(The debate around how to name our community may seem pedantic but it fundamentally shapes how we understand ourselves and what we prioritize as a community./Aleksandr Frolov/iStock/Thinkstock)
Pride Toronto’s recent release of a strategic plan with no explicit mention of lesbians, gays or bisexuals (and only the briefest mention of trans folks) seemed almost satirical when I first heard about it.
“Members of the queer and trans* community” appears once at the end of a list touting who the executive director consulted, and the trans community is mentioned once more for having its relationship with Pride Toronto enhanced.
Other than these two mentions of queer and trans, the only description of the community served by Pride Toronto is the vague yet encompassing phrase: “people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.”
I get it. I’ve sat through agonizing meetings where we wrestle with how to express who the event/organization represents without offending or excluding anyone.
But I’m not convinced that the entire identity of this community-that-shall-not-be-named can be adequately represented in a single name that isn’t an unruly mouthful or vague to the point of meaninglessness.
So I think we should focus instead on a key part of our experiences.
Sort of like Canada, the community formerly known as LGBT is extremely diverse, and it often seems like we don’t have that much in common. But one unifying experience we do share is our deviance.
Of course, what’s considered deviant has changed over the years. Women wearing pants and gay people simply existing are no longer extraordinary things. Parts of the LGBT narrative are even becoming accepted as normal, leading to increased inclusion in broader culture for some of us.
Those of us closer to power in other parts of our identities (like being white, wealthy and able-bodied) and more normative in our gender and sexual expressions (like being outwardly monogamous and fitting neatly into the gender binary) have been able to take advantage of these changes to lead safer and more comfortable lives.
This shift has deepened a divide that has always existed in our community has grown. On one side are those who can downplay their deviance and can participate in the institutions of mainstream culture. On the other side are those who live their deviance every day, celebrate it, and challenge dominant culture simply by existing.
These categories are not mutually exclusive. Many of us find ourselves between the two poles, and move between different points day to day or throughout our lives. I definitely find myself in this position and consider it both a frustration and a privilege.
However, some of us are never able to leave the deviant category. These are almost always the members of our community who most need our support because they experience the worst of society’s discrimination and oppression. And while I may be able to access many of the institutions of dominant culture, they do nothing to support the deviant parts of me.
Which is why I want the focus of our community to celebrate and support those who stand further from the societal norms of gender and sexuality.
I’ve even got a new acronym ready to go: DTFSB. Dykes, Trannies, Faggots, and Slutty Bisexuals. (It’s easy to remember with the handy phrase: “Down To Fuck Sexy Babes.”)
These are the people in my community:
Outrageous dykes. Butch dykes with shaved heads, sturdy union values, and rock solid feminist critiques. Femme dykes with big hair and bigger personalities, power clashing neon animal prints while crushing the patriarchy under their six-inch heels.
Multidimensional trannies. Tranny cyborgs, tranny witches, genderfucking genderqueer transfabulous beings who know that life isn’t an either/or but a yes and — and then some! In between and completely outside and all of the above, sometimes all at once.
Ferocious faggots. A blur of glitter and leather, soft and hard simultaneously. Faggots with all the feelings that men say they don’t have, who love each other, love themselves, love their virus, love the beauty of fine art just as much as the beauty of messy drag.
Slutty bisexuals who will sleep with your husband and your wife. Sexually empowered ethical sluts who want all the babes and don’t care if that makes you feel insecure. Slutty bisexuals who have twice the options and twice the game to back it up with. Who aren’t there just to be your unicorn, even though they are fantastic creatures.
The idea for DTFSB comes from the question: “What are the deviant parts of L, G, B, and T?” — and the knowledge that there’s more to our community than just those four letters. My vision of community doesn’t exclude the other letters often connected or appended to LGBT; on the contrary, it warmly welcomes people from all parts of the LGBT-plus community who choose to emphasize our shared celebration of deviance.
My community includes asexual faggots, non-binary dykes, slutty intersex bisexuals. Not to mention people often relegated to the edges of our LGBT community, like hijab trannies, deaf faggots, Métis dykes, and slutty working-class bisexuals.
I’d be proud to thrive in a community focused on celebrating our deviance and centring those on the edges.
Now, I don’t expect everyone to rush out and change their organizational letterheads from LGBT to DTFSB overnight. I can’t imagine that learning yet another acronym is particularly high on anyone’s list of things they want to do.
Fortunately, we may not have to. There is another option. Many of us have already adopted another term, one that proudly boasts our deviance in its roots.
The word queer is often used simply as a convenient synonym for LGBT, but it’s much more than that.
Mainstream society once called us queer as it recoiled from our beautiful genders and sexualities, calling us odd, unnatural and deviant. Over time, the association with deviance has waned but we can reinfuse it with the meaning we already once reclaimed. Deviant, beautiful and proud.
You don’t need DTFSB if you can say “queer” and really mean it.