Queer? Me?

Sometimes this is a cello/music blog, sometimes a LGBTQ blog, and this Foley thing and an event at DePauw this evening have my thoughts centering on the LGBTQ stuff. If you come here for the cello stuff, don’t worry, it will be back soon. But meanwhile . . .

United DePauw, our campus group (formerly self-described as the “gay-straight alliance” and now I’m not sure what the terminology is) that forms the core of our “queer” community hosted a panel discussion: the “Rainbow Panel” of faculty, staff, and students answering questions about “queer life at DePauw.” I, as one of the few openly gay faculty at DePauw, and someone with a long institutional memory, was one of the panelists.

Just a couple of reflections:

A first-year student on the panel, who’s in one of my classes, just blew me away with his ease with himself, his openness, and the entirely unconflicted vibe he projects. He’s just the sort of healthy, well-adjusted, out gay teenager I’ve known I’d start meeting some day. I was so glad to encounter this dimension of his being; it confirmed to me that the world is changing. Slowly, to be sure. With advances and losses. But its changing and its going to work out in the end. You can’t encounter a kid like this and still think that homosexuality and emotional problems have an inevitable link, causal or otherwise.

I also found myself a bit sad and envious. I grew up so full of self-loathing, and have never met anyone my age who doesn’t show the after-effects of intense internalized homophobia. What would it be like to reached my late teens an been at ease with my sexual orientation?

Then there’s this “queer” word, which is now being used in so many ways that no one could define it. For a while, it seemed to be attached to the anti-establishment, joyfully transgressive elements of our community. Now it’s becoming a handy, one-syllable term to replace the mouthful of LGBT or LGBTQ.

Queer. Transgressive. Unorthodox. I’ve been thinking about this. I’ve been a rather assimilationist, middle-class, white, Protestant, well-educated father for many years that I being gay is way down the list of how I describe myself to myself. (“Assimilationist” is a label used, often pejoratively, to describe a gay or lesbian person who embraces the conventions of mainstream, straight society. “Assimilationists” endorse same-sex marriage, frown on promiscuity and drugs, often attend church, and generally present and understand ouselves as being part of mainstream culture except for being attracted to the same sex. “Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation” is the subtitle of a book I have somewhere. That sort of queer revels in being different and often embraces a more liberationist approach to sex, one not focused on monogamy as an ideal.)

Musically, though, I seem to be getting queerer each day. Screw the rules of a classical concert–dance if you want and make noise if it helps you get into the music. Classical music students, drum and dance and improvise and express yourself. Create music that express the deepest parts of yourself and think about how you can use music to change the world.

So I think I’m more queer than I had realized. But I’m still too overwhelmingly conventional to retitle this blog “Queer Cello.” But it would be a catchier title.


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