June 5, 2018 at 2:19 pm PDT | by Robin Tyler
Don’t call me ‘queer’

Robin Tyler produced the main stages for three marches on Washington and 25 women’s music and comedy festivals. She and her wife, Diane Olson, were the first lesbian plaintiffs in the lawsuit that brought marriage equality to California. (Photo courtesy Robin Tyler)

In the early 1990s, I produced the “1st International Gay & Lesbian Comedy Festival” in Australia for Sydney Gay Mardi Gras. However, when I walked up to the theater, the marquee read: “The 1st Annual Queer Comedy Festival.”

My totally inexperienced Australian co-producer casually remarked, “You don’t mind, do you?”

Yes, I did. I could not believe she had changed the title without asking me! It was my production but she thought it would be hip to change the name of the festival, even though all the performers identified as lesbian or gay. She totally eradicated the cultural visibility in the first international festival of its kind.

After decades of fighting, we finally had the word “lesbian” added to “gay” so we women could be acknowledged, too.

“Queer,” the new umbrella word for the movement, once again renders lesbians invisible. Lots of gay men don’t like the word “queer,” either. It homogenizes our community—and when you homogenize something, it becomes a pop chic banner in which individual struggles get lost.

We are a Civil Rights Movement fighting inequality—this banner does not describe our movement. Anyone who feels or presents differently can identify as queer.   

We are supposed to “reclaim” the word queer—take the sting out of the insult. Never. Many of us spent our lives fighting for lesbian and gay rights and trans rights and bi rights and non-binary rights. We may not remember the pain of the rape or the bang of the baseball bat but we still remember the pain of being called “queer” as the macho-pretenders and the gay bashers beat the crap out of us.

I will not disappear as a woman. For those of you who call me gender queer, I call me butch, instead. It isn’t queer to be gender fluid and have various expressions of male and female or both. It is natural. Society made it “queer.” 

Our movement isn’t from the waist down. It is not about crotch politics. I am a lesbian because I have always loved and been attracted to women, whether we have sex or not. So I will not disappear behind anyone else’s banner. Call me old. That’s just another name.

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