I identify as queer. Back in the day, queer meant “weird”, and I like that definition, as I believe it suits me. Wikipedia states that:
queer has generally meant “strange”, “unusual”, or “out of alignment”. It might refer to something suspicious or “not quite right”, or to a person with mild derangement or who exhibits socially inappropriate behaviour.
While this word has been associated with derogatory connotations, particularly with regards to sexual orientation, I actually find it liberating to use the term to label myself. Sort of like when I call myself “fat”. I’m reclaiming words that were once used to hurt me – but now, these terms BELONG to me. I own them, and in doing so, they lose the negative power I once allowed them to have over me. In reality, they are parts of me.
I didn’t come out until my thirties, at least not fully. I denied myself of my true sexuality when I was in heterosexual relationships, for the most part. To the outside world I was straight, when in reality, I never was. I was too scared to come out to my entire family, especially my father. He and I did have an understanding, even though I never said outright, “Dad, I’m a queer”. He just knew, and we talked about it, in a roundabout way, when he shared stories with me about how he partied with his gay friend in Washington, DC and how he “had a blast”. He concluded our conversation with, “I love and accept all my children no matter what they are.” I knew what he meant. And he knew I understood.
I didn’t feel fully comfortable with my sexuality for a very long time, as I knew it made me an outcast of sorts. I was afraid of being judged by my family. But on November 10, 2008, while making funeral preparations for my father the day after his passing, I confessed, to my Aunt, my Grandmother, and the funeral home director, that I was bisexual. We were talking about wording of the obituary with regards to what to call my friend/ex/roommate who was like a son to my dad. We decided partner was out – the funeral home director said we “wouldn’t want it to come across the wrong way” or something of that nature. That’s when I said, “well, I wouldn’t mind if it did come across the ‘wrong way’, because I’m bisexual!” My then 85-year old Grandmother’s proclamation of, “you are? Oh! I didn’t know that!” was followed by her boisterous chuckle. My Aunt replied, “well I always kinda knew that about you.”
And there it was. I was out, and to the family members I was always the most afraid of being judged by. I was now the self-dubbed “rainbow sheep” of my family, and it took me a while to feel proud of that fact.
I have at various phases in my life identified as everything from straight, to bisexual, to pansexual. I am most comfortable being called queer because it doesn’t put my sexuality in one rigid category. To me, it means I’m in solidarity with the entire GLBTQ (aka LGBT) spectrum. My views on gender are also not rigid, as I have had close friendships and intimate relationships with people of a range cis-gender and transgender identities. Nature loves variety, and not everyone fits into the binary “man” or “woman” category so neatly as we’d like to think. This is true of queer and sexual identity as well. Some people are just different (if you don’t like it, get over it!).
You can call me whatever you like. Since I’m in a relationship with a woman, I don’t mind if you call me a lesbian. This is the first time I have had a female partner on a long-term basis, and I realize there will be people who label us a “lesbian couple” which is perfectly fine with me. Though I am still navigating what it means to be in a relationship with a woman, I am not going to hide it. I am way too old to be afraid or ashamed of who I am anymore.
While it is wonderful to receive acceptance from others, I am blessed to have found acceptance for myself. Life is too short to not be true to oneself!