What does it mean to be queer? The way I see it, queer means everything and nothing at the same time. PFLAG defines queer as an umbrella term, including anyone who wishes to identify as queer and/or feels somehow outside the societal norms in regards to gender or sexuality. I find this definition of a term that truly escapes definition to be good enough for the working purposes of this article. The way I embody queer is through something more than that definition. The recognition of queer as a destabilizing category that isn’t a hard and fast identity, but rather more of a process, resonates deeply with me. I find that much of where I am now is as a result of queer choices and feelings; and likely my future will follow along a similar trajectory. Queer is more than a word to put my sexuality to, it’s a word I associate with my gender, with a full-fledged commitment to subvert heteropatriarchal norms and behaviors that negatively impact people of marginalized sexualities and genders.
Recently, I read an article that struck a nerve with me on the subject of being queer. The author of the article wrote: “the word queer has become too trendy, too mainstream, and far too vague. What was once a radical and polarizing reclamation in the gay community is now an all-encompassing word suited to whoever.” The article was a thinly veiled attempt to keep queer as an ultra-exclusive word associated only with the historical definitions of who counts as a queer person. I found myself shaking my head at the polarity of how the author of said article aligned themselves with queerness, and by that extension, categorized other self-identified queer people.
Take for example Disney star Rowan Blanchard. At fourteen years old, Blanchard openly identified herself as queer, stating in a series of tweets ““In my life-only ever liked boys however I personally don't wanna label myself as straight gay or whateva so I am not gonna give myself labels to stick with- just existing… ...open to liking any gender in the future is why I identify as queer.” To be able to come out at fourteen as being of a non-normative sexuality is highly impressive and extraordinarily brave. I remember hearing about Blanchard’s coming out and thinking to myself how amazing it would have been for me to know at fourteen that I aligned with queerness as well—how fantastic and different things would have been if I had the vocabulary and language to reconcile my identity in ways I did not know were reconcilable. Unfortunately, the reaction I read was somewhere along the lines of erasing Blanchard’s identity due to her being “essentially straight”. Not only is this troublesome in the assumption and erasure of an identity that is not one’s own, but also strips away the autonomy that comes with self-identification.
The demonization of queer people in this manner is certainly nothing new—we as a community have been battling for legitimacy from cisgender lesbians and cisgender gay men, who apparently still aim to divide the queer community and afford the title of queer only to those who have “pure” identities: (cis) women loving (cis) women, and (cis) men loving (cis) men. The implications in transphobia are steeped deeply within this line of thinking, as is the historical and present-day erasure in sexual fluidity of any sort. The ideal of purity in queer identities places power in biology, a dangerous place for sexualities and genders to exist for reasons obvious to queer people of destabilizing or fluid identities. Biology places power in rational based on heterocentric, ciscentric assumptions of human nature, separating women from men, asserting that only cisgender women and cisgender men exist, and creating the violent marginalization of queer and trans people that continues to this very day.
Rowan Blanchard is just one of the many people who recognize themselves as queer and feel comfortable and content in claiming queer identity. Being a non-cis, non-gay or non-lesbian individual doesn’t deny the existence of cisgender gay men or cisgender lesbians—it affirms we, as queers outside the lesbian/gay binary, exist. Queer people come from all backgrounds and embody their identity in a vastness of ways. The number of queer identities existing that we know of today is staggering in the most fantastic way possible, and presents worlds of opportunity to love others and to love ourselves. Queerness is not contingent on getting approval from those who will divide the communities we align with, it is approval that comes from within and emanates outward to those with which we surround ourselves. Queer is becoming known, heard, and felt from people everywhere. I want to be every bit a part of it.