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Our Future: Queer Youth Should Stop Trying to Make Sense

by Kyle Mangione-Smith
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Sep 16, 2017

The other week, my partner, who's a fair deal older than me, texted me "do you know what it means to be demisexual?" It made me laugh, for a lot of different reasons, but mostly because it highlighted to me how far much of modern queer youth culture has drifted from its roots. I've known for years what the term meant; I've even known a handful of people over the years that identified as demisexual. With that said, I have always found the idea a little goofy. I explained to him that demisexuality means that you only feel sexual attraction towards someone you're also romantically interested in as well.

But it did remind me why I've gotten kind of tired with some of the more recent developments within youth queer culture. I get why so many people -- especially young people -- identify with the concept of demisexuality, and think people should feel free to identify with the term if it's meaningful to them. But I'm not sure that's enough of a justification for it to be included within the LGBTQ spectrum. Will a man that's attracted to women (but only once he's romantically engaged with her) ever have slurs yelled at him while walking down the street, or be kicked out of his home, or beaten or raped for his identity?

The concept primarily stems from the newly popularized idea that there is a split everyone has within their identity, half of which is sexual, and half of which is romantic. As it goes, if part of your identity falls outside the heterosexual norm, then it should be treated as its own queer identity, flag and all.

Another rather controversial thought that's been popularized by such communities is a moral disdain for drag, with the new sentiment being that men who dress up as women are insulting trans women, who are frequently viewed as men in dress whether they want to or not. I think there is an argument to be had there, and both drag communities and the gay community at large could do some reflection on how we still contribute to transphobia. With that said, the idea that drag is inherently problematic and violent towards queer people is so ahistorical and uninformed it's laughable.

This disdain is very much a product of a generation of queer youth raised through the Internet. That fact that has lead to some great developments, as I'm sure there are plenty of gay and trans youth that would have never acknowledged their identities if it weren't for Internet communities. At the same time, the fact that these communities and ideals have formed independently from queer culture has created an undue amount of inter-community friction. This is a generation of queer youth that didn't discover their identities through their local gay bar, but through Twitter and Tumblr. In many ways, they've had to collectively figure out what the purpose of identity is without the history of the LGBTQ movement as a guidepost.

In many ways, I think much of the core ideology that roots queer youth of today with queer culture from the past is the same. It's always been about being forced to realize that the weird, incredibly strict and dull culture America has built around gender and sexuality is broken and nonsensical. While the LGBTQ movement of the 70s and 80s saw liberation by throwing the rules to the wind, I'm afraid a lot of queer youth of today seem to think the answer is to compose more rules, more boundaries, until the whole culture surrounding identity is so complex it can explain everything in nice, tidy terms. But sexuality and gender will never, ever be tidy.

To me, there's a whole lot of genius and beauty in drag and the politics of freewheeling gays of the past. Many drag queens from the past would likely be trans women today. Many of them likely considered themselves to be women yet still intentionally flirted the lines of gender. But that's what made it exciting, the bite of danger and uncertainty that comes with venturing into the unknown. I'd reckon none of them quite knew what they were doing, just that it felt so much more natural compared to the lines the rest of America draws around gender and sexuality.

That slight taste of danger, the nerve of it -- that's what I've always loved about queer culture, and it's something that I hope isn't lost going into the future. The only reason the LGBTQ movement has come as far as it has is because of that nerve. If we didn't have anything to say, if we hadn't proved we deserved our own distinct place within American culture, then it's hard to imagine anyone would have particularly cared for our cause. That's something we must cling dear to if we wish to further our cause.

Kyle Mangione-Smith is a filmmaker and student living in Boston.


  • , 2017-09-17 12:45:03

    Maybe they are not Queer Youth. Queer is not an acceptable word for our totality. It is anathema to many, maybe most. That fact ought to be respected. But it is not. Repent.

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