My sexual orientation is an intersection between a linguistic conundrum, a political motivation, a hole in the language, a verb, and a sexual preference.
First things first: a sexual orientation is not a matter of sexual objectification. When someone objectifies another person, they act in such a way as to infer that the person they are objectifying does not belong in the same logical category as people–they are acting entitled, privileged, and selfish. In role-playing, it’s possible to consent to sexual objectification, but that’s something two consenting adults negotiate for first. In the sense that my focus here is, concerning sexual objectification, it hasn’t been negotiated for and occurs without the consent of the objectified individual. This runs in contradiction to my political beliefs–for example, that feminism is this radical idea that women are people.
Secondly, I have a sexual preference–towards people who presently share, or once did share, genital symmetry with me. My preference is not about objectification or fetishization (see above), but a tendency to be more easily sexually engaged by persons who identify as trans or genderqueer, than by any other kind of person. This is in part due to how I personally identify and embody my gender. This is also in part because of my political beliefs about gender and sexual orientation in general–we are more likely share a deeper appreciation for each other, for each others’ political beliefs, and for the validity of each others’ sexual orientations and genders, than I am likely to share with someone who feels gender-congruent.
Now, the linguistic conundrum occurs because I cannot appropriately identify my sexual preference or my sexual orientation as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or even pansexual. To do so would be to conflate a number of issues around what these words connote, and that isn’t fair to my potential partners.
To describe my orientation as gay erases the significance of my potential partners’ gender embodiment and identity, while simultaneously invalidating my identity as genderqueer. My partner may be genderqueer, embodying either binary gender or gender incongruence (or even both). My partner may be trans, and in that event, their experiences before their present identification and embodiment are still an important part of their life and history, which surely informs their perspective on gender and sexual orientation–certainly, I feel that is the case with respect to my own experience. But to claim my present sexual orientation is gay is to erase all of these facts,and I cannot reconcile linguistic erasure of either my identity or my potential partners’ identities with my politics.
Additionally, to describe my orientation as lesbian would be bioessentialist, which I also can’t reconcile with my political loyalties. It would also erase my own gender identity and embodiment, as well as the gender identity and embodiment of my potential partners, taking us both (or all) back in time to when we were hiding behind the conviction that a sexist archetype of womanhood would be easier to live with, than the potential consequences for coming out as we are today. There aren’t adequate words to form even a gesture of how angry this would make me feel towards myself, and I would in no way be able to justify abjecting the hatred of others if this is how I felt–which is exactly how I felt inside until I decided to come out as I am today.
To describe my orientation as bisexual would infer all the very same things that are problematic with identifying it as lesbian or gay. It would also certainly introduce the problem of being socially read as straight, at least some of the time.
And by its very definition, my preference towards people of present or past genital symmetry disqualifies me for appropriately referring to my orientation as pansexual, before I’ve even begun to address how my politics are equally wrapped up in my sexual orientation.
Thus, I am left with queer. Queer is a politically charged patch for a politically significant hole in the language.
I don’t mind identifying my orientation as queer, but seeing as how I’ve just written an entire essay about it, somehow condensing this enormous complex of ideas down to five letters just seems… the epitome of strange.
But my gender is also a part of my identity as queer, and my being out and proud of myself as queer and trans are politically motivated. Thus, queer is a verb, too–in that, everything I personally do as a queer, which is a marginalized group, is political. I also queer gender.