Gatekeeping in the Queer Clubhouse

20 05 2011

This is a rather angry response I wrote upon seeing that the creators of The Queeriodic Table have decided that trans, intersex and genderqueer people are no longer queer, merely ‘allies’, unless we have LGB status as well.


Creating a project with a surface goal of representing a minority group, and then using it as a means to erase the identities of other, less powerful subgroups that you’d rather kick out? It’s an old trick, but it still stings.

Genderqueer, trans and intersex people have been a vital part of the queer community since it’s inception. To attempt to brush us to the gutter as ‘Allies’ of the community is not only incredibly offensive (I’m well aware that offense is cheap), but more importantly it erases our identities as queer people. And we are queer people just as much as anyone else is.

“To me, queer is about your sexuality, not your gender identity.”

Well, that’s what counts, isn’t it? Thankyou so much for telling us that because you’re cis and we’re not, you’re allowed to redefine the cultural label of ‘queer’ to erase us, because we dirty up the nice, cleanly cut idea of Your Community that you’d like to present to the world.

“There will, of course, be some overlap but I don’t want to assume it.”

We’re allowed in, oh of course! But only if we fit one of the other categories. Being trans alone isn’t enough to join this clubhouse anymore. Or at least, that seems to be the author’s ideal. How patronising.

Surely you assume it by including gay, lesbian, bi, et cetera? There are many people of all of the above who find the idea of being labelled as ‘queer’ deeply unsettling, and refuse to identify as such. So that argument appears to be unequally applied here, specifically targetting trans, intersex and genderqueer people because the creator of the piece would rather they weren’t considered part of the community.

People with gender variant identities and experiences have been an integral part of the queer movement and cultural identity from the very beginning. Refusal to comply with normative assumptions of male and female roles and behaviors is at the very core of queerness. To attempt to excise those who have less presence and voice in this community because of your own preferences is damaging and oppressive.

If this post sounds angry, it’s because having one’s identity trampled over and erased is rather bracing.


This reminds me of the 2009 NUS LGBT conference, which I attended. There was a group of  LG(B?) folk who made a push to try and erase the term ‘queer’ from all literature the NUS LGBT put out. These people had enough power that at least one had a high-ranking political role within the organisation. I was told that they did this every year. There was a protest, during which many trans men and women in attendance stood up, because their identities were being erased.  I don’t know all of them, so I couldn’t say who had what sexuality. But I do know that there were those of us who were not L, G or B. And I know that if those people (whom the author can safely assume are ‘queer’) had succeeded, the queer caucus would have been summararily banned from all future events, due to being unable to even print the word. They found it that offensive. This may seem tangential, but this is why the argument ‘But we don’t want to assume on trans people..!’ falls flat for me.

Nothing automatically makes a person queer without their consent. It’s not a label that works that way. It’s a label that started out as a slur that cis, straight society pushed onto us, and some of us took as our own. It’s a label for those of us who have had to carve out our place in a cisnormative, heteronormative society, because we are told every day that our identities are false, our relationships perverse and our presentation unacceptable. We are told that we are one gender that we are prescribed from birth, and that there are behaviors and relationships that are acceptable and unacceptable for persons of that gender.  The fight against this oppression is not just one of sexuality. We’re called queers. And our response is to take that name and make it ours.

I’m genderqueer, and I’m trans. I’m not L, G or B. I’m asexual. I’m queer. If you don’t like it, that’s too bad, because I’m not going to go away. We’re not going to go away. Rewrite history, fence off our cultural heritage,  and we’re still here.




One response

20 05 2011

I know where this went down, and I have responded there. You might like to take a look.

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