Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Percieved Scarcity of Language

By society we are taught that the world runs via a scarcity model, the belief that with unlimited desires from humans and limited resources we will run out of everything unless it is rationed. While this may be true for things like fossil fuels, it has become so engrained into us that we begin to believe that even language itself is scarce and must be guarded.

Queer, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, originally meant something odd or eccentric until the mid-1700s when it began to gain a negative connotation before becoming what we know of it now in the 1920s. Queer originally started as a term used by gay people then became a slur then turned back into an identity. Currently, it serves as an undefined umbrella term for the LGBTQ community. Some people guard it and fight for it to remain that way. They define queer solely by LGBT people and by LGBT people only. I have had conversations with become people who become aggravated at the mere mention of a straight person in the BDSM or Kink communities using it. I question if this is a fair way to use it.

Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley, an associate professor at the University of Texas, pushes us in her article "Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic" (2006) to view “Queer (sic) not in the sense of a “gay” or same-sex loving identity waiting to be excavated from the ocean floor but as a praxis of resistance” [1]. In her article, Tinsley argues that the Atlantic was a queer space, because slaves loved each other in ways they were never supposed to love. She fights to expand our notion of queer into being someone who loves someone who was/is never supposed to be loved in the eyes of our society, which is how I view queer. Anyone who loves anyone, who, by society’s standards, is seen as less than human, is queer. Someone who wholly loves, honors, and cherishes loves a person of color, a disabled person, a trans* person, a LGB person, a marginalized person, more than society ever will, is queer in my eyes. It is not our place to say who can and cannot identify as queer. People should not be excluded from the word queer because they are in a “straight” relationship. Language does not have limits. Language will never run out. We need to build communities based off of love and not exclusion.

[1] Tinsley, Omise’eke Natasha, “Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic,” GLQ 14:2-3 (Duke Press: Durham 2006), 199.

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