Policing or protecting?

There’s been a lot of talk over on Tumblr recently of identity politics and identity policing with regards to “queer” and “femme”. I don’t find Tumblr to be a constructive avenue for discourse, so I’m posting my thoughts on the subject here instead. I will fully admit that I cannot remove personal feelings from this debate because I identify as both queer and femme. I don’t relish policing anyone’s identity. It does feel icky. However in this case, it feels more like protecting marginalized communities rather than policing.

There has been talk online of extending the identity label “queer” to anyone who struggles against heteronormativity. While I love and appreciate hetero allies, I disagree that just because we share in this struggle we both get to claim queer. If you’re someone who is only interested in pursuing hetero relationships, then you are not queer. If you support queer rights and advocate against heteronormativity, that’s great, thank you for being an ally. But there is a distinct difference between ally and queer. And that’s not to say that one can’t be an ally for years and then later identify as queer and vice versa. People change and sexuality is fluid. However, if you don’t view your own sexuality as fluid currently and/or have no desire to be in a non-hetero relationship, I fail to see how identifying as queer is anything but appropriative.

Mostly, I just don’t understand why someone who isn’t queer would want to claim the label. To me that’s like someone who identifies as a vegetarian eating fish. You might really care about animals, your heart might be in the right place, but if you still eat fish (which is, in fact, an animal), then you’re simply not a vegetarian. You’re appropriating a label that isn’t yours.

I feel similarly protective about femme. I’ve also seen discussions online in the queer blogosphere arguing for the inclusion of hetero women into the femme community. Again, I am confused as to why there would be a desire for straight women to claim femme. Femme has historically been a queer identity. Claiming femme isn’t just performing your own brand of femininity, taking the traditional idea of femininity and turning it on its ear, but also fighting to carve out a place for ourselves within our own community. We are queering femininity and demanding to be seen. While straight women may have a similar struggle in redefining femininity, they don’t have the same issue with invisibility. Straight feminine women are seen in the world, all the time, every day. In fact, it’s because of the pervasiveness of hetero femininity that queer femmes are often assumed to be straight. Once again, it’s great to be supportive but there is indeed a difference between support and appropriation.

Let’s face it, the world is heternormative. Can’t we just save some things for ourselves as safe spaces in the world? If that makes me selfish, then so be it. Perhaps some would call me a separatist. I will accept that. I won’t feel ashamed for wanting to maintain a queer community that celebrates our uniqueness rather than trying to assimilate into one magic melting pot.  I don’t want to see the lines blurred so much that some of us get erased.

6 responses to “Policing or protecting?

  1. Thanks for this! I’ve been wrestling with these ideas for a while now. I particularly agree with your comment about straight women not facing the issues of invisibility that femmes do.

    • You’re quite welcome. I, too, have been sitting with this for a while. I’m quite sure many will disagree (my partner included) but I feel so strongly about it that I needed to address the subject.

  2. Great post I enjoyed reading your views on the subject. Kara XOXO

  3. I agree for the most part… I would think it is strange for a hetero person to call themselves queer, but then again I think of queer as “non-heteronormative and non-homonormative” so I suppose there are certain hetero people that can fit in there if they want to… Also I wanted to mention that I don’t agree with your comment about vegetarians who also eat fish. [Eating a fish is way different than eating a cow, for example. Cows are warm-blooded and closer to our own species, for one thing. In fact, if you look up “animal” in the dictionary, one definition is “a mammal, as opposed to a fish, bird, etc.”] This is the thing about labels, and words in general, they mean different things to different people.

    • Thanks for reading but I absolutely, 100% do not buy your rationalization. If you’re gonna eat animals, then eat animals but own that shit. If you eat animals, you’re not a vegetarian. Words have meanings and this one is pretty specific.

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