Queer with a Capital Q! Part II

I have recently been part of many conversations about what it means to be queer. Several of my cis-het colleagues have approached me about The Acronym (you know, the “LGBTQPAAII” under which all of us queer people are lumped). This acronym presents several major problems, one of which is the mixture of gender and sexual orientation. It maybe, kinda, sort of addresses relationship orientation, but not comprehensively so. This mix of identities is confusing for everyone: Am I queer because of gender or sexuality? Am I not queer if I’m aromantic but heterosexual? Are trans homos more queer than cis homos?

What exactly does it mean to be queer? When my parents were young, “queer” was used pejoratively to describe homosexual people. For some reason, my mother’s dorm at nursing school was given the label, “queer hall” and the libelers did not intend it to be a term of empowerment. One of my favorite family dinner moments occurred several years ago when I was visiting mom and dad. I must have kept referring to myself as queer because my mom finally got a bit upset and said, “would you stop using that word!” I was a bit surprised that she took offense at my self-identification and we started talking about it. She still felt the word queer was derogatory and offensive. When I asked, “what did you think I was, mom?” She responded, “I thought you were just gay.”

At this point, mom understands why I identify as queer and how the word encompasses all my…well, queerness, but I’m not certain there is an easily definable and universal meaning to the word.

Plus, to make it more complicated, there’s queer and then there’s Queer!

I’m going to muse now. Let’s see if this gets us anywhere:

queer might be homo-normative

Queer! certainly is not

queer assimilates into heteronormativity. Think weddings with white dresses and two parents in one house with children and the stock market and shopping at Target*… always shopping at Target

Queer! has it’s own timeline

Queer! doesn’t follow a typical career path

queer agrees and aligns with institutions and systems

Queer! subverts institutions and systems

queer doesn’t question (as much)

Queer! can’t stop questioning

I am trying to observe and document the difference between queer and Queer! without judgment, but I am aware that I have some judgment. So I will just try to not judge my judgment and be transparent about the fact that there is some judgment.

The thing that has been so hard to navigate in the past few months (years maybe) is the recognition that I am marginalized within my marginalized community! It’s hard enough being queer, but when one realizes they are Queer! and therefore too Queer for queer people… well, it hurts.

Methinks ’tis related to normativity.

There is nothing wrong with straight people. There is nothing wrong with wedding dresses and nuclear families and cisgender people. There is something horribly wrong with Target and I won’t back down from that one, but there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to fit in.

The “wrong” occurs when those of us who just don’t fit in are ostracized and humiliated and told we’re crazy and our visions are alien and our way of being is frightening and our silence is threatening and our voices are aggressive and we “should be this” and we “should do that” and we are too sensitive and our tears are hysterics and our anger is out of line and our anti-consumerist stance is tiring and our purple hair is a midlife crisis.

I had a dream last night in which all the players had purple hair. Maybe the Queers! are about to start a revolution.

Fuck normativity.


*In case it isn’t obvious, I do not bow to the Gods of Consumerism. I am quite certain that I was not given a body for the sole purpose of buying shit and amassing wealth. For me, Target is a symbol of rampant, unsustainable, unnecessary consumerism but I could have easily used ‘Costco’ or ‘Walmart’ in place of ‘Target.’ 




4 thoughts on “Queer with a Capital Q! Part II

  1. Interesting! You’re using “queer” how people in my experience so far use the acronym, and so having to use “Queer!” for what I would mean by “queer”. I wonder how widespread the heteronormalisation (is that a word?) is.


    • If heteronormalization isn’t a word, it should be!

      I suspect that my journeys into the etymology of the word queer are not totally generalizable because it is so personal and relates to individual identities. I am fascinated, however, by the differences in the lifestyles of queer people and what the lived experience of being queer (or Queer!) actually is.


  2. Oh this is complicated for me! I think you’re right that queer is being, well, at least homonormalized in a way that makes it hard for me to find the Queer! people, as you put it.

    The weird thing for me, tho, comes from the fact that I’ve seen this same big-Q little-q distinction made in the opposite way. Big-Q is the Queer of Queer Studies in academia, and is very normalized and formalized and really about the alphabet soup acronym at best (tho usually only the shorter versions of it). Little-q queer was the subversive, refuses-to-be-defined queerness that persisted despite Queer Studies’ attempts to fit it into a box – one of my partners even has a small-q tattoo for this specific reason!

    I tend to refer to your Queer! (which I do kinda love also) as just plain old “queer as fuck” 😛


    • Wow. I didn’t come across Big-Q, little-q as defined by queer theory of academia (bad researcher!) and am grateful that you brought it to my attention. The interesting thing to note is that our community is talking (and has been talking for some time) about normativity and where we Qs of all varieties fit in. Since I have apparently now convoluted queer and Queer! or Big-Q, little-q, I like your suggestion that us super queers just go with queer as fuck… or QAF for texting purposes. 🙂


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