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15 Responses To The Question: “What Does The Word ‘Queer’ Mean To You?”

“Queer is what you make it.”

Chris Ritter / BuzzFeed

1. “I knew I was attracted to multiple genders for years but didn’t know how to own it.”

“I knew I was attracted to multiple genders for years but didn’t know how to own it. The first time I called myself queer everything fell into place. I embraced my sexuality as disruptive and transformative. Today, queerness is the base of my politics, a lens through which I examine history, and the fuel that fires my writing. To be queer means I wake up every day ready to both love who I am and push myself to grow.” –Audrey White, 23

2. “This sense of otherness is a sentiment I generally identify as a feeling of queerness.”

“I don’t typically ‘define’ myself as queer explicitly, although I very much identify with the term. ‘The other’ so thats super ambiguous but I think queer means like anything that is atypical or ‘other’ from the context in which it is being used. As I’m a homosexual male, I identify with the term queer in that there is an underlying feeling of otherness from the majority of the American population in many areas of my life (politics, economics, business, pop culture, etc.) that intrinsically accompanies being part of a minority. I relate to the term in that even as a gay male I often feel atypical or somehow unlike the majority of my cohorts (with regard to how I express my sexuality, etc.) and this sense of otherness is a sentiment I generally identify as a feeling of queerness.” –Matt Little, 25

3. “As if I have it all figured out at 24 somehow.”

“Being queer means that I get to fuck who I want (with their consent) without being asked what I am first, as if I have it all figured out at 24 somehow.” –Lucy, 24

Chris Ritter, BuzzFeed

4. “It lets me comfortably move with my sexuality as it changes during different periods of my life.”

“I identify as queer because it lets me comfortably move with my sexuality as it changes during different periods of my life, and because the gender of my partner — or my choice not to have a partner for some period of time — in no way defines my access to it as an identity.” –Sarah Einstein

5. “Almost every other term requires an ‘other’ as part of its definition. Queer does not.”

“The best part of the term ‘queer’ is that what it means to each person becomes a personal act of self-definition. Almost every other term requires an ‘other’ as part of its definition. Queer does not. Fluid similarly can live outside of relationship to another as well. This is where the power of queer lies for me, in spite of its more widespread use as an umbrella term for LGBTQIA… I kind of would have preferred if it hadn’t also become that umbrella term, but stayed closer to the queer theory roots. But for me, it’s all there in the roots. And it’s not a sexual identity for me. If I had to choose a sexual identity, it would be pansexual (plumbing is not important to me — personal and emotional connection is) and/or demisexual/asexual.” –Beth Pietrzak, 45

6. “Not apples and oranges, either. More like apples and a fruit salad.”

“I find that my definition of/identification of the term ‘queer’ changes with my geographical location and age. When I lived in the South, I identified more as lesbian because it constituted both a social group and a clear connotation of who/what I was looking for at the time. As I got older and moved up north, the term ‘queer’ started to feel more like it defined both who I was sexually and also politically.

But it’s definitely contextual. If I were signing up for an Ellen Page fan club, for example, I would say lesbian. (Because that question would definitely be on the application). If I were signing up for a Judith Butler fan club, however, it would be queer. It doesn’t feel to me like the terms are contradictory or even comparable. Not apples and oranges, either. More like apples and a fruit salad.” –Jessica, 26

Chris Ritter, BuzzFeed

7. “Queer is what you make it.”

“I know many people use ‘queer’ as an umbrella term, and I understand why they do, but I think it’s really reductive to forget that while it may be an umbrella term for some, it’s very specific for others. Queer is what you make of it — and, for me, being queer means that my sexuality is not fixed, that it can evolve over years and that I can be sexually and romantically attracted to various degrees to the spectrum of gender identities that exist. When people ask me what my sexuality is, I say queer, and if they don’t know what that means, I’ll say that I don’t label my sexuality at all — I have a very complicated relationship with the term ‘bisexual’ because of the associations of promiscuity that my LGBT-phobic straight peers attached to it. In that instance, bisexual felt like a word that I could not control in my own social circles. Queer feels like a term that I can make my own.” –Andrea Garcìa-Vargas, 23

8. “I see both gender and sexuality as fluid concepts that I think we should be able to freely move between.”

“Well, I’m no scholar on LGBT stuff but my personal description would be something along the lines of: anybody who doesn’t identify as ‘heterosexual’ or anybody who doesn’t feel that they belong within society’s strictly defined gender binaries. I label myself as a ‘queer’ person because I see both gender and sexuality as fluid concepts that I think we should be able to freely move between. I don’t necessarily define myself as a ‘lesbian,’ but I don’t identify as heterosexual and I reject our society’s definitions of masculinity and femininity.” –Annabelle Nyst, 25

9. “I don’t feel like the other labels appropriately describe me.”

“I use ‘queer’ because, besides ‘pansexual,’ I don’t feel like the other labels appropriately describe me and pan hasn’t made it into the larger vocabulary yet. I’ve been married to a woman, and now I’m married to a man. I don’t like ‘bisexual’ because I think it can be trans and genderqueer exclusionary. I also don’t like it as much because generally I’m more attracted to people who identify with a feminine presentation than masculine, even though I am married to a pretty cisnormative man and find him attractive. When I was with my ex-wife, I identified as lesbian, and I still do internally in some ways. But I do benefit from people seeing my relationship as normal, so I don’t use that term because most self-identified lesbians do not have those benefits.” –Chanda Hsu Prescod-Weinstein, 32

Chris Ritter , BuzzFeed

10. “Queer is a term I use to ease myself into a community that I don’t know very well at all.”

“Queer is a term I use to ease myself (a bisexual male — a realization I came to very, very recently) into a community that I don’t know very well at all, don’t know how to navigate yet, and don’t have very many friends in yet. It feels somehow easier to say, and carries more weight and respect in the eyes of straight women and gay men than the word bisexual. That in itself sucks, but what can you do?” –Steve, 26

11. “‘Bisexual’ does not cover enough territory.”

“To me, queer is a self-identification of solidarity with other people who are mindfully gender and orientation transgressive. It is, as others have noted, a political label of mind-set, not or performance. I do stand by the label ‘bi’ in gay/lesbian spaces as a reminder that we exist, and we are not halfway, or confused, or in denial on the road to same-gender monosexuality; but I live in a world that transcends the binary of heteronormative gender boxes, and so ‘bisexual’ does not cover enough territory.” –Kat

12. “I didn’t know that pansexual was a thing.”

“Queer describes my fluidity best — both my attractions and my gender identity, and often my politics. But I also came up in an age (or location, anyway), where I didn’t know that pansexual was a thing. So, I probably would have chosen that if I could have and added queer for the politics of resistance later, with some ambivalence because so many non-straight people hate the word […] there’s privilege in being able to throw it around.” –Susannah Bartlow, 36

13. “Being queer, however, is a commitment to change beyond the reach of your own quality of life.”

Casually speaking, I tend to refer to myself as a ‘gay black man’ because it’s just what comes to mind. ‘Queer’ strikes me as a way of living/thinking more so than an identity, and I certainly do try to live as queerly as possible. Being queer is about embracing gray areas, subversion, about using our lives and identities to do something rather than simply exist. Being an out gay man is not radical; it’s wonderfully human. Being queer, however, is a commitment to change beyond the reach of your own quality of life. It says, I think, ‘I’m not just fighting for my own life. I’m fighting for yours, too.'” –Saeed, 28

14. “I’ve always seen [the world] through queer eyes.”

“For me, queer goes beyond sexuality and encompasses the way I see the world. Finding queer writers, artists, and creators for the first time felt like a kind of coming home, a glimpse of a refreshing space where I didn’t have to continually adjust myself to fit into an imperfect heteronormative mold.

Living queerly means seeing the world without heteronormative assumptions about the relationship of two people walking down the street together, about their genders, about my gender, about what is valid work, about who the most important people in your life should be, about how you should look and dress and talk and live and love and be.

For me, the first step to coming out was realizing that I don’t and have never seen the world through straight eyes; I’ve always seen it through queer eyes. When I saw reflections of other queer visions, I realized that I was not alone. I do still identify as bi, but that doesn’t usurp queer identity; It’s just a slightly more specific addition.” –Anastasia Chipelsk, 29

15. “Queer gives me some space to claim that my sexuality is first and foremost for me.”

“Queer is my way of saying that I own my sexuality while still giving it room to grow and evolve. Saying I’m bisexual, in a mostly straight crowd anyway, is usually read or interpreted as a commodity to spice up their own sexual fodder. No I don’t want to have a threesome with you and your girlfriend. But saying queer for some reason gives me a little breathing room, some space to claim that my sexuality is first and foremost for me.” –Krutika Mallikarjuna, 25

What does the term “queer” mean for you?

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/skarlan/15-responses-to-the-question-what-does-the-word-queer-mean-t

Why I Ended A Perfectly Fine Relationship

My boyfriend and I were going nowhere, so I did what any self-proclaimed gay academic would do: I re-read Roland Barthes.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

I was introduced to Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse by a good friend I was sleeping with. We’d just had brunch and sex when he told me, “Read it.” I found his edition of the book on his bedside table. The yellowing pages were soft against my fingers as his own traced figures on my skin. “It’s right up your alley.”

“Why’s that?” I said.

“You’re like the book.” He planted kisses down my spine with each word. “Intelligent. Gorgeous. Romantic…”

After another orgasm, I got a copy that very afternoon.

We weren’t, nor would we ever be, “boyfriends.” He was in a long-term open relationship (now marriage) and I was living in New York for just a few months. So I didn’t expect much. But his warm brown eyes were engaging. We’d walk around Manhattan and talk about books. We’d go out to dinner and talk about writing. And we’d kiss and turn snowfall into rain.

We weren’t sure what to call ourselves. He was older and established — my mentor, in a sense. So we played with the term “lover.” How French, I thought. I could do French. But for Barthes, an actual gay Frenchman, being a lover was a different ordeal.

Barthes wrote A Lover’s Discourse in 1977 as a collection of notes on amorous language. “Figures,” he calls them, gestures of the lover at work. He says his goal is to present scenes of language wherein the lover might recognize himself. The whole thing reads like a dictionary of a lover’s desire, an exercise in defining every move made, thought shared, word said. Or unsaid.

“Waiting,” for example, Barthes describes as “the tumult of anxiety provoked by waiting for the loved being, subject to trivial delays (rendezvous, letters, telephone calls, returns).” He talks about waiting by the phone for his loved one to call. He dare not attempt to find him or call him lest he miss him. Barthes reports how his feelings ricochet between dread and anger and sadness, all while seated by the telephone. (Imagine if he had iMessage.)

“Am I in love?” he writes. “Yes, since I am waiting. The other never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn’t wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game: whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely: I am the one who waits.”

Barthes uses words to make a lucid mirror out of Discourse. But it was only two years later, when I looked into it again, that I recognized myself. This happened, predictably, when I found myself a “boyfriend.”

We began using the word when we were having real estate problems in New York. I needed to move out of an apartment I couldn’t afford and his landlord refused to renew his lease. After he texted me with this news, I called him.

“I think we can do it,” he said. I could hear his crooked smile through the phone.

Between breathy laughs, I said, “I know we’ve only just met.”

We’d already gone on four dates within nine days, so the intimate act of telephoning was permissible, among other suggestions. “We could live together.”

The fact I could sit in silence with him, gaze into his steely blue eyes for hours, I willingly mistook for comfort. We’d walk around Brooklyn and stare at the pavement. We’d go out to dinner and chew on our food. But we’d kiss and turn the rain into steam.

He was beautiful and said the same of me. He’d text me good night and good morning. He was my age and single. These things, I decided, were good enough. And thus, I became the lover at work.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed


adorable / adorable
Not managing to name the specialty of his desire for the loved being, the amorous subject falls back on this rather stupid word: adorable!

Via Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

During the Gay Pride parade in New York, I got belligerently drunk. He had to take me home to his place in Williamsburg when it was still light out. I accidentally left my bag at a bar in the West Village. In the bag were a flask once filled with vodka and the Ray-Bans he lent me. I wore them at the parade, but they weren’t in my bag when I woke up in his bedroom that evening, close to midnight. I didn’t mention this loss to him when I found him sleeping on the couch in the living room.

“What’re you doing out here?” My tongue was still catching up to my thoughts.

“You’re still drunk.” He smiled. “I need to give you some space.”

In the amber glow of the streetlights outside, his handsomeness was made princely. I said, “You went back to the bar for my bag?”

“Of course.” He turned away from me on the couch, tightening his hold on a pillow.

But I pulled him into his twin bed and wrapped my sunburnt arms around him. I thought about how lucky I was, to be here with him, in this home leased for only a little while longer, but with him nonetheless. I kissed the nape of his neck and said, “Thank you.”

Whenever anyone asked what made me want to be in a relationship with him, I’d often cite this story. Selfless, I called him. We didn’t talk about much else other than work and the weather, but he was sweet, kind, adorable — capable of loving and being loved. The nights after dinner on his couch watching Netflix with my head on his shoulder outweighed everything else. This was the honeymoon period I’d heard about.

But, of course, as all moons do, it waned.

“Special Days”

fête / festivity
The amorous subject experiences every meeting with the loved being as a festival.

Via Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

We would see each other almost every day, at first. We had drinks two days after our first date. He spent the night at my place three days after that. He’d meet me at the park for lunch and soon invited me to meet his friends. I’ve always had the habit of marking down these special days in my calendar. In the beginning, these days were wonderfully cramped into short weeks, but it wasn’t long until I began to measure my life in the days I didn’t see him.

He grew distant, for whatever reason. We saw each other less. His texts became less frequent, less sprinkled with emojis — which everyone knows is an infallible barometer of intimacy. And we used to call each other on video just to watch movies together. I’d point my phone at Clueless on the television and hear how he’d memorized the lines.

Then it became different. Then came weeks of radio silence. I could only count on seeing him on our monthly dates on the 15th, our month-aversary. But even then I’d have to wait for him, for his texts to tell me when and where to be. And whenever I did see him, the festivity I felt was more of a gratitude than sheer joy. Thank you, I wanted to tell him, thank you for picking me tonight. But after the dinner, after the gazing, after the toe-curling under the sheets, I was made to wait again — the subject subjected.

I decided to re-read A Lover’s Discourse. My copy’s pages were beginning to soften and yellow. In it, I found my notes naive, if not foolish; wide-eyed, if not provincial. And if Barthes’ work was once incandescent, now it was searing. His words were once warnings, cautionary tales to be heeded. But now the book, for better or worse, was our shared diary.

Still, I lied to myself. I gave my boyfriend excuses in the weeks between, blaming his own rendezvous and returns. And he was adorable; no one else could promise such pleasure. These were just growing pains, I reasoned. Our relationship was going through puberty, and every time we met, my voice would crack.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

I Love You

je-t’-aime / I-love-you
The figure refers not to the declaration of love, to the avowal, but to the repeated utterance of the love cry.

Via Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

On our first date, he took me to the carousel at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. He paid for our two tickets and tossed me the penny he got back. I tried to catch the change, but failed. It spun in circles on the cement, then rolled toward his foot. He stepped on it and picked it up. I told him he should have checked first, to see if it was lucky or not.

He put the change in my shirt pocket and pressed a hand to my chest. “Make your own luck.”

Then the lease ran out. I landed an apartment with friends in Harlem and he was moving to Crown Heights. We were on his Williamsburg rooftop for the last time when I thought I felt the breeze pick up. I held his face in my hands and ran a thumb across his manicured stubble. His hands were on my waist and I inflated my chest against his.

“I love you.” I felt him tense. I added the next line I’d practiced: “You don’t have to say it back. I just wanted you to know.”

“I’m not a good boyfriend,” he said. “Just wait. Let me catch up.” This was one of his many promises.

Time and again, he’d promised to communicate more openly, to be more forthright with his emotions, to just treat me like his friend. But I never once felt him work on these vows. I felt us going in circles where nothing was wrong and nothing was right.

In cabs, in bed, outside parties, it was the same conversation: how I felt like an accessory of convenience in his life, to be used only when he needed help moving furniture or having an orgasm. We weren’t us anymore, as much of an us as we ever were. He’d left the job of making our own luck to me. He was not the lover at work.

At last, after months of waiting, he explained that whenever he’s in a relationship, he wants to be single again. And when he’s single, he wants to be in a relationship. I congratulated him on this novel feeling.

“Are you dating someone else?” I said. He paused, tightened my duvet around himself. “You’re not lying to me in my bed.”

“I’m not dating anyone,” he said. The next morning, we woke up with our backs turned to each other.

On the 15th of some month, we broke up at the waterfront of Brooklyn Bridge Park, near the carousel and the horse he rode in on. Some paces away, a couple taking their wedding photos was standing in the water, the Manhattan skyline as their backdrop. I silently wished them luck; I’d just found out fidelity is too much to ask for nowadays.

“I love you,” I said, “but I can’t keep waiting for you.”

From Waiting

A mandarin fell in love with a courtesan. “I shall be yours,” she told him, “when you have spent a hundred nights waiting for me, sitting on a stool, in my garden, beneath my window.” But on the ninety-ninth night, the mandarin stood up, put his stool under his arm, and went away.

Via Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

When I began to feel my relationship crumble, I picked up my copy of A Lover’s Discourse, fiercely notated, aggressively dog-eared, and loved. In both, I saw the lover at work. But it’s the “lover” — singular, alone — at work by himself. The loved one, the other, is oblivious to this. He is passive while the lover becomes active in his waiting. He begins to feel himself waiting. Calling it hoping, calling it pretending.

The title of the book can be misleading. Barthes was not writing about love, at least not in its healthiest sense, but about desire. It’s a romantic work, sure, wildly emotional and recklessly hopeful — very much up my alley. But it makes no pretenses about deconstructing an unrequited ideal. As Barthes discloses on the very first page of the book, to see oneself in these scenes of language is to be reminded of the lover’s extreme state of solitude.

Today, Barthes’ figures now come with sharp pangs of recognition. It’s a comfort in disguise. Barthes, eager and tormented next to his telephone, seems to say, “You are not alone in your aloneness.” It’s as singular and unique a work as it is unrequited and one-sided; that is to say, devastatingly so.

As I flip through the beautiful, bleeding pages now, I’m made to conclude that, by Barthes’ standards, I can’t do French. I don’t want a lover, for the time being at least. I just want a good friend I’m sleeping with.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mattortile/the-one-who-waits