Queer; Odd, strange, unusual, curious, bizzarre. A perjorative term for non-heterosexuals since the 1900s.
Human minds are wired to look for patterns. That is why categories can be so useful for us. The periodic table of the elements, months, years, decades, seasons, genres, species and so on.
Categories have their uses, indeed, we use them so often, we can forget they are not 'natural.' We humans made them up, to simplify the world around us, to help it make sense to us.
A drawback of categories is that they are limiting. They are designed to simplify. Not all of Nature fits into these categories so easily or neatly. for example: is orange a colour or a fruit? Is H2O a gas, liquid or solid? Are sea anemones plants or animals?
Consider human sexual preference. Can you only be straight or gay? Bisexual gives a third option, but what if your partner is transexual? The term pansexual covers most possibilities, but I also use the word queer to describe myself. Though historically it was used as a disparaging term, it has now become a word that has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community as a blanket term for anyone who is not heterosexual, cisgender or can otherwise be neatly categorised in terms of sexual preference or gender identity.
This is only the second piece I've ever written about being queer. I didn't officially tell my family until I was 34 years old. Why did I wait so long? I'd known since the age of sixteen that I was attracted to both men and women, although I didn't know way back then that I would have the capacity to fall in love with a woman. Like many people who identify as being 'bisexual' as I did back then, I suppose I felt like something of an imposter in gay circles, like I was just 'experimenting' and that didn't count. I wasn't gay enough to be gay, or something along those lines. I also was happy enough at the time in my relationships with men. I married a man when I was twenty three years old- (and divorced him seven years later.) In short, I didn't need to tell my family. At this time it wasn't a part of myself that I was ready to fully embrace either. It was the nineties. Things were different even then. Gay was a word we all used at school to describe how rubbish something was.
It took me by surprise when, at thirty four, I realised I had tender feelings for one of my female friends. I wasn't sure what to do with the realisation at first. Lucky for me, she was also queer. I told her the night before she travelled to India for a month. We chatted every day while she was away and we got together upon her return to Hong Kong. We're still together at the time of writing this post. Our relationship is the healthiest and most fulfilling connection I have ever had with a partner. It took me a lot of work to get to this point, but I'm so happy I was brave enough to accept my truth, and that she took a chance on us.
I don't have a traumatic coming out story to share. My family were, for the most part, shocked but also very supportive. They are a fairly liberal bunch, so that helps. I also think I waited so long to feel like I was in a safe environment to share my true self.
I am also lucky in that I've only experienced (to date) quite soft homophobia; and by this I mean dirty looks and lewd comments. My partner and I once had a guy spit at us, but that is by far the worst I've ever experienced. It's sad that I feel 'lucky' for experiencing any hatred for simply being who I am and minding my own business. However, I know how queer people experience violence, real oppression and hatred out there on the streets everyday and my heart bleeds for them.
What drives me to write about this at all is for all the young people out there who are still struggling with their queer identity or dealing with prejudice. I am here and will hold space for you if you need it. I want to live in a world where we can all just embrace our true selves and not have to deal with the fear and toxic coping methods of others who have unresolved issues that drive them to lash out at us. When anyone behaves with hatred towards me or my partner, I know it says far more about them and the healing they need to do than it does about either of us.
I hope all you beautiful queer people out there know that.