So my trill-ass friend Suzy Exposito wrote a bomb-ass piece for Teen Vogue called “LGBT Identity Makes You a Target for Violence” and I got inspired to write my own piece engaging her points about the co-opting of the label “queer” by straight cis people and the yet-pressing need to gay up this mother.
No, everyone isn’t gay.
“Briana, what do you mean by that? You’re not going to toss feather boas and make us listen to Selena for four hours again are you? While commendable, that doesn’t make people gay.”
Ah ha, hooooo, no…not this time at least.
“Well are you saying that straight cisgender people who get into passive-aggressive fights about dishware and in-laws when they’re shopping at IKEA and watch The Bachelor and attend PTA meetings are part of the queer community because we have a reputation to keep, girl”.
God no, ew, who do you think I am???
What I mean is that while there are definitely social, cultural, and aesthetic ideological differences between LGBTQ and cis heterosexual people, in my ideal radical liberated future, there can’t be (though gays will still always be much more hip than straights I’m sorry that’s just the rules).
Everyone certainly isn’t queer, but everyone should be queered. Naming the real need for space and definitions based on how the way the world is structured now (fuckin’ shitty, yo) is different from imagining where it could be in the future for us (*does “hang loose” sign*).
Right now, people rightly do define as gay, lesbian, queer, trans etc because the world says they are straight and cis and gender conforming otherwise and treats them as less than based on these things. But what if we lived in a world didn’t assume, didn’t define us in those absolutes, rightly saw sexuality, gender, expression and relationships as fluid and diverse and part of a spectrum and thus was free from those hierarchies and their violence?
To be sure, as it stands, the otherwise cisgender and heterosexual people identifying as “queer” simply because they feel interesting, funky or more at ease in queer spaces while not actually dealing with any of the vast social and institutional repercussions, discrimination and violence queer people face is very real and of course an issue, and fucking annoying. You see reflections of this in a lot of queer people’s frustrations with queer spaces being treated as fun places for straight people to take over and then subsequently get mad when something kinda gay like getting hit on by someone of the same or non-normative gender or getting screamed at about late Latina icons happens to them in said space. And due to their position in society, they fail to see why their entitlement to our space is so dangerous.
We created these terms and these spaces to define our identity and experiences and to give us safety and reprieve from constant forced compulsive heterosexuality and gender norms and pictures of straight people’s babies. We created them because as we are not straight, or cisgender, or gender conforming, we need to make sure people know what to call us and to stop showing us pictures of their fucking babies. When people try to say “I don’t like labels” it ultimately doesn’t wash because society will label you for you regardless, and does so based on what is considered socially center and constructed as “normal”, AKA white, straight, cis. To resist that whitewashing, we define ourselves. To avoid seeing their babies, we wear things like this.
All that said, as a woman of color, I walk this world with so many racialized gender and sexuality norms that would greatly affect me even if I was straight.
LGBTQ folks face being objectified and seen as hypersexual, but that is also something that as a Black woman was put on me since birth. Cisgender, heterosexual Black women get policed for “looking like men” all the time because naturally, our bodies do not conform to white cisgender straight society’s idea of what a woman should look like (white, thin, “fine” European features, etc), and that goes double if said Black woman is dark because dark skin is also defined as more “masculine”. It is of course because of this intersecting reality of superimposed racialized gender and sexuality norms that Black trans women experience the most violence so there’s no comparing there, but a Black straight cis women yet experiences sorts of gender and sexuality violence that even a queer or trans white person wouldn’t. I could go on for ages about the ways that Brown and Black bodies, even if straight and cis, are policed for not being “man” or “woman” or “straight” or “femme” or “butch” or whatever else enough as defined by white people.
I’m not saying I’m suddenly socially as oppressed as a Black trans woman, not in the least. Infringing on marginalized people’s spaces and lives, co-opting their experiences, or negating their social location because “it’s a construct” is shitty. Being cis is a real privilege that assigns you lots of power and I experience that in spades. Being heterosexual is the same. And I don’t know what impact a liberated, radically free society would have on these things. Maybe everyone *will* become “queer”, having naturally never really fit in these suffocating boxes a colonizer society put on us all in the first place, but they likely won’t. Regardless what I am saying is that for everyone to differing levels, gender and sexuality is a constructed performance that doesn’t ultimately help or serve them. My friends and I refer to ya’ll as “the stifled straights” for a reason. Following the lead of trans and queer folk of color, the sooner we can dismantle racist, unjust and superimposed systems of identity and self, the freer we can all be.