Archive for October 2010

“Queer”: Its Roots and Modern Significance to the LGBT Community

Monday, October 25, 2010 § 5

After using the term queer in my last post about the It Gets Better Project, I paused for second. Would all of my readers (hey guys!) get what I mean when I refer to “queer adults”. Do I even fully grasp what queer means?

The term queer has a a complex history, with a meaning that’s bended and buckled over time. After it’s origin in the 16th century from the German root Quer, queer was mostly an adjective that meant strange or unusual. Towards the end of the 19th century and most of the 20th the word served as a derogatory slur for (usually effeminate) gay or transgendered individuals. Merriam Webster captures it's various meanings nicely.

While it still can be (and is) used as slur, it has been mostly reclaimed (beginning in the mid 90s) by many in the LGBT community to mean pretty much anyone who’s gender and/or sexual identity isn’t “normative”.

The term queer covers people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, pansexual, pomosexual, intersexual, genderqueer, two-spirit and even asexual or heterosexual individuals who view themselves as not heteronormative, as well as others individuals who don’t fall into any of these boxes*.

Today, the term queer is pretty widely accepted in the LGBT community. It pops up in popular television shows like “Queer Eye”, popular blogs like Queerty and in respected universities in the form of Queer Studies.

The term Queer is important to the LGBT community today for a few different reasons.

1. It’s much more practical as an umbrella term than the common practice of adding more and more letters onto LGBT. The term LGBT was originally coined with the intention of representing a variety of people with varying sexualities and genders. But today? It’s not cutting with all of the differing identities people have. Some people try and fix that by adding more and more letters onto LGBT, but then you just end up with something like LGBTTTIQQAA, an acronym so long it’s almost unusable. Queer is a lot more practical, and frankly less intimidating, especially to those outside the LGBT community.

2. With more and more people identifying as genderqueer or other identities that fall outside of the traditional gender binary, terms like gay or straight don’t quite work. If you identify as somewhere in-between male and female, or another gender entirely, and you’re attracted to guys, what does that make your sexuality? Queer seems to work nicely for many.

3. It’s an inclusive term. Like I mentioned in my 1st point, LGBT just doesn’t cut it any more when referring to all people with sexual and/or gender identities that don’t quite fit the norm. While some in the LGBT community complain about the addition of more and more communities, I disagree. So many of the goals are connected. Hate crime legislation, the right to marry regardless of gender, to adopt, an end to bullying and persecution just for being different. These are not small fights, and excluding people who want to help is not going to make it any easier. To garner support from everyone, its necessary to use terminology that includes them.

Queer is here to stay, and its usage will likely only increase from here. And to me, that’s a good thing.

*Confused about some of these terms? No worries, one of them (pomosexual) even threw me for a loop ! There are a lot of terms out there, and it seems like more pop up everyday! That’s what makes wikipedia and google such great resources, and queer such a great umbrella term =].

The It Gets Better Project: Lives Saved Through Story Telling

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 § 3

Stories are a pretty big deal in our culture. We see them told on television shows, in movies, on the pages of novels, through websites, and in tons of other places as well.

One reason why people tell stories is to share their experiences. Similar experiences can connect and bind people together. Stories can show people that they’re not alone in their struggles.

Dan Savage (of the popular advice column, Savage Love) aims to do just that with his new project.

Dan Savage started the “It Gets Better Project” in response to the suicide of the Indiana teenager, Billy Lucas. Billy hanged himself after being constantly bullied in school due to his supposed sexual orientation. Savage’s project is meant to be a voice of hope to LGBT youth through stories which show how life improves. Queer* adults are invited to post their own videos, sharing their own stories. Below is Savage’s introductory video, along with his husband, Terry.

Billy’s suicide was not an isolated incident. Suicides in the LGBT community are a rampant problem, one that is especially obvious now due to heavy news coverage.

Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, recently jumped off the George Washington bridge, a few days after his roommate broadcasted him having sex with a man online.

Asher Brown and Seth Walsh have also committed suicide in the past few weeks, both due to homophobic bullying.

Queer teens committing suicide is nothing new. One third of all teenagers who attempt suicide are gay. More than half of harassed transgender teens have attempted suicide. There has not been an uptick in queer youth committing suicide, there has simply been an uptick in news coverage.

Which is what makes Dan Savage’s project all the more important. In a few weeks, news coverage of queer youth suicides will likely die down. But the over 1,000 voices recorded will not. These voices tell the stories of LGBT adults, many who live successful, fulfilling lives with people who love them. These stories show queer teens an alternative to their seemingly never ending torment. A light at the end of the tunnel, a pat on the back, a voice saying that it’s going to be okay.

These stories will remain online, reminders to all the queer youth out there that life does get better, and will hopefully prevent some viewers from ending their stories tragically early.

Whether you’re queer or straight, I urge you to check out the videos and share them your loved ones. Stories aren’t just to share common experiences, they’re also for learning about different people, lives and struggles. And that’s knowledge that everyone could use a bit more of.

And if you’re a queer adult (or an ally), and haven’t yet, please, add your voice.

I’ll leave you with a belated happy National Coming Out Day, and a video that I found particularly moving.

*On this blog, queer will be used as an adjective that encompasses the lgbt community as a whole. If there are any  additional terms I use on this blog that are unclear, please let me know so I can clarify. This blog is meant to be inclusive and understandable to all.

Sodomy, Shellfish and Slavery: Why the Bible is Not a Valid Excuse for Homophobia

Saturday, October 2, 2010 § 13

This post popped into my head as my English class was discussing the impact of the bible on society. The bible and it’s cultural impact is very relevant to the LGBT community, as it’s bible passages that many Christians use to justify their homophobia and persecution of gay people, exemplified in the “God Hates Fags” signs that pop up every now and again.

The passages that arguably condemn homosexuality have been picked apart before; there’s really no need to rehash them here. This site does a particularly good job of explaining the various verses often quoted and providing multiple interpretations of them, with some more liberal interpretations even coming to the conclusion that modern homosexuality isn’t a sin at all!

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the bible does explicitly condemn homosexuality. But homosexuality isn’t the only thing the bible condemns by far. It also explicitly bans eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10), wearing polyester (Leviticus 19:19) or getting a short haircut (Leviticus 19:27). How is it that these aren’t even considered sins today, while homosexuality is somehow remains a big deal?

Before I delve into that question a little deeper, let’s take a quick peek at some of the things that the bible promotes as totally acceptable! Oh weird, looks like the bible says it’s totally fine to sell your daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7), buy slaves yourself (Leviticus 25:44), or have as many wives as you want (Exodus 21:10)!

Look, the bible’s an extremely old document, I get that. Obviously some of the stuff it refers to and laws it decrees aren’t relevant in American society. And that’s awesome, because I have no desire to watch someone get stoned for choosing to go to work on a Sunday (Exodus 35:2). But if Christians can make the decision to abandon these obviously outdated views, which the vast majority do, why do so many of their fingers remain glued to bible verses which demonize homosexuality? If a person has no qualms abandoning some verses, then how can they point others as definitive proof that homosexuality is a sin? It’s hypocritical.

If a person wants to pick and choose what from the bible to believe, that’s totally fine. I try and be very tolerant of people’s beliefs. But If I call someone out for their homophobia, and they point to Leviticus or Genesis, that’s just not gonna fly. In my mind, they lost that right when they put on that cotton-poly blend shirt, or had fried shrimp for lunch. They’re not homophobic because the bible says so. They’re homophobic because they’re homophobic.
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