For me, queer is more than an orientation or preference. Queerness is political. For me, it is about the marginalized, the oppressed, the forgotten. It is about not assimilating. It is about not pretending that we’re “just like heterosexual people.” Queers aren’t all white, aren’t all middle or upper class, aren’t all cisgendered, aren’t all (temporarily) abled bodied. Queers break binaries.
Queerness is other. It is oppositional. Yes, I acknowledge that that means it depends on the mainstream; that definition depends upon having the straight norm. However, until all gender expressions, gender identities, and sexualities are respected and acknowledged, there will be an opposition.
For me, queerness is essential to maintaining my own sense of gender and respecting the genders of others. Being queer — as opposed to calling myself gay — allows me to acknowledge that my personal sense of gender is not as simple as a binary requires. I am not a woman. The term “man,” however, also does not fully encompass who I am. Where, then, do I fit in the gay/straight binary? Even in a short spectrum including bisexuals, I am still not represented without compromising who I am to an extent that I am not willing to accept. The concept of bisexuality assumes that there are only two sexes, two genders — it upholds the binary. More than that, identifying as queer allows me to acknowledge that many of the people to whom I am attracted also don’t identify within the binary. Identifying as queer doesn’t put them back into boxes they don’t want.
Queerness recognizes that not all people are women or men, female or male. Queerness recognizes the diversity of sexualities, genders, and people. Queerness allows me to identify myself without compromising an integral part of who I am.
Queer means different things to different people. To me, that’s part of the beautiful things about the word queer — it doesn’t have rigid definitions, and it allows people to make what they want of it. It doesn’t exclude. What it means to me may be completely different from what it means to others, and that’s okay.
I recognize that the word queer has been an immensely painful word for many people, and I wouldn’t want to apply it to people who wouldn’t want to claim it. At the same time, reclaiming the word queer feels liberating and right to me. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have negative personal memories of the word. Perhaps it’s because no other word feels right. Perhaps it’s because I like the sense of queer as in odd or different from what is usual.
I’m queer by choice, not by biology. I’m queer because this isn’t just about who I’m attracted to, or who I can fall in love with, or what my sexual orientation is. I’m queer because I’m an abolitionist. I’m queer because I see how interconnected all forms of oppression are. I’m queer because gay marriage isn’t my number one priority. I’m queer because I’m genderqueer and trans, and I play with gender.
I identify as queer because it’s so much a part of me — a part of who I am, how I see myself, how I think, how I view the world — that I can’t understand how I could do otherwise. I wouldn’t want to identify otherwise; I’m proud to be queer. Being queer means actively, defiantly resisting the pressure to conform to societal norms and expectations; it means fighting systems that systemically disadvantage and oppress people based on their race, class, gender, sex, ability status, and appearance.
I’m queer because I choose to live life on my own terms. I celebrate the multiplicity of continually evolving genders and sexualities. I’m queer, and I wouldn’t change that for anyone or anything.