I Am Gay and I Am Queer

Keeley Young

[As a gay cis man, I cannot speak on behalf of the trans or drag communities. I only aim to speak as an ally and supporter.]

I am gay and I am queer.

Certain individuals within the queer community have taken to suggesting that the two terms aren’t mutually exclusive and that it is acceptable to cut away a large portion of the community. I felt sick when I saw the image: a pair of scissors threatening the “CUT HERE” line between the first three letters (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals) and every other individual that makes up the so-called alphabet mafia.

Christmas time, 2022: J.K. Rowling tweeted, ‘Merry Terfmas.’

For context, a TERF is typically defined as a ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’. The author of Harry Potter has embraced the moniker more than anything. It’s corny, sure, to position Christmas as a time of community and warm celebration and love, above everything. Yet, while plenty of us were just trying to enjoy the holidays, Rowling laughed at getting called out for her transphobia with a single two-word tweet.

It’s complicated to centre this solely on one woman when transgender identity is a heated discussion as of late. Florida is sort of the epicentre of queerphobic legislation in the US right now. I used to pretend-plan a trip to Disney World, but lately I couldn’t imagine stepping foot in the state because I wouldn’t feel comfortable as myself there. I mean, they have bullshit like a Don’t Say Gay bill, so…

I am a white gay man that could hide his sexuality if he desperately needed to… but I’m not entirely certain the façade would hold up. When I was younger, I understood I was different. I had fewer male friends the older I got through school, which is ironic now because I’m friends with so many gay men. I played with Bratz dolls as a kid and pretended I was a mermaid in the pool. For a while I couldn’t understand that the feelings I would have for girls were superficial, peer pressure, really. Probably why the early crushes on boys hit me like being slogged with a fire-engine-red sack of bricks.

Public displays of affection with ex-boyfriends terrified me. I wasn’t discriminated against for being a man, nor was I for being white. But I’m a gay kid with anxiety. There’s a separate sense of dread in the sort of faith you place in people; I never want to assume people will discriminate against me for my sexuality.

Part of what I’ve come to understand about my anxiety is how I tend to catastrophise. The sorts of things I see on social media and the news can shape how I feel in the world. Feeling a very sharp disconnect from some of the gay men in the queer community reminds me of why I struggle to be entirely comfortable in my own skin.

Time changes the definition of a word. As a reader of classical literature, the word queer was often seen in place of strange, unusual, out of the ordinary. Those words, to me, are compliments, but that is neither here nor there. For a while I was uncertain about the term defining a part of myself that I knew was entirely natural. It was not strange that I identified as gay, there are memories I replay in my head to remind me. This has been you, all your life. You just mature, you just grow.

Sometime in maturing, in growing, I accepted that as a community, we reclaimed queer. It felt more of an umbrella term than gay, which seemed to apply more to gay men and lesbian women.

Now, it’s gay men that I see reject not only the term, but anyone that does not identify as a gay man, lesbian woman, or as bisexual. Transgender people, asexual people, intersex people… I could be here all day listing the people that are excluded when a gay man on Twitter decides the first three letters of the acronym should be in a league of their own.

There is hatred in wanting to punish transgender people and exclude them from the community. The hashtag #LGBWithoutTheT pretends to be a serious discussion of protecting gay men, lesbian women, and bisexuals, but the rhetoric of Us VS Them is so prevalent. There is too much hatred in a community that was established, and is flourishing, on acceptance and the brightest rainbow flag flying in the wind ever made.

Don’t you dare throw transgender people to the wolves.

They are family.

In someone’s bio on Twitter, I saw the words ‘angered by… transing of proto gay children.’ They seemed to state that a person transitioning strips them of their “gay identity”; one of their posts compares it to conversion therapy. We are not losing our queer friends in transition, but here they are denying the literal history of the LGBTQ+ community, standing alongside heterosexual transphobes, and that is killing them.

Trans people are dying.

Gay men can be just as transphobic as cis woman J.K. Rowling, and I am sitting here, fighting back the tears because as a quiet, reserved, depressed queer kid that might not stop calling himself a kid until he’s thirty, I don’t know how to make my words matter. Count for something.

Writing is the form in which I am most comfortable, and even then…

I feel lost in crowds, so I don’t attend the marches and the protests, hoping to avoid an anxiety flare-up. I wrap my arms tight around the money I make because everything continues to rise in price and I am not a doomsday prepper with cans and tins and batteries. I am prepping with money.

I wasn’t old enough to vote when Australia legalised same-sex marriage, and I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the whole world knowing my sexuality then either, but I remember the pure joy of that moment. That movement, pushing forward. Marriage as a concept hasn’t entirely thrilled me lately, but I remember thinking, this is progress.

I could hypothetically get married someday, legally, in my own country.

I don’t want to see queer people continue to lose their rights.

I will never pretend to fully understand politics, and I like to keep away from watching the news where I can, because it depresses me. Sometimes I worry I am watching a world that is reversing. I see news articles online that seem transported from the past, just with the added cruelty of modern technology.

I sober myself, thinking, at least that isn’t happening here in Australia. But, when so much of the media you devour is American, you think of the scary potential of even musicals like Hairspray and Rent suddenly becoming retracted art. Why, because you’re so threatened by a man wearing a dress and dancing around on stage and simply expressing himself?

Inherently, I understand that transgender people and drag performers are feared for many of the same reasons. These two communities have their own voices, their own souls, and their own pride. And yet, there is fear because if you do not actnormal, you are different. Queer people threaten the cis-normative ideal of a biological woman bearing children and being quietly supportive of her loud husband.

Queer people won’t stay quiet.

Stand with transgender and drag communities.

I’m not terribly knowledgeable on much, but what I do know is that you should be in support of the gay, transgender, drag, and + communities that fall within the queer umbrella. One case of a transgender person being responsible for a crime is not indicative of an entire beautiful community of people. Jinkx Monsoon is not trying to indoctrinate your children.

We—the queer community—have done nothing outrageous except ask for the right to live and live without discrimination. Maybe I can do a little good in spreading a message, be it one from the typed-up words of an exhausted, queer, creative writing student.

Author: Keeley Young writes queer literature, fantasy fiction, poetry (sometimes), and emotion-focused work that he hopes makes people feel heard and seen, even just a little. You might be familiar with his work with ScratchThat from last year, where he wrote about cuddling with robots, communing with a dead gay lover, and summoning demons.

Artist: Emma Bruce is a multi-disciplinary visual artist from Yugambeh country working out of Meanjin. Her work discusses the relationship modern society has with the environment through an archival style in hopes to preserve the experience of being in the natural world. Her work hopes to invite her audience to partake in activities that nurture native flora and fauna as well as create a sense of pride to be part of it.

Editors: Kelly Rouzbehi and Rory Hawkins