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Queer nation: Is this offensive to you? | Toronto Star
PublicMateysMateys (exceptin’ yer acquaintances)Only MeDo’et Ye selfClose FriendsSelf-EmployedSpy all manifestsMontreal, Quebec seasKinArrquaintancesRetreat! Retreat!
by Gregg Rowe
Sticks and stones my break my bones But names will never hurt me.
I had to write queer in big, bold letters on my title page for this exam. I need to get used to seeing queer in big, bold letters. It is the label that in 1998, I have to repeat to myself that : I am no longer a happy homosexual, but am now regarded as queer. It is a coined phrase, by the academia and activist worlds, and I resist in my life to wear this coined phrase upon my sleeve. How can I, at the age of 38, adopt a label and a derogatory term that, while I was young, was said in spite and ridicule?
It seems that the whole nation is being queerized. Especially politics where queer is meant to benefit the representation and diversity of our community. (Jagose, 3-4) I do not object to this term on a communal level if it aids the community in achieving their goal, but as an individual, I will continue to resist this label.
I have many labels attached to my name: fag, homosexual, gay, gay activist, HIV +, person with AIDS, person living with AIDS, person living with AIDS activist, survivor; individual labels that place me in what are suppose to be the correct categories of the labels used by society and that should describe my gender and life as a human being. But queer? I think not! I am not “strange, odd or peculiar” nor am I “mildly crazy” or “worthless, yet I could be “eccentric” or “different from what is normal or unusual” in the mainstream society, but so are some very well known heterosexual and bi-sexual citizens: Shirley MacLaine, David Bowie, Mike Jagger, Elton John, Madonna, et al.
What I oppose to the label queer is quite straight-forward, it erases my self-identification and my individualism. ( Jagose, 125-26) Mind you so does fag, gay, and homosexual; but at the same time, these are specific labels that I allow myself to define me. Queer unfortunately places me in categories of sexuality that I do not and wish not to be labelled on an individual basis. I am not trans– sexual, -vestite, -gender, nor a lesbian for obvious reasons. I may have been pan-sexual and even bi-sexual when I was young, but that does not make me queer. I am not saying that I will disassociate my personal life from these individuals, not at all, some of my best friends are from each sexual category and I find no conflict at all to be in their company.
Thus, on an outing as a group of people, we may be definitely queer because of our diversity of sexuality. I have no objection to this terminology for empowering ourselves as a collective. But when I leave the party and go home dressed in my suburban jeans and t-shirts, with one ear-ring and perhaps construction boots or at least running shoes, I would like to know that I have reclaimed my individuality and my self-identification of I am just a happy homosexual. It took me thirty-eight years to get this far.
At the same time, as an activist, I have to come to know the meaning and importance of developing and evolving terminology for the benefit of empowerment and if we need to coin a new phrase to include all sexualities under one umbrella, well let us do it. But I must warn the academia world as an individual. We can survive with your queer theory coined terminology and fight the new queer politics to further our cause, as long as you remember the trial and tribulations that the older generation of gays, lesbians, drag queens, trans-gender, bi-sexual, etc. had to fight so that you can be sitting where you are today. Let us keep our self-identification and individualism, so that we would be able to record our culture and heritage because already there are too many people referred to in generalizations and numbers in society.
Oh yes, sticks and stones may break my bones, but one name will definitely hurt me.
Jagose, Annamarie. QUEER THEORY: AN INTRODUCTION. New York (Washington Square): New York University Press, 1996.
Final Exam Essay; Concordia University
11/2 hours to write
Minor: Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality
Professor: Thomas Waugh