Who am I? Queer? Gay? A fag?

by Blake Kanewischer
September 1996

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."--Remember that popular children's skipping chant? Well, have I got earth-shattering news for you! It's not true, not by a long shot. Names can and do hurt people, and within the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning community, there's a lot of discussion about appropriate labels, if any, to be placed on these people.

Labels are important to us human beings. Our minds are far too limited to comprehend diddly squat. Even the greatest minds of our time (and previous times) still have to put labels on things. Heck, one of our greatest "achievements" in biology is determining exactly where everything lies in the Kingdom - Phylum - Order, blah, blah, blah chart. Look at scientists as a whole: they make their livings categorizing and analyzing things. Even our drama majors and English majors categorize and classify beyond belief.

So, I guess it's only natural that we're going to put labels on people's sexuality. There's the scientific stuff: heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual (in the traditional sense); the popular media labels: straight, gay, lesbian and bi; and the pejorative labels (applied by both sides) : breeders, fags, and dykes.

So, these labels are out there, and the bad news is, we're gonna get one slapped on us sometime during that great processing queue that is masquerading as our life. Or is that the good news? Anyhow, I personally think that if we could get out of the labeling mentality, we'd be a lot better off, but, we're not going to in the near future, so let's see about this whole shebang.

"Mom, Dad...I've got something to tell you...I'm a homosexual." There's just something wrong about that line. It's too clinical, too depressing. Hell, there's a good chance your parents wouldn't even know what it meant!

Problems with this particular label include how it comes out of the religious right's mouths sounding like an accusation...hom-ah-sek-shoe-ahl. Besides which, it's too long! So then, people invented "fag"...

"Mom, Dad...I've got something to tell you...I'm a fag." This line would work, except that "fag" has too much of a negative implication in the minds of many. Many people just toss around the pejorative "fag" about other people without even realizing what it really refers to...sexual orientation. So, needless to say, "fag", when coming out to people is kind of uncool. But, the bigger question with "fag" is whether or not it's cool to call other gay guys "fags". I guess it all comes down to personal preference. Unfortunately, personal preference isn't a very good way to apply labels to things... I mean, think of how unscientific that is!

"Mom, Dad...I've got something to tell you...I'm gay" This sounds much better! It's known to the rest of the world what "gay" means...well, except for those people who still think "gay" means bright, perky, vivacious, and friendly, and even they're starting hear the word "gay" applied to enough people nowadays to figure out what it really means. The problem with "gay" is it's just too generic. It doesn't say enough...so they added on female homosexual, and then lesbian. And then, they discovered lesbian wasn't pejorative enough, so they created "dyke".

Suddenly, Newsweek ran a cover story on bisexuals, so now that whole issue had to be resolved. Were they gay or straight? Lesbian or straight? Necrophiliac and straight? This whole thing kept snowballing into oblivion! Hell, the next thing you know, they'll be callin' people trisexuals! Oops! It looks like I spoke too soon!

Anyhow, this became too much for the head of the English department at Oxford. He decided to take matters into his own hands. "Queer" was his re-definition... What doth this word "queer" mean? Queer doth mean all those people who are different from the norm...it is an inclusive, and not an exclusive term. So there you have it...you're not a fag, you're queer. You're not a dyke, you're queer. You're not a hom-ah-sek-shoe-al, you're queer. You're not gay, you're queer. You're not trisexual...you're queer! Get the picture yet?

I'm queer and I'm here...it sounds better!

Nah, WE'RE queer and WE'RE here...that's it!

Blake Kanewischer, 19, is a queer computer science student at the University of Calgary. Blake can be reached via e-mail at BlakeK@pobox.com; his home page is at http://pobox.com/~blakek.
©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.