Saturday, January 03, 2009
Why Some Black GLBT Peeps Hate the 'Q' Word
While there are some people who refer to the GLBT community as the 'queer' community, as you probably noticed as you peruse this blog I'm not one of them. It's also a sentiment shared by some of my fellow GLBT African-Americans.
When I used to do the 'After Hours' radio show with Jimmy Carper back home on KPFT-FM, he'd use the tag line 'Queer radio with attitude'. It made me uncomfortable, but since it was his show and I was only a rotating co-host, not much I could do about.
Some of my personal dislike with the 'Q' word not only has to do with it being used as a derogatory epithet, but the dictionary definition of it as well.
1. Deviating from the expected or normal; strange: a queer situation.
2. Odd or unconventional, as in behavior; eccentric. See Synonyms at strange.
3. Of a questionable nature or character; suspicious.
4. Slang Fake; counterfeit.
5. Feeling slightly ill; queasy.
6. Offensive Slang Homosexual.
7. Usage Problem Of or relating to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgendered people.
As a proud transperson of African descent, why would I embrace a term that doesn't describe me? I've heard many of the arguments that raged in the mid 90's about taking back the 'Q' word to strip it of the negativity, but I also heard the same parallel arguments about reclaiming the n-word, and I hated that reclamation project as well.
So why do Black GLBT peeps hate the 'Q" word?
As the Task Force's 2002 Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud report pointed out, the term 'queer' was selected by less than 1% of the respondents as an identifier in the 2000 Black Pride Survey that the report was based on.
Some of that dislike of the 'Q' word is fed by negativity to the racism that Black GLBT people found greeting them in 'queer' spaces. We also have our own created terms such as SGL (same gender loving) that became popular in the 1990's or the 'in the life' one that dates back to the Harlem Renaissance and some of us are more comfortable with because they reflect our cultural heritage.
'Queer' has also become in the Black GLBT community a synonym for white, wealthy, privileged gay male. You also have to look at the reality that many Black GLBT peeps live in the Deep South, which is not exactly the most welcoming area at times for a GLBT person.
Our discomfort with the term also has to do with the fact that Black people, whether we're GLBT or non-GLBT, are politically liberal but socially conservative due to our historic church ties. Those of us who grew up attending church, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School on the regular still struggle with reconciling our faith with who we are as GLBT people, and the 'Q' word doesn't fit.
So if you're wondering why most Black GLBT peeps use other terms to define themselves or get quiet when many of you start shouting at protest marches, 'we're here, we're queer, get used to it', now you know.