It’s a word we’ve used since 1994 to define who we are and what we do here at Buddies. Our definition of queer has evolved along the way – it has been used as a radical word to carve a place in opposition to mainstream culture; an inclusive word to unite various sexual and gender identities under a common cultural cause; a descriptor of artistic values and aesthetics; a political symbol to describe how the way we see the world is informed by our sexuality. (Big thanks to J. Paul Halferty’s essay Queer and Now for the history of queer as a signifier at Buddies)
But for all of the possibilities inside this word, whenever we use it lately we find ourselves confronted by its limitations. As we work to include historically excluded communities at Buddies, we meet folks who do not see themselves included in the word queer, and folks who associate that word with trauma and homophobia.
So as we stand at the milestone of Buddies’ 40th anniversary, we are once again asking ourselves what queer means, how it informs the art we make and connects with the communities we serve. Defining this word is an act filled with possibility, but by definition also establishes parameters or limits for its use. Defining queer also assumes that it’s ours to define, and it’s not. So, instead we’d like to offer a vision of what it can be: an aspirational queerness.
And that is going to require a lot of help.
We offer the following as a provocation. Let it inspire you to think about and imagine what queer means to you. And then tell us. You can join the conversation here on our website (scroll to the bottom of this page), or use #OurQueerIs, or come by the theatre and add to one of the installations we’ve put up all around the building. As we build a vision for the future – for the next 40 years of Buddies – we need to hear your voices so that we can fully understand what our queer is.
Our queer is beautiful.
Our queer is lesbian and gay, it is trans and non binary, it is intersex, it is bi and poly and pan, it is 2-Spirit, it is ace, it is demi, and it is so much more.
Our queer is all the letters in our alphabet rainbow; it is all the letters that have yet to be included and the ones that are still yet to be discovered.
Our queer is intersectional.
Our queer is Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour.
Our queer is Trans, Non-Binary, and 2-Spirit.
Our queer is a diversity of abilities, and ages, and races, and incomes, and sexualities, and genders.
Our queer is acknowledging the historical exclusion and increased persecution that these communities face inside and outside of their queerness.
Our queer demands justice.
Our queer seeks meaningful inclusion.
Our queer holds space for our differences, spaces we each can call our own and spaces where we can come together.
Our queer listens. Our queer is listening.
Our queer is evolving.
Our queer is political.
Our queer is feminist.
Our queer is anti-racist.
Our queer is anti-colonial.
Our queer is truth and reconciliation.
Our queer is the global struggle for legal equality.
Our queer is without borders.
Our queer is opposition to dominant power structures and the fight to dismantle them; our queer is nonconforming.
Our queer is built on a history of activism.
Our queer is allied with struggles for justice and the right to exist.
Our queer is a fuck you, our queer is a riot, our queer is a raised fist.
Our queer is the trans woman of colour who threw the first brick.
Our queer is intergenerational.
Our queer is the people before us on whose shoulders we stand and the generations to come who we will lift up to new heights.
Our queer is the heritage that does not get handed down by birth but must be sought after, discovered, and built on our own.
Our queer is all the people erased from our history because there wasn’t a word for their queerness.
Our queer is the generation we lost to AIDS, and the history that went with it.
Our queer is the families we build for ourselves through love and friendship, and the bigger queer family that we all belong to.
Our queer is sexual.
Our queer is the possibilities of a sexuality liberated from historical and colonial oppression.
Our queer is consent.
Our queer is sex free from the bounds of monogamy, misogyny, and repression.
Our queer is sex without stigma or discrimination.
Our queer is free access to sexual health resources and education.
Our queer is the sex that needs love to accompany it.
Our queer is the love that does not need sex to express it.
Our queer is kink; our queer is leather, and rubber, and toys, and submission.
Our queer is an exploration of pleasure.
Our queer is fucking in bathhouses, and backrooms, and parks, and beaches.
Our queer is sex free of shame.
Our queer is sexual liberation.
Our queer is our art.
Our queer is theatre, and books, and music, and movies, and painting, and poetry.
Our queer is drag queens and kings.
Our queer is our stories.
Our queer is authored by us.
Our queer is DIY.
Our queer is risk and experimentation.
Our queer defies convention.
Our queer includes permission to fail.
Our queer is the power of seeing ourselves reflected in unexpected places, it is the joy of seeing our experience explored and celebrated.
Our queer interrupts the dominant narrative to question authority and lift up the voiceless.
Our queer is a beacon of light for the lonely and hopeless.
Our queer is radical self-expression.
Our queer is a word that feels different on every tongue that speaks it, in every body that holds it.
Our queer is a place where conflict can exist.
Our queer is the tension of shared space.
Our queer is reinventing language
Our queer is difficult, unruly.
Our queer is love.
Our queer is anger.
Our queer is struggle.
Our queer is hope.
Our queer is possibility.
Our queer is a dream for a better world.