Being Queer

Besides the slap, the Oscars gave us the first openly Queer Latino Actor of color to win. This sent many of older generations scrambling to understand how the word Queer got injected into the Oscars. After all isn’t “Queer” a pejorative? A word not mentioned in polite company and only spoken in hushed voices behind peoples’ backs or screamed accusingly to make a point. 

Yes, until the 80’s the association of the word queer was meant to do harm. I remember being called queer and homosexual for the first time when I was barely a teen. When I looked up the word “homosexual”, I learned it was considered a disease. 

It wasn’t until 1973 that homosexuality was delisted as a disease, by that time I was graduating high school and the damage was done. When you’re different you learn very quickly that consequences are dire and unrelenting, especially in small towns in this Puritanical country.

So most young people escaped to the cities, hoping to find some semblance of community, of family, of welcome. There they were often met with police who targeted cross-dressing and drag with violence and arrest. If you’re ready for a bit of Queer history, I recommend reading about the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Often considered a turning point in human liberation, those “queers” demanded dignity and respect.

The 80’s brought a whole new relationship to the word Queer as people of color and transgender people reclaimed the word as a source of strength. Indigenous people shared their understanding of multiple genders, and the nature of Two-Spirit. 

The binary illusion is cracking. Patriarchy and Christianity are forced to self-examine. Times are tough on them.

I say evolution is a good thing. As someone who is comfortable with gender fluidity, I proudly welcome the word Queer. 

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