It’s an interesting word ‘queer’. One that has meant many different things at many different times. It used to be a pejorative term used to attack a community already having a hard time finding acceptance. As time went on it was reclaimed by the very group it sought to alienate and has now, for some, become a badge of honour for the LGBT community and beyond.
At its heart it simply means different. For better or for worse, deviating from the norm.
Queer is a trigger word. It’s certainly not one the heterosexual community usually cares to claim as its own. And for good reason. In a certain sense it seems improper to use a word born to label the marginalised for the masses, especially when you consider the negative connotations of its past.
Plus, if we all labelled ourselves as queer, wouldn’t that defeat the point?
Possibly. But the true status of this term relies on what we consider the ‘norm’ in the first place. After all, if we don’t have a normal how can we have a queer?
Societies normal is based on heteronormativity of course. It’s based on the belief that, for the most part, one man and one woman in a committed monogamous union, producing 2.5 children and spending their lives playing happy families is the ideal. We may not judge pre-marital sex or cohabitation as much as we used to, but the notion of the heterosexual, nuclear family unit certainly still prevails.
Beyond that, our general views on sex tend to centre on one man, one woman and some bedsheets. Books like 50 shades of Grey might have piqued our interest in deviations from this missionary standard but the very reason they interest us so much is because they differ from the rigidity by which we view heterosexual sex. We may indulge in a bit of late night porn or the odd sexual fantasy but for the most part, the furthest we’ll get is trying out the odd new position.
The fact is, we’re all a bunch of prudes!
Or are we?
Because when we begin to peel away the layers of this belief in a generalised standard of sexual interaction, not only do we realise there’s far more variation than we might expect, we start to see that what we’re told is the standard narrative might not be so normal after all.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to straight, cisgender men and women in seemingly committed heterosexual relationships who actually turned out to be polyamorous, or who had engaged in threesomes with either or both sexes.
I can’t tell you how many times friends of mine in 9-5 jobs, with ‘ordinary’ social lives and standard dating practices have opened up to me about their individual fetishes or the fact they like to dabble in BDSM.
I couldn’t count on both of my hands the number of straight female friends who suddenly became very interested in me in the year or so after I came out and I certainly can’t put a definite number on the amount of cisgender men and women who have told me they’ve engaged in homosexual experiences more than once.
Frankly, a lot of these conversations with seemingly straight, seemingly demure individuals put my so-called queer sexual experimentation to shame!
The real truth is the more questions you ask and the deeper you delve into this topic the more you discover a truth about our sexual encounters that’s very different from the narrative we may always have believed. Just peeling away the top layer shows a wealth of debauchery many in the queer community might applaud! (or not)
More than that, it shows a culture of experimentation and sexual exploration we just don’t talk about in everyday life.
You might wonder why I think we should talk about our kinks and fantasies more and I take your point. After all, what happens in the bedroom is nobody’s business but yours and as long as it’s consensual and respectful (and between adults) then it shouldn’t be an issue in the first place.
That’s true, but I don’t think anyone could honestly say there isn’t a stigma around the open discussion of sex and I certainly don’t think people would disagree that when someone has the courage to open up about a certain kink or sexual fantasy, they also open themselves up to the judgement of those more prudish than themselves.
The thing is, not only does the standard narrative group together a wide and varied set of individuals under one umbrella of ‘normality’, it also serves the purpose of alienating anyone who doesn’t fit under it and shaming many into secrecy for fear of ridicule.
Feeling free to talk about sex without negative repercussions is the first step towards eliminating the shame inherent in many who consider the subject difficult to broach. Opening up about our thoughts and desires enables other people to open up too and once an honest and open discussion starts, this notion of normal and the stigma of the other begins to fall away.
You see, once we all start to really talk about sex. Once we start to see the variation that exists in the world and quite how common that variation is, we might come to the conclusion that perhaps queer is the norm after all.
I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds pretty cool.
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