I needed something for thoughts that are too long for Twitter or Facebook, but don't comprise a full blog post. Fortunately, that's what Tumblr is for.
Her sister herself said Sally “didn’t use labels”, which is awesome. But it’s also important, I think, to have some way to have a descriptor that says “she wasn’t (just) heterosexual”, for reasons I mentioned in my earlier post.
LGBT leaves people out, LGBTQ is better, but once you get to LGBTQIA it starts getting alphabet-soup and you’re still excluding a whole host of things that don’t fit in the alphabet.
I’ve taken to using “queer” as an umbrella term, and Wikipedia confirms my usage - “an umbrella term for sexual minorities that are not heterosexual, heteronormative, or gender-binary” - but also confirms my fears of it being problematic - “some LGBT people disapprove of using queer as a catch-all because they consider it offensive, derisive or self-deprecating given its continuous use as a form of hate speech”.
Sally’s sister seems to use “gay” roughly as I am using “queer”, and I’m a huge fan of that. I think that’s almost the best option. But “gay” still pretty much has a primary meaning of “homosexual male”. The more expansive “non-hetero” meaning only really comes out when it’s used to describe people who can’t be homosexual males - namely, females. So, that’s problematic.
In addition to being awkward, “non-straight” or “non-hetero” (as has been pointed out to me previously) implies that straight is the default and everything else is an exception/wrong/lesser.
So, “queer” is, I think, the best I’ve got. And saying “why do we need labels at all, just let people be what they are” is well and good, and in an ideal world would be fine. But I think that there are lots of reasons that we need to be able to describe someone as not being heteronormative without sounding clinical.
A significant one is what I posted about Sally ride - kids, notably kids that aren’t white males, need to have people to look up to that are like them. Sally Ride has been a kickass role model for girls for decades, and she formed a company whose express purpose is to encourage girls to pursues their interests in science even if they are outnumbered. Sally’s being a woman astronaut (and physics Ph.D.) is a huge part of that. Kids that aren’t heteronormative need that as much as girls in science do.
And maybe it’s enough to just say “she loved a woman for nearly half her life”, especially when it comes to kids who don’t really care about labels anyway. But that kind of lengthy descriptor doesn’t work in all circumstances.
So, the main motivator for this post: for those of my followers/tumblrfriends/random tag-browsing people - especially those that are somewhere on the QUILTBAG spectrum - thoughts? Do you think that “queer” is an okay label for straight male allies like myself to use? Do you have any better recommendations? Do you think I’m just being silly and should stop worrying so much about labels?