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Legion. An amalgamated journal.

Auto-othering

or, BGLTSA makes a queer choice.

I see in the Crimson this morning that BGLTSA has sloshed around its bowl of alphabet soup and come up with QSA—Queer Students and Allies—as their new name. This is in keeping with a larger trend amongst the movement towards the word queer (as well as the letter Q) and away from whatever possible permutation of the letters G, L, B, and T.

The use of the word “queer” as a term of pride, however, is something that has always irked me about the gay-rights movement. Alright: there needs to be some term which casts an umbrella over gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, and all variants in between. But “queer”? Self-proclaimed queer activists call it a process of “reclamation” in which a word of scorn and abuse is converted into a word of honor. The problem, however, is that “queer” had a meaning well before it had anything to do with gays. It meant—and means—“strange.” You can have a queer-looking building or a queerly-acting pet. Its use includes and transcends a purely sexual definition; it only began to apply to gays in order to offensively denote their strangeness. The gay movement can’t strip it of that definition simply by fiat—pace postmodernism, words still have some shards of meaning left in them. So the principal definition of “queer” remains “that which is strange.”

Why, though, would you want to recall and promote being strange? For a field which is so obsessively preoccupied with the injustice of Othering, this kind of self-marginalization is self-destructive. I am an integrationist in the broadest sense of the word—rather than separatist identity caucuses of gays proclaiming themselves “queer” vis-a-vis mainstream society, we need a mainstream society which accepts and includes gays. In other words, we need a society where gays are not queer.

Of course, BGLTSA has the right to call themselves whatever they want. They could call themselves the Awesome Dudes’ Club or the Society of Narwhal Preservationists or whatever else they’d like and they don’t have to run it by me. Ultimately I lean libertarian on this issue. Still, I think the name change is diagnostic of a kind of left politics which I believe to be cryptoconservative, a kind which does little to expand and invigorate the franchise of modern society.

Garrett Dash Nelson

March 2nd, 2009 at 4:04 pm

But perhaps you disagree

One response so far

  • [ # ] Further internecine quarrelsMar 5, 2009 at 11:54 am

    […] Monday, I suggested that the semantic choice of “queer” signaled a fundamentally illiberal drive towards […]