens the plot because there is such an immeasurable variance within gender identities and expressions. Is it normal for someone to identify outside the binary or as something other than what they were assigned at birth? Is that more or less normal than a male assigned at birth, male identified person who really loves to shop, make crafts, and is inclined to cry? Who is less normal? Who is more queer?
Now, even though it is probable that most people are objectively queer in some, that doesn’t mean that they are subjectively queer – and in when speaking about identity, subjectivity is all that matters. No one can define our identity for us. I think that people don’t own queerness either because 1) they don’t feel it applies because of their proximity to normalcy and/or 2) they don’t know it could apply because of our culture’s rigid use of labels and related negative views personal exploration/flexibility of identity. This leads us to the other half of your comment about levels of oppression in experience. You ask if someone can be queer if they haven’t experienced certain oppressions. My question is who defines what oppressive experiences are required to be “queer?” We all experience varying levels of oppression and privileges – some more of one than the other. I think the issue is not whether or not someone is allowed to claim the identity of queer based on experiences of oppression, but whether a person recognizes their own experiences of oppression and privilege based on their identities. If you are appropriating something then you are claiming something that is not yours. Unlike cultural traits/practices or community words like tranny or fag, queer has no real definitive property other than a lack of normalcy (generally applied to gender/sexuality, but not always). Difference is a spectrum that no group or person can exclusively own which means there are an infinite number of ways to be queer. Because of this, I feel that queer is a word that is rarely appropriated. There is no way to decide that someone is not the identity they claim. You can assume they are not, you can even decide they are not based on your own definitions, but that doesn’t change the other person. I don’t want someone to ‘steal’ my communities’ words or misuse our language, of course not. Sometimes I want, no NEED boundaries and safe spaces; somewhere I can go where I know everyone else there will be very similar to me. Closed spaces are very valuable, but they are not the only thing we need. A community can not be a closed space.
I’ve been repeatedly told that I’m not queer enough, not trans enough, not genderqueer enough, femme enough, not ‘insert identity here’ enough… Someone else can’t define me; that’s my job. Their job is to listen and try to understand and in turn, I must do the same for them. To me, being queer is more than having a non-normative identity or expression; it is also about personal politic. Queer is radical, proactive, and socially just. Instituting hierarchies and requirements disempowers others and that is the opposite of what queer is all about. Boundary policing is one of the more significant inter-community oppressions we must overcome in order to obtain our equal rights and recognition in this world. We can not continue to separate each other out of frustrations that one may have it easier than we do. We are all scrambling for limited resources, but legitimacy is not one of them. There is enough for everyone if we are willing to fight for it. So, if someone tells me they are queer, I’ll take it; not just because I can’t prove otherwise (nor would I want to) and not just because there are not enough of us, but also because by using the word “queer” they are saying “I see the need for radical change and I want to be a part of it.” If I meet someone who thinks they might be queer, I will gladly state that queer could be for them what it has been for me; empowerment. I’m not just inclusive, I’m a fucking recruiter. I want as many queers as possible, and that is not just my Midwestern isolation talking. With so many people, even within our own “LGBTQ” community, counting us out, I want to be the one counting people in. That is why I say “almost everyone is queer.” I believe that if you feel different and want a place to call home, if you want change and you are willing to fight for it, then you count. In this movement, if you are here, you’re queer.
UPDATE: this totally put me on a writing roll, but seeing that this response is long and lecture-y enough I turned it into a blog.