The term “Queer” has been around some time now. I first heard it when the show “Queer Eye for the straight guy” came out in 2003. I associated queer with being gay at the time, but nowadays it has a wide range of meanings.
It wasn’t until 2016 when GLAAD decided to publicly add the Q to LGBT and encouraged the media to do so as well. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Queer is defined as: “worthless, counterfeit”, “questionable, suspicious”, “differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal”, “mildly insane”, “sexually attracted to members of the same sex: Homosexual, Gay”, and “not quite well”.
As you can see, the term “queer” has various meanings in the dictionary. Even though words can mean various different things, I find it queer (forgive the redundancy), to associate someone attracted to members of the same sex with something “worthless”, “questionable” or “insane”. I think it doesn’t give the pride for those who identify as queer. Either way, this term has gathered another modern definition lately, between youngsters.
Between the other 8 definitions of “Queer” that the Urban Dictionary has, there is one I’d like to address; Queer: “an identity used to be vague or non-specific about a person’s sexual orientation, identifying with the LGBT community as a whole; also a description of people’s non-heterosexual sexual orientation in a non-specific and unbiased manner”.
So basically, a person who identifies themselves as Queer is someone who isn’t specific about their sexual orientation. I used to think that by this definition, being Queer was exactly the same as being Bisexual…which isn’t correct in the LGBT community.
The term Bisexual literally means “two sexes”. Biologically there are two sexes, which is the female and the male sex. This would mean that people that identifies as “bisexual” are interested in both men and women. In the case of being Queer, it means that not only can people be attracted to both men and women, but they are also attracted to those with a different gender. Queer people say that they abandon the “binary” (referring to a male and female sex); they don’t consider themselves female or male; they also feel romantically attracted to anyone in the LGBT spectrum and out of it. Generally being Queer is not limiting yourself to just being female or male or only being attracted to females or males; it’s just being whatever you want to be and liking whoever you want to like. Some LGBT’s may not identify themselves as queer, and some people that you would normally identify as “heterosexual” can identify as Queer.
Queer is also defined in the LGBT community as someone who isn’t heterosexual or cis-gendered (a person with a gender that corresponds to its birth sex/the opposite of transgender); in other words, someone in the LGBTQQIAAP range can be considered a Queer; but like a said before, not all LGBT’s consider themselves as queer, nor all apparent heterosexuals can’t consider themselves queer.
To keep digging into this complex universe, we also have the term “Questioning”. The Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee) defines Questioning as “an individual who is unsure and/or exploring their gender identity and/or sexual orientation”. This is basically the phase teenagers go through but, in this case, it’s a permanent state throughout their lives, which, could end with “coming out” or not.
The American Psychological Association has expressed throughout investigations that during the adolescence, kids go through a series of experiments in which they question their sexual feelings. Some go through same-sex experiences that may confuse their sexual orientation, but this eventually declines during adulthood.
Questioning one’s sexual orientation or gender is pretty normal during adolescence and early childhood; but apparently the term “questioning” refers to being a person (no matter the age) that is in a doubtful position to identify themselves to a specific gender or doubtful in being attracted to a determined sex or gender.
You may wonder then, isn’t Questioning the same as “Bi-curious” and/or “Bisexual”? In the LGBTQQIAAP, it’s different. A Bi-curious is someone who experiments with both male and female, and it generally refers to a “temporary phase”; while a Questioning experiments with anyone outside the typical “binary” male and female whilst being a more “permanent state”. The same goes with being Bisexual; bisexuals like both sexes while Questionings are attracted to whichever person, not minding their gender or sex in which they identify.
Now you might wonder, isn’t Queer and Questioning kind of the same thing then? Well, in the LGBTQQIAAP it depends. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Questioning and Queer have “unsettling qualities” and they are both associated in the same guide. In my understanding, Queer can refer to a much more secure and solid position meanwhile Questioning is more of a doubtful position.
A couple of years ago I read the book “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides. It talks about the story of an intersex person named Callie who has a genetic defect which causes a deficiency of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, meaning that Callie was a man genetically, but had female traits. Intersexuals were formerly called hermaphrodites before 2006. The Intersex Society of North America defines an Intersex as: “a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of male or female”. This means that Intersex people can have genital ambiguity and combinations of chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype other tan the XX-female and XY-male.
A person being Intersex revolves around a series of genetic disorders in which the sex chromosomes don’t match the internal reproductive genitalia or external genitalia, neither the main hormone essential to a specific sex. One noticeable case is of Hanne Gaby Odiele, a 29 year old Belgian model born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, meaning Hanne is genetically male, having XY chromosomes with internal undescended testes, but was resistant to androgens (male hormones), which prevented the penis and other male body parts to develop, giving a girl physical appearance.
Intersex children usually struggle to identify themselves with a specific sex during their lifetime. A lot of parents opt to surgically define the sex of their intersex child, which is controversial since the child may or may not identify later in life with the gender or sex imposed by their parents.
In this case, since the child has ambiguous genitalia or a physical appearance that doesn’t match their sex assigned by their chromosomes, it’s more difficult to rather “choose” a male or female sex. It merely depends on the parent’s decision or the child’s decision later in life. I honestly don’t know why Intersex people are part of the LGBTQQIAAP to begin with. Intersexuals are people with a genetic disorder. They aren’t intersexuals due to a preference, environment or psychological influence. Yes, the fact that they eventually choose a preferred sex to identify with is a choice, but I wouldn’t consider an Intersex as part of the LGBTQQIAAP community. Maybe it’s because they, as a group, felt left out and opted to be part of the community since they aren’t the traditional Male and Female…which is something that the LGBTQQIAAP community wants to change (the binary ideology). But that’s the difference! Intersexuals actually do want to identify as one or another; that’s their eternal struggle.
Recently there has been another use of the term “Intersexual”. The so-called “New-Era for the Intersex”, in which being Intersex is considered a “third gender”, meaning that a Intersex person would be able to identify as Intersex legally, instead of male or female; but this has gone far away to parents with children who identify them as “Intersex”, without having the genetic condition of being so. Let’s say I have a newborn girl with genetic and physical appearances as a girl, but I decide to recognize her as “Intersex” to avoid the “stigmatization” of influencing her gender development just because she is physically a girl.
This is part has a good intention, but it is totally messed up. First of all, it robs the term use for the real Intersexuals with a real genetic condition. Second of all, it creates the idea in children that are neither a girl nor a boy, rather an “intersex”. The intention of not raising a child to a society based gender is understandable. Not because you’re a girl, you must wear pink dresses; and not because you’re a boy, you must wear blue pants. The stigma of relating colors, objects, clothing’s and even feelings and career choices to a determined gender is completely unbalanced from a psychological point of view, which is why various European countries have started to create a “gender-neutral” education in schools; where Ana can play with cars and Tim can play with dolls or Laura can dress in pants and Tom can dress in skirts.
The good intention of neutralizing the typical gender associations is actually a good way to balance out the traditional roles and norms for men and women in society. The bad part of this appropriation of the “Intersex” term is that parents are now creating a very confusing identity for their children. Parents with Intersex children are starting to call them as he/she, in which the child can identify with neither being a girl or a boy. It has got to a point where parents even ask their child on a daily basis how they would be like to be called for the day: as a she or a he. They also ask how they would be liked to dress up or style their hair for the day: as a she or a he.
I first learned about this “new-use” of the term Intersex in a VICE documentary, which I would like to share: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sPj8HhbwHs where it goes to the typical lives of a Swedish family raising their children as Intersex. It’s pretty obvious here about the role psychology plays out when Dr. Eberhard, a Swedish psychiatrist, says that there are behaviors which are typical for boys and typical for girls; this all goes back to evolutionary traits that trace back to our first ancestors and are eventually passed on to generations and generations until we, eventually, are born. This means that even though you raise a male child as an intersex, he will eventually develop some typical male characteristics proper of his male nature; even though he opts to dress up in a skirt, he will eventually try to climb up a tree, play in the mud or with toy cars in some moment. This doesn’t mean girls can naturally prefer climbing trees, playing in the mud or with cars, but she would most of the time decide to play with dolls, play dress-up or try to pick out flowers in the garden.
In conclusion I think that people have been always trying to not stick with tags or names, but lately tags and names are what people are using to identify themselves as a person.
To me, Queer will always mean a person of the LGBTQQIAAP spectrum; it’s just a general term to use for a non-homosexual, non-transgender. Now, the fact about considering oneself as Questioning is rather questioning itself. People can’t live in an eternal indecision of whom they are or who they like. We undergo a very long experience called “adolescence”, which defines out who we are and what we want in general. You can’t be permanently in question of who you identify as and what your personal liking is. I consider this bring a lot of confusion and identity loss in the long run. It’s true that imposing tags are really overrated by society, but identifying as a Questioning is rather imposing a tag upon yourself, which is contradictory. I think that Questioning people haven’t gotten over their adolescence phase and justify their indecision as a category in the LGBT community named Questioning.
The Intersex part of the LGBTQQIAAP is rather offensive from my point of view. Trying to use a term for a medical condition for a personal whim is obnoxious. Why would you want your child to identify as a medical condition? Why would you want to identify your child as a “non-gender”? I’m all for breaking up the traditional colors, feelings, clothing’s and careers that society ties up to a specific gender, but creating a “gender-less” child just because you want to, is not sane. In the long run this may also create confusion and disaster in a future “gender-less” adult life. I’m all in for teaching my future daughter how to practice martial arts or to venture into the construction workplace; I’m all in for teaching my future son how to cook or to venture into the haute couture fashion workplace, but I’m not in on questioning my son or daughter’s natural gender development and make them “gender-less”. You don’t have to impose an Intersex concept into a child just to break stereotypical roles for girl and boys; you can do so without this “out of this world”, illogical and “unnatural” ideology.