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read_me.gif Southern Voice Washington Blade

What’s Your Sexual Identity?

Diversity ain’t easy

by j. brotherlove

Aside from writing content for and Window Media, I’ve been starting new design projects and managing content for a couple of websites. Today, I received a request to change the term used to describe a person’s sexual orientation in an article. I’m a big supporter of calling people what they want to be called. But I couldn’t help thinking about how it was so much easier when I was younger.

Growing up in the black community, “punk” and “bulldagger” were common terms for gays and lesbians. Even then, they weren’t the most affirming labels. But “homosexual” and “gay” were too medical and white for many of my friends. We tended to accept what was out there, reclaiming the terms as badges of honor. Besides, nobody knew we would actualize marriage for same-sex couples in our lifetime.

As gays and lesbians became more vocal and politically active, all sorts of preferred terms began to crop up; and they’ve never stopped. Today it’s prudent to ask people what they prefer to be called, lest you insult them. Of course, this requires more work. Nobody said diversity was easy.

But we want it to be easy, don’t we? That’s why we generally rely on acronyms like LGBT. However, “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” isn’t all-inclusive of non-heterosexuals. What if you are intersex, pansexual or genderqueer?

I suppose we could continue to tack on letters. Pam of Pam’s House Blend thinks we should; she proposes we add “A” for Allies. But at some point, we’ll end up with something that looks like LGBTUVWXYZ. How many people would know what the extra letters mean? Rob at STUFFLEUFAGUS blogged how he was ridiculed for not knowing what the “T” in LGBT represented. Furthermore, some argue that these acronyms actually water down all of our identities.

Within my communities, “black, gay man” is good enough for me; even though it’s not completely accurate (a story for another time). But that identification is not for everyone. A lot of black lesbians and gays use “same gender loving” including, author James Earl Hardy:

Gay comes with a lot of baggage that really has nothing to do with me as a black man. It doesn’t speak to me in anyway. Most people, even people of color, use it because it is convenient. I think same gender loving is very affirming. [source: AOL Black Voices]

Even the HRC website admits some “African Americans don’t feel comfortable or welcome in the broader GLBT community or movement that many view as historically white-focused.”

However, I’m not a big fan of “same gender loving”. For me, it’s similar to “African American” in that it looks cool in print but sounds clumsy when spoken. Something about all those damn syllables. I generally reserve those terms for people outside of my communities; a way of demanding respect.

But this isn’t just a black thing. We’ve all been slighted by a well-intentioned term we wouldn’t use for ourselves. Language is informed by society and isn’t perfect. So I’m taking an informal poll; if you are not strictly heterosexual, do you prefer butch, fag, dyke, gay, pansexual, femme, queer, bisexual, same gender loving, queen, lesbian, sissy, transgender, lesbigay, genderqueer, or something else altogether when identifying your sexual orientation or gender? Or does it even matter to you? I apologize in advance if I offended you.

pub: 01/16/2007 | previous entry | next entry | feedback x 18 | subscribe

I like the term “gay”; “queer” to me seemed…well…queer. “Same gender loving” doesn’t really roll off the tongue easily either. And whenever I hear “fag” or “sissy”, it’s usually in a pejorative sense.

I realized quite awhile ago, there is no one single term that can accurately reflect all that I am in spirit and emotions and attractions. However those most approximating a man who loves men are the closest. In this society that can be summed up in one word, “gay” that is easily understood by most everyone else, gay or non-gay. Using any other term usually results in the non-gay person asking, “What does that mean?” Upon explanation, their response is typically, “Oh, you’re gay.”

Having said that, I also realize our enemies prefer more derogatory terms.

3. Anitra

Hmmm…good question. By default, I’ll usually use “gay” and/or “lesbian.” Despise the word “queer.” That word always seems pejorative to me. If I’m among other (usually black) gay folx, and we’re getting down to the “stud/femme” question, I’ll typically identify as femme. But I do that even less as I get older. “Same gender loving” sounds like a category on a survey or the Census or something.

None of the terms really seems to completely fit, but sure, let’s go with black lesbian.

Part of me feels like, in our zeal to reject labels, we get a little nitpicky and have issues with ANY classifications. I realize that being contextualized is an issue for folks, but sometimes the easiest way to avoid a touchy conversation is to just claim something and move on. Split the hairs later if such an opportunity presents itself.

The other part of me feels like, outsiders want so badly to understand “what we are” that they throw around terms and group us into catagories where we probably shouldn’t fit, based on the most superficial characteristics.

As long as you don’t call me a “shit-chaser”, I’m cool.

Nova, anyone who knows you would not call you a “shit-chaser” when “shit-starter” is much more accurate (I’mjustsayin’).

Touché. (grin)

7. muhammad hussain

Having been “whatever” for the past 75 years (I am really that old!), I don’t really mind what you call me now. Call me if you want to warm my cold, lonely body and comfort me the way my dead lover used to.

Names and classification put one in boxes to make it easy for lazy people to deal with. There is always more to us than our sexual identity.

Just give love.

Names and classification put one in boxes to make it easy for lazy people to deal with. There is always more to us than our sexual identity.

Ain’t that the truth! In general, society is pretty lazy. Why take the trouble to get to know someone when you can size them up with a category.

On the flip side, there are plenty of folk who trap themselves in their sexual identity.

9. Roderick Williams

I am a person. “Gay” is a socio-economic-political contruct whites used to develop a movement. I say that I am a man, only if someone I respect asks do I answer that I am a man whose sexual orientation is homosexual. I am a man is enough description for anyone else.

I use “femme” for gender and “queer” for sexual orientation. Although I don’t partner with bio-men, I’m not a lesbian. I date women and trans men (some would say that disqualifies me from being a lesbian right there, even if I claimed the ID). I find “queer” to be the least suffocating term available to me.

11. friends call me Scott

I identify myself as a Gay Black Man. Not accurate; not complete, but “close enough for government work”. I use the term “same gender loving” when I’m grouping people together just as I would “people of color”. It just seems less offensive…

12. plushpuppy

I am a polyamourous bisexual female who likes to date men and sleep with women. I use queer out of nothing else that fits. I probably defined as a soft butch, but prefer hard femme.

I’m also a mother, daughter, women, lover, friend, liberal, smart, stubborn person.

I hate the terms bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual because they all have the term sex in them. Queer isn’t just my sexuality, but my politics and my community.

But really I am just me and beyond definition.

I’m Alex,,,, I hope you get the point.

14. Cecily

Queer does it for me. It places me within a certain historical moment and I like being centered there. I’m not a lesbian, I’m not heterosexual. Bisexual always sounded like I’m divided or conflicted and I’m neither of those things. It also encompasses other parts of my sexual identity, the kink-friendly, polyamorous sides as well.

The word queer reminds me of an indie-rock aesthetic, something that I’m rather attached to. It places me within a community of folks who not only were on the margins, but celebrated their place there. I’m probably not explaining it as well as I should, but even though I could very easily pass as happily heterosexual, I always refer to myself as queer.

Actually Cecily, what you wrote makes perfect sense to me. In fact, it’s one of the clearest explanations why so many identify with the “queer” label.

we refer to ourselves as the black gay jews so that we include all the hated labels into one grand label. LOL

I guess “gay” works well for me. But, I still have reservations abou that. Can’t I just be, “Carla”?

I just cut to the chase and call myself homosexual. Why, because it identifies me as one who has an attraction to the same sex. It may sound clinical, but people instantly recognize it. No one whom I have encountered has had a problem understanding that.

When I hear words such as “gay, queer, dyke, or sissy” I immediately think of derogatory connotations.