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Queer Romance Month: On the Word Queer & Being Queer

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When I was growing up, I got called “queer” a fair bit. I didn’t really know what it meant; I just got the sense that it was a bad thing to be. When I eventually learned what it was, and how I was it, I also learned that “gay” was the less pejorative term.

So I … just kind of assumed I was gay.

Until I was eighteen, about to go to university, and I slept with a woman. Not experimentally or anything—just because I wanted to, and I liked her, and it felt right and natural. As right and natural as sleeping with boys.

Which probably meant I was … bisexual, right?

I ticked along being bi for a while. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed being bi. I’m probably showing my age a bit here but we’d only just been admitted to the acronym (T was still very much in question) and it’s not fun being the new identity on the block. The other reindeers look at you funny and don’t let you join their reindeer games.

And then I got together with someone who didn’t like bisexual because they felt it imposed a binarist view on things, and most particularly on them. The “bisexual is binarist” argument is one that kinda annoys me for all sorts of reasons, though mostly because I think telling other people their chosen identity is bad is just plain shitty. But then, getting in the way of someone else’s gender-identity is also just plain shitty.

So I stopped being bisexual.

The problem is, there’s not much left to call yourself if your sexuality doesn’t really discriminate on grounds of body parts. Pansexual. Ominisexual. Ambisexual. Pomosexual. Except. No. Dear God no. The thing about ‘bisexual’ is that it doesn’t particularly speak to me, but it doesn’t actively turn me off either. I don’t get a visceral ‘get that thing away from me” that I get from pretty much every single-word alternative.

Which is why I eventually drifted to queer—ironically, to some degree, since my father had been so determined no son of his was growing up that way.

But I like queer. I like the fact it has no obvious or easily established etymology. I like reclaimed words because I often feel like a reclaimed person. It rejects hurt, and it rejects shame. Best of all, it rejects definition, and that feels inclusive to me. People can bicker all day and all night about what our acronym is and what sort of people it should cover … but, as far as I’m concerned, if you feel queer is you, then you’re queer.

And ultimately, that’s how it derives its power, both as an insult and an identity. To call someone queer as an insult is to say “you are not the same as me, and that is wrong.” To call yourself queer as an identity is to say “I am not the same as you, and that’s okay.”

Queer Romance Month is a celebration of anyone who feels they’re not the way they were told they had to be, and a celebration of love in whatever form it takes. Come and join us.

Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.


Twitter: @quicunquevult

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