Dear Mom and Dad, We've never really talked about this before, but I want to talk to you about sex. About sex and relationships and life styles and gender and identity and community. I know this will come as a shock *sarcasm* but it's true-sometimes I have sex. And here's the real bomb shell: I'm queer.
Queer? You're probably thinking. Lani's thrown around that word before. What does it mean? Well to start off, no, I'm not trying to become a boy, Mom. In fact, for me queer means I often like boys-biological boys, transboys, and sometimes folks who aren't boys at all. I don't see myself as gay or a lesbian or bisexual.Although some people would definitely call me any or all of those things (and sometimes jokingly my friends call me those too), I find these terms limiting, inadequate and slightly invasive.
For one, I don't choose my partners solely based on what's in their pants or on their gender expression.And for another, I don't have any desire to walk around with who I have sex with stamped on my forehead. Gay versus straight implies opposites, but I don't see myself as the opposite of someone who is straight or 'normal'. Queer doesn't prescribe my sexuality and gender-it let's me continually define them for myself. I've never liked being put into boxes, as you well know, so I've never been able to embrace an identity or label that defines exactly who I have relationships with or how I understand being a woman. Because that's not me.
It's true that a lot of people take offense with the word 'queer'. The word is violent to them or brings up hurtful memories.I am privileged to have been born thirty years after the Gay and Lesbian movement began campaigning, and discrimination doesn't take on the same words or ways of thirty, forty, fifty years ago. But the Gay and Lesbian movement doesn't completely represent me politically or identity-wise. I want to push liberation further.
You know, most of the time I wear jeans and black boots and a septum ring. But sometimes I wear skirts or high heels. And as a friend of mine said, "I may perform my identity differently depending on the situation I am in, but I may not think differently about my identity". So being queer lets me carry my pocket knife and wear a polka-dot red dress and know who I am. Being queer allows me to feel comfortable in my skin. It doesn't make me into something I'm not or put me in a clearly defined box. To me, queer implies fluidity, consent, communication, movement. It requires that I keep myself accountable to others and that other queer folks are accountable to not define for me who I am.
Also, gender and sexuality are fun! The chalkboard in my kitchen says "Welcome Homo!". There's something about 'queer' that lets me recognize myself as playful and sometimes a performer. Like my friend G said:
Sometimes [I identify] sarcastically as a "big dyke" or "gaywad" or "homo". I like to think of my sexuality as fun and funny and malleable. I like to have fun with it...But I'm always comfortable with "queer".
I think it sums up everything I believe about my sexuality- playing with gender and gender as something that is performed to the world. Don't get me wrong though, there's nothing wrong with being gay or lesbian or bisexual. For some people, those are the words that fit them. It's just not me.
Maybe this is all too much too fast. Maybe it's easier to think of me first as gay before you can understand my (perhaps more complicated) queerness. That's ok.As long as there's respect and room for me to jump out of that box.
Your loving and queer daughter,
PS.Thanks to my friends and queer community who let me talk, ask questions, and write emails about queerness.