03.27.14 A Rose By Any Other Name
It is a rare few that likes being stuffed into a box. Such restrictions are uncomfortable, preventing one from fully expressing themselves. It forces an unnatural pose, stifles creativity, prevents genuine response in any living being and denies who or what a person is, especially as they see themselves.
Cruel epithets like “freak, trann*, dyke, fag” and so forth can bring up years of negative connotations associated with confusion, ostracism, self-loathing, trauma and violence. It’s a well-debated point in our communities, however, as to whether these terms can or should be reclaimed as a form of empowered self-identification. But if someone wishes to identify with a chosen label, who are we to argue with them?
A few years ago, a brilliant microbiologist who also identifies as a leather dyke compassionately listened to me voice my concerns with this project’s use of labels for categorizing the identities of interviewees for searchability and offered this unforgettable aphorism: “Labels are shorthand, not straight-jackets.” I’ve pondered on that regularly and have since managed to relax my anxiety about potentially mis-gendering, exotifying or tokenizing people in our community.
Still, others have expressed reservations with the QOHP’s broad use of the term “queer” to label an entire group of people that may not wish to be associated with a word used to alienate and segregate. We’ve all experienced some degree of “otherness” with this word or any other label that wasn’t of our individual choosing or consent. Unfortunately, none of us may ever get it exactly right for everyone.
For the sake of this project, however, we use the word “queer” as a blanket term to embrace as large a group as possible, as our colorful, complex narratives are thus interwoven into a larger tapestry for those outside of queer identities (and even within) to observe patterns, themes, motifs, and the overall picture—that, yes, we are indeed a unique if not peculiar people, distinct from our heterosexual, gender-normative counterparts throughout the rest of the world. It is precisely these distinctions—our stripes, spots and frills—that indicate our special contributions to the human experience.
At one stage in this project’s development, the metaphor of a garden was also employed in our language and imagery to account for and illustrate the many varieties that exist in the labyrinthine realms of sexual orientation and gender identity. Being outed, isolated, pigeon-holed and stuffed in a box denies our humanity; it crushes our passionate spirits, stunts our collective evolution and prevents individuation. That is FAR from the intention of this project or the pragmatic taxonomy we employ in our search fields.
Yet, if you feel we are missing some terms that better represent you and your particular variety of person, include those terms in the tags associated with your video. Additionally, if you have concerns about any of the labels we have outlined in our menus, let us know—we’re always happy to engage in compassionate and respectful dialogue. The founders of this project fully acknowledge the privileges afforded to us as (mostly) white, gay males and we are continuously inspired by the new faces and voices that offer their distinct perspectives and positions. We are honored that you have supported us so much already. Help us continue to demonstrate how beautifully nuanced our queer community is by sharing your story or that of someone else. We can’t do this without you, so share with the world the story that sets you apart from the rest.