Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why We Call Ourselves a "Queer Straight Alliance"

Yesterday during the meeting's "Questions and Suggestions" time, where QSA members are allowed to write down something to ask the group anonymously, it was suggested that we change our title to something besides "Queer Straight Alliance." This suggestion has come up numerous times during our 3 years of existence, and the complaints seem to always be the same. Either...:

1. ...people do not like the word "queer" because it has a historically negative connotation that is insulting to sexual minorities. Usually these people favor names like "Gay Straight Alliance" because they think gay is less derogatory.


2. ...people do not like to associate with a group that has an "obviously gay" title. Usually these people favor more vague, ambiguous names that don't announce that it is a "gay group." For example, some groups are called "10 Percent," "Spectrum," or "Open Door."

Some people who are interested in the purpose of QSA refuse to actually come to meetings and become members because they disapprove of our title. Because of this, I think that it is necessary to publicly defend our group's title by providing our counter-arguments to the above suggestions.

I mean no disrespect by trying to disprove the above suggestions. Rather, I hope that by providing an official "proclamation" of the reasoning behind our title, people who dislike it may see our point of view.

We are upset that some sexual minorities of Kearney and their allies are turning away from us just because of our title. We want everyone to know that we are not using our title to offend or hurt anyone. Rather, we chose the title that we find to be as inclusive as possible while accurately and concisely describing the group's purpose.

So, with no further ado, I will provide a list of the main reasons why we choose to identify ourselves as a "Queer Straight Alliance":

1. "Queer" is an inclusive term that accurately describes all individuals that fall outside traditional heteronormative culture. "Queer" can describe someone who is homosexual, bisexual, transgender, pansexual, asexual, intersex... pretty much anything that is not heterosexual. This is beneficial because we are not just a "GAY Straight Alliance" - our members are not just gay and straight. They fall everywhere on the spectrum, and we want to recognize that diversity.

2. "Queer" has been used by activists as an umbrella term for all sexualities that fall outside heteronormative culture for decades. Using the proper activist language makes us look educated in the field of gender studies, queer theory, and political science. This makes our mission appear more legitimate, especially since we are a college group and therefore expected to be educated individuals.

3. "Queer" rejects that idea that you have to label yourself in order to be included. It can be preferred because of its ambiguity, which allows "queer" identifying people to avoid the sometimes strict boundaries that surround other labels. For example, proclaiming your "queerness" doesn't identify you as a gay person, bisexual person, transgender person, or anything else; it just means you fall outside traditional norms. "Queer" unifies all the nit-picky, divided categories under one term, creating a feeling of strength and togetherness among all non-heterosexual people.

4. By claiming "queer" as a positive identifier though it has been used as a slur in the past, we take away the word's ability to hurt us. The movement for the acceptance of sexual minorities will never be successful if people cower in fear and let the word degrade them. The fear of the word "queer" is irrational - the word only hurts if you let it hurt you. By using the word "queer" without fear, we bring strength and pride to the word. It's a survivor's word.

5. Using the title "Queer Straight Alliance" instead of something vague like "Open Door" is preferable because we want people to understand what the group is upon reading the title. This is the same reasoning for why people choose obvious names like "Chemistry Club" - they want people to know it is for chemistry so that they attract people interested in chemistry, similar to how we want to attract people who are interested in queer politics. When people read a name like "Open Door," people do not understand that it is for queer people. This means that people looking for a queer group may not be able to find it.

6. And finally, using the title "Queer Straight Alliance" instead of the more vague titles shows that we have no fear. It makes our cause visible. It forces people to realize that non-heterosexual people exist on this campus. It increases awareness every time somebody reads the name on a poster, or in a newsletter, or on the UNK website. This is what we strive for. "Open Door" could never do that. It lets heterosexism persist because it does not create visibility for non-heterosexual people.

I hope that some people found this helpful, and that maybe more people can understand why we choose to call ourselves the Queer Straight Alliance. As a whole, QSA hopes that people who refuse to attend meetings just because of the group's title might reconsider their decision. After all - by letting words own you, you might be missing out on a meaningful experience.

If you have any other questions or if you want me to explain something further, please do not hesitate to contact me.


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