Queer is such a complicated word. Its history is murky and its meaning has been redefined and turned on its head more than once. As a lurker in the ace community I saw several battles about whether aces counted as queer or not. I’ve discussed with a professor who identifies as queer my asexuality and gotten a thank you for the reminder that sometimes in the midst of fighting for the right be sexually attracted to anyone, people underestimate how hard it is to fight for the right to not be sexually attracted to anyone. Then he apologized. I didn’t really feel like he needed to apologize, but he did. Since starting this blog and paying more attention to tumblr specifically, I’ve have seen just how charged it is as a word to identify safe spaces. But to be honest, queer isn’t a word I have thought too much about. It is a word that perhaps I should be thinking more about.
I think part of it is that I spent the vast majority of my life thinking of myself as the default straight, just broken somehow, with a some day, I’ll figure this out, but for now, let’s just assume base normality. That turned out not to be the case, but even as I slowly realized that I didn’t really care about the sex or gender of my romantic partners, queer felt like an alien word to me. I’m a white, upper middle class, cisgendered woman with a college education. I was too privileged to need that identification, that community. Queer was a word that people who wanted to make a point used, who were willing to campaign for what they needed, who didn’t fit in anywhere else. Queer was edgy, dangerous, and I’m really not. I am not much of an activist. I don’t rock the boat, not by myself. If a good friend or someone I trust says, this boat needs rocking, will you help? and they convince me it is worth it, I will use what skills I have to help. In the end though, the active face of a movement is not me. I fit in lots of places. I hadn’t even dated anyone besides one guy and I was a very happily identified woman. Queer was a word that wasn’t me or could only be if I could get a straight answer about whether or not being ace counted.
To be queer was to be complicated, actively, thoughtfully complicated. A complexity I lacked, perhaps more for lack of thought than anything else. It didn’t help that everyone I asked or every source I found gave me a slightly different definition of who belonged there. I wasn’t even trying to figure out if I fit there, but to better understand my friends who identified as queer. I still don’t really feel like I understand queer as a category, as an identification. I understand the words that people use to describe it, but feel like I am missing the aha moment where I put the pieces together and can say I understand.
As I figured myself out more, internalized that I was asexual and, eventually, that I was interested in romantic relationships when I could talk to my partners and be like…not sexually attracted to you, but cuddle me lots?, queer was never really a word that occurred to me as a label. I lurked on ace blogs and AVEN, saw the discussion happening about where aces fit, and didn’t the spoons at the time to really digest that discussion.
I know a good chunk of the ace community fights to be under the queer label. I even get why. There is a degree to which queer can be a catch-all for non-traditional genders and orientations that most people don’t understand and/or accept. I agree that a lot of what aces go through has parallels to the queer community. I have difficulty really understanding at a gut level why people might be violently against heteromantic aces in queer spaces because their experience is just as complicated. Yes, they come with a degree of straight privilege, but everyone has some flavor of privilege. I also get intellectually why someone might not truly feel safe in a queer space with heteromantic aces in it. You don’t want the danger of that privilege in your safe space. (And this is why I am a bad activist…I usually think everyone has something right in what they are saying and we should have a nice sit-down and not assign blame on anyone) But somewhere, I just want to yell, “Be nice. Listen to other people. Don’t assume their experience is yours. Don’t hate without knowing their face. Can’t we just all play together?” And so conversations like that, I just stay out of, partially because I think that my privilege means I can’t talk about it, I have no agency here and partially just because I get frustrated and feel like both sides aren’t listening. Especially when I don’t really understand the key bit of terminology as well as I could. So, maybe the queer community is something I don’t feel part of because I feel like it is linked to activism in a way I will never be.
By most of my understandings of queer, I could identify that way if I wanted. I am a pandemiromantic ace…which means clearly I think I’m complicated and not straight. I don’t care about the gender or sex of my partners and am presently dating a poly woman…so I guess I have some reason to feel like I fit. But, I don’t know that it is an identity I will ever claim. I’ve got enough privilege going on and some days the pretend mask of straightness for the outside world is strong enough, I would feel like a pretender. On the other hand, what biases might be behind my reluctance? Maybe there aren’t any, but I haven’t looked.
That said, I would at least like to understand more, still not really for me, but for the people in my life who identify as queer and because I think it is important to understand the categories and labels people choose for themselves. I also want to keep examining why I feel I do/don’t fit and deconstruct any misconceptions I might have picked up.