umbrellas, reclaiming slurs, and community
April 10, 2015
Inasmuch as I’m not really interested in having a discussion over the edge cases of ‘queer’, I find myself – after a nice sleep – troubled by certain elements of the shit that went down on tumblr over this post.
The most troubling assumption was, especially amongst the teens who were arguing against me, that ‘queer’ isn’t a slur… because it has been reclaimed. And, thus, even if you aren’t, have never been, and will never be a target of the slur, you can use it to identify yourself.
This is false.
Queer is a slur. Yes, it has been more widely reclaimed than many other slurs, but it is still a slur. This isn’t even an historical argument (ie, it’s violent past). It is used hatefully and violently today. There are people properly under the ‘umbrella’ of queer who are actually triggered by the word and do not want anyone (including other queers) using the word in reference to them. You are denying the lived experience of these ppl when you act like ‘queer’ is no longer a site of violence, but rather something aspirational.
The next troubling aspect is people equating ‘lgbttqia+++’ with ‘queer’ as if both of these things refer to the same thing.
asexuals are usually excluded from LGBTQ groups. it’s hard to find sanctuary with other queer people because
‘Queer’ and ‘LGBTQ’ aren’t interchangeable. They don’t refer to the same set of individuals.
Saying someone doesn’t have the right to reclaim a slur, is not the same as saying someone isn’t under the ‘lgbtqia++’ umbrella1.
Why isn’t ‘lgbt’ the same as ‘queer’? This leads into the third thing that is something I’ve talked about a lot:
There is no ‘lgbtqia++’ community.
It is an umbrella acronym that refers to distinct (but overlapping) communities. Each of those letters stands for a community with its own experiences and its own needs.
It is a terrible mistake to think that there is a general ‘lgbt’ community that exists and that people can join. Terrible on an individual level because it leads to nothing but disappointment and disillusionment when you find out that, for example, cis gay men literally do not give a fuck about anyone other than themselves but hold most of the power and wealth. And that most of the national/large ‘lgbt’ organizations really only cater to cis gay men and their needs2.
It is also a terrible mistake on a inter-community level. Acting like we are all one community elides and erases the fact that our distinct communities actually have different needs and different priorities. It also, importantly, prevents any real movements towards solidarity between communities.
What people really communicate when they say that the lgbt community is a ‘community’ rather than a collection of communities, is that they want admittance to Gay Inc, which claims to represent and BE the ~community~ but actually serves the interest of a select few. All of this built on the backs of trans women of colour.