Good lord I’m not saying “you personally have to be violently harmed by cishets to be queer” I’m saying that the term is exclusively reserved for the communities who’ve historically experienced oppression centered around that slur and experienced the violence that it embodies (ie LGBT people)
You’re spouting some nonsense interpretation where you could say “some lesbians are queer but not all” when what I’m literally saying is “lesbians can call themselves queer because the lesbian community has been a target of this slur and experienced horrific violence as part of it”. Ace/aro people who lack same-gender attraction have no place trying to reclaim it because it was never aimed at their community.
Except that historically, people have absolutely been targeted as queer for asexual behavior.
Everybody feel free to grab a beverage and get comfortable, because I spent a lot of time on Google today. (Asexuals, listen up, because we actually have some situations where you are represented in history here.)
Historically, people got labelled queer, and/or queer-bashed, for two major things.
The first was deviating from strict gender norms.
The second was not having hetero sex.
There are tons of examples of white people literature from the 1800s and early 1900s that use terms like “confirmed bachelor” and “spinster aunt” to imply that somebody was queer.
(I was going to say something like European/American/Canadian literature, but let’s call a spade a spade.)
Sure, nowadays we look back at that and go, “everybody knew those people were gay, it was just code for gay, nobody thought anybody was asexual, that wasn’t a thing back then.”
Of course, that still means that people who we would now call asexual would have been getting queer-bashed because people thought they were gay. So all those asexual people, already, have earned their queer stripes under the rubric above – that they are part of a community that got violently oppressed for being perceived as queer.
It’s also worth pointing out that as far back as the 1890s, the LGBT movement – which did already exist, and was particularly active in Germany and New York – was already beginning to categorize and write about asexuality as part of its umbrella.
But is that all that was happening? Were straight people actually cool with people who they thought just weren’t having any sex at all?
Let’s see! (This is code for “hell no.”)
My favorite example that I came across was the Spinster Movement.
The Spinster Movement was really long-lived, from around the 1880s through the 1930s. It was a group of women who either felt no sexual attraction, or felt some sexual attraction but didn’t want to have sex. (I will be the first to say that I’m sure that there were also members who nowadays would identify as lesbian, bi, and trans. But it wasn’t the focus.)
The movement particularly focused on opposing sex work, sex trafficking, and child sexual abuse. It was deeply tied up in the suffrage movement, which fought for the vote specifically so that women could oppose these things in the political arena. (There’s a lot more about this in a book called The Spinster and Her Enemies, by Sheila Jeffreys.)
It spanned a wide range of countries. Norwegian researcher Tone Hellund talks about how first the group was considered queer because they were breaking gender norms. And then:
“[in Norway], in
the 1920s and 1930s, female sexuality was suddenly discovered and all
women were supposed to have and enjoy their sexuality. At this point,
frigidity and asexuality also became a topic, a very problematic topic.
“You could say that the spinsters became queer because they didn’t have
sex or didn’t take part in sexual activities, and also because they
started to be perceived as potentially homosexual.
“Thus, the romantic
spinster friendships of the earlier phase that were not seen as
problematic in a sexual way became highly problematic in the 1920s and
1930s. Suddenly, all female relationships were seen as suspicious, they
were seen in a new sexual light.“
Notice the “and also” – they were queer for not having sex, AND they were queer for starting to be perceived as possibly lesbians.
In fact, “spinsters” were routinely slammed this way. In Britain, for example, the teachers’ union was attacked over and over with the double spectre of asexuality and lesbianism.
One example from Women’s History: “…The fear of spinsters and lesbians affected women teachers in Britain between the wars. A 1935 report in a newspaper of an educational conference expressed the threat in extreme terms: ‘The women who have the responsibility of teaching these girls are many of them themselves embittered, sexless or homosexual hoydens who try to mould the girls into their own pattern.’” It was very explicit.
And the whole thing is a common accusation that queer people still face today. That what we are is bad because it is going to destroy children and society.
People at the time felt very strongly about how unnatural it was for people not to have sex. Women, in particular, were often divided into “natural” and “unnatural” – i.e. queer – spinsters. Natural ones were widows; unnatural ones were those we have seen here.
In her book “Family Ties in Victorian England,” Claudia Nelson quotes writer Eliza Linton’s description of “unnatural and alien” spinsters: “Painted and wrinkled, padded and bedizened, with her coarse thoughts, bold words, and leering eyes, [the wrong kind of spinster] has in herself all the disgust which lies around a Bacchante and a Hecate in one…. Such an old maid as this stands as a warning to men and women alike of what and whom to avoid.”
We can see some of the hatred of the Spinsters in the way suffragists were treated when arrested for picketing the White House. They were tortured, beaten, hung by their hands all night, fed rotten food, and subjected to attempted psychiatric abuse.
Earlier, during the Victorian era, there was a popular but unsuccessful movement, for decades, pushing to evict spinsters over 30 from Britain, and send them to Canada, Australia, or the United States instead. They were perceived, at best, as “surplus females”, in part because there were many more women than men in the population there at that time.
There was some overlap between the different kinds of queer. Straight people, as a group, had even less understanding and interest then than they do now of what the different flavors of queer might be.
Shannon Jackson’s essay, “Toward a Queer Social Welfare Studies,” gives a good example of how describes how critics of Jane Addams’ Hull-House “called the settlement ‘unnatural,’ worrying that its women were ‘spinsters’ or that its men were ‘mollycoddles’.” In that case, I would guess that they meant “women who have sex with women”.
It’s a good example of how much they conflated the different kinds of queer – that some straight people could use the term to slam people for being asexual, and others could use it to slam people for the opposite. And it’s also a good example of how little they cared which of us they were attacking. The important thing, to them, was that we weren’t having solely hetero sex and living our lives centered around being hetero. Everything else was just details.
(Also FWIW, I want to note that I meant no disrespect to any of the previous commenters or the OP in cutting the previous posts from queerdemons lesbiandoe @punkrcgers and sushi-moss. Tumblr wouldn’t let me post my long-ass reply without trimming; it mysteriously “lost” the whole thing like it always does when I reply at length to a long thread, and I had to rewrite it.)
Also, this is a lot about women, but an unmarried man over a certain age was also considered “a threat to society” (and as mentioned above the term “confirmed bachelor” is still code for gay)