I was the first queer I ever met, and I didn't meet any queers except myself for almost two full years--and for most of that time, I didn't have any access to queer books or music either. I couldn't go to the library unless my mother drove me, and if she drove me then she'd want to know what books I got, so I couldn't get any queer books. I did listen to an awful lot of queer bands (Is there really such a thing as a straight alternative band? I can't think of any offhand) but I didn't KNOW, at that time, that they were queer. So really the only information I had about other queers for those two years was the TV news, and everything on TV was about queers saying they were "born that way" and "couldn't help it." (1992-94 was a big era for studies which claimed to "prove" queerness was genetic. Simon LeVay, Laura Allen and Dean Hamer, among others, all came out with studies one after another.) I found it very hard to believe that all the other queers in the world saw things in such an entirely different way from me. I was constantly debating with myself over whether those were real queers on TV or just some cardboard cutouts with all their words prerecorded for them by straight reporters. They just all seemed so different from me that I couldn't believe we were all grouped under the single term of "queer."
In college I got very active in the queer community. Unlike the queers I'd seen on TV, the queers I met in real life did not spend 59 out of ever 60 minutes repeating over and over "I can't help it! I was born this way!" In fact, they never brought up the subject of "causes" for queerness at all--really, there ARE other things to talk about!--and so I didn't bring it up either. I was anxious to fit in with my newfound community.
But in my senior year I took a psychology class on homosexuality and the professor was exactly like the cardboard cutouts on TV. He lectured us about how queerness had been "proven" to be genetic, citing statistics such as "50% of the identical twins of gay men are also gay"--to which I responded: (A) If being gay is NOT genetic, if becoming gay is just a matter of recognizing within oneself the ability of all humans to be attracted to members of our own sex, then if you're the identical twin of a gay man and you live in a society where everybody's convinced that queerness is genetic, then wouldn't that make you an awful lot more likely to search within yourself for a sign of potential gayness? If you search, you will find. I think everybody has the potential to be queer, it's just that only a tallented few actually discover and develop the potential. And (B) 50% of the identical twins of gay men are NOT gay. Which proves right there that queerness CAN'T be wholly genetic.
Anyway, this professor made me really angry over and over all semester. (He was also of the opinion, by the way, that bisexuals and trannies are all just homosexuals in denial!) I might have dropped the class except I knew that would have made him happy. So I stuck around and complained nonstop. He actually told me I was the only queer in the world who claimed to have chosen it. I was so mad at him. Anyway, I wrote him a big long term paper all about what it's like to be queer by choice in a world which refuses to acknowledge such a possibility. The term paper also included a survey of what various queers consider to have "caused" their queerness, and the survey proved that I was not the ONLY one.
So that was my college experience. Wow, this message is getting really long. Now about what's happened since then. In March, when I finally got an apartment of my own for the first time, I went online in a much bigger way than I had been before. I had to invent a regular chatroom name for myself, so I named myself QueerByChoice--I get a whole lot of comments on that name every time I meet anyone new in a chatroom. And then I discovered the ONElist site and suddenly realized that I could start my own mailing list about anything in the world! I ran a search on several different websites that list mailing lists, and I couldn't find a single mailing list anywhere that was about this topic, so I started this list.
A few other things about myself. Like Nikki, I like blending genders--in fact, I never divulge my gender online! I like to maintain an element of mystery about myself. When I use the name Gayle, most people consider me female; however, I don't really see it as a gendered name because I've met a a few men with that name. Also it's not really the name I was born with anyway (I also use the names Cyrus and Cynthia, and I was really born with one of those names--it's your guess as to which one!). Anyway, Gayle Madwin is the pen name under which I write stories and send them out every month to enlarge my collection of rejection slips, and I thought I'd use that one on this list since it's easier than switching back and forth all the time between Cyrus and Cynthia.
Oh! Another thing about me--I'm very into literature. I write and I also read constantly. I do silly things with words. I have all kinds of files on my computer which are full of nothing but pages and pages of quotes I found meaningful. A lot of them involve queerness and choice, actually, so I'll probably toss quotes out now and then on this list. I'll close this message with one now.
A woman on a panel said she chose to be a lesbian and the audience was just going crazy! "What does this mean?" and "Well, do you still have an attraction to men?" And she said, "No, I don't." And they said, "But that can't be, if you had it before." And she said, "Yeah, I used to like cheese but I don't eat cheese anymore and I actually don't like it; it was an acquired taste. Men were an acquired taste. I no longer have the taste for them." People were like, "What? Oh no!" Weeping and gnashing of teeth.I really like that quote. Okay, I think I've written more than enough pages to wear your eyes out by now. It's just that it takes so many words to do myself justice!
a queer man, quoted in Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity, by Vera Whisman, 1996