The Q Word | Teen Ink

The Q Word

June 24, 2015
By ClaireM. ELITE, Albany, New York
ClaireM. ELITE, Albany, New York
109 articles 14 photos 33 comments

Like every person on the planet, I am a lot of things. I’m female. I’m a teenager. I’m an avid star-gazer. I’m obsessed with miniature cacti. I’m a poet. I’m sarcastic. I’m weirdly good at opening lids. I’m an empath. I’m a survivor. I’m vulnerable and tenacious and iridescent. I am also queer.

Historically speaking, this is an extremely controversial label. It’s incendiary, it turns heads. It grabs people’s attention with the force of a nuclear blast and doesn’t let go—it’s a game-changer. Say it in any given social situation and the energy in the room shifts. There’s a curiosity among everyone that wiggles to the surface, a giddy kind of discomfort mixed with desire to know more, to really experience the sensation of this word; what it means, what it embodies, if it applies to them personally.

For a long time, queer was a humiliating slur for a minority whose sexual, romantic, and gender orientation/identity fell outside of the ideal, “normal,” heterosexual cisgender model. Today, it still carries an intense stigma for many individuals, perhaps especially so for older members of the LGBTQ+ community. For them, being called queer may be powerfully negative act—a crushing violation of self. They turn away from it. It is too ugly, too shameful to bear. There’s no way to reconcile the painful effects this title has had throughout human history. It’s a reminder of oppression, mistreatment, and ridicule. It is ugly red graffiti sprayed on homes of wonderful men and women. It is schoolyard bullying and corporate harassment. It is excruciating heartache. I realize this. And yet.

I’m here to tell you another story. A story about a group of adolescents who are falling madly in love with the notion of queerness, because it is beautiful and enthralling and validating and real. I’m here to tell you about us.

In very recent times, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, transgender, agender, etc., meant a life of secrecy and suppression. The devastation of being robbed at birth of the chance to fit with society’s status quo caused countless suicides, severe self-harm, and the toxic buildup of a lifetime of internalized hate, but a transformation is taking place.

All over the world, young men, women, and beauties in between, are refuting the idea that queer is something bad. Some of us are doing this quietly, from behind blog posts and laptop screens, and others of us are doing it noisily, from behind megaphones and microphones, with sweat stinging our eyes and indignation pooling in our bellies like magma, but we’re all pushing back. We’re arming ourselves with whatever tools we can access and beginning the inimitable task of demolishing from the top down the destructive aura surrounding the word queer. We’re intelligent and tired and fierce and vehement and done. Every generation wants its chance at “reclaiming old, unpopular labels as something new and pure,” but this is different. This is an unstoppable crescendo of justice, and it’s only getting louder.

As someone who is attracted to both women and men, I’ve been down the road of internalized homophobia. Not severely, because I’m lucky enough to have a mother who’s always been a fierce advocate of gay rights and the freedom to love whomever we want, but I’ve felt isolated and marginalized. I’ve agonized over coming out. My body’s been shaky with dread as I wrestled with the message thrown at me so often: Queer is wrong. Queer is an insult. Queer is a pathetic selection of lit in the back corner of our public libraries. Queer is attention-seeking. Queer is selfish. Queer is disgusting. Queer is invisible. It was enough to awaken what I consider one of the most fabulous forces in the universe—molten, heartfelt, fury. I was a timid, closeted biromantic teenage girl, and then something happened, because all of a sudden in her place was fist-clench and lifted chin and, most remarkably of all, pride. What happened was what’s happening to queer youth all over the globe, which is a refusal to be pinned down a second longer. A sudden, radical soaring. And yes, a reclaiming of a word so hated so long.

For us, queer is more than a description for someone who isn’t straight. It’s a battle cry for everybody living outside the norm, whether this be because of orientation, gender, choice of style, taste in music, political views, appearance, or personality. It’s a word that shines with celebration for those too soft or loud or peculiar or revolutionary or exuberant. Like the chorus line in Icona Pop’s beloved hit single which declares, “I don’t care—I love it! I don’t care!” it’s a word that roars, with shimmering, utterly endearing audacity:

Yes, I am different. And this is a splendid thing.

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This article has 1 comment.

Catholic said...
on Jun. 29 2015 at 8:13 pm
"I don't care - I love it! I don't care!" Don't care about what? About what's right and wrong? About what's good, and true, and beautiful? About what's natural? There's a reason homosexual behavior has a history of being opposed. It's the same reason drug addiction, bullying, and murder are opposed: because it's wrong. Maybe this world doesn't care about it, but there is such a thing as truth - and it doesn't change. It's not a matter of opinion, like favorite color or career choice. It's a matter of morality. Men and women are made for each other; they compliment each other, not only physically but mentally and spiritually. Sexuality isn't something just for pleasure - it has a purpose, to bring children into the world and to bring husband and wife closer to one another. Homosexuality doesn't promote anything sexuality is supposed to promote. And that's the truth.