In class on Thursday during our continuation of a discussion on Judith Halberstam’s In a Queer Time & Place, Hilary informed us about a quote on page 19 that, for a lack of better words, urked her. The quote states, “[m[any urban gays and lesbians of different age groups also express a humanistic sense that their uniqueness can not be captured by he application of blanket term” (19). Halberstam continues, “[t]he emergence of this liberal, indeed neo-liberal, notion of ‘uniqueness as radical sty;e’ in hip queer urban settings must be considered alongside the transmutations of capitalism in late postmodernity” (19). While I agree with Hilary’s sentiments that Halberstam attempts to discredit a legitimate, self identified, portion of the non hetero community while also sounding like a discerning parent, I can see why Halberstam may have problems with the term.

The term queer could be seen as contradictory in nature. Its use as a term designated to define resistance against the “application of a blanket term” used to describe ones identity is essentially doing what it was designed to eradicate. Queer is an identity category, whether it be by traditional or contemporary standards. Because queer is by definition an identity category, It is in some ways a blanket term, in that it is used to categorize a certain group of people. The actual signification of queer, however, separates itself from more traditional identity categories.

Queer is unique in its usage as an identity category because it describes those whose sexuality and/or gender is undefinable. The term queer is defined by the Gender Equity Resource Center of UC Berkeley’s website as “an umbrella term to refer to all LGBTIQ people” as well as “a political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid” (geneq.berkeley.edu). These definitions shows us that while queer is used as an “umbrella term” its use as such is in order to dismantle the heteronormative structures which govern sexuality and gender identity.

If Judith Halberstam had approached the dual nature of the term queer in her assessment of the usage of the term, perhaps she would have seen the term’s appeal as an alternative to subscribing to more constricting labels. And as for her inference that those who identify as queer are young and hip….who can disagree with that?

-Sally Stempler

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