Is queerness something that all lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people have in common? Is it a sexual identity, a political identity, both, or something else entirely? Sometimes “queer” is used as a slur, yet there are many people who proudly self-identify as queer.
What Is It
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual… it is safe to say that new ideas of gender and sexuality have broken into mainstream consciousness within the past few decades. What underlies each of these identities, however, is the notion of Queerness. But what defines what it means to be queer? Is it as much a political identity as it is a sexual or gender identity? How does ‘queerness’ subvert or challenge our notions of gender and sexuality? John and Ken welcome Susan Stryker from the University of Arizona, author of Transgender History: The Roots of Today's Revolution.
What does it mean to be queer? Is it a sexual identity? Political identity? Or something else? Has it turned into simply an empty umbrella term? John and Ken introduce these questions as the episode begins. Ken suggests that the queer identity remains both contested and in flux. John questions the usefulness of a term that has such a hard to define meaning. By examining the original definition of the word, however, they both can see why it this former slur has been reclaimed by people of varying genders and sexualities.
Our hosts are joined by Susan Stryker, Professor of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Arizona and former Director of the Institute for LGBT Studies. Susan delves into the history of the word queer and the reasons for its reclamation. Ken remains puzzled about the particular choice of queer as the umbrella term for non-normative identities, to which Susan explains the historical beginnings of queer's modern usage and the benefits that it offers. An audience question via Instagram sparks discussion over the questions of what role pronouns play in one's life and identity.
An email question from an audience member brings up the issue of gendered bathrooms. Susan suggests that public bathrooms will inevitably require redesigning, and explains the need for education about the price of gendering bathrooms. Ken wonders how much accommodation the queer identity can make for accordance to the normalized structures and ideas that it seems to be in principle working against. John brings up the importance of television and the media in representing queer identities to society on a grand scale. These ideas and more and discussed with Susan as the episode comes to a close.
Roving Philosophical Reporter (seek to 6:43): Shuka Kalantari speaks with a trans woman who was forced to spend years in a male prison, and the choreographer of a queer-centric, dance theatre piece.
60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 46:03): Ian Shoales speaks about the complexities of being gay or lesbian in the past and the fall of Milo Yiannopoulos.