Afternoon InqueeryDiscriminationSex & Sexuality

AI: To queer or not to queer

Recently comics artist Erika Moen published a (NSFW) comic in English and French about experiences she’s had through identifying as queer. Her sexual identity has gone through several significant changes in her life, as documented in this (also NSFW!) edition of her autobiographical webcomic, DAR! (the whole comic is definitely worth a read though). As a woman who once identified as lesbian and is now married to a man, she’s received everything from accusations of lying to abuse for her “betrayal”. Sadly she isn’t alone in experiencing this sort of identity policing.

The comic really resonated with me as an asexual person. One of the biggest points of debate in our community is “are asexuals queer?”, and one of the most common accusations from elsewhere in the queer community is that we’re trying to co-opt the suffering of queer people while benefiting from non-queer privilege. Alternatively, along with bi/pansexual people, and anyone else who dares to not fall neatly into one category, we may be accused of lying or repressing our true sexuality. I don’t have as much experience of the trans* community, so don’t want to make sweeping inaccurate statements, but I assume identity policing is a problem there too. Sadly even people who’ve experienced discrimination themselves can be intolerant to others in similar situations.

Have you come across the dreaded identity police from within the queer community? Do you identify personally as queer? If not, why not? (I’m pretty sure I don’t have to remind people here, but please be respectful of other people’s experiences and identities.)

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, at 3pm ET.

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Courtney is a theoretical physics student at Imperial College London, broadly identifying as cisfemale, panromantic, asexual and atheist. She lives with mental illness (worst room-mate ever) and hopes to help break down the stigma attached to admitting that. Her hobbies include campaigning, internetting and spectacularly failing to defy any stereotypes regarding British people and tea. She also identifies as an X-Phile/Browncoat/Whovian, which are clearly the most important things.


  1. May 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm —

    First of all, I think this is the first time I’ve seen pansexual included when referring to people who aren’t exclusively attracted to one sex. Usually people just throw out bisexual and call it good. Thank you for representing more than just the bi people. 😀

    I don’t exactly identify as queer… I would consider myself part of that community, certainly, even though I feel like a huge asshole for being female-bodied and with a man. Queer is not the word I generally use in reference to my sexuality.

    While I feel like an ass for having hetero privilege, I’ve not received any abuse from the queer community as a result. I also don’t really have a community in person to talk to, and everyone I talk to on the internet is pretty nice unless they’re trolling.

    I am genderqueer, but when I figured out that I had dysphoria, I was identifying and presenting as a trans man. I did have one person tell me, while I was presenting male, that I was faking it and copying him (a trans man, obviously) since I came out shortly after he did. That’s basically the extent of my bashing.

  2. May 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm —

    Wow. What an awesome one. I’d like to echo Elly’s happiness at inclusivity for pansexuality.
    As someone who falls under demi/gray-A, identifies as pan, but has, thus far, only been involved with men, I get treated a like an ‘average’ heterosexual. That’s probably what influences me most to *not* identify as queer.
    I read queer interest blogs, etc, and think of it to myself as being a community I’m in, but because I get all the privileges of a straight woman, I don’t usually claim it aloud.

  3. May 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm —

    Great question! I identify as both queer and gay. I’ve experienced some identity policing as far as “gay men do X” or “gay men do Y” and they’re things I don’t do or enjoy, so other gay men tell me I’m not a “real” gay man (whatever that means).

    I’ve seen a ton of identity policing in the queer community. In fact, I’d say it’s ubiquitous. And it’s utterly frustrating.

  4. May 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm —

    Another ace here… To me it makes plenty of sense to place asexuality under the queer umbrella, simply because of the basic assumptions about sexuality challenged by the concept. However, I don’t really feel like I’m part of the queer community: the theoretical reasons for calling asexuality ‘queer’ seem insufficient for me to call myself ‘queer’, especially when I consider that many of the more practical concerns of the LGBT movements don’t concern things which affect me with the same immediacy as they do those who belong to the communities in question. (I find this true all the more so because, even though I don’t self-identify strongly in terms of romantic orientation, I think I could be called ‘aromantic’ accurately enough.) It’s certainly not that I’ve found local queer and LGBT groups to be unwelcoming, but simply that they’ve been largely focused on a set of concerns different from those which I find to be most pertinent to my identity as an asexual.

    I’m not saying that I think this is how things should and must be, but merely that it’s how I find them to be right now. Of course, some aces do feel that they are part of the queer community, and to be clear, I do mean that they feel this belonging in their capacity as asexuals: it’s good that we’re able to have different experiences of these things.

  5. May 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm —

    I really love Erika Moen’s work and found the backlash she recieved incredibly upsetting.
    Around the same time, I had several female friends, (who at one time identified as lesbian) marry men. They recieved similar criticism.
    Then I had several non-supportive people in my life use them as examples that some day I’d “settle down and find a man”.
    So identity policing on all sides. yea.
    But I think that a lot of identity policing within the queer community stems from fear about what people outside the community are going to think. Unfortunately, this fails to take into account that people who hate queers are going to find something to justify their beliefs, no matter what.

  6. […] on from Courtney’s excellent AI about self-identification and queer identity policing, I wanted to ask if it was ever possible for […]

  7. June 3, 2012 at 2:15 am —

    I think it’s more than reasonable for asexual people to also identify as queer if they choose to. Yes, there is the potential for privilege, but I think it’s a similar sort of thing when a bi or pan person is in a hetero relationship. Externally it appears that they conform to society’s expectations, but they are fundamentally different and the erasure that they can experience as a result often affects them negatively.

    I’ve been told by people in the queer community that I’m straight and that I’m gay. Never mind that in both cases I told them that I was bi just before they decided to correct me. The thing I really just don’t understand is how people apparently refuse to take a step back and examine how their behaviour so closely mimics that which people have dished out to them in the past.

    I don’t really identify as queer, I have no problem if someone says I’m queer, it’s just that if people ask me what my orientation is I’d tend to say bi and leave it at that. Partly I think it’s because people tend to understand what bi means more easily than queer and partly because I’m really fucking stubborn and I’m not going to shy away from calling myself bi because people tend to shit all over us.

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