Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 1: Queerer Than One Can Suppose

I have a sticker on my laptop that says "God made me queer", and a rainbow tattoo on my arm that says "It's something that I'm supposed to be". Being queer is an intrinsic part of who I am, and by extension, you might think this means queerness comes as easily to me as breathing. You'd be wrong. I actually find that being queer takes up a sizeable portion of my time and energy. I realize this sounds a bit like I'm expending all my energy on hot gay sex, but believe me, that's not what's going on. Rather, I find myself spending a lot of time exploring, explaining, and defending my identity. In the interest of making that simpler, I am going to list and define some of the terms I use in describing my queer identity.
  • gay
  • queer
  • transgender
  • transmasculine
  • genderqueer
  • nonbinary
  • asexual
  • gray-asexual
  • demisexual
  • homoromantic
  • demiromantic
  • androromantic
Gay and Queer:

Contrary to popular belief, these are not synonyms. "Queer" is a broad term for "defying cultural norms of gender and/or sexuality". I identify as queer because I'm not straight. I identify as "gay" because I am a masculine-identified person who is primarily attracted to other masculine-identified people.

Transgender, Transmasculine:

"Transgender" is a broad term meaning that my gender identity does not match the sex I was assigned at birth. "Transmasculine" is a term that can mean different things for different people; for me, it means that I am a transgender person who does many things associated with being male, such as using male pronouns, using the men's restroom, and wearing masculine clothing. 

Genderqueer, nonbinary:

These are both terms which mean "having a gender identity other than strictly male or strictly female". There are lots of ways to be genderqueer/nonbinary, but in my case, it means that a) my gender feels mostly neutral most of the time, and b) my behavior defies many cultural norms associated with both binary genders. Some people prefer one term or the other for various reasons; for myself, I use whichever makes the most sense in context. 


These stand for, respectively: female-assigned at birth, assigned female at birth, designated female at birth. These are all ways of referring to a person's assigned birth sex while avoiding problematic terms like "female bodied" or "born female". 

Asexual, gray-asexual, demisexual:

"Asexual" is a spectrum of identities that involve not experiencing sexual attraction, not being interested in sex, or not having a strongly-felt sexual orientation identity. In my case, I have no aversion to sex, but I experience sexual attraction so rarely that it is not a significant part of my life. "Gray-asexual" means having an identity somewhere between completely asexual and normatively-sexual; I often use this because I feel my interest in sex is slightly greater than what most asexuals experience. "Demisexual" is a type of gray-asexual identity where a person only experiences sexual attraction to people they have an emotional bond with. When I experience sexual attraction, it is almost exclusively for people I already have a romantic attraction toward. Note that this is about attraction, not behavior. When I say that I am demisexual, I'm not just saying that I only choose to have sex with people I love. It means I literally am not capable of sexual attraction to people I don't already have a bond with.

Homoromantic, demiromantic, androromantic:

These words describe my romantic orientation. While I only experience sexual attraction very rarely, I experience romantic attraction with relative frequency. "Homoromantic" means, loosely, I am a boy who is romantically attracted to boys. "Androromantic" also means I'm attracted to masculine-identified people, but it doesn't have any connotations related to my gender. This can be an important distinction, because I don't feel that all masculine-identified or masculine-presenting people have the same precise gender identity as me. "Demiromantic" is an identity I've only recently begun exploring, but it essentially means I only become romantically attracted to people I already know pretty well.

Also, because it's useful, here's a list of terms I do NOT identify with:

Homosexual (unless you're being tongue-in-cheek)
Transman or man (Boy, guy, and dude are okay, but I really prefer "person")

Finally, you may occasionally hear me refer to myself as a "fag". A discussion of reclamatory speech and who gets to use it is beyond the scope of this post, but basically: Don't call me a fag unless you know with absolute, 100% certainty that it is okay for you to do so. If you're one of the people who can say it, you probably know who you are. Otherwise, don't. The same rule applies to other people who self-identify as a fag or any other reclaimed slur.

I hope this list gives you a better understanding of my identity and which words to choose when talking about me! Again, I want to emphasize that not every term listed here applies universally in the same way it applies to me. When in doubt, describe people using the terms you hear them use to describe themselves (however: see note above re: reclamatory speech). And don't be afraid to ask me if you need a definition clarified!

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