Thursday, November 25, 2010

I have been told many things since I started coming out as asexual. I have been told not to label myself. I have been told not to restrict myself. I have been told that I don't know who I am. I have been told that I try too hard to figure myself out. I have been told that I will change my mind, and I have been told that I am wrong. I have been told that it is oppressive for me to call myself anything other than queer. It is this idea I want to address, that using a word other than queer to define yourself as a queer person is both too limiting and somehow problematic.

I am aware that the words homosexual and heterosexual are medical terms which basically serve the purpose of delineating normal bodies from abnormal bodies. I am also aware that there are many queers (among them some of my friends), who believe that words other than queer--words like lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc--are oppressive to queer people because they reinforce difference and heteronormativity. Some people think that even using the word queer is playing the heteronormativity game.

When you tell a queer person that they are being oppressive by defining themselves, you are participating in a patriarchal practice as old as patriarchy itself. You are dominating and controlling a person by silencing them, taking their voice away. The worst part is that if you are queer and you tell other queers that their identities are wrong, you are oppressing your own allies who are already oppressed all the time.

Who is winning? When you tell a lesbian that her label is old-fashioned or that it is too narrow (too narrow for whom?), who benefits from this? When you tell a heterosexual queer person that they can never be queer if they continue to call themselves heterosexual, and that they can only be an ally, who benefits? When you tell an asexual person that they are limiting themselves, that they are confused, or repressed, who benefits from this?

To use the words of Audre Lorde, "if I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive." We need our words to understand ourselves, to find each other, to figure out our boundaries and our needs. If you don't need words that is your business, but it is hurtful to tell others to abandon their chosen identities when they may need them for their own survival.

On the flipside, I would like to extend my gratitude to my friends and allies who have nurtured me and taken the time to explore new possibilities for sexualities. I am thankful for your continued support and your enthusiasm, which never ceases to uplift my spirit. I only hope that I can be as nurturing to you as you have been to me.

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