I attended the Rainbow Health Ontario conference in March of this year. During the question period at the end of the session in which I was a presenter, one of the persons in attendance asked about the meaning of the word queer. Many shared their definition of the word. One person shared that some of their straight friends identify as queer. My initial thoughts on this involved feelings of discomfort, anger even. I have been working on various things since the conference but my mind keeps coming back to this. Recent events and interactions with members of the queer community where I live has caused me to deeply reflect on the meaning of queer. I have been having rich and meaningful politically inspired conversations about difference, action and change. These conversations have provided me with the sense of community that I have been searching for. But these conversations are mostly being had with straight people.
In March I would have adamantly refused the possibly of straight people being queer however now I am not so sure. I have looked beyond the queer community for a sense of belonging and have never felt such acceptance. I look to people like my straight white cisgender brother who is happily married to a straight white cisgender woman. Their heterosexual partnership has not and will not produce children and I identify with their departure from the norm. I identify with it because it is queer. They subvert the heterosexist narrative so beautifully and the family structure that we form together is impeccably queer. It is within this space that I am beginning to expand how I understand queerness so that I may build a community that would disrupt dominant ideologies and begin having meaningful, actionable conversations about difference. Perhaps this is a strategy that would build capacity within dominant groups that would someday create a center that holds difference. The current system of marking and marginalizing difference does not work.
I am unsure of what system would support a center that holds difference. I imagine that divisive politics would suggest there is a lot of healing that needs to happen before we can begin the process. Until we all admit that we are all socialized as racists within a white supremacy, moving a mass based movement forward will (and should) be impossible. I imagine there is a lot of capacity to build before the “all lives matter” rhetoric is exposed and accepted as a tool that serves to reinforce the white supremacy in which we are socialized. Of course all lives matter but for the first time in history let’s agree that #blacklivesmatter because all evidence up until this point would suggest otherwise! Then maybe communities of Colour can begin to heal. Dominant groups can do work that supports this healing insofar as a collaborative center that holds difference must be the reparative goal. I believe there is much work to do before the healing process will end and the trust to collaborate has been earned.
Interestingly, I encountered a similar situation at the Transgender Lives Conference in Connecticut this past April. My initial reaction to a straight, cisgender ally (who I had just met) telling me she identifies as queer was that my hackles went up. She had a few things to say about having a “queer brain.” Unfortunately, we did not have as deep of a conversation as would have been necessary for me to really get that. Like you, I’ve come back to it time and again and poked at the idea and wondered how that could make sense. Thanks for giving me a way of thinking about this that helps me unpack the idea a bit!
Reblogged this on Busy Nurse Research and commented:
Some thoughts on the word “queer” and different ways of thinking about what it can mean. It’s a thing I’ve been poking at for awhile and have yet to come up with anything coherent to say beyond the vlog post of a few months ago. Jennifer Searle gives some more food for thought to toss into that mix.
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