The year was 2013, and the social media platform was Tumblr. Comprising a multitude of blogs for any subculture that you could imagine, Tumblr was both an escape as well as a community for my angsty middle school self and many others. Now, I could get into an extensive discourse right now about Tumblr alone, but that is not for today. Today, we start with a singular blog.
Now, frankly, I don’t even remember the name of this blog or the person who ran it, but I followed her because I thought she was really cool with her horror movie reviews, her comic book collection and her pink hair and septum piercing. I also thought I was straight. I promise that’s relevant.
On Tumblr, people oftentimes have headers or bios that give a little background about who runs the blog. This particular girl had ‘queer’ in her bio. I saw that and what I knew at the time was that it was another word for gay. That was about all I knew.
I remember wondering why she didn’t just use ‘lesbian,’ ‘gay’ or ‘bi’. Was ‘queer’ more akin to ‘questioning?’ I had no idea, but, for SOME REASON, I was really curious about it. The most I could find on it at the time (because researching LGBTQAI+ topics can be damn near impossible) was that it was just another way that some gay people could identify but mostly that it was offensive.
In high school I eventually started identifying as ‘pansexual’, and this was primarily because I felt like ‘bisexual’ was too limiting as far as genders go. Then I got real tired of explaining what that was to my hetero peers so ‘bisexual’ became my title. These identifiers in a literal sense weren’t wrong: I am attracted to people, not their specific genders. But, in reality, they were just labels. They were a way for me to navigate a heteronormative space.
Queer is not just a label to me. I FEEL queer. I use that word and I know that’s who I am. And it isn’t a question or something undefined; it is a clear and vibrant community and culture that I am a part of.
As far as the contention surrounding the word, I get it. It has been used to hurt us. It has been used to other us and single us out as weird, abnormal and, at times, even inappropriate or deranged. It has been used as a slur, and that cannot be taken lightly.
However, I find the reclamation of this word to be beautiful and empowering, and many other people who I have spoken to within the community have a similar feeling. Our history as LGBTQAI+ people is hidden like the history of so many groups of people. It is complex and painful to acknowledge at times. Even within the community, our history can be extremely divisive.
To me, queer is unifying. It is a lived experience that is painful but also beautiful.
I feel that I live every aspect of this word. Operating in our society is profoundly odd and discomforting at times, and to find this community of people who embrace that and share in that validates me. I accept wholeheartedly that some people in the community cannot embrace the usage of the word for themselves. It is our culture and our history and we may do as we wish with it.