When people ask about my sexuality or how I identify, I say I am strange. You would think the questions would end there, but I have noticed that this is often where the questions and comments begin … "By the way, who are you attracted to?""Oh so you're a lesbian then?""You can't say weird things, it's rude!" I get these reactions, or just general looks of confusion when people try to figure out in which box I place. As I wrote before, when I "came out" for the first time, I identified myself as bisexual. After years of self-reflection and learning, I now identify as strange. For me, queerness is fluent and allows me to exist outside of the binary and above all, it is within the queer community that I have felt most at home and visible. Queerness to me means living without explanation.
According to the LGBTQIA Resource Center: "One definition of queer is abnormal or strange. Historically, queer has been used as an epithet / blemish against people whose gender, gender expression and / or sexuality do not meet the dominant expectation."
The meaning of the word has changed over the years. But in my experience, especially when talking about panels or introducing myself into predominantly white spaces, cisgender (not trans) and heterosexual people and white gay men still seem to be very attached to the historical definition of queer. Many still see it as a blemish and find it difficult to accept or acknowledge that the word has been reclaimed by many people – especially those of us who are not in the cis and white representation of the LGBTQ + community in society and the regular media feel.
More recently, celebrities have helped change the story of the term by proudly talking about their homosexual identity. In an interview with Rolling stone in April 2018, musician and actor Janelle Monáe said: "Because I am a strange black woman in America … someone who has a relationship with both men and women – I consider myself a free-ass bastard." upcoming American rapper Kodie Shane stated in her mini documentary Remember the name that's she, "Queer like fuck, by the way, and happy about it." She added, "But still, all the way, trying to figure it out. I'm definitely still working it out." And for me that's what queerness gives us the space to do, to figure it out and to be a free-ass bastard while you do this. The beauty of the term is that it can mean so many different things to different people. So, I asked some incredible and proud queer identifying people, what Queer means to them.
I spoke with 27-year-old Nana (photo left), who is half of the YouTube duo Two Two & # 39; s. She says that queer is "a term we have taken back. There is power in taking ownership of a word that was used pending abuse. Queer to me is all-encompassing, it includes all labels but lets us breathe, grow, change and development. The term queer does not limit me to one thing. It is layered, it is completely dimensional, it is freedom. "
Photographer Bernice, 22, explains that it is more an umbrella term for them. "I realize that I identify as more than just lesbian, but also pan-sexual and non-binary. With queer I sometimes can't explain my entire sexuality and gender expression, especially when I feel that I am not in a safe environment or am surrounded by mainly cis and straight people. & # 39;
For 24-year-old Hev, 24, it's mostly about convenience. "The term queer for me literally means not related to heterosexuality or a cisgender identity," she says. "I think I use it to refer a lot to myself because I don't see my sexuality or gender identity as something simple that can be encapsulated in one word. To be honest, I'm too lazy to explain myself to people."
My best friend Frankie, 26, was the first person who ever described the term for me. When they explained it, I immediately felt that I had finally found a label that suited me.
"Queerness is a term that embodies freedom for me," they explain. "The freedom to describe oneself, the freedom to discover oneself and the freedom to have self-love. I see queerness as destabilizing the world we live in. Destabilizing things we see as & # 39; of course & # 39; and & # 39; normal & # 39 ;, such as heterosexuality and heteronormativity.
"For me, queer offers an opportunity to think of things like straight / gay or male / female, not necessarily like & # 39; either / or & # 39; but & # 39; both / and & # 39; in this way, queer is inherently political. Queer as an identity is inherently seeking to destabilize the world we live in and with it the systems, structures, expectations and labels that keep us in a box. "Queerness is freedom." The future is queer. " The beauty of being strange is that it is a term that allows us, as queer people, to exist as ourselves and to make room for our intersectional identities. It allows those of us who don't fit into the white, cis and valid mainstream story of the LGBTQ + community to feel visible, visible and heard. Being stranger means leaving room for growth and change, and gives us the space to do this without explanation or without the need to specifically define our own personal journeys. So to answer the question: "What does queer actually mean?" I suppose you could just say: it means freedom, and that is the most political of them all.