Date: Sun, 5 Jan 1997 19:26:50 -0500
From: Ron Butters RonButters[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: Re: the use of "Queer" -Reply
Mark A. Mandel writes:
I wouldn't feel comfortable at all using the word "queer". I learned it, in
the 50s, as a derogatory word, parallel to "spic", "kike", and "nigger". I
know that many homosexual (etc.) people use the word now, but as a
non-member of the group(s) referred to I feel very intensely that coming
from me it would be heard as insulting, just as the
(affectionate?) use of "nigger" by some Black people among themselves
doesn't license me, a white person, to use it.
My experience from the 1950s is exactly the same as Mark's. However, the use
of "queer" as a term of self-reference today is not, I believe, parallel to
the ironic use of "nigger" by African-Americans. The use of "queer" by
"queers" is not ironic but rather a serious attempt to strip the word of its
derogatory connotations, rather the way "black" was stripped of possibly
offensive connotations when it replaced "Negro." As I understand it, "queer"
parallels "persons of color" as a term encompassing a large number of
subgroups (chiefly if not exclusively bisexuals, gay men, lesbians,
transexuals, transgendered persons).
This doesn't mean that I think that Mark must be required to use the term
"queer" if he is uncomfortable with it! But I (and an increasing number of
others) use it as a convenient cover term to which a decreasing number of
persons will take offense. As is the case with almost all such labels, people
in qeneral do not take offense if it is clear that the speaker does not
intend to give offense by using the term. Even the term "professor" can be
offensive in the right context (recall Spiro Agnew and George Wallace on the
subject of "pointy-headed intellectuals")!
Mark writes also:
In fact, I was startled by the beginning of Ron's response, until I
inferred that he identifies himself as "queer."
Perhaps ADS-L will be considered by some to be an inappropriate medium for
one to make an official, public declaration of one's view of one's place on
the psychosociosexual spectrum (though anybody who has ever referred to "my
husband" or "my wife" on this e.b.b. has implicitly come out as "bisexual" or
"str8," recent rulings in the courts of Hawaii notwithstanding to the
contrary). But if it will lend my musings on this topic greater authority, I
hereby declare myself a happy, contented, middle-aged male
queer--stereotypically so at least to the extent that I love cats, adore
lesbians, use words like "adore" in conversation, and loathe football,
shotguns, and bad interior design. However, real life is complicated: I also
hate opera and Christmas decorations, and my appetite for quiche is severely
limited. And I don't believe that I have a large discretionary income (alas).