This piece was submitted by Adelyn Martin, a Masters candidate in the School of Creative Industries.
There is a longing in the human being to define the self in asserting who we really are. Being Queer recognises that there is no lasting self that is permanent and enduring. The truth is, being Queer is not about being “queer”. It is about identity.
From the moment we are born, we are labelled a gender, a name, and others are already subconsciously coming up with ideas of who we will become. These concepts are forced upon us as we grow, and we have no say, for how does a child fight the onslaught of opinion and belief coming from the adults and society around them? And this leads to later disillusionment as we struggle to live up to these expectations. Rather than blossoming into who we are, we wilt into who we believe we have to be. But at least we seem to fit in with the society around us.
Being Queer is not a choice, but rather a recognition, a realising, a revelation. Not in that we attain something new, but rather we perceive what has always been there. There is no concept of self or other; rather, there is just the knowing, all abiding and constant, no matter how much we are challenged for being who we are. This underlying knowledge is ours alone, and connects us to something greater, our feeling of belonging, of having a place in the world. Of being someone who can define themselves in a way that is not conceptual, or based on ideas and beliefs we can come up with, but is actually something far deeper; being Queer is simply who we are.
It is important to emphasise that this is not a process of choice or of deciding consciously to be Queer, as one decides about what to eat for dinner, or where to go for the day. This is beyond all decision making. This is beyond all trying to fit oneself into a box. Being Queer means exploring the very essence that makes us who we are. Being Queer allows us to encompass everything about our gender and sexuality that we consider outside the norm and embrace it, because for us, it is perfectly normal, and it is only the societal constructs that make us feel alienated and alone. Society has long considered Queer as other. And in the notion of Queer, there is no self or other to begin with.
This cannot be ignored. In our society, it is considered important that we define ourselves as self and other. That is, that we have a lasting and absolute self – that is, who we are – and an other, whether it be an ideal we seek to claim, a prize we seek to earn, or even another person we seek to love. But this idea is flawed, because we are putting our gender and sexuality into the realm of ideas and concepts, and losing the very essence of who we are. We do not become gay, lesbian, bisexual. We do not become transgender. We are Queer. And being Queer dissolves the idea of self and other, because we suddenly realise who we have been all along.
We are Queer. Our gender and sexuality is no more than a recognition. It is no more than a concept put upon us to define us by a society that does not know how to define us. And we have never been anything else but Queer. Everything else is held within that realisation. Gay, lesbian, bisexual: these terms are fine in defining our preference of who to go to bed with. Transgender: this term can define our gender. But all these terms are used to define us by society, by the world. They create the dichotomy of self and other. They are terms we decide to use to define ourselves, that we use to make ourselves more palatable for society’s constructs.
And how does society see us? As different. As strange. As other. In truth, we may define ourselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. In truth, we have always been Queer.
If the idea of being Queer is so important, could the word Queer not also be a term used to describe ourselves? Another word to define ourselves, a concept of “other”? But there is something to being Queer that goes beyond definitions and deciding who we are. Being Queer is not something we define ourselves as, according to society’s dictates. It is with us every moment of our lives. It is that which is indefinable.
If we are gay, we like members of the same sex. If we are bisexual, we like both genders. If we are transgender, we are living in a body that is not the one we know that we truly are. And yet, with this, we are busy to define ourselves, to make sense of our feelings and emotions in a way that, if we define them, we may find some solace within ourselves and with the world. But in truth, we merely label ourselves, and meet society head on with that label. And society is only too happy to take up the label, and alienate and isolate us.
But in being Queer, we are not using a label to define one aspect of ourselves. Rather, we are embracing our entire being; we are showing that we have been something our entire lives, and that this something does not separate us from the world, because we see no labels to divide us. Being Queer is beyond labels, for who can truly define what being Queer is? If we tell someone we are gay, they can define us and decide to befriend us or exile us. If we tell someone we are Queer, how can they possibly define who we are?
They cannot come to any conclusion of who we are, and yet the word Queer perfectly encompasses us, because the word is plural, and does not confine us to any sort of definition, assumption or otherwise. Being Queer is being free.