Commentary: Gay/Lesbian Verses Queer: What’s the Difference?
This post was submitted by our new contributor, Jess Five.
I know mainstream culture has begun to use “queer” as a synonym with “gay/lesbian” with such shows as “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Queer as Folks” but they really aren’t the same. It’s like asking the difference between a cappuccino and a latte – to the untrained eye there’s no difference but there really is.
“Gay/Lesbian” are sexual identities. It means that the person who identifies as gay/lesbian are sexually attracted to people of the same sex. This does not mean they are sexually attracted to EVERYONE of the same sex – which is a common misunderstanding, it means simply they are attracted to people of the same sex as they are. It’s just like if someone is straight, they aren’t attracted to EVERYONE of the opposite gender. It’s the same way with being gay and lesbian. For example, my brother is a classic example of a gay bear. He is a bear that likes other bears. Bears tend to be heavy-set and hairy. That’s his type and what he likes. Like stereotypical gays/lesbians, he supports Pride and the HRC, and gay marriage is an issue he cares about. Other characteristics of gays and lesbians include wanting the right to adopt and serve openly in the military. Gays/lesbians usually try to assimilate to mainstream culture to fit in. They are gay/lesbian but want to be just like your average heterosexual. Basically, they want sameness and equality – which are two totally different things.
“Queer” can be a sexuality identity but it can also be other things. It can be a gender identity or a lifestyle choice. Identifying as “queer” doesn’t necessarily mean the person is gay. You –can- be straight and queer. “Queer” means you like what you like. So, it means different things to different people. It could mean gold star dyke or it could mean “straight not narrow” or something else entirely. I usually identify as “queer” for simplicity. What it means for me if you were to ask what I meant by “queer” that I’m a female-bodied genderqueer that is primarily attracted to other female-bodied persons but tends to like people not genders. For me, being “queer” means being against heteronormalitivity and assimilation. I don’t support the HRC because that organization has abandoned our transgendered brothers and sisters. I don’t support Pride because it is corporations pretending to be gay/lesbian for a day for money. I am more interested in Gay Shame and supporting local organizations that don’t leave out the T of LGBT. I am for equality but not sameness. I am anti-all marriage because it’s a matter of the Church and it has no business in the State. I am more concerned about homelessness and universal health care being queer issues than military service and adoption. I don’t watch Logo or television. I listen to Queercore.
“Gays/Lesbians” are for the most part complacent and part of the great machine of society. The only thing abstract about them is that they are homosexual. Whereas, most often “queers” are raging against the machine. I once saw a poster that sums it up, “Not Gay as in Happy, Queer as in Fuck you.”
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