I’m queer. And not in a “of a questionable nature or character,” “mentally unbalanced or deranged,” “bad, worthless, or counterfeit,” or ” not feeling physically right or well” kind of way. You probably already know that, if you’ve been reading this site for any amount of time, but I think that this is the time to explicitly state it. I haven’t written much about my sexual identity in the past, because I’ve always considered it a personal matter, just like I consider your sexuality to be a personal matter, but I learned on 4 November that this was a mistake. It’s not a personal matter, and that’s why I am telling you this today.
My identity, and what of other LGBQT people, is a public and political matter.
One of the huge problems with the LGBQT rights movement is that we are invisible until we choose to show ourselves. You can’t tell I’m a queer from my skin color, the way I dress, the way I speak. What I do (or don’t do) in church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or other house of worship. You wouldn’t know it from talking to me on the phone, sitting next to me on the train, or reading my words on the page. Until now.
Civil rights movements for women and people of colour had a huge advantage, which is that they couldn’t be hidden in the closet. That’s also a disadvantage. In order to discriminate against me because I am queer, someone has to be told that I am queer. That’s not the case with people of color and women, who continue to be routinely discriminated against because they are easy to identify. But by being clearly visible, these proponents for civil rights showed society that they weren’t going away.
It’s time to be out and proud, my queer friends. I need, you need, we all need, to set an example for the rest of society. We are here, we’re queer, and we’re not going anywhere. A huge part of fighting for civil rights is about fighting intolerance, and people fear that which they do not know. People will continue to fear us until they know us, so we need to let them know us. We need to include them in our experience, to show them the common ground we have with them.
Gentle readers, we may have differing sexualities, but we have a lot in common. And if you aren’t on the LGBQT rights bandwagon yet, I hope you will be soon. You don’t have to be one of us to support us. And I know that you can’t get there without knowing us, and without talking to us, so here I am, letting you know me. You must like me, if you’re reading me. You must see that we have a lot in common, as I write about everything from what I eat for breakfast to being stuck on trains that get trapped in tunnels. And maybe you can see that the commonalities between us build a bridge.
I want my rights, and the rights of my fellow queers. But I want you to want them too. I need you to want them, because I/we cannot do this without you. And, in the coming months, I am going to be talking a lot more about LGBQT issues. I want you to know us, I want you to be unafraid to ask questions, and I want you to support our fight for civil rights. I want to be voting for the first queer President in my lifetime. And I want you to love that President as much as people seem to be loving on Obama right now.
Harvey Milk, who was shot 30 years ago, once said “I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let the world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody could imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights.” He was right.
Before I leave you, I want to briefly address the word “queer.” Queer is a tricky word. Like cunt, like faggot, like n—r, it’s a word which has historically been used to oppress and humiliate people. And, like all of those words, it’s a word we are taking back.
Can “queer” be used as an insult? It most certainly can. I see the face of a bigot twisted with fear and hate while he talks about the “fucking queers,” and I feel fear. But by identifying as queer, by explicitly stating my identity, I encourage others to do so, and to live public lives. I encourage people to take this word back, because, guess what, bigot, there’s nothing wrong with being a queer.
In fact, being queer is pretty fucking awesome.