Monday, July 14, 2008

LGBT and now Q: How Many Letters Will the Alternative Sexuality Activists Appropriate?

My issue of Stanford Magazine arrived today, and in the letters column one correspondent had written on behalf of the "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer-identified (LGBTQ) students" at my alma mater. I had not previously come across the phrase "queer-identified" and was curious as to its meaning. Were these students who are neither gay, nor lesbian, but have either identified themselves as such, or been so identified by others?

I was also amused that the previously familiar acronyms of LGB, and later LGBT, had once again undergone extension. Would there be no end to this, before the advocates of alternative sexuality had appropriated the entire alphabet? ("A" is for animal-lovers, "I" is for incest-rights," etc.) Is it not enough that these activists have already sexualized once perfectly useful words such as "gay" and "queer?"

As any modern investigator might do, I turned to the world-wide web, and found that even the activist community does not seem to have settled on a single definition of "queer-identified." The catch-phrase “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified” suggests that "queer-identified" is distinct from the prior four categories. Also, there were posts where people identified themselves as, for example, a “queer-identified lesbian” or a “queer-identified gay man,” which suggests that one could be a lesbian or gay and not be “queer-identified.” Elsewhere I have seen the word “queer-identified” used apparently as a collective term, embracing persons who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or even asexual.

Wikipedia contributed this paragraph from its entry on "Queer," which could only have been written by someone with an advanced university degree, probably a PhD, in English or the social sciences, no doubt in a discipline that frequently employs the term "deconstruct":

For some queer-identified people, part of the point of the term 'queer' is that it simultaneously builds up and tears down boundaries of identity. For instance, among genderqueer people, who do not solidly identify with one particular gender, once solid gender roles have been torn down, it becomes difficult to situate sexual identity. For some people, the non-specificity of the term is liberating. Queerness becomes a way to simultaneously make a political move against heteronormativity while simultaneously refusing to engage in traditional essentialist identity politics.

As Woody Allen once wrote after quoting a particularly murky passage from Kierkegaard, "The concept brought tears to my eyes. My word, I thought, how clever!" I was particularly intrigued by the idea of queerness as a way of "refusing to engage in traditional essentialist identity politics." Does that mean that they refuse to be Democrats?

If any of our readers can provide some illumination on the meaning of the term "queer-identified," please comment. Better yet, keep it to yourself.


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