What Queerness Means To Me

I remember playing pretend games with my brother when he was really little. For a happy ending to one epic struggle of good versus evil, he wanted all the dolls/“action figures” to “all get married together”—boys, girls, witches, dragons, demons, whatever, united in a big happy pansexual polygamous clusterfuck. I remember explaining to him that you couldn’t do that, that marriage was between two people, usually a man and a woman.

Forgive me. I was twelve, I didn’t know any better. On the other hand he was about five, and apparently he already did.

The innocence of children with regard to love, romance, gender, friendship and relationships is truly beautiful. They are basically open to all kinds of gender expressions and all sorts of relationships, including the queer, the polyamorous, the platonic. Best friends in preschool get engaged and even married all the time, regardless of gender (or prior mock-marital status). I remember that innocence.

I lost it. First I was a girl, then I was heterosexual, then I was bisexual, then I was wondering if maybe I wasn’t kind of just a lesbian. Then I was polyamorous, then I was kinky, then I was pansexual. I was submissive, then a switch. Then I was gender questioning, then FTM, and gay. I was a transman, and then a trans man. I was homoflexible, or just a faggot. I was transsexual then transgender then transsexual again and finally just trans. Today I’m a trans fem/androgynous male who uses he/him/his pronouns and doesn’t like being called a man but guesses it’s better than being called a boy by strangers and who isn’t really genderqueer. I think. I may be something else tomorrow. And if you think that sounds complicated you should talk to some of my friends.

But my own angsty odyssey of identity isn’t really what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the word queer and the world of possibility it represents to me. Queer is a term which for me recaptures the unconstrained innocence of childhood, when best friends could all get married together and we could all be fairy princesses one day and firefighters the next.

Isn’t it weird that we’re all supposed to feel one way about friends, another about family, and another about lovers? Isn’t it strange that family is only determined by biology or sanctified by marriage and sealed with reproduction? Isn’t it odd that romance is supposed to be doomed without sex, and sex is considered pointless without romance? Isn’t it strange that we’re only supposed to feel one way about one person until death do us part?

Queerness, to me, is about far more than homosexual attraction. It’s about a willingness to see all other taboos broken down. Sure, many of us start on this path when we first feel “same sex” or “same gender” attraction (though what is sex? And what is gender? And does anyone really have the same sex or gender as anyone else?). But queerness doesn’t stop there.

This is a somewhat controversial stance, but to me queer means something completely different than “gay” or “lesbian” or “bisexual.” A queer person is usually someone who has come to a non-binary view of gender, who recognizes the validity of all trans identities, and who, given this understanding of infinite gender possibilities, finds it hard to define their sexuality any longer in a gender-based way. Queer people understand and support non-monogamy even if they do not engage in it themselves. They can grok being asexual or aromantic. (What does sex have to do with love, or love with sex, necessarily?) A queer can view promiscuous (protected) public bathhouse sex with strangers and complete abstinence as equally healthy.

Queers understand that people have different relationships to their bodies. We get what it means to be stone. We know what body dysphoria is about. We understand that not everyone likes to get touched the same way or to get touched at all. We realize that people with disabilities may have different sexual needs, and that people with survivor histories often have sexual triggers. We can negotiate safe and creative ways to be intimate with people with HIV/AIDs and other STIs.

Queers understand the range of power and sensation and the diversity of sexual dynamics. We are tops and bottoms, doms and subs, sadists and masochists and sadomasochists, versatiles and switches. We know what we like and don’t like in bed.

We embrace a wide range of relationship types. We can be partners, lovers, friends with benefits, platonic sweethearts, chosen family. We can have very different dynamics with different people, often all at once. We don’t expect one person to be able to fulfill all our diverse needs, fantasies and ideals indefinitely.

Because our views on relationships, sex, gender, love, bodies, and family are so unconventional, we are of necessity anti-assimilationist. Because under the kyriarchy we suffer, and watch the people we love suffering, we are political. Because we want to survive, we fight. We only want the freedom to be ourselves, love ourselves, love each other, and live together. Because we are routinely denied that, we are pissed.

Queer doesn’t mean “don’t label me,” it means “I am naming myself.” It means “ask me more questions if you curious” and in the same breath means “fuck off.”

At least, that is what it means to me.

At 21 going on 22, I have done a little bit of living, maybe more than a lot of my cishetero peers, probably less than many of my queer friends. I have been disappointed in many things, have suffered great pain, and have had many illusions shattered. But I have also learned that human relationships are deeper, wider, more mysterious, more diverse, more perverse, more intense, more free, less definable and infinitely more beautiful than I was ever taught that they could be. The word queer sums up that hope for me, the hope that there is more than one kind of sex, more than one kind of meaning to romance, and far more than two genders.

In short, “queer” means infinite possibilities for love, pleasure, and self-expression. To me, that is everything I ever wanted, everything I never dared to want, and more.

Queers and queerness are my hope for humanity.

About Asher

Asher Bauer is fast becoming a fixture in the San Francisco kink community, and intends to stay that way. He has worked as a Queer Educator at LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation And Information Center), and since has taken his talents as an educator to a wider variety of audiences, teaching on subjects ranging from safer sex to BDSM to trans and queer identities. He is also one of the hosts and originators of Transmission, the new trans-centric party at the San Francisco Citadel, and Invasion, the Citadel's all-genders queer party. View all posts by Asher

29 Responses to “What Queerness Means To Me”

  • Qwin

    Asher when I read your writing it’s like my monitor shoots rainbow lovebeams into my brain giving me a series of magical queergasms.

    So that’s cool.

  • biyuti

    Yay! I’m glad I’m not the only one. Coming out and living as a queer meant one thing to me: freedom.

    For me, now and always, queer = freedom.

  • Kit Lynam

    I actually clapped when I read this. Especially ‘It means “ask me more questions if you curious” and in the same breath means “fuck off.”’

  • A Noun

    Thank you so much for writing this.
    Most of the labels you wore resonated with me and this in particular…”I was a transman, and then a trans man. ”
    I’ve never thought of it in this way.

    Queer, for me, fits perfectly.

    I love the way you write.

  • ldg959

    Thank you for this. I have struggled a lot recently with a relationship with someone that is complicated. Hot then cold, yes then no.. We argued constantly about defining “love,” “loving,” “monogamy,” “polyamory,” and everything else under the rainbow. It’s odd to realize that as a transman I wanted him to fit in a box, as well as myself. In all honesty there is no way for either of us to; and as a transman how could I ever wish that upon anyone or myself. This post made me realize that the sole purpose of love is to be limitless and free. It cannot be bound and still be love. Thank you.

  • Amy

    This is a stunning manifesto that will make me grateful and proud to the end of my days. In just a few keyboard strokes, you’ve set a world to singing and it will never be silent again.
    I’m sharing this with everyone I know.
    Imua! (and aiya).

  • Chloe MIlne

    Asher, you have moved me to tears. This is one of the finest, most profound and (for me) most helpful things I have ever read. I have no words to express my pride in and gratitude for the gift of being your grandmother!

  • cvn

    “We know what we like and don’t like in bed.” really? this just stinks to me. my queerness is as much about experimenting as anything else.

  • Krissy

    You are an amazing writer. I have already linked to you a whole lot. I hope that is ok. You just explained something I have struggled with a great deal and I hope it isn’t rude to share that.

  • chris rhodes

    You took a lot of different pieces of answers and wove them into a whole for me.. thank you. This is the first bit of your writing I’ve read.. I’m lookiing forward to more.

  • paulathewanderer

    You’re fucking fantastic. I feel like thanking you after every post of yours I read. Thank you.

  • Ever

    That is beautiful. Part of the lie we are sold is that everything is fixed and binary in neat stackable boxes and that much of who you are was birth assigned and immutable. It’s a toxic lie because without the freedom to define and redefine ourselves, we slowly die. We are queer – but not out of place, because now there is a fluid, borderless place where we fit just fine.

  • mim

    I also don’t like this phrase. What if I don’t know what I like in bed? Am I not queer if I didn’t have a chance to find out yet?

    I would say it more like: “We make conscious decisions about what we are going to do in bed and what not.”

    • Asher

      I get where y’all are coming from. I guess what I meant was more like “We know or know how to find out what we like in bed” i.e. what cvn mentioned– experimenting.

  • Just Because… | Good Vibrations Magazine

    [...] people of all to me.  While I have heard many definitions of the word “Queer,” I latch onto this one most, this one that describes a rejection of the limitations on sexuality imposed by our culture, a [...]

  • calistair

    Excuse me, love this, but what are you referencing with “We get what it means to be stone.”? I get the feeling it’s a poem, but I don’t know what it’s called.

  • calistair

    Oh, thanks. It’s just I can vaguely remember some poem about ‘I am stone’ and I thought..never mind. Thank you.

  • Al

    I like this a lot…I would like to see something more about race and body acceptance, but otherwise, I’m all in.

    • Asher

      No. This ignores the years and years of invalidation, bullying, intimidation and abuse that many trans individuals experience while family, peers, teachers etc. are trying to get them to conform to their assigned role. It is coercion and saying that doctors have “no way of knowing” is cissupremacist. Read this. I am interested in people acknowledging the trauma trans people experience being raised in a role that we did not choose. I am not interested in appologism.

      BTW, Intersexed people aren’t just coerced, they are violently mutilated into their assigned gender.

  • M.

    Holy shit, this is perfect. That extends to every line. I really identify with this, and you know what? I now identify as queer. I’m queer. I don’t have to fit into any community or image to say that. I can live how I want to, and I can live without oppressing others, without invalidating their identities. I’m queer. I can finally say that. I’m queer and rather proud of it.

  • Tyro Kathar

    Well put re: the intersexed, Asher. The whole micropenis =/= penis bullshit really pisses me off.

  • harri (@harri_cole)

    i think i kinda love you.


  • verballyinsane

    I love this so much. I also was driven to tears while reading this in the good way. This is exactly what queerness means to me and I wish more people would understand that when I say I’m queer, I DO NOT mean that I’m gay. (Although I do concede to the term gay at some times so as not to confuse people too much.) Linking to this!

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