Rainbow colored quandary


Do you ever wonder what being queer means? Or how the word originated?

Here’s what I found out :

The Oxford English Dictionary says the noun “queer” was first used to mean homosexual by the Marquess of Queensbury, in 1894. In the Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang (1937), ‘queer’ – a derogatory term meaning homosexual, wasn’t used as widely until 1914 in society. The word ‘queer’ was reclaimed by activists and community groups in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

For example; in 1990, American HIV/AIDS activists (formally known as ACT UP) embraced the word ‘Queer’ during the movement dedicated to fighting for LGBTQAI + rights and visibility.

Since then, “queer” has expanded beyond only “homosexual”. There is no single meaning to the term, except for perhaps “not heterosexual”. For the word “queer” to mean “odd” or “unconventional” has probably skunked and made the term lose most of its earlier meaning. Thus, even though it was a slur for a long time, it has become a label for identifying as queer.

In my opinion, being queer means being free from shackles of normative gender and sexual identities. It gives me a feeling of comfort and safety. As a queer individual, I feel like I belong to a community, which makes me feel like I’ve found my place in the world. In my experience, being queer creates a juxtaposition of familiarity and discomfort. Despite my familiarity with the nuances of being queer, it creates a discomfort of sorts.

Coming to labels, labels have never been my strong suit!

As humans, we like to categorize things. It helps give us a sense of order and structure. By categorizing things, we form schemas or mental categories. Thus, labels feel contrived. The intricacies of labels are beyond my understanding. Labels can be a great source of self-understanding for some LGBTQAI+ people. It can be freeing to be able to define oneself, especially in a world where everyone is considered and expected to be heterosexual and cisgender.

While labels might be meaningful for certain LGBTQAI+ people, they can also be suffocating for others. Labels can be restricting because they require people to behave in a certain way.

For example,

 if someone identifies as an asexual individual, according to the normative idea they shouldn’t have any interest in sexual activities.

Although this is very subjective,  asexuality spectrum is an umbrella term that describes a variety of ways in which a person might identify. Sometimes asexuality can also fall in the gray area. Gray-asexual people fall in between asexuality and non-asexuality.  In some cases, they experience sexual attraction only rarely. In others, they’re unsure if they’ve experienced it or don’t feel that they quite fit the definition of asexual in some way.

For me, it’s annoying to be classified. I feel like I’m being boxed in. It feels as if I am trapped and limited. That’s why I prefer the term Queer. Although I identify as an omnisexual, gender fluid individual, if forced to identify. One thing I have learned about labels is that they are ever changing. You can confide in one label today and a completely different one tomorrow. It’s a fluid process, that too a slow one!

As a 20 year old queer individual who lives in India, I have faced problems I didn’t even know I could. 

During the course of last year, I became aware of the concept of LGBTQ anxiety. My thoughts would sometimes be like this:

 “What if my parents disown me?” 

“ What if I’m pretending who I am?”

“What is the point of having a partner, if we have no future in this country?”

These self-destructive beliefs evoked anxiety. My sexual orientation, for the longest time, was one of my major sources of anxiety. I’m learning to reframe these thoughts in a more optimistic manner. It is a work in progress. Suffice to say, it is probably harder than climbing Mount Everest.

Did you know?

LGBTQAI+ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime. They are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse compared with heterosexual individuals. (APA)

Most research studies indicate a higher susceptibility of mental health issues in queer individuals. What am I to do with these stats? Do they help me in some way? Or do they just make me more gloomy?

I feel like this is something I have to deal with as I grow more and more comfortable with my sexual orientation. I’m integrating both internal and external resources to deal with these issues. However, it is easier said than done. Although I try to focus on things I can control and change, for example, I surround myself with people who love and support me through every step of the way.

There are a myriad of factors that come into play when considering sexual orientation of an individual, more accurately elements that may or may not help an individual to own their sexuality. There is no doubt that the social ecosystem plays a key role. Fear of rejection and serious negative reactions from friends or family kept many LGBTQAI+ adults from openly sharing their lives.

Research from the Family Acceptance Project shows that family rejection has a serious impact on LGBTQAI+ young individual‘s health and mental health. LGBTQAI+ young population who were rejected by their families because of their identity have much lower self-esteem. They are also more isolated and have less support than those who were accepted by their families. 

I too am struggling with my social milieu.

How am I supposed to be okay with the fact that there are millions of people who are against my existence? More importantly, how am I to deal with the fact that people whom I love very dearly are homophobic?

I have no answers to these questions.

On some days, I am devastated and I flee from my reality. I avoid every conceivable individual in my life, including myself.

Well, on other days, I choose to turn my compassion and kindness inward.

In my experience, expressing my sexuality in accordance with other people’s feelings and thoughts has only aggravated my problems. As a result, I’ve tried to turn inwards and rely on my own feelings and thoughts on sexual orientation. There needs to be a balance between the two mechanisms.

The dominant cultural narrative asks us to focus on the positive. That, I do. But I get these small reminders of being uncomfortable with my sexuality everyday –

I observe it when I get hesitant to hold my partner’s hand in public

I feel overwhelmed everytime I tell someone about my sexuality

I get anxious when I hear something homophobic

I observe, I feel, I hear – that is all I can do I guess !

On the positive side, more recently, the internet, school, diversity clubs and LGBTQAI+ youth groups have helped youth to find accurate information, guidance and support. With greater access to resources, more LGBTQAI+ youth are accepting their sexuality during adolescence.

Many countries, including India, are struggling for basic rights such as marriage equality for the LGBTQAI+ population. Raising awareness and advocating for change go hand in hand. Our society has evolved, which has benefited many members of the community. Although there is still a plethora of issues that must be addressed, the ultimate goal should be to establish a society that is egalitarian.

Finally, I hope that everyone finds their way through their own journey and embraces their sexuality 

Happy Pride Month!

Jahanvi , A student of Psychology 

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