Individual suffering (or lack thereof) should not determine queerness.

(originally posted April 19, 2014 at http://nextstepcake.tumblr.com/post/83256994241/individual-suffering-or-lack-thereof-should-not)

So I’ve been thinking more about why it is that statements like “You’re asexual? Well, you’ve never been disowned by your parents or harrassed on the street, therefore you’re not a real queer” really bother me. The assumption that asexuals can’t have problems or can’t be queer is huge part of it, but for me I think the biggest problems that I personally find with it are these:

1. It measures individual queerness by individual suffering, which effectively punishes queer folks who have been lucky enough to fare relatively well for not having suffered enough, which is a really harmful and limiting perspective that get stuck obsessing over past oppressions instead of fighting for future opportunities and equates making social progress with betrayal of the “true queer” ideal.

2. It assumes that I, personally, have been fortunate solely because of my asexuality, and that if I were a “real queer” I’d have the suffering to prove it – when in actuality, I am fortunate mostly for other reasons that still would not change even if I had a more “traditionally queer” identity like being lesbian or bisexual:

  • It’s true that I have not been disowned, or ever had to fear it- not because I am asexual, but because I have a very accepting, LGBT+ friendly family. My parents have always made it clear that there is absolutely nothing bad or unusual about being something other than heterosexual, and coming from a family with multiple relatives already out of the closet and the knowledge that they will be cool with me no matter what meant that I was lucky enough to escape that fear – no matter what I ended up identifying as.
  • It’s true that It’s not illegal for me to marry my (hypothetical) partner – not because I am asexual, but because I live in California, which in a major supreme court decision this summer legalized marriage for all couple regardless of gender. (whether we’d be recognized elsewhere would be a 50/50 chance depending on my partner’s legal sex, much like it would be for many other non-monosexual queer people)
  • It’s true that people don’t harass me when I’m with my partner – mostly because I’m single and don’t have a partner, so as with all single people, queer or otherwise, this was not even applicable in the first place.
  • It’s true that I am not harassed on the street much – because I have a conventional, not very butch look, and I happen to spend most of my time in some of the most queer friendly areas of the country. Since no one ever stops and politely asks how you identify before they harass you anyway, my actual sexual orientation doesn’t actually have any input on this.
  • It’s true that I have never been harassed for being at an ‘asexual’ bar – mostly because we have no permanent resources like that, but then I’ve never been harassed when leaving actual gay bars and queer conferences and other such spaces.

All of these statements of my so-called “asexual privilege” would have been equally true if I were bisexual, which is what I thought I probably was before I found asexuality, and which is still the most resonant identity for me after asexuality.

Using suffering as a benchmark for queerness isn’t just harmful to people like asexuals who often face difficulties different from the stereotypical ones – it’s harmful to any queer person who has had the good fortune to live a good life. By defining queerness solely by suffering it precludes the possibility of a future where queer people can be free of suffering. So instead of trying to invalidate the identify of anyone who hasn’t had to suffer as much as some stereotype would predict, we should be working towards a future where all queer people will be able to be that fortunate.

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About Sennkestra

I'm an aromantic asexual and a bit of an [a]sexuality nerd, recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in linguistics. When I'm not reading stuff on the internet I like to cook fancy food, watch anime, and make costumes and other arts and crafts projects.
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3 Responses to Individual suffering (or lack thereof) should not determine queerness.

  1. Exactly! I sometimes have people say this to me because I’m non-binary and can “easily pretend to be a real girl”, unlike some of my other trans friends. It’s also funny how they assume so much about your life just because of how you identify.

  2. Pingback: Linkspam: April 25th, 2014 | The Asexual Agenda

  3. timberwraith says:

    I have friend who came out as lesbian much later in life. She experienced a shift in her sexual orientation as she was hitting mid-life. Prior to that, she was exclusively heterosexual. Consequently, she didn’t have to go through the pain and suffering of growing up queer in a hateful, repressive society—experiences which caused me a lot of pain and emotional damage.

    Would I revoke her “queer card” because she didn’t experience the suffering I did? No, because that would truly be an @sshole stunt to pull. “Hey, I’m more damaged than you are. Your life has been too comfortable. So, GTFO!”

    Gotta love how an oppressed community of people is more than willing to eat their own.

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