Note: The first draft of this post was written on December 19, 2013. Since then, there has been a lot more discussion about asexuality and queerness in the ace blogosphere, which Queenie has conveniently collected into a linkspam.
Though I am not an expert on queer theory, I generally encounter two definitions of queer (with variations of course)
1) Narrow Queer: Only people who have been oppressed with the word ‘queer’ as a pejorative can claim this label, primarily trans-people or people who experience homosexual attraction.
2) Broad Queer: Anyone who does not fit into social norms, particularly but not necessarily norms around sexuality and gender, is queer.
So, is straight/queer a binary i.e. all that is straight is not queer and all that is queer is not straight? Or is it possible to be neither queer nor straight?
If we go with ‘narrow queer’, the answer is a big NO. I am *not* a straight person, and I am definitely not queer per the narrow definition, so either there has to be a space for people who are neither straight nor queer, or I do not exist. I do exist, therefore straight / narrow queer is not a binary.
As far as ‘broad queer’ … this could be in a binary with straightness. But I actually do not like a conceptual framework which says that everybody must either be queer or straight, even if ‘queer’ is defined very broadly.
I think everybody on the ace spectrum – including cis heteroromantic greysexuals who are currently in a sexual-romantic relationship with a cis person of a different gender – should be allowed to claim the ‘queer’ label if it feels right to them (I mean this in the broad-queer sense – though even narrow-queerness is relevant to some aces). I understand that some queer people feel that it is an appropriation of a term which has been tied to their oppression … yet I think that denying anybody on the ace-spectrum a claim on the queer label further entrenches heteronormativity rather than weaken it.
That said, just because I think we all have a claim on the ‘queer’ label does not mean I think we have to adopt the label.
Even if we’re talking about ‘broad queer’, I do not identify as queer. Why not? First of all, I have had a lot of interactions with ‘queer’ communities, and always as an outsider. I would prefer to keep it that way, since I do not think I’ll gain much by being accepted as an insider – I’d rather invest more in communities specifically for ace-spectrum folk. Things like the fact that organizations such as Human Rights Campaign (which focuses on LGBT rights) offer ‘heterosexual’ but not ‘asexual’ as an option in surveys asking about supporters’ orientations does not make me inclined to join them. And even when these ‘queer’ organizations acknowledge our existence, they often act as if we do not exist.
There are queer communities which fully embrace the asexual experience … and I still prefer not to identify as queer. Why? I do not like the notion of the binary itself.
Even if we’re talking about a broad queerness which embraces asexuality … I do not want to use a conceptual framework in which all that is not straight is queer. I do like the idea that one can be neither straight nor queer, and I put myself in that non-straight PLUS non-queer space. It where I feel the most comfortable.