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Author Topic: Making "Queer" a new Nigger
Ikeren
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I am going to apologize if I offend anybody with the term "nigger". I recognize that it connotates racism if white people use it. But that is what this post is, in general, about.

I've got a homosexual friend that tells me I shouldn't use the word "homosexual", because that is a "straight persons word" - and I myself am "Queer". She explained it thus:
Queer was at one point used as a discriminatory term by straight people.
Since then, it has been "reclaimed", and now is a term that GLBT people can use, but "straight's" can not.
Basically, the word "Queer" is sexual discrimination if used by a straight person, and a completely okay form of self-identification if used by a white person.

I am concerned that this creates the same sort of double standard that you see with nigger, where it is acceptable for a black person to use the word nigger, but not a white person. I have a number of black friends who say "nigger" back and forth to one another, and when I talk to them, they say it is pretty common.

I don't have any statistics, but I am certain this sort of double standard creates division, and has caused conflict. I've looked at various "queer" website's and a number of websites support this idea: that "Queer" should be only usable by "Queer" people. In general, it concerns me, because this sort of conflict and division is not something the "Queer" community needs as far as I can see.

So I want to know what you people think. Is this okay? Am I worrying about the double standard unecessarily?

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19, male, interested in Sadomasochism (BDSM) and some bisexual tendancies.

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origami_jane
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Sometimes, I think it is more a matter of the tone of voice you use and your comfort level in using the word.

I, for example, identify as a lesbian. I'm perfectly comfortable using the term "dyke" to describe myself. However, if someone called me a "dyke," and then punched me in the face, I'd have a big problem with that (not to mention a headache). "Homosexual" feels a little too formal for me--I don't go around with my straight friends and call them "heterosexuals."

As for the word "queer," I just see it as shorthand for GLBT. It's also a helpful term for when you're trying to describe your sexuality, but you don't want to attach yourself to a term like "lesbian" or "bisexual."

Personally, I don't feel comfortable using the word "nigger" to describe my black friends, but I don't balk when they call each other that.

I guess I don't want to take the chance that something I'd say would be taken as an insult. People can decide what they want to be called, and I guess if people within a group call each other names that define that group, there isn't really a chance that they're being insulted. Or else they're just insulting themselves too.

Most of my problems with language come from when people describe inferior things as "gay."

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PrettyLostGirl
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I'm quite new to the GLBT community, but as far as I've seen the word "queer" has been used as jane stated, shorthand for GLBT. I feel about this word the same way I feel about the word "nigga" (yes, the proper spelling of the reclaimed version shuold be "nigga" not "nigger")that it depends on who is saying it, and also in what context.
If a straight friend pokes me and whispers "queer" then giggles, I'll laugh too. If a straight person sneers at me and whispers "queer", I'd get angry. As a mixed black/hispanic person, I feel the same way about white people using the words "nigga" and "spic". It's all about context.

The best advice to any person is to only use the word if:
A- you are comfortable with it
B- you know for sure that the person whom you are addressing is comfortable with it
C- they are also completely aware of the context in which you are using the term

It's a touchy thing to deal with, and it confuses lots of people.

As for me...my best friend is a gay guy who likes to say "queeeeeer" when he passes me in the hallway at school. I must say, it is hilarious to see the expessions of confused classmates.

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.Sixe.
Bisexual/Black/Hispanic Grrl and oh-so-PROUD.

"Life would be so wonderful, if only we knew what to do with it."
~Greta Garbo

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Heather
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quote:
I've got a homosexual friend that tells me I shouldn't use the word "homosexual", because that is a "straight persons word" - and I myself am "Queer".
FYI? PLENTY of gay men and women self-identify as homosexual. Your one friend may not, and per her own standards, feel a newer term is better for HER, and that's fine.

But you still get to use the language you'd like, and IMO -- and in my experience as someone queer and actively so in numerous communities for more than two decades -- there is zippo that is offensive about the term homosexual. Your pal isn't any sort of elected queer linguistic attache, so she doesn't get to decide what everyone's language is or should be unilaterally.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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PenguinBoy
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i just use the words gay, lesbian or bi. No confusion no inadvertent offense.

To me words like nigga, dyke or queer, are delicate words, which can cause offense. That's probably the reason that they end up being used as words between close friends, because you have to know eachother well enough to realise that it's not a threat but a symbol of your trust.

On my rugby tour there was a black lad who i got really good friends with (I'm medeteranian white) over the few days, i talked to him loads. I just ended up calling him my boy, my jamacan, my negroe. It was affectionate in identifying his race, and it just showed the trust which i just mentioned.

Language is a powerful thing. and strong words discribe passion, that can be passionate hate or passionate affection.

I really don't think the words are what cause racial tension and sexual prejudices. But they can be used to express the tentions already there. And so they can get the blame. After all noises on their own are meaningless.

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Jacob - my Scarleteen Blog - Please help sustain scarleteen

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Shailoh
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If you are a member of either American Subculture you will realize as a member there are certain "Rules". These rules are based on experiences you all as members of these subcultures share.

Let me make this very simple.. Your mother, your father, grandparents, brothers and sisters, are ALL black.

You are 4 years old before you even SEE a white person in person.

When you do meet white people they treat you differently, there is no doubt, no reason, its just happens.

In school, at work, on the internet, even sitting at home... daily you hear people discribe you as being Different.

The funny thing is... you feel exactly the same as everyone else... or at least you think you do.

As a member of this subculture your parents listened to R&B and there parents to Mo-town, the walls in your house have Martin Luther King on the wall with JFK, Malcom X and Coretta Scott King.

You grew up hearing stories of perservation and descrimination and your family STILL suffers the effects of racial descrimination.

Now you know other kids like you, they speak like you, they look like you, they know the same jokes you do... But only the kids like you. The kids of other races find it weird.

Its funny to like chitlins, and watermelon, and fried chicken, and collard greens, and cornbread... Even though these are the foods your mom makes you on your birthday cause you really do like them alot [Smile] You'd be embrassed to tell anyone outside of the other kids like you because they REALLY wouldn't understand without making some absurd assumption.

Because there is that barrier.. that distinction between yourself, the people like you, and everyone else. You come to understand the "Rules" almost innately without ever needing to discuss them.

You know its okay to call another of your peers Nigger, its okay to make momma jokes, and to tell them they have ashy elbows.

You also know its not okay for one of the outsiders to tell you or any of your peers these exact same things. Simply because they DONT understand what its like to have this be part of your daily life, and its insulting for them to insinuate that from watching "Martin", "In Living Color" and "Good Times", that they could POSSIBLY understand what it is you go through on the daily basis.. or understand what that word means to you and your peers when you share it. But most of all.. they dont nearly COMPREHEND the insult when they use it.

The best way to describe it is like you and your father... spend the whole summer building a Tree house; you make every decision together. You save and put everything you have into making this the most comfortable clubhouse for yourself and your friends you can...

Then a year later a kid moves in next door and comes to your treehouse and rips down the walls, puts up posters, complains about the space and then smiles at you waiting for you to agree.

That is the exact feeling I get when white people use the word "Nigger"

I also dont like compairing it to Homosexuality...

While homosexuals have there own unique subcultures and experiences... there experiences are unique to them and shouldn't be compared to the racial descrimination Blacks have faced in America...

So if you think it's bad to say Nigger, so its bad to say Queer... You are OBVIOUSLY on the wrong page completely and shouldn't be saying either.

You consider a "Double Standard" there is no double standard... there really isn't any separation except what YOU create. It's no more okay for one of my Black friends to use the word Nigger in front of my Grandparents than it would be for a white one.

But there is a difference in understandings and relationships between people. If you are white you cannot be in a good friendship between two black people that share the common bond of race along with friendship which negates any possiblity of racisim between them making the use of the word Nigger powerless.

Two gay men sitting together calling each other queers is safe and pretty pointless beyond them poking fun at the obvious descrimation they face together. But when you put a straight man in that same situation only one of the two would actually be Queer and understand the descrimination involved... the other is just making his best guess at what it feels like and when he goes to work the next day there is NO chance he is going to get fired for being gay...

The best way to close the gap between yourself and other races, and other people in general. Is to take the time to learn about them, spend time with them.

Do you have a black friend? Have dinner at there house.. spend a Sunday or two over... Go to the black part of town and indulge... you'll find things are almost exactly like it is in a white house and neighborhood with some subtle differences... Knowing those differences is what should stop you from saying Nigger and understanding when a black person does to another.

___________

You can't compare racial descrimination to sexual discrimination.

While it might very well be unfair to judge someone based on race or sexual preference.

But a black person can't choose to be white long enough to get a job get married have several kids and then decide to let the world in on his/her secret when its comfortable or convinenent

I dont like seeing the comparison at all. Being called a Nigger and being called a *** or queer are two completely separate and unique types of personal insults.

If you dont want to offend people, dont call anyone a nigger or a queer. But dont feel like the two are just two sides of the same coin because they aren't.

Sexuality on a whole is a personal and unique life circumstance while race is an inevitable factor in daily life.

Sometimes people like comparing the circumstances of discrimination on a whole... but let me make this very clear. Homosexuality is very easy to conseal and a declaration of homosexuality is a conscious choice. Race is not nearly as easily concealed or dealt with when facing descrimination.

Good luck homosexuals but you are on your own.. leave the black people out of it... gaining freedom and the right to live like normal humans was enough... dragging along all the sexual deviants and anyone else that DECIDES to make there differences known is there own problem.

[ 04-17-2006, 08:59 AM: Message edited by: Shailoh ]

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i

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origami_jane
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While I do feel like you make some good points, I think you're totally wrong on the race vs. sexual orientation bit.

Concealing your sexuality may look easy, but it's not. When you have to hide yourself every day, judge every word you say, every joke you make, every opinion that you express to make sure that it's not going to "out" you... that's hard.

Listening to your mother, your aunts, your grandparents, tell you that gay people should not be allowed to hold jobs nor have children.... that is hard.

Having your ten-year-old baby brother tell you that gay people should be shot because Jesus is going to burn them in Hell for eternity anyway, because that's what he learned at the Sunday School his parents joyfully send him to every week. That's hard.

Watching your parents look through books titled, "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality," but then having them put it down because you know that their "faith" is so deep that having a lesbian daughter is never considered as a possibility.

In school, you do not learn that any civil rights groups for gay people exist. You do not learn that Bayard Rustin, Dr. Martin Luther King's right-hand man and political strategist, was gay. You don't even learn he exists.

Sexual orientation is an inevitible factor in daily life. It is not a choice. "Declaring" your sexual orientation is not a choice, hiding it is. And it is one of the most painful things anyone has to experience.

It is not easy to get married and have children and play the straight game. Sure, you may love those children to death, and you may care about your husband, but that is not a way to live. And that is precisely what those groups try to make you do when they put you in "reparative therapy" and make you join groups like "Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays."

There are summer camps to make you straight.. They don't let you go home until you "renounce your homosexual ways." Some of them make you wear backless shoes so that you can't run away.

So, yeah, it may not be the same thing as racial discrimination, but discrimination against GLBT folk is there and it hurts like hell. It is just as personal as racial discrimination is political, and what we need to do is stop bickering about which group has it worse and try to end discrimination once and for all.

After all, there are plenty of queer people have to deal with the race thing too.

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likewhoa19
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I think a lot of it comes down to economic tension, frankly. Because as Miz Scarlet has pointed out before being able to put food on the table is an adult's number one concern with how they're treated. There is not economic tension between ''gays'' and ''straights'' the way there is with ''blacks'' and ''whites'' in the US and most other countries, there simply isn't. Have you ever been to Chicago? To Harlem in New York? When gays are grouped together in substandard living in ghettos, I will consider the two types of discrimination comparable. Until then, both types of discrimination are horrible (and gay discrimination can actually be its own kind of horrible, since it can divide people from their family in religious cultures). But I agree with Shailoh in generally avoiding comparisons.

[ 04-17-2006, 04:02 PM: Message edited by: likewhoa19 ]

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origami_jane
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My grandparents grew up in housing projects in Pittsburgh.

I know what poverty looks like, and it's everywhere. In Appalachia, in Kansas, in Detroit.... in cities devestated by factory outsourcing, and rural communities whose family farms have been outpaced by corporate agribusiness.

GLBT people might not live in ghettos, but they are tossed out of their homes, out of their families on a daily basis. I read somewhere that a large proportion of homeless teens are GLBT. And although company policy says that they don't discriminate on basis of sexual orientation, it happens.

I don't want to get into an argument about this, nor do I want to seem racially insensitive. I just wanted to point out that you can't ignore one type of discrimination because there's others.

I guess I took it a little too personally. I'm sorry.

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likewhoa19
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I grew up in a very poor rural white town. That doesn't change the fact that the average income of "whites'' in this country is substantially higher than the average income of ''blacks,'' or that 25% as many young black men are in jail as in college. It's not pleasant to hide being gay, but at least gay people have that choice.

The area I grew up in was also very religious, so I realize how families will completely disown their children for being gay and how horrible that is. I also have been disowned off and on myself for reasons that have little to do with my sexuality. I am pro-gay rights and all of that. If I believed in labels I'd probably identify as bisexual myself, but I'm one of those ''sexuality is fluid'' believers so you know in case that means we're of totally different mindsets right there. I just have a really, really hard time saying sexuality rights activists are facing as bad of circumstances as are civil rights activists. You could say this is one of the issues I am very passionate about, personally. But of course that's not saying many GLBT individuals haven't had harder lives than some individuals of racial minority.

The thing is, despite the recent setbacks in government and laws, there are regions in the country (I'd say the Northeast and West Coast, especially among reasonably well-off and educated communities) where it's fairly accepted, even trendy to be GLB. There really is no equivalent for the black community, at least not anymore. Plus, at my college where it's very accepted to be gay, I know a number of girls who came in with stories about how they'd not fit in or been harassed for being gay in high school and rebelling from the harassment it formed a huge part of their identity, but after 4 years in an accepting environment at college they decided they were bisexual and that their sexuality actually didn't need to determine their whole identity. So I guess the experiences I've had influence my opinion as to how much your sexuality really has to rule your image at all points in your life.

Also Shailoh:
Not too important but I thought I'd add. I know that soul-food example gets used a lot to talk about cultural differences between black and white communities. But really, those are southern foods not just black foods. In the north they're more black foods, because during the great migration so many black people moved from the south to the north. I however grew up in the south, and I love those foods too;)

[ 04-18-2006, 09:33 AM: Message edited by: likewhoa19 ]

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Ikeren
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At Shailoh - perhaps you missed the point. I don't call anybody nigger or queer. I don't make any racist distinctions. I am arguing about the concept of a word being okay for one person to use but not okay for another person to use.

I've recently had a friend fight my hysterically on the point of queer.

She argued that queer is absolutely socially acceptable, using the example of universities, governmental research, and the subculture adopting it as their own name.

She also argued in the same vein that the term homosexual is considered very offensive to queer people, and that I was going to get hurt if I continued to use it.

She argues that the mass majority of homosexual, bisexual, and so on and so forth people prefer the term queer because it is an umbrella generalization that fits everyone without rambling. She told me I need to experience more of the queer community, not be so close minded, and get out of the closet.

She then told me I had to use the word queer because I myself am queer. I blanketly refused. I may be into S&M and bi, I told her, but I would never be queer and never wanted such an inaccurate generalization placed upon me.

So, looking for somebody in the Queer community:
Miz Scarlet said "But you still get to use the language you'd like, and IMO -- and in my experience as someone queer and actively so in numerous communities for more than two decades -- there is zippo that is offensive about the term homosexual." earlier.

Is it true?

Me - I stick to the scientific bases for everything. If somebody wants a personal 1 on 1 conversation about sexuality, I'll drop it. Anything else, it is sadomasochist, paraphilia, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual and transgendered. And I want to stay that way...

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19, male, interested in Sadomasochism (BDSM) and some bisexual tendancies.

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Heather
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(If I recall correctly, this is the same friend who generally IS hysterical, no? the friend who wished you dead at one point in a pique of drama?

If so... I think she's got her own stuff to deal with, and until she does, it's sage to assume she's not exactly the sounded judge of much.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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