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Queer Etymology 

Queer & There

"Being queer means leading a different sort of

life. It's not about the mainstream, profit-margins,

patriotism, patriarchy or being assimilated. It's not about

executive directors, privilege and elitism. It's about

being on the margins, defining ourselves; it's about gender-

fuck and secrets, what's beneath the belt and deep inside

the heart; it's about the night." — Queer Nation

on ______ street

____as folk

smear the___

____nation

we're here we're ____

here, we determine if this word

is the gun or the knife:

a gun has one purpose

but a knife has many

both pull muscle from skin

can pull breath from lung

but you can't open a letter with a gun

you can't butter your toast

in the morning with a pistol

one changes more radically

based on the hand that holds it

but both can shine like PTSD

regardless of the hand that holds them

who should set down the weapon

who should set down their grief

when does language become too big

for the bodies we try to shove it in

can we free ourselves

with a blade of a word

when the bi cycles

and the dyke bows to water

when gender transgresses binary

and sexuality becomes an ace

we keep up our sleeve

when does the knife become the murder weapon

and when does it become the love letter opener

and when does a fence in Wyoming

become a gallows

and when does a webcam become a weapon

rather than a tool for communication(1)

when Queer Nation wrenched the word,

blade-end, from the hands that kept

trying to hold it

hostage, they did so

because the hands that built the cage

do not get to own the word

or the air inside of it

and now this word that has been so used

to outline our names in chalk

now renders us ephemera

try to outline this:

not bisexual homoromantic genderqueer as in

"here is my life, for you, on the platter of my tongue"

but queer as in

"my sex, my body, my love"

belongs to me.

can't be held in language like that

was not always given a name for a reason:

not like closet

more like

how there is no word

for the mosaic

a sky becomes

when filtered through branches

not every good thing needs a name

needs to be separated

on the island of

gold star lesbian(2)

and kinsey(3) bear

neutrois(4) with new pronouns

queer man and woman

the world reads as straight

here we are: we

are not what the world

who made that word

wanted us to be

and what a joy it is

to not quite fit

that standard

here, let us

celebrate

our exclusion

together

1 Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured and left to die on a fence near Laramie, Wyoming, by two straight men. Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate used a webcam to record him and another man kissing.

2 A lesbian who has never slept with a man.

3 Kinsey 4 — Mostly gay, but kinda not. Based on the Kinsey Scale, a scale for measuring sexuality, although based in a binary system. Bear — a large gay man, often with a lot of body hair. You can google it, but you might find porn.

4 A non-binary identity that is defined as a sort of "neutral" or "null" gender.

Editor's note: Local artist Rosa Byun contributed to this piece in its original form, as seen in the 2/15 print edition of the Independent.

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