First post. Let’s make it memorable by talking about something close to my heart.
Queer. I use this word a lot. I surprise non-queer people with how I use it: they seem to expect me to use ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ or … something. I’m not those things, though. I’m queer. A queer.
Obviously, I like this as a general-purpose term that says nothing about my sexuality via declaring gender/sex. That should be philosophically self-evident. (If you know what book I’m quoting, be sad for me that I had to read it for Novel 1 because wow, another story about a cishet man. Sorry, Ian, but it’s true: the lack of female narrators in our booklist selection was not up to par with the feminist I know you are.) Quite obviously, I am happier with words that don’t have anything to do with what my gender is/isn’t or what bits my body has or hasn’t. Also quite damn obviously, I hate the phrase ‘same sex marriage’ and everything of the kind that assumes queer identity and relationships are about two people of the same bodily configurations and/or gender configurations.
(This comic is awesome.)
Okay, so I am talking about that and overusing ‘obviously’.
No, I’m talking about ‘queer’. Sometimes with ‘people’ or ‘folk’ added after it, but mostly why I have now come around to referring to myself as ‘a queer’ as opposed to ‘a queer person’.
Simply: I feel like ‘person’ draws no attention to my genderlessness. I am a person (philosophically self-evident … well, given the world seems to behave as though I don’t legally exist, probably not) and I am far, far happier with ‘person’ instead of ‘man’ or ‘woman’ attached should anyone refer to me. But that’s pretty damn implicit, because I haven’t gone and turned into an amoeba. If I am here and typing this shit out, I am a person. When I add ‘person’ after ‘queer’, it says nothing unique about me or my gender (or lack thereof) or who the hell I am. It’s a vague, pointless, useless noun because we’re all people. It’s wasted word space. All I am doing is reminding the oppressors that I am a person in a world that refuses to see me as one, but in truth it’s not being read that way—it’s a filler word that adds nothing because it applies to everyone. I might as well call myself a queer human.
(Okay, I lied. I’m a zombie and I’m coming to suck the brains out of librarians and editors.)
When I say I am a queer, though? The word that matters has become a noun—who I am. I’m not a man; I’m not a woman. I’m not a person like everyone else. The thing that defines me isn’t my gender/sex—it is my queerness. That is a subtle and powerful thing that is nevertheless far more accurate to whom I am, and it’s something I get to choose for myself. It’s not a useless filler word with a modifier to make it a little different—it now becomes a word made sharper by the absence of what is not there. I’m not a queer woman—I’m just a queer, no gender at all. Like men and women, my personhood is also implied, but I am also not like you.
See, we live in a world where ‘man’ or ‘woman’ say quite a bit about a person’s possible life history, thanks to a long history of patriarchy. Those words aren’t meaningless. They’re also used erroneously in a sense of defining bodies and what those bodies indicate about gender, but they have shades of relevant and irrelevant meanings we as members of society sift through every time we apply them to someone. Those words, however, aren’t me. I don’t want them. But I also don’t want to replace them with something as meaningless, irrelevant, as ‘person’.
I am a queer, and I am defined by the absence of what follows. No more, no less. It works.
Of course, the way cishets refer to ‘a queer’ or ‘a homosexual’ or ‘a gay’ is pretty damn gross. It’s a slur. Those words are adjectives and are usually used to modify a noun—’woman’ or ‘man’ or ‘person’, mostly. They’re stripping humanity and personhood away from the subjects by turning an adjective into a noun: they’re literally refusing to see a queer person as a person by making their sexuality the subject. Given that it’s usually followed by queer-hating sentiments of some kind, it’s disgusting and wrong and a sure-fire way to make me furious as both a fucking queer and an Editing student. If you ever do this without knowing the queer person prefers otherwise, go choke on a Fucking Ally Cookie.
Do you see what I did there? I am a queer. Queer people are queer people. And most of us will have quite specific words and terms we want used—hell, even ‘queer’ as a modifier is a reclaimed slur, and I know of too many bloggers who think cishets shouldn’t even use the word ‘queer’ as a general group modifier. I’m queer; I get to use it, because I don’t feel the initialisms have anywhere near the inclusiveness they attempt and ‘queer’ does a better, non-defining job, as above. (Especially with the terms used to encompass non-binary folk and the different ways we’re all non-binary.) However, I am never going to refer to my homosexual friend as ‘queer’ because she refers to herself as a homosexual woman. It’s just about respecting a person’s preference. Is this complicated? You bet. Do I care that cishets have to go to a little bit of effort to respect people’s preferred words?
Come on, do you really need me to answer that?
Now, how do I want you to refer to me? You may call me a queer. In fact, it’d be preferred. You may also refer to me as a queer person, or a genderless person, or a queer genderless person, or a genderless queer. You may also use ‘person’ where you feel the need to use ‘man’ or ‘woman’, but ‘queer’ would again be preferred. You should also use ‘they’ when you need to use a pronoun: it’s not correct, exactly, but it’s the closest thing I’ve found, and it’ll do until I find something better.
(If gender is a pair of shoes, shoes that can come in a variety of genders and blends of genders, I’m that soul that goes everywhere barefoot. Pulling on a pair of boots to slog through the mud only means I don’t want dirt under my toetails; it says nothing about who I am.)
What I ask is that you don’t gender me. I have aspects of gender and I have a body that is gendered by society, but I am not a gender and my body is gendered without my approval or agreement. In fact, I damn well like the idea of having a queer body and a queer sex. To me, it makes far more sense than anything else people have tried to come up with, and far more sense than the idea that sex and gender are wholly separate things.
Now. Let me go outside and count how long it takes for someone to misgender me.
Such is life.