News reached me that my cousin, my mother’s sister’s son, came out as gay at the age of 44 years old. He’s met a man that he is moving to the Carolinas for. I wonder how his journey went – what lead him to realizing he was gay; why couldn’t he say sooner; why didn’t he at least tell me? “Your cousin finally came out,” my mother had said, informing me. Was I oblivious, wrapped in egocentrism? Ex-boyfriends had told me that he was gay when they first met him, but I brushed their observations off with an aloof, “Okay.” I never felt obligated to care or take notice to welcome him into the tribe – or it appears him towards me.
Over the years, as I have embraced my uniqueness – shown self without a mask – I have found the term queer to better suit my identity. I never felt as if homosexual was my tribe. The punks and outsiders always felt like my people – the ones who believed normal was an insult. A sexual identity has never felt important to my survival – rather not being alone, having a sense of community, of empathy, is what I have been after.
Growing up I rejected labels, such as gay, bisexual, or straight, and felt uncomfortable with hetero- and homonormative politics. Rather, I am a historical queer, existing outside rigid associations of mainstream acceptable. Being queer is being liberated from essentialist identity politics, instead focusing on how numerous sciences, histories, and legalities to examine the identity, lives, history, and perception of queer. Avoiding traditional social theory, and taking a critical theory approach to queerness enriches the discussion around the vulnerabilities and suppression faced by societal outliers, those whose identities further remove them from society because of association with more than one group.
Queer exists as a counter to homonormative, white homosexual privilege that pushes heteronormativity onto LGBITQ+ culture and identity, which creates hierarchies of worthiness. Those that most closely resemble heteronormative are at the top, while the rest are less worthy and dangerous to homonormative individuals receiving privilege. Homonormative is the rejection of any group that endangers the privilege that comes with assimilation from emphasizing commonalities to heteronormative: marriage, monogamy, and procreation. Viewing mainstream as the ideal dangerously suppresses the more radically different, silencing voices for radical inclusion in favor of acceptable goals like marriage equality and adoption rights, but also commercializing and mainstreaming queer subcultures.
Queer includes all gender and identity-variant individuals to find civic participation by engaging in complex dialogues that emphasize diversity in history and experiences.