I guess it’s not entirely surprising that a Canadian-specific video for the “It Gets Better” campaign is the catalyst for bringing me back to my blog. A lot of what was shared in this video resonates with me, echoes my experiences as a queer kid growing up in Canada. I don’t feel the need to make my own video – in part because I don’t have anything original to say, and in part because I find this all too privileged (bonus: watch my roommate’s video).

But back to the Canadian video. I like that they are anonymous until the Canadians are named in the last third of the video. I like that they share both serious and humourous insights. (Thanks, Rick Mercer!) I like that there are Canadian resources mentioned, since the Trevor Project isn’t a toll free call from Canada. But, like my complaints with other videos, it’s too middle-upper class, urban, largely white, etc. (Not to mention the music that’s meant to make us realise that this is both inspirational and heavy. Whoa.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and privilege of late, it’s hard not to given these past weeks (month?) of LGBT/queer activism, mostly online, combating the latest round of suicides, bullying, and general mainstream media clueing in to homophobia.

I’m openly queer; I’ve been out since elementary school to some friends, out to my family since high school. I don’t fit in a tidy box of labels. Queer works better for me than gay or bisexual. Being in a relationship with a straight woman now, I wonder how to remain involved in the queer community. I was recently having dinner with some other professional Jews who are queer and caught myself saying “partner” to refer to the person I otherwise have been calling my “girlfriend.” Why was it so important to me that they read me as “queer” and not, gasp, “straight”? How can the words I use make a difference both for affirming my identity and showing others I’m still on their side? Should I shift, become more of an ally than “one of them”?

Before starting my new job, I had grand plans to volunteer with queer youth during the week. I used to help run a queer youth drop in back home, volunteered at other area drop ins too, and was one of the first people to offer Pridespeak Workshops in Lower Mainland schools. I thought I’d have time during the week to find another volunteer project, but between the 60 hour work weeks, and my volunteer commitments to the National Havurah Committee (co-chair of the board of directors, planning the Chesapeake Retreat), I haven’t had extra time to find somewhere to volunteer – let alone find the time to go.

I doubt that queer folks read me as straight. But I’m always surprised when the rest of the world does. It doesn’t bother me, I just find it amusing. And then I want to reassert my identity and question why they subscribe to a heteronormative view of the world in which everyone must be straight. Maybe not the most direct activism, and maybe I can’t always bring myself to correct people, but it’s… something?

When I was younger, I was much more INYOURFACE about my identity politics. In some ways, I had to be. In school, I was often the only Jew; in my neighbourhood my family was the only Jewish family. I was later the only queer at school, and amongst the neighbourhood kids. (Once I moved to Vancouver, I was the Torontonian in my class – a label I quickly shed.) I knew how to use labels to find strength, community, comfort. I knew how to use labels to educate, make others uncomfortable, question. Now, I still find value in playing with labels, using them to educate and advocate for the underdog, as it were, but I’m less active in this way.

Maybe the answer isn’t to be an ally, but to figure out how to own my identity in a public way that can be used to educate: yes, I’m queer, and yes, I’m dating someone who is both a woman and straight, and yes, that makes total sense too. It’s not a contradiction. We are not all tidy labels in small boxes.


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