This whole virus thing has given us all the opportunity to catch up on our television viewing. I’m not the voracious viewer of television that I used to be; I feel like the quality of shows has gone down quite a bit over the last decade or so and much of today’s offerings have not been worthy of my time. But we’ve been flipping through the various streaming services we belong to and tonight we watched the third and fourth episodes of Apple TV+’s “Visible: Out On Television”.
I’ve cried a couple of times while watching the documentary; a lot of what is depicted hits close to home: remembering the friends lost during the AIDS crisis, protesting with ACT-UP when I lived in Boston, recounting the amount of progress made with LGBTQ+ characters on television even since my husband and I first met 24 years ago.
We started watching the documentary when the lockdown first began. The word “queer” is used a lot. LGBTQ+. There’s a reason it has evolved from the GLB days of when I first came out in the mid 1980s. I don’t remember when the letters were rearranged and augmented; but I especially don’t remember a lot of folks calling themselves queer back when I was a young gay. There’s a lot power in that word: Queer. I remember one of my grandmothers saying the phrase “queer boy” when I was young. She was referring to a waiter at a restaurant who sounded like the love child of Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly. I was called queer too often in high school. And while I have tried to ‘take back’ the word queer over the past couple of years, I’ve always struggled with the concept.
My steel trap memory betrays my desire to reclaim the power of the word “queer”.
When we first started watching the documentary I started thinking about the word queer again. At the time I was going to write a blog entry about it and I even went as far as to take an impromptu photo with the word “queer” and an arrow pointing to me in a selfie. I posted it on Instagram for a few seconds before I reconsidered my thoughts processes and deleted it. Did it not fit? Do I not consider myself queer?
I have always identified as gay. When I came out in college I had a hard time saying it, and it was my high school friend Scott who insisted I say that I was gay actually out loud when I told him. (“I like guys” had been my go to phrase). That step made me more comfortable with the whole gay identity thing. It was a big hurdle. But queer? It’s a whole different thing.
The thing is, if we want to use labels, I see ‘queer’ as a label for individuals of a younger generation. I just don’t see me as an over 50 years old queer man. I’m not gender fluid in any way. I’m quite comfortable with myself both inside and out. I’m well seasoned and I’m solid in my identity. Let’s face it, I would say I’m a Kinsey 5.99 when it comes to sexual attraction. (Hey, I’m a bargain!). I’m actually just a guy that has always liked guys and my pilot light burns a little brighter than most and once in a while it shoots off like a big ol’ fabulous flare.
Wow, no sexual connotation there!
The perceived negative energy around the word “queer” is slowly dissipating from my mind. I’ve come to realize that what queer means today is a lot different than what queer meant 30 years ago. But as part of my self-identity? Hmmm, it doesn’t quite fit. It’s not how I see myself. And that’s fine.
There’s power in just being me.