Monday, December 1, 2014
Some definitions of “queer” are “abnormal” and “deviant,” and when LGBT people apply these names to themselves they are consigning themselves to pariah status in the eyes of potential Straight allies and others. The whole point of this Civil Rights movement must be to have people see that being LGBT is normal, and a mere variation of statistical norms that exist in each and every society.
In his book, Outsiders, the late Howard S. Becker said that there is nothing intrinsic in the quality of an act that makes it deviant. An act or, in this case, a person, is only considered “deviant” when the label of “deviance” is successfully applied to that act or person.
Hence, in this context, when LGBT people define themselves as “queer,” they are applying the label of “deviance” to themselves, and giving tacit permission to others to view them in that light. Therefore, they are enabling people to give themselves permission to see them as “the deviant,” “the other,” “the outsider,” and even “the pariah” in society.
Here, the people who define themselves in this way seem to be comfortable, if not to revel, in their status of being an outsider, and not being seen as fully equal to heterosexuals. Witting or unwitting self-loathing might well be the basis of tenaciously hanging on to that word as a self-identifier. One of the reasons that same-sex marriage is so important is that beyond cementing the sanctity of the marriage of two gay people it is showing all who have eyes to see that save for affectional/sexual orientation there is no difference between LGBT people and heterosexuals.
Many years ago, I wrote about this thesis on someone else’s blog and was shocked by the level of hostility I received from those who were wedded to seeing themselves as “queer.” I was accused of being ignorant, of not knowing what I was talking about, of having hostility to LGBT people, etc. I’m not easily shocked, but I was shocked by the level of hatred directed toward me when I said that LGBT people are normal, and must not be seen as abnormal in any way.
These people reveled in seeing themselves as being deviant or outsiders, and wanted others to see them as being deviant or outsiders as well. To say that they were shooting themselves in the foot is a gross understatement.
I’m happily surprised at the rate that same-sex marriage has increased in the U.S. However, I’m afraid that there will be a backlash, given the reactionary political sensibilities of much of the electorate as seen in the recent midterm elections.
It is vital that there is a human face placed upon LGBT people to which others can relate as being of like kind and deserving of full and complete equality in every facet of life. By referring to oneself as “queer,” permission is given for others to view LGBT people as “the other, “ “the stranger,” and even worthy of discrimination.
We have a reactionary United States Supreme Court, and one of our allies, the elderly Ruth Bader Ginsberg, just underwent a procedure to remove a blockage from her heart. We can’t be sanguine about future rulings from that court affirming same-sex marriage as a Constitutional right.
And referring to LGBT people as “the other,” and “the deviant,” which are synonyms for “queer,” can do nothing but help assure further discrimination by people, including the judiciary, in retarding, if not revoking, many of the gains made in the fight for full LGBT equality in all dimensions of life.
Posted by Jerry Maneker at 4:25 PM