Michael C. Reed

July 1997

Faces of Queer

I once knew a girl who carved the word "hurt" into her arm. My memory of this was the first thought that entered my mind when I saw the statement, "Fag Visibility" printed on a bumper sticker. The sticker is distributed by Queer Nation, an organization who's very name has been protested from within our own community.

Originally, I failed to understand using "Queer" as a positive word. And the idea of promoting oneself as a "Fag" offended me. Just as the idea of African-Americans, myself being a mix of Black and White blood and heritage, referring to each other as "Nigger" was as equally puzzling and insulting to me. Using the same belittling terms as did our oppressors appeared counterproductive to me. It seemed as if this ideology condoned -- if only slightly -- the verbal and social bashing of sexual, cultural, and racial minorities. My opinion has changed over time.

In the excellent book edited by Marian Dane Bauer, Am I Blue: Coming Out From the Silence (Harpercollins, 1994), Bruce Covil touches upon the subject of derogatory self-referral in the book's title story. A character points out that minority use of words like "Queer" takes some of the disgrace away. This idea is expanded upon by Christopher Isherwood in his statement, "It makes heterosexuals wince when you refer to yourself by these words if they've been using them behind your back, as they generally have."

T-shirts and lips bearing phrases like, "Dyke + Fag = Queer," have become popular within this breed of activist, and the "Militant Homosexual" saw its creation. They praise sexual diversity and cultivate their rage at injustice, using phrases like, "Queers Bash Back," and, "Another Fag for Peace." They cite incidents such as the special treatment of Dan White, who received lower charges in the double murder of both San Francisco's Mayor and an openly Gay councilman with a defense revolving primarily around his consumption of Hostess Twinkies, supposedly resulting in a state of "Diminished Capacity."

This alliance of angry and bitter men and women whose strength and humor in the face of oppression wears its scars as medals and its wounds as badges of honor. I've never forgotten seeing the response to the brutal and unprovoked Castro incident: a red splattered T-shirt coldly stating, "My domestic partner went to the Castro and all I got was this bloody T-shirt. "It was not until the meaning of the word "Queer" was pointed out to me that I discovered an analytical reason for the words use in application to sexual minorities.

For years, our community has had a problem with nomenclature: Homosexuals or Gay, Lesbian or Gay, and what about Transgendered, Transsexual, or Transvestites? The term "Gay" most certainly cannot be used to classify everyone. The common thread between all sexual minorities is their difference from the established "Norm." And this is precisely what the word "Queer" means, "Differing from what is usual or ordinary." (Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second Edition)

Unlike Gay, which is simply not inclusive enough to encompass all sexual minorities, much less its sociological exclusion of Lesbians -- who as sisters should be fought for with the same ferocity as our brothers -- makes it much less desirable a term. "Queer," on the other hand, is a short term that can be used to refer to our entire community, instead of using long, tiring lists of distinctions. Where other words are more specific, the term "Queer" can be applied to us all. The preceding are the two main reasons I have collected for the use of the term "Queer."

Other words, such as "Fag" and "Dyke" are used by Queer activists who are fed up with being oppressed, and who will not accept silence. "Silence = Death," they say. If we allow ourselves to be ignored or assimilated, they continue, if we fail to make ourselves known, the queer culture will disappear, and new doors of oppression will suddenly become available to society.

In the essay, I Hate Straights, a part of the Queer Manifesto that was so important during the Gay Pride week in New York (June, 1990) the following appeared: "LET YOURSELF BE ANGRY. Let yourself be angry that the price of our visibility is the constant threat of violence, anti-queer violence to which practically every segment of society contributes."

Whatever train of thought you personally subscribe to, or none at all, it can be seen that we are all alike in our differentness. Only one word ties us together, and that is the word of "Queer". If the social confrontations make you cringe at its usage, so much the better. Bearing a word of ugliness is far easier when you wear it proudly.

We have a need for a unifying term, we have a need to shed the shame from our lives. In short, we have a need for "Queer." Let all those who love differently cry out in joyful celebration with the words used to hate us, and their hate becomes our praise. When one is proud to be a "Queer," every word behind our back is an unheard compliment to our people.

Michael C. Reed (MCR9000@juno.com)


"The Man"

On display, a hundred miles offshore, Somewhere in the deepest corner of
your mind,
There stands upon a pedestal a man.
Not real, of course, but fashioned, highly polished -- eyes as blue as the sky
behind him,
Nude; he stands flawless, unaware.
He's finely textured, solid, yes, and strong, no doubt, but lightly felt; a
subtle tone,
Within him lies, intangibly, a softness.
And somehow shows itself, through slightly rounded features, wrapped with
deeply copper skin,
He is perfect and yet he does not know.
He loves not as he is not,
And yet you cling to him,
For he is what YOU BELIEVE the perfect man should be

What is this thing, this man?
This someone, Which I was born, and perhaps you as well.
Can you define what is man?
Who he is inside
And who that he should love?
And tell me why, counting NOT character, NOT action, NOT feeling NOR
compassion, a man is said a man, who loves a woman.
Then tell me why, counting NOT character, NOT action, NOT feeling NOR
compassion, a man who loves a man is FORCED a woman!
Seen as weaker,
Seen as evil,
Seen as not well bred or as designed as he within a woman's bed.
Tell me how love becomes false when two were made the same who love the same-
Two men,
One love,
Same sex,
Same feeling for each other, how?

God loves all mankind. Does that make him Bisexual?

[About the Author]

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