probably kicking a hornets’ nest
There’s this discourse that goes around every now and then. Someone says that kink and polyamory don’t belong under the general queer umbrella because something something respectability. Someone else rejoins that actually kinky and poly people have been part of queer communities for decades and that there’s more overlap than you might think. Kink and poly are queer, goes the second argument, because most kinksters and polyamorists are queer.
I don’t actually disagree with B here. The respectability-fueled splintering of queer communities is pretty recent; certain subcultures have historically been entwined with queerness. But I’m always a little confused after reading that discourse, because – well, as a straight poly person, where am I supposed to fit?
It’s not like I’m champing at the bit to be “allowed” to identify as queer or anything. I don’t really care about terminology. It’s hella cognitive whiplash, though – the fact that there’s so much overlap between queer issues and poly issues, but I feel like I’m not supposed to address that or compare notes because I’m in love with two men instead of two women.
I read something yesterday, for instance, along the lines of “straight privilege is never having to pretend your lover is just a friend”. Uh, I *do* pretend – at work, anyway – that one of my lovers is just a friend. But there’s so much ambient “don’t compare oppressions” bullshit that I’m pretty sure I’d be shouted down if I mentioned that, at least in my meatspace social circle. Because then I’d be some entitled straight (white) appropriator.
Sometimes it seems like even people who acknowledge that categories have changed in the past still think, explicitly or implicitly, that it would be blasphemy for them to change again. As though all of evolution were working up to *right now*. We didn’t think about poly people when we were forming the LGBT coalition, which must mean they don’t “belong” in some cosmic sense. The current boundaries are the most natural and correct ones, after all. Maps are territories, right?
I find it incredible when folks who must have heard queer antagonistic assholes be like ‘but if the gays marry then people will want polygamy and bestiality’ and yet still think that somehow Straight™️ folks are a-okay on the non-monogamy train.
Have people lost their shit? Like okay go call your parents and be like ‘oh yeah uh hi so I’m bringing my two partners to our next big family event’ or any similar sort of line and what do people think parents are going to do? Be like ‘yeah okay’? I mean aside from the tons of different negative responses from derision to rejection, having to explain yourself and be asked for personal details that people aren’t entitled to, there’s the sexualization of non-monogamous/polyamorous folks. Like ‘have you had a threesome’ and people assuming you’d be into them just bc you are non-monogamous.
Additionally consider legal issues! Marriage, kids, etc? What part of the law does anyone think is in ANY way prepared for this? Do all polyamorous folks even have marriage equality?
Honestly I’m tired. How do people not think of this stuff. How do people not realize that the above stuff sounds exactly like every other sort of bigotry directed at queer folks ever?
The kinky people I’ve known who’ve been credibly afraid of losing custody of kids over it, who’ve been outed at work, etc? Straight ones.
I am okay with the idea that “queer” means something that can’t include kink, but I wish people would specify what the thing it means IS, because it continues to confuse me that an ace cis person with an “opposite gender” partner is queer, but a kinky cis person with an “opposite gender” partner is not.
I don’t mean this in an exclusionist kind of way, I have no problem with all aces counting as queer. I just can’t figure out what queer IS if it’s not “what gender are you and what genders do you date” such that ace people who date certain people *are queer* but kinky or poly people *are not queer.*
I’m not an exclusionist any more but I still don’t see how you get “one of these things is obviously queer AND THE OTHER IS NOT.” Any definition I try on gets me either “neither of those things is queer” or “both of them are.”
What’s the operative definition here? Because I just *can’t seem to backform it.*
I’m not sure I personally 100% endorse @house-of-crows‘s take that “queer” is a political identity where if you Do Activism / suffer under a certain category of oppressions you count, while “LGBT” is a separate but often-overlapping identity that has to do with “are you both cisgender and heterosexual, or are you something different than that” (example given in his post was the middle-class Suburban White Gay Couple doing the “two kids and a picket fence” thing being, obviously, still gay but maybe not “queer” in that political sense unless they still get involved in The Issues and risk their own “respectability” in the process). But while I feel personally wobbly about endorsing those definitions (I have maybe-nitpicky but maybe-solid concerns that I haven’t totally fleshed out enough to explain them yet but they’re niggling, so I can’t say “yes I like that” but I also don’t… entirely… NOT like that), it would at least provide a useful distinction. One which would also include polyamorous and kinky people, at least potentially, under “queer” – even if they are both cisgender and heterosexual, because polyamory and kink both expose people to similar kinds of “you do sex/relationships Wrong” oppression types and give people who are those things strong reasons to personally care about and get involved with The Issues.
To be fair, I’m not even 100% endorsing my own viewpoint re: LGBT+ vs Queer. I’ve got the weird niggly half-formed concerns too, but it’s the best thing I’ve been able to come up with after about six to eight years’ involvement; depending on how we’re counting those; so it’s what I’m working off…
Personally, it’s to do with something you cannot change and be the same person. If you’re trans, you can’t suddenly not be trans because it makes your life easier. If you’re gay, you can’t suddenly NOT be that if you try really hard; bi, pan, ect. (this doesn’t mean I think bi/pan/multi-attraction people aren’t or can’t be Queer btw.)
If you’re poly, and you can’t NOT have multiple simultaneously occurring relationships because it’s how you’re wired and it’s wrong to not have that.
If you’re kinky, and you can’t NOT be because relationship dynamics, power exchange, and kink is inherent to how you operate…
Granted, the last two as phrased are a lot more to do with “how do I relationship” than “how do I sex” but if we’re working off a split attraction model ANYWAY with love vs attraction, then the model holds up.
And what you said re: respectability is spot on. The two “Auntie” lesbians in the split level down the street who garden and go to the farmer’s market are most definitely lesbians. Are they Queer tho…? I’d definitely say that the lesbians on motorcycles in leather who hang out at the dungeon or teach the caning class are Queer; especially if they’re teaching community history to the newbs.
But I’d say that about the lesbians who hang out in lesbian/gay bars and involve themselves with the next generation so we don’t lose even MORE of our history as much as I’d say it about the wlw holding signs and marching in the street… But I’d say that about the cishet dude ALSO in leather who runs the dungeon; as long as he’s involving himself beyond the “pansexual” kink/leather community.
(the pansexual community… isn’t, really. It’s the het community under a new name because the hets realized they were alienating a wide swath of the community. What with it functionally being started by LGBT+/Queer people post-WW2. i’m NOT calling pansexuals straight, this is specifically about the labels used by the kink community.)
It’s definitely a thing of degrees, and nuance. But I’m honestly drawing a distinction between queer; explaining my identity takes too long; and Queer; politicized and/or activist identity connected to my attraction/relationship ID; as much as I’m drawing a distinction between LGBT+; experiencing attraction/love not cishet; and Queer; politicized and/or activist identity connected to attraction/love.
One of the concerns nagging at me was about how to distinguish “explaining my identity takes too long” queer from “politicized/activist ID” queer. Thanks for addressing that a little bit! It doesn’t entirely clear up the concern, but I appreciate knowing that I’m not the only one to think of it.
In general I do think there needs to be SOME kind of… kink, polyam, LGBT+ coalition-umbrella word. Because we DO all deal with oppressions that stem from the view that we’re doing sex and/or relationships Wrong and Bad, and being straight and cisgender (like funereal-disease) doesn’t protect a person from the general oppressions levied against the polyamorous, any more than being monogamous and vanilla protects from homophobia or transphobia, any more than being monogamous and straight protects from kinkphobia. You just… get hit with less of the whole stack at once than someone who’s gay, trans, poly, AND kinky. That doesn’t mean the various specific subsets of the “you’re doing sex/relationships Wrong” oppression umbrella aren’t related, or that it’s a bad idea for us to congregate and work on dismantling the idea that consenting, non-abusive adult relationships (be they sexual or romantic or both or neither) can ever do any harm to the fabric of society or to other uninvolved people’s relationships just by existing and being accepted as ok.
And I do like the idea of expanding “queer” while leaving LGBT+ for the “not straight and/or cisgender” definition (and whatever terms cluster under that one of course can still be used more specifically as needed or desired – people can still claim lesbian, gay, bi, trans, ace, genderqueer, so on and so forth as applies, while also acknowledging that those things all group up neatly under “LGBT+” which would under this proposed definition shift then fall under “queer” alongside “polyamorous” and “kinky” like siblings on some kinda family-tree diagram), because… well, etymologically it means something close to “odd” or “unusual” and… fair enough. We’re odd. I’m ok with acknowledging that there are more vanilla people than kinky people, more people who prefer monogamy than polyamory, more people who are straight and cisgender than who are gay/bi/pan/ace or trans, etc. I don’t think that’s inherently insulting in any way, or that saying someone else is also “queer” takes anything away from my own acknowledgement of my personal oddities, even if they’re odd in different ways than I am. I’ve been calling myself “odd” for a long damn time. Longer than I called myself queer, because I didn’t… really realize it right away, but I did realize that I just didn’t generally “fit in” with “normal” people.
“because… well, etymologically it means something close to “odd” or “unusual” and… fair enough. We’re odd. I’m ok with acknowledging that there are more vanilla people than kinky people, more people who prefer monogamy than polyamory, more people who are straight and cisgender than who are gay/bi/pan/ace or trans, etc. I don’t think that’s inherently insulting in any way, or that saying someone else is also “queer” takes anything away from my own acknowledgement of my personal oddities, even if they’re odd in different ways than I am. I’ve been calling myself “odd” for a long damn time. Longer than I called myself queer, because I didn’t… really realize it right away, but I did realize that I just didn’t generally “fit in” with “normal” people.”
All of this. I called myself a straight queer before I called myself bi.
I stopped because l”that’s appropriation.”
Heck, I’m pretty sure that’s why I was an exclusionist. I was shamed out of saying queer because “it’s about gender,” so when an ace woman with a husband said “I’m queer!” I parroted “BUT. IT’S. ABOUT. GENDEEEEEEEEEER.”
and got terribly confused when people told me that was mean, because when i said that was mean I got shamed until I shut the fuck up.
To me, queer means “something about how society expects you to do the whole marriage and sex thing fundamentally doesn’t work for you”.
For LGB people, it’s who you’re expected to do this sex-and-marriage thing with and who you’re not allowed to do it with.
For trans people it’s who you’re expected to do this sex-and-marriage thing *as*. And the fact that your relationship with your genitals is likely to be non-standard as a trans person has a pretty big impact on the whole sex aspect.
(I honestly think you can make an argument that the sex-and-marriage stuff is fundamentally what gender is *for*, socially and quite possibly evolutionarily. In order to have heterosexuality, fundamentally, you need to have two genders, and the ability to quickly and easily assign a gender to someone at a glance.)
For ace and aro people, it’s not having the same motivation to do part or all of the sex-and-marriage package, or wanting to mix & match pieces of it (“let’s have the lifelong commitment, but without the kissing and sexytimes”, “let’s have sex as best friends, as a friendship thing”).
For polyam people, it’s wanting to do the sex-and-marriage thing with more than one person at the same time.
For kinky people, it’s wanting to do sex and/or marriage in a different way. For some, like with trans people, it’s also about who you do the sex-and-marriage stuff *as* – maybe you want to do it as a slave, or as a monster, or as a baby, or as an animal. Or maybe you want to take the stuff that is normally a bad thing and turn it into a good thing, like pain as a reward, or control as an expression of love. (Honestly, kink is a super broad, hard to define varied thing just like queer, tbh.)
The unifying theme is that the traditional sex-and-marriage package does not work for you. And we all benefit from challenging the monolithic view of that package.