Tag Archives: Queer

This Week in Queer Web Content // April 10, 2013

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Bitch and proud!

As a woman (or womon, if you prefer—personally I like riot grrl) I have made myself a personal goal to reclaim the word ‘bitch’ and make it something positive. Does that make you uncomfortable? Good. That’s a place to start.

We can do it!

Part of image “Rosie the Riveter” by J.Howard Miller

Us queer folk are well versed in the art of reclaiming words. It comes with the territory.

Members of minority groups inevitably get labeled. Whatever the linguistic origin of those words, they are designed to hurt. Labels are made to put an oppressed group in their place and lay bare their differences as a negative. Take the word ‘queer.’

The word itself originated from the Old High German word ‘twerh’ meaning oblique. The word itself is an adjective and means odd or off-centre. It was first recorded as an adjective to describe gay men in 1922. As men who are odd and off-centre, I suppose.

In the 1980s the gay community decided to reclaim the word. It was impossible to ignore the fact that ‘queer’ was being used as a weapon by homophobes. So instead of ignoring it we tamed it. We removed the sting and made it harmless. Something to be proud of, even.

In most of North America today, ‘queer’ is simply used as a term to encompass all members of our community: gay, lesbian, trans, bi, or any other descriptive word s/he’d like to use. Hence the name of this blog.

Today queer can still be used in the context of an insult, but it’s a weak one and we don’t give much credence to it. The few who still use ‘queer’ in a derogatory context are backward and bigoted. Today, if someone calls me queer, I can look at them square in the face and say, “Yeah, I am. What’s your point?”

Now let’s take a look at ‘bitch.’ The word’s dictionary definition is “a female dog.” This was always the case, even in its Old English form. I can’t imagine why this would ever be considered an insult. I live with two female dogs. They are kind, intelligent and full of personality. When they play with male dogs, they are not lessor beings. In fact they often take the lead.

I would be proud to be grouped among them. More so than some members of my own species.

Still, ‘bitch’ has a long and sordid history. It’s been used to describe women in the lowest and meanest ways possible for about 600 years, to denote women as ugly, mean or hysterical.

To this day, ‘bitch’ is used to dismiss women with important things to say and do. It’s certainly not uncommon for powerful, intelligent women, especially those in business or politics, to be dismissed by a rival as a bitch.

Some women have already been reclaiming bitch, and wear the badge proudly. There are multiple pop-culture examples, from bumper stickers to online memes discussing how awesome it is to be a bitch. In 1996 the feminist quarterly entitled Bitch published its first issue. The publication is still experiencing success.

Others feel uncomfortable with the idea of reclaiming ‘bitch.’ It has been used for so long to subjugate and victimize women who are strong and outspoken. Just like ‘queer,’ it can be hard to feel comfortable and come to terms with the word—all the more reason to embrace it.

Women, trans and cis, make up more than half the human population and yet we can find daily examples of subjugation and abuse. We need as much empowerment as we can get, and language is one of our strongest tools. Language evolves.

Just like ‘queer,’ it’s impossible to avoid hearing ‘bitch’ in a negative context, so we have to change it.

So here’s to all the bitches and their supporters. Next time someone calls you or someone you love a bitch, look them in the eye and tell them, “and proud.”

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PTS Services: QPOC-IT

My first meeting with the QPOC-IT discussion group was certainly a positive experience.  The setting was welcoming and intimate; everyone there had similar intentions of accessing a safe space in order to discuss issues important to them, network, and form friendships. Since this was our first meeting, the facilitator began by asking us, “‘what does the term ‘“person/people of colour’” mean to you’?” The answers were varied, bringing up both negative and positive definitions of the words. Based on the rich conversation that ensued, it’s safe to say that it’s a loaded term.

POC can be used as a safety blanket to enclose all people of colour when people are unsure what to label someone as, this way avoiding an awkward corrections. “‘This label is something mainly seen in the western world,”’ mentions a group member, “a citizen from any African country would not describe themselves as a person of colour necessarily”.” The term seems to perpetuate a racist binary between those who are “‘of colour’” and those who are white when employed to group all non-white persons together.  This homogenization of people of colour leads to the erasure of differences between cultures and people, making separate struggles seem meaningless.

With this being said, the term can have a positive connotation too, when used to create a sense of community. It can be regarded as an act of solidarity between queer people of colour, as  our communities often do not accept us due to homophobia and clashes between generations and classes.

In light of this, the facilitator asked another question:.

“How can we support each other, in this new found community of queer, coloured folk?”

Support is essential for us, as there are other systems of oppression are at work within the queer community. Many of us feel as though the gay community is largely a white community where queer QPOC’s needs are not always validated.

The fetishization of people of colour, in which people of colour are considered sexual objects for exploitation, is too real to some of us and the lack of understanding people have of personal oppression makes it hard for people of colour to even want to date within the gay community. Some people of colour feel that these gaps in understanding disallow for the kind of connection achieved through dating someone else of colour; sometimes it’s easier to be with someone you can relate to, who can validate your experiences as they have experienced them too.

Support is an ongoing need that will continue to be addressed and no doubt discussed again in the future. We have only scratched the surface of the topics QPOC-IT and its members want to discuss as we continue to meet. Intersectionality, fighting oppressions not as individual issues but as a unit, was brought up as a future topic. If you think this is a group that interests you, we welcome anyone to come participate or observe our interesting talks!

–Angela Guerrero

The group runs on the last Tuesday of every month. Follow @PTSottawa on Twitter for reminders and updates.

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Mental Health and the Queer Community

I think that it is about time that we get real about mental illness in the queer community. Certainly we talk about youth suicide as a result of bullying in the queer community but not much else. And, even if we do talk about queer youth suicide we do it in a way that others people as victims we need to mourn. The truth is we do need time to mourn and grieve the losses of our community. Sometimes these losses are so impactful that we time away. However it is more than just bullying that affects our community another major factor is mental illness.

 

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, mental illness affects one in five Canadians directly and the other four will have someone in their life with a mental illness. Mental illness includes any psychological condition that has a major negative impact on a person’s well-being and mental health. This includes depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders and many more listed in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association.

 

Within the queer community, I think there is some extra stigma surrounding mental illness due to our history with psychiatry. Up until 1973, being gay, lesbian or bisexual was considered a mental illness and still today being trans can land you with a mental illness diagnosis, especially if you’re transsexual and trying to access health care in Ontario. Being considered mentally ill simply for who we are certainly acts as a deterrent towards accessing mental health care. And even for those of us who are not pathologized, there is still a very serious concern that our sexual orientation or gender identity will come under scrutiny by mental health professionals.

 

The reality, however, is that we do live with mental illness in the queer community. And, in my experience, I’ve seen higher rates of mental illness in the queer community than in some others, most likely due to the stresses that we live with as a marginalized population. Let us stop dismissing mental illness in our communities and let us say, yes I live with mental illness and I’m queer. 

 

If you are a mental health service provider and want to make it better for queer clients email education@ptsottawa.org. If you want to help end stigma in our communities volunteer at volunteer.coordinator@ptsottawa.org. If you need queer-specific counselling support make use of our Celebrating Self counselling program by emailing celebrating.self@ptsottawa.org.

 

-Jade Pichette

Education Programs Coordinator

PTS – A Centre for Ottawa’s Queer Community

education@ptsottawa.org; 613.563.4818

 
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June 18: Poly and Relationship Styles Workshop

PTS is launching a new workshop with our Education Programs on Polyamory & Other Relationship Styles!

June 18th: 5:30pm – 7:00pm @ PTS, 251 Bank Street Suite 301
Come join PTS as we launch this new workshop to discuss the diversity of relationship styles and how to respect a diversity of relationship styles including polyamory, monogamy, polyfidelity, monoamory, polygamy and much more! People familiar and unfamiliar with these styles very much welcome!

Suggested Donation of $5 for community members and $25 for service providers. PTS education and discussion group volunteers get in for FREE! Please register by emailing education@ptsottawa.org by noon on June 18th.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/239099176201576/

-Jade Pichette

Education Programs Coordinator, PTS

 
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The Queer Heterosexual?

There is a lot of discussion in the GLBTTQ communities about who is actually part of the “queer” community. Is it only people who sleep with those of the same gender? Does it include trans folks? Where are the lines drawn for queer? 

At PTS, we see queer as those who fall outside heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is a term used to describe the marginalization of lifestyles that do not conform to societies expectation of congruity between physical sex and gender. Instances of this include the idea that people fall into two distinct categories of sex ( HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male” \o “Male” male and  HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female” \o “Female” female) or gender (man and woman), that sexual and marital relations are “normal” only between people of different sexes and only with one committed/married partner at a time, and that each sex has certain “normal” roles in life. The hetero-normative view is that physical  HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex” \o “Sex” sex,  HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_identity” \o “Gender identity” gender identity, and  HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_role” \o “Gender role” gender expression should always align to either all- HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male” \o “Male” male or all- HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female” \o “Female” female  HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_norm” \o “Cultural norm” cultural norms. In the workshops that I facilitate on queer inclusivity, I ask the question: can someone be heterosexual and queer? This may be controversial, but I definitely think it is possible to be both heterosexual and queer!

In the time I’ve worked at PTS, and in other community work that I’ve done, I’ve met people that, despite only being attracted to people of the same gender, were very queer. Some were children of GLBTTQ parents, others were community advocates, and many more rejected the other tenants of heternormativity, including having only one partner, getting married, having children, and having only vanilla sex (not that those are bad relationship styles if they work for you). 

Recognizing that the queer community is about our shared oppressions and living outside of a heteronormative model could work to further our rights and community. Being queer involves recognizing that everyone has a sexual orientation, a gender identity, varied sexual identities and preferred relationship styles and that any assumptions of how those look harms us all.

So let me propose a few criteria for being queer:

1) Challenging heteronormativity in your gender, sexual orientation or identity and/or relationship style.

2) Being (or at least desiring to be) active within a queer community.

3) Experiencing some form of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia or queerphobia.

I think there are many people who fit into those parts that are heterosexual. To all those heterosexuals who are queer and also help with PTS, I salute you.

 Image

–Jade Pichette

Education Programs Coordinator, PTS

education@ptsottawa.org

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