By: Shannon Ralph
Recently, The Huffington Post changed the name of their “Gay Voices” page to “Queer Voices”—a minor change, but one that resonated with many people within the LGBT community and beyond. The name change was met with cheers from those who saw the use of the word “queer” as a step in the right direction. The term “gay” is decidedly non-inclusive of all of the wonderful depth and breadth of the LGBT community. I applaud HuffPo for the change, but it has caused me to question my own identity in recent days. I have never doubted that I am gay, but…
Am I queer?
I am definitely a lesbian. I am in love with another woman. I am happily married to that woman. We share a cozy house, three children, and a dog. I have identified as a lesbian for decades. But queer?
When I think of the word “queer,” my mind immediately goes to the dictionary definition of the word.
adjective | \’kwir\
- strange; odd
“she had a queer feeling that they were being watched”
Synonyms: odd, strange, unusual, funny, peculiar, curious, bizarre, weird, uncanny, freakish, eerie, unnatural, unconventional, unfamiliar, unorthodox, abnormal, spooky, perplexing, irregular, unhinged, crazy
There are times when I think I am strange or odd. Like when I can’t go to bed at night until I vigorously—and completely against medical advice—clean my ears out with Q-tips. Or how, alone in my car, I think I can rap as well as anyone in the cast of Hamilton. It’s unorthodox that I eat hamburgers plain because I have a weird aversion to all condiments. It might be unnatural that I bite my nails and always have. And my perplexing aversion to centipedes (and all creatures in possession of more than four legs) borders on unhinged.
But none of these reach the threshold of queerness in my book.
Queer people are cool—way cooler than me. They have tattoos. And not the lame one-inch-wide sun I had tattooed on my ankle in a moment of 21-year-old margarita-induced bravado, but real tattoos. Large tattoos. Relevant tattoos. Queer people have blue hair. Or maybe pink. They have piercings. There’s a good chance they’re vegan. They’re farm-to-table believers. They buy locally. Queer people live in New York. Or Los Angeles. Or Portland. Queer people are artists. Actors. Writers. Musicians. Queer people create. They unequivocally know how to party. Or perhaps they’re too hip to party. Queer people know who they are. And they know who they aren’t. They are outspoken. They are expressive. Explicit. Tenacious. Probably a little profane. Queer people live unapologetically. They exist outside of the monotony of everydayness. Queer people push the boundaries. Queer people change the world we live in.
Queer is something to aspire to, as far as I am concerned.
So that brings me back to the question of my own queerness (or lack thereof).
I am not cool. I am rarely tenacious. I am not unapologetic. As a matter of fact, “I’m sorry” seems to be my go-to mantra these days as I underachieve on every front. As a full-time working parent, I find myself constantly pulled in no fewer than 75 different directions. Between karate lessons and choir performances and violin recitals and science bowls—not to mention everyday work, dinner, baths, homework—I feel much more like a harried housewife than a paragon of queerness. I can’t even remember the last time I did anything even remotely queer (unless you count seeing Carol at an early showing following a geriatric 5pm dinner on a desperately needed “date night” with the wife). I feel categorically tame. Normal. Boring, even.
So what is the verdict? Am I cool? Am I queer?
No, I am not cool. Yes, I am queer.
I think the term “queer” is broad enough to encompass even distinctly domesticated lesbians like myself. Just as terms like “family” and “husband” and “wife” have expanded in recent years to include LGBT people, I think the term “queer” can be inclusive of all of us. Anyone who appreciates diversity and believes in the intrinsic value of all individuals should be proud to call themselves queer.
It may take this car-pooling, play-dating, steak-loving Midwestern mom a little while to get used to the terminology, but I am proud of HuffPo’s dedication to inclusion.
And I am proud of my queer little family.
Photo Credit: Queer Zines