“i don’t feel radical enough to call myself queer. I feel queer, but i’m not interested in the politics side of it. I’m interested in art, music and humans; My queerness is just one portion of my identity and i feel like other queers judge me because of this. Like I’m mainstream or ignorant about “important” things. I’m not :/”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Sara Schmidt-Kost as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
I totally get where you’re coming from. Here’s the thing about identity, it is something you, and only you, get to decide for yourself. Your identity is yours, and it will continue to change throughout your lifetime. As you age, your experiences change your identity in large and small ways. Discovering your sexuality and/or gender identity might be one of the large changes. Figuring out a new talent or making a new friend might be one of the small changes.
I teach middle school, and middle school is a very complicated time of growth and development. I see my students begin to discover their identities, and they struggle while they figure themselves out. They change so much from 6th grade to 8th grade, and I know they’ll keep changing in high school and into adult life. Their struggle (and yours and everyone elses) over identity is totally normal and healthy.
There are many things that make up my own identity. I am a teacher, a coach, a mentor. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a roommate. I am a dog owner, a cook, a snowboarder, a beginning golfer. I am a traveler, a photographer, a writer. I am a nerd, an introvert, a liberal, a Hufflepuff. I’m also gay.
I’ve had a few of those identities for a long time, like being a daughter and sister. Many of those identities I’ve only had for a few years. Some of them, like being a golfer, are brand new and I’m still trying them on. Maybe it will fit. Maybe it won’t. And that’s the great thing about identity, you can change it.
My own queerness is still changing ten years after I came out. My queerness used to be a more prominent part of my identity, but over the past few years it has somewhat faded to the background. I used to be much more involved in LGBT politics and activism at my University while I was working on my undergrad. When I graduated, I had other interests I wanted to pursue. Now that I have my teaching position, I don’t have the time or energy to do much LGBT activism, apart from my school’s GSA work. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
As far as “queerness” is concerned, that is your identity for you to own. As the great Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Try not to let others opinions bother you (I know how hard that can be sometimes). Your own queerness is yours. Other people’s queerness is theirs.
There are many ways to be queer. Being radical, activist, or political is one way. Being interested in art, music, and humans is another. There’s nothing wrong with being mainstream, just as there is nothing wrong with being alternative. It’s like taste in music. There’s nothing wrong with liking One Direction, or Taylor Swift, or Haim, or Bon Iver, or Jeremy Messersmith, or Nirvana, or Nicki Minaj, or Billy Joel, or Beethoven. Or all of the above. Or none of the above.
The only thing wrong is judging other people for their interests and identities. Everyone wants to be included, and when we start excluding members of our own community because they’re “not queer enough”, we’re only damaging our own cause. As long as they’re not hurting anyone, live and let live. Enjoy your stuff, and let others enjoy theirs. Claim your identity and let others claim theirs.