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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Stop the movement — I want to get off

    “”We’re here, we’re LGBTQQA, get used to it!”” Somehow it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the way the original did – but that almost humorously complicated acronym is, perhaps, a better reflection of the queer movement today and some of the problems with it.

    Within the past ten years, the acronym with which most are familiar – LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) – has ballooned to also include the categories “”queer”” (a vague term sometimes used interchangeably with the LGBT acronym, but which can also refer anyone whose lifestyle falls outside the mainstream); “”questioning”” (anyone who is unsure of his or her orientation); and “”allies”” (people who don’t consider themselves queer but are supportive of those who do). In other words, pretty much anyone who isn’t repulsed by same-sex affection now has a letter with which to associate him- or herself.

    On the one hand, that’s great – inclusivity only makes it harder to dismiss LGBT lifestyles as invalid. But the increasing abstractness and complexity of conversations about LGBT issues make the concepts harder for outsiders to grasp, and at some point they’re going to give up trying to understand and embrace the community altogether. When so many straight people (and more than a few gay ones) are still befuddled by the ostensibly simple concept of bisexuality, how can they possibly be expected to be anything but bewildered when buzzwords like “”genderqueer”” start getting thrown around?

    Pride Alliance’s “”awareness-raising”” events held on campus the week of Valentine’s Day serve as a good example of this problem. While it is important to introduce the community at large to the fact that LGBT folks come from a wide range of religious and ethnic backgrounds, panels “”exposing the theoretical and practical implications of gender in relation to the social and economic oppression against African-Americans”” and films about falafel stands probably confused many more than they enlightened. The exasperated online comments about the Wildcat’s story on the events – “”They’re going to run out of letters to add to their group name soon enough””; “”Then why have a SPECIAL organization that identifies you by your gayness? I’m sick of gays cramming this down our throats.”” – indicate that many are indeed having a hard enough time understanding the very concept of queerness, let alone the more complex issues addressed by Pride Alliance’s activities.

    Just as is true for any community, getting carried away with nuanced and esoteric discussions also runs the risk of leaving new or alienated LGBT community members in the dust. Those who are still trying to make sense of their attractions or who don’t feel addressed by the LGBT movement will hardly find solace in nonsensical-sounding academic discourse; when coming out or reflecting upon his or her identity, the last thing someone needs to hear is something like “”Oh, you say you’re bisexual – so does that mean you support the gender binary?”” (Lest you think I’m just trying to be funny, I have actually seen this question asked.) The academic discussions must be left to the academics; when they are not it comes off, at best, as a confusing muddle of abstract gibberish and, at worst, as an unfriendly interrogation.

    Making the LGBT movement accessible to alienated members and non-members alike is not so much a matter of presenting a united front – an impossible task since the queer community is as varied as any other – as it is a matter of effectively translating the community and its issues to society at large in a way which can actually be understood. The Pride Alliance events two weeks ago really had the right idea – by showing the involvement of LGBTs in various ethnic, religious and cultural communities, others are able to see that being queer isn’t as, well, “”queer”” as they might think it is. But complicating the way we talk and think about LGBT issues with academic jargon and inscrutable theorizing serves only to drive away potential allies and make a whole lot of LGBTs feel unwelcome. The movement needs to be about helping outsiders understand what it means to be LGBT and helping queer people feel comfortable with who they are, not the deconstruction of those very things.

    Alyson Hill is a senior majoring in classics, German studies and history. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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