WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Queering Me

By Vanessa Titang

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” 
—Brené Brown, in Daring Greatly

I never perceived myself as “queer.” Growing up, what little I learned from my elders about being “gay” was that the term "queer" was a bad word. It was a hateful word, along with specific other derogatory terms, which I dared never to utter. I aimed to do no harm, and thus that word was off limits. And why would I personally ever need to use it?

In college, as a philosophy and sociology double major, I studied and grew in classes like “Race Matters” and “Sex and Gender.” My learning intertwined with my social, personal, and activist life outside of class. Within this mix I learned to rethink “queer.”

A small rainbow flag, on a small stick, is held by the outstretched arms of two different people of color.

Reclaiming words from oppressors was something my LGBTQ+ friends were actively doing. “Queer,” I first felt was a hard pill to swallow to call myself; did it even apply to me? A biracial, African-American, disabled, and bisexual woman—there were layers to deconstruct to understand being comfortable with claiming a word steeped in hate. I similarly wavered on reclamation of words geared toward my gender, race, and skin color. It would take time, and testing, to gauge how queer felt for me.

Today, the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and safe space continues, but it has changed. From the change, I am inspired and motivated. LGBTQ+ identities and lived experiences are not as secretive—at least where I am. There are spaces more available: actively made by queer folk and allies, aiming to make what they, too, could have used for self and others. With this, younger generations are building upon the work of LGBTQ+ predecessors. They proudly move and work to reclaim and create spaces, identity markers, and terms to make inclusion and representation possible.

Recognizing more than a rigid gender binary, I now consider myself pansexual. With that awareness, something clicked for me. Maybe I didn't get "queer" because I wasn’t there yet on my journey of discovery. In community—and coming to know and appreciate others—I learned to know and appreciate myself.

“Queer” challenges the status quo; it dares me to be authentically myself. Whether meaning odd, or outside the scope of heteronormative sexuality or gender, it fits me. It’s empowering to take back this word: I am proudly part of the LGBTQ+ community. I am queer.

Prayer

Spirit, be as guide; in my own time to know myself, and the words that uniquely empower my being, to truly be my whole, authentic, beloved self. Blessed be.