February 27, 2010

Queer by any other name...

The other night I took part in a focus group of professional gay men, as part of the building process of a new organization of, well, professional gay people. There were about a dozen of us, different careers, different demographics. We were there to offer input on what the organization should be (networking, social advocacy, etc) and what it should be called.

The working title is EQP, Edmonton Queer Professionals. And yes there were supposed to be women there too, none of them showed up (there was a hockey game on tv).

From the discussion... the word professional is controversial - does that make it sound like exclusively lawyers and doctors? Is it welcoming or intimidating? And the word gay wasn't used, queer was. Also controversial - is that word derogatory? Is it old-fashioned? It can be both I think, and is also efficient and concise, better than the unwieldy LGBTQXYZ or whatever we are currently using. Should the word business be in there? Is that our purpose?

Should the name be out and loud, and super obviously gay like The Gay Men's Business Association? Or more subtle like The Association?

The word Queer is growing on me. Yes it was an ugly name meaning odd or broken, and I think since then we have taken it back with Queer Nation, Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer Duck, and Ryan Seacrest. It works, it's strong and clear...I think.

And don't get me started on some guy's list of potential Latin names, that is wrong in twelve different ways. Might as well call it Elitist Over-educated Fruits in Suits. In ancient Greek.


Ann's Rants said...

You guys should have a name-generating session. It's fun, actually.

Just a huge brainstorm with different prompts--you can come up with a name no one would've thought of.

Or have a huge tizzy fit.


Kevin said...

queer - [kweer]


1. strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; unusually different; singular: a queer notion of justice.
2. of a questionable nature or character; suspicious; shady: Something queer about the language of the prospectus kept investors away.
3. not feeling physically right or well; giddy, faint, or qualmish: to feel queer.
4. mentally unbalanced or deranged.
5. Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
a. homosexual.
b. effeminate; unmanly.
6. Slang. bad, worthless, or counterfeit.

Queer is the wrong term. I am a gay man. It does not make me any of the above descriptors.

Stan in NH said...

Here are some thoughts for you to consider....I agree with Kevin, while we have taken back the Queer word, it still evokes a frivolous kind of personality in my opinion. Something "over the top" that works to keep us separate (but equal?) I think you should focus on professional, using the term as meaning not amateur, so you could have anyone from lawyers and docotrs, to teachers, to carpenters, to auto mechanics to grocery store baggers, as long as they take their work seriously and do a professional job. I would also consider using diversity, progressive, or tolerant, over gay/queer so that any sexual orientation might be welcome. If the idea is to promote us as being the same as anyone else, except for the one difference in sexual orientation, which doesn't matter in your work (unless you're a prostitute, or somehow deal in sex, professionally). I would try to be as inclusive as possible, personally.
In general, find our your purpose or goal for starting the group and what you want to accomplish as a group, then the name will come from your overall purpose. If you're having trouble naming it, I would think you're having trouble finding a purpose or end product.

Pamela said...

I personally dislike the word "queer" when used in this fashion. It sounds derogatory to me, like a put down. I think that gay people get enough of that in their lives anyways, so why would they want to identify with a word that invites derision?

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

If you want to be percieved as a legitimate group, I agree that queer is the wrong term. Perhaps using something along the lines of openness or inclusiveness. As for the professional part, I agree with Stan, that will depend on the purpose of the group.

inannasstar said...

This is kind of off subject but still applicable. I am a Witch. The word Witch is used by most people instead of bitch when the "swear word" bitch just can't be uttered. Do I stop calling myself a Witch because some dumbasses have decided that it means a bitch? Nope, taking back a word and using it in a positive manner is a good thing. It takes the power away from the bigots and gives it back to the group they are using it against.

Miz Moffatt said...

I had to comment -- "Fruits in Suits" is quite possibly the funniest thing I will read all day. Haha, I know the tone of group is more professional, but it's such a catchy name. ;)

I like the idea of using "queer," myself -- it's more of a shorthand, pronounceable version of "LGBTQ... " I find it fascinating that the majority of the responses to this question view it as such a negative word. I understand that the history of the word is a loaded one, but it's a word that's been redefined. I mean, I'm in my early twenties and every *queer* person I know feels more at home with that word than the more specific labels of "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual," "transgendered" and so on.

I suppose it all depends on the demographic you would like to join the group. If it's a well-established, mature crowd your group wants to target, then maybe you should opt for a word other than "queer". But, if you're also looking to appeal to a group that's starting in on their career paths, then I think "queer" will draw more of them out.

The Maven said...

I'm not gay or a dude, so I can't really comment on all this. I will say that I just about choked on my coffee when I read 'fruits in suits' though. Bahaha!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Suggesting that it be called The Gay Men's Professional Association may be a clue as to why women don't show up to participate. Lesbians like to participate equally. We're funny that way!

Brahm said...

Interesting how we are all split on the word 'queer' which I guess makes total sense as I have mixed feelings about it -- not ambivalance, actually strong feelings on both sides.

As for the lack of lesbians here, equal number of people invited, 12 gay men turned up, zero women. To me that reflects lack of interest, so clearly this group (whatever it is) does not speak to them and maybe therefore should not speak for them?

And technically speaking only myself and one other fruit were actually in suits...

WannabeVirginia W. said...

I laughed on your comment about no women showing up because there was hockey and the "fruits in suits".

That is a tough one! I agree with Stan with being inclusive and diverse. It tough putting a group together because of the opposing points of view, but there is a lot of information to be gathered and unpacked within a group. Also, there is such a huge divide with the word "queer".

Nonetheless, I hope the group facilitator does not give up and keep it going.

Yes, I was watching hockey last night :)

injaynesworld said...

There are professional gays? Does that mean you can no longer compete as an amateur? Does it require a degree? What's the pay difference?

Rusty Hoe said...

I sometimes think the purpose of the group loses itself when you get caught up in the labeling (I say this as someone who has been on way too many committees and wanted to poke peoples eyes out when they got so stuck on the naming side of things).

You'll never find a label that everyone will be happy with. Have you thought of naming it something totally different that sums up the feel or purpose of the group and then have a sub heading re Gay Professionals? I think someone else may have said this (brain fog strikes again) but maybe focus on what you want to achieve for a few meetings, the name may come when you clarify your direction. Good Luck.

Middle Aged Woman said...

My daughter is president of the campus GSA. Yet they are members who are LGBTQXYZ, as you say. That said, would a similar gay/straight alliance make sense in your context? It makes advocacy a little easier when some of "the other side" is already on board.

Brahm said...

I hadn't thought of professional vs amateur status... does going professional disqualify us from making this an Olympics event for 2014?

Aha! It's The Obnoxious SAHM said...

Hi Brahm, Frankly as a married woman to a gentleman, I don't like the word "queer" I am not sure why that is. Frankly, I don't like labels at all. I don't feel it is my place to even put a label on someone who has different lifestyle than I do. I just see people as they are. I leave it up to their particular community to figure out what they would like to be titled and hopefully the memo gets to me in time. I'd hate to disrespect. :)

marymac said...

I don't care what you call it: y'all are HOT.

Wilmaryad Oscallas said...

Richard Watts, a fellow blogger over @ http://richard_watts.blogspot.com/, wrote the following definition on the blog of a closeted rugby guy confused by which term best applies:

"There's a big difference between being homosexual (i.e, a sexual identity) and being gay (which is predominantly a social identity, based around a shared culture of bars, music and etc). That's the way I look at it - which is why I prefer the term 'queer' rather than 'gay' to describe myself."

I think it makes sense, don't you?

Brahm said...

Interesting, am gonna check out that blog - and if 'gay' is defined by social identitiy, I think is unfortunate if bars is the first component of that, which i guess is one of the reasons to start a group like this, no?

Wilmaryad Oscallas said...

As long as you're not calling the group "Anal Astronauts", "Poop-Shoot Popeyes", "Pudding Pushers", "Stool Tools", "Turd Ticklers" or "Andy Dick", you should be fine. ;)

A thank you goes to Lisa Lampanelli for the terminology. :D

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