Here in the cozy little column of Queer Corner, we do our best to represent a diverse group of people with various experiences and plenty of their own opinions. However, Queer Corner is subject to human error like anything else. The fact of the matter is there are so many unique identities (that intersect with other identities) that it’s nearly impossible to do each one justice. When you talk about the issues for a particular kind of identity (sex and gender in this case), it’s difficult to leave out other issues that further complicate things such as race, socio-economic class, religion and education. If someone ignores the fact that these identities impact each other, then frankly they shouldn’t be talking about an identity at all.
That’s not to say we have to know every detail of how a Hispanic background might influence someone who is also queer. I just mean that in order to have a conversation, we have to be open to learning that there is a lot we do not understand and some things that we never will. Take me for instance – I’m totally and typically white. I won’t ever know what it’s like to experience discrimination due to my skin color. I am, however, trying to learn what implications different racial identities carry. It’s not about knowing everything, it’s about making a respectful effort to try, with the knowledge that you’ll probably screw up at one point or another.
In relation to queer identities, there is a ridiculous amount of labels from which to choose. Ever heard of “demi-boy”? What about “apogender” or “avirromantic?” Some terms are so obscure that many people prefer to use the umbrella term “queer” and leave their identity as that. My point is that everyone is different (duh) and this tucked-away column in The Colgate Maroon-News cannot possibly portray every experience of an LGBTQ person–though, if you’d like to share yours, let me know!
On that same point, it’s not right to assume that asking one bisexual person to explain “what that really means” is going to be true for every person who identifies as bisexual. When I was at an LGBTQ conference last year, I participated in an activity that emphasized the different usages of a single term. Each person (there were probably 150 people) filled out a card with ratings on the infamous Kinsey scale of past and present attractions, how attracted you were to other specific genders, etc. We then turned in our cards and received a stranger’s card. Numbers were placed along the border of the room, and people would shift to whichever number corresponded to each question on the card. We then asked people to call out identities at each number. For example, there were separate people who labeled as bisexual, yet one had mostly heterosexual responses while the other was constantly in the middle. The use of labels is so subjective that knowing how someone identifies still tells you very little about that person.
There is a plethora of labels for people in the LGBTQ community. And while many people choose to use terms that are more common, every person’s experiences with their identity are unique.
Remember that LGBTQ and racial identities are not the only significant intersections though. Each person has their own set of identities that give them a unique perspective. There are so many combinations that the possibilities go to infinity … and beyond.