Saw this conversation seconds after reading this quote on Tumblr about what it means to be queer:
Some will read “queer” as synonymous with “gay and lesbian” or “LGBT.” This reading falls short. … Queer is a territory of tension, defined against the dominant narrative of white-hetero-monogamous-patriarchy, but also by an affinity with all who are marginalized, otherized, and oppressed.
Go read the whole quote and the reaction to it, which I think underscores cabell’s point below quite well.
If your skin, are you following me? Is white, still with me? You cannot “choose to identify” as a POC.
Same goes for: if you’re cis, you are not trans. You see that?
SO THAT MEANS
IF YOU ARE STRAIGHT
YOU ARE NOT
Oh I’m sorry, did I hurt your appropriative straight-privileged ass? GTFO.
What’s that? I’m SELFISH? No. Just no.
lol wtf? Straight people have no business identifying as queer. What is this, some sort of thing so-called “allies” are doing?
There are a couple of major problems here. First of all, reducing race to only skin color, as the OP does, is inaccurate—it reaffirms completely bogus biological constructions of race, ignoring the fact that the category is socially constructed. Perhaps more immediately damaging, it erases POC with white skin: American Indians and many Latinos in the US come immediately to mind, as well as various multiracial people. While “light skin” privilege certainly exists, it does not mean that there are no white-skinned POC, nor does it mean that the capacity to “pass” allows people to avoid all negative consequences of racism—
—or, for that matter, that “passing” is experienced in itself as a good thing at all times for all people. Think about how bisexual people feel about “passing”; to me, it almost always feels like being erased, not like I scored some points.
The other problem, that of asserting ownership of a big umbrella term like “queer” and a corresponding right to decide who is allowed to identify with it, is that there is no strict definition by which to do so. Are people who are transgender, but straight-identified, part of the queer label? Most people would say yes. Of course, individual transgender people might not agree—hell, many individual LGB people do not agree, especially older ones!—and people have just as much right NOT to be queer as they do to be queer. It’s an identity; identity is self-determined.
Transgender people, or genderqueer people, have a gender identity that does not matched their birth-assigned gender. This is a clear criterion. I am a cisgender woman; I was identified as a girl, raised as a girl, and I now identify as a woman (or a drag queen, but I clarify that as more of an internal sense of who I am, recognizing that it will almost never be the way that others interpret me, with even odds that if people do interpret me that way, they will mean it as an insult—but I digress).
What about polyamorous people, or people who practice BDSM and other kinks? These are people whose sexual/romantic expression opens them up to various forms of discrimination: loss of child custody, loss of jobs, familial and larger social disapprobation. Sounds a lot like being LGBT, doesn’t it? If these people identify as “straight,” but also as poly and kinky, what is it about their identity and lived experiences that makes them not “queer”?
This isn’t to say that some people might not assume a label because they want some kind of indie cachet, but that I find attempts to police the category—which is so amorphous to begin with—more problematic.