This is a question I ask myself often. A question I battle with constantly. In my work, I am surrounded by people who identify as queer -- but me, not so much. Well, not with the commitment and conviction through which they assume this wide identity.
I prefer to identify myself as a Latina who is also a Lesbian with Bisexual undertones. I do not love the word Lesbian and relish in it like I do Latina, but it will do for now or at least until I find or develop a word preferably with a Spanish root that spells out my emotional and erotic desires for women. I have always wanted that word to be queer, but it doesn't fulfill my need. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that I was born in the early '70s and that word carried a heavy weight for me in the '80s during the wonder years of my adolescence. It also is a hard pill to swallow because through my lens I see how embedded it is in whiteness, academia and other spaces inaccessible to me. In my gut it embodies "different than" -- different than the people I actually am in community with including the gender-liberated poor, working class, and other people of color. When I think of the people within these groups I don't think of white, privilege or access to academia.
Queer is a term loaded with a spirit of oppression, violence and "othering." I am not the "enlightened" scholar who has been able to lift the heavy chains that this word carries in my mind. I have not been able to re-claim the hatred I prescribe to its targeted use. I am not that "evolved." I cannot make it mean the open, expansive, and inclusive possibility that it means for others. To me it means OTHER. And I am NOT other. I am. I am an occurrence in the beautiful possibility that is humanity.
Some may say that I am not assuming a queer identity because I am invested in what some have called "homonormativity," which is a fancy way of explaining why it is that LGBTQ people cling so hard to behaviors that might be considered normal among homosexuals. But I am not working towards fitting my identity, life, existence into a mold created by the heterosexual model. Maybe I don't see the huge difference between me and my heterosexual brothers and sisters...or my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Maybe I do want my family to be seen as normal. Actually, I want everyone to be seen as normal because we are regardless of the box we check off or don't. We are manifestations of beauty in all its forms. Maybe if I had class privilege, aiming for homonormativity would be something I could strive for but that's not my reality. My class position is very different from wealthy white gays and lesbians so I've never started on equal footing. It's interesting to think that at one point in my life I thought education would level that playing field but it does not for everyone. The "normative" American dream is a fantasy for some.
So does that make me queer? Perhaps. Or maybe it just makes me a lover of humanity, a lover of the possibility humanity possesses and the vision to see all of us fit not in a box. Not in a boxed tinged with a history of limits and hatred. So, I will not call myself queer but I will call myself familia. Family redefined to be a place of comfort, support and unconditional love for all. A consciously constructed institution that strives for equity because of age, inclusion because of sexual orientation and gender identity, celebration because of race, ethnicity and all of the boxes we may or may not fit into comfortably.