Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Please Don't Call Me Queer!!

Last week there was a slight kerfuffle between LGBT YA authors and a literary agent. I'm not going to link to that because it has nothing to do with this post.

But that misunderstanding brought something to my attention that I hadn't seen before. Evidently, it's becoming popular to add a "Q" to the end of LGBT...making it LGBTQ.

I'm gay. I write gay fiction and have been for twenty years. No one told me about the "Q."

The "Q" means "queer," or "questioning." At least that's what I've been told. I'm fine with the "questioning" part. But I'm not so sure about the "queer" part.

Of course I know there are gay people who want to refer to themselves as "queer." And they want to be referred to as "queer" by other people. And that's fine for them. Have fun. I just want to make it clear that I'd prefer not to be called "queer" by anyone at any time.

The "Q" word to me is what the "N" word is to some African Americans. It's degrading, denigrating, and insulting. It's hateful at best and hurtful at its worst. It causes pain no matter how you look at it. It makes young gay people living in small towns cringe and recoil. And being a writer, I know how strong words can be.

What prompted me to write this post is that I saw a status update on facebook written by someone of African descent who was stuck in traffic and someone viciously shouted the "N" word to him/her. I'm posting this anonymously, verbatim. But it was posted in a public forum, on facebook, so the person in question must have wanted it known.

This was the status update: "Small town life: Someone just called me a nig!?$ in traffic. I feel racism is a form of mental degeneration. Breath, and onward! #Life"

It killed me to see this. I'm a huge fan of this person and I wanted to scream and punch something. But more than that, I felt this person's pain because I know how it feels to be called "fag" or "queer."

So if they want to add a "Q" to the end of LGBT, have a blast. Personally, I'd rather think of the "Q" as "questioning." There's nothing wrong with the word "questioning."

But for those who want to be called "queer," don't call me a "queer." That's already been done before and I'd rather not revisit my reactions.

3 comments:

Hayden said...

Interesting. When I started publishing LGBT YA, I was told that "Q" stood for "questioning," not "queer." So I've always thought of it that way.

Also, I can't remember where I read this, but a gay activist once said that "queer" is a word that many members of the LGBT community took back and made into a political statement, the way some members of the black community reclaimed the N word and made it their own. Actually, there was an essay written by Audre Lord (I think it was her) about the N word and how the black community's reclaiming of it made it impotent as a weapon against them.

Anyway, as far as "queer" goes, the gay activist I mentioned referred to groups like "Queer Nation" as an example of reclaiming what would normally be a term of hate into a political label or something.

Hayden said...

I found the essay. It was by Gloria Naylor, not Audre Lord. My bad. It's been a while since I last used it for a class.

Here's the text.

ryan field said...

Thanks for commenting and leaving the link. I do understand the motivation behind reclaiming the Q word and the N word. I get what they are trying to do. But it hasn't worked. These words still infer negative images in most places in the world...in America. And I know for a fact from the letters I receive, from young gay people who are struggling with their identities, how these words hurt.

I'm going to think of the Q as questioning. I also learned a few new terms, like "Intersexed," which I didn't know about. I'm all for adding more to the list in the fight for equality.