So, the first thing I want to say is, "Relax!"
This is not a manifesto. This is a blog which contains my personal reflections. These are my thoughts. This is not my advice or direction. Don't give me authority - or ascribe to me motives - I don't have.
I'm just . . . to sound like a totally California-Sunshine-girl . . . . sharing. Well, not "just". I'm sharing in the hopes to stimulate some thought and start a conversation. Not a debate. Not WWIII. A conversation. You know, where people agree to disagree. Like mature adults.
So, the next thing I want to say is that I have evolved on this position. I didn't arrive here today. And, I've probably been exactly where you are - at least two or three times - on this journey I'm calling "naming my own reality".
There were two prompts to this evolution. The first came after someone - some cheery, positive-sounding, all-inclusive, relentlessly liberal - called me a "cis-gender woman".
What the heck is THAT? I asked.
Cis-gender, I was told, means that the gender assignment given me at birth matches the way I understand myself and self-identify. It was developed by some trans-women and their allies to soften the harshness of not being considered a "woman" but a "trans-woman".
You get a modifier to your gender, I'll get one, too.
I sat uncomfortably with that for a while and then heard myself say, Hey, wait a minute! If self-identification is my right, and I can name my own reality, why can't I say that I'm a 'woman' rather than a 'cis-gender woman'?
Why do I have to accept yet another label someone has assigned to me, albeit out of a spirit of generosity and inclusivity?
I mean, who sent - much less wrote - that memo?
Answer? I got Bambi in the headlines looking back at me, surrounded by radio silence.
Look, I said, you want to refer to the general demographic of non-trans women as cis-gender? Fine. Or, if you are talking about me, specifically, in my absence, to a group of people and feel the need to identify me as a cis-gender woman? Fine.
You're a trans woman who wants to simply identify as a woman? That's fine with me, too.
All I ask is for the same respect I extend to others who have the right to name their own reality. My reality is that I am a woman. Who lives in America. In the Year of Our Lord 2015.
That means that I am constantly pushing against expectations of how a woman - especially a woman who is a woman 'of a certain age' - is supposed to behave.
So, I get raised eyebrows because I drive an "Omaha Orange" Jeep Trail Hawk - not exactly a 'chick car' (whatever that is). Which has a bumper sticker that reads, "Silly Boys, Jeeps are for Girls" and another that reads, "God is Not a Boy's Name."
And, I'm an Episcopal priest who occasionally wears a black shirt with a starched white collar around my neck (in the style of an 18th century gentleman of financial means) and, when I'm in church, I wear a long white dress but I'm in traditional men's liturgical clothing.
That means that my reality as a post-modern, American woman is . . .well . . . complicated.
So, I'm not exactly 'cis-gender', you see.
At least, not as I understand the word. Meaning that, in the opinion of many, many men and women in this country, I have utterly failed to live up to the expectations of the the gender assigned to me at birth. And, it is certainly not the way I understand myself and self-identify.
Anyway, it's a bit ironic to me. That people who argue against 'the binary' go right ahead and create another. All in a spirit of "inclusivity" to "Leave No Classification of People Behind."
So, once I got over that, I settled down to enjoy watching the movement of Marriage Equality sweeping over this country. And then, the Supreme Court decision just overwhelmed me with joy.
I listened with interest - if not slight amusement - to people on the BBC and CNN and NPR carefully - if not occasionally awkwardly - enunciate every letter in the "L . . . G . . . B . . .T . . . community". It sounded like they were trying especially hard to get it right and not offend anyone. I mean, now that we were 'official citizens' with actual civil rights.
And, thus began the second prompt.
It seemed to me - and, I'm just reflecting on my own experience here - that, if we were really a "community," we wouldn't need to insist on a letter for every single member.
Which, in the end, we don't do, anyway. Have a letter for every single member, I mean. For example, there are members of the trans-community who are more nuanced in their identification.
Some are "I" which stands for "Intersex" (which, as I understand it, is the medical term that has replaced 'hermaprodite').
Other terms used are "genderqueer," "bigender," "pangender," or "agender".
Other terms include "third gender" and, in what I understand is the Native American tradition, "Two spirit".
Some "trans people" prefer male pronouns. Others prefer female pronouns. Others, prefer "they".
Which may be why I've been seeing, more and more, a "Q" added to the end of LGBT and before the word "community".
However, it's not entirely clear whether it means "Queer" or "Questioning". Or, both.
Neither is it clear - as I understand it - what "trans" means, exactly. It can mean both Transgender as well as Transsexual.
Seriously? Seriously. At least, those are the ones I know. There may be more. Probably are.
Someone is bound to write me an angry note calling my attention to some particular demographic I've omitted.
Now, mind you, there is no "Homosexual Central" where these things are decided. No memos are sent out. No enforcement officers sent out to make sure everyone minds his or her or "their" .... um..... "P's and Q's" (Sorry, I couldn't resist.).
It's a wonder we were able to accomplish achieving the civil rights of Marriage Equality.
So, here's where I've evolved. I've decided that I am Queer. That's how I want to be known. That's the term I will use to describe the "community" to which I belong.
I know. I know. It's a word that comes with a whole lot of baggage. It is still listed in the dictionary as a 'pejorative term'. It is, for many people, right up - or, down - there with the "N-word". It often elicits the same response that "faggot" does for gay men and "dyke" does for lesbian woman.
As I say, I've evolved in terms of my position on this word. Here's why.
In addition to the point I've made about "community," I especially like it because it's easier to say and all-inclusive in nature. Queer.
It's an umbrella term which covers all the letters of the alphabet soup of "God's Rainbow Tribe."
Not only that, it includes "heterosexual" or so-called "straight" people who also don't fit into the dominant cultural paradigm of either gender identity or sexual orientation. Some are divorced. Some are celibate. Others practice serial monogamy or polygamy.
Indeed, some of them have been amazing activists. If it weren't for them, I am convinced we would not have Marriage Equality.
Finally, I think using Queer joins the movement that began in the late-1980s.
Queer scholars began to reclaim the word to establish community. At that time, we began to see the emergence of Queer studies and Queer Theology.
Activist, especially, sought to assert Queer as a politicized identity distinct from the gay - or LGBTQ, etc. - political identity.
I remember when a dear friend returned from a high school reunion in her native Alabama. She said, in her lovely Southern drawl, "Honey, we all knew there were homosexuals in town. They were the antique dealers and the art collectors and the designers and hair stylists. But, nobody was 'gay'. And, there certainly weren't any 'lesbians'. They were 'sistahs'. Or, they were women who had a 'Boston marriage', but that was only said in whispers in the ladies room or over the bridge table, "
When I asked her why this was so she smiled and said, "Well, sugar, you see, homosexuals knew their place and everyone got along. You start talkin' 'gay' and 'lesbian' and, well, now you're talkin' politics and religion and everyone knows that's just scratchin' for a fight."
Then she smiled and said, "Besides, you wouldn't want to scare the horses, now would you?"
Yeah, well, I guess I'm thinking that's a problem for the owner of the horses.
So, for me, anyway, it's buh-bye "lesbian," a term I've never really liked since the first time I saw it in a book in a library along side pictures of women who were either dressed as men or in a hospital gown looking like a zombie after having had a pre-frontal lobotomy to "correct her behavior".
I totally get why Ellen preferred to call herself "gay" vs. "lesbian" when she first came out.
I'm also old enough to remember one of the first Gay Pride Parades in Baltimore, MD. We were stopped as sometimes happens in parades. One of my female colleagues decided we needed to fill the 'dead space' and fell back into her cheerleader days.
"Gimme an L," she yelled. And the crowd yelled, "LLLLLLLLL!"
"Gimme an E," she continued. And the crowd yelled back, "EEEEEEE!"
"Gimme an S," she yelled, kicking up her leg and clapping her hands under her knee.
But, suddenly, the crowd began to get where she was going. "SSSssssssss . . . . ." came the response, which was decidedly less enthusiastic.
By the time she got to the last three letters, heads in the crowd were actually turning to look up or down the street or up the street, praying for the parade to start again.
Yet, I know I'm not 'gay'. That has a very different meaning than 'lesbian'. Very. Different.
And, adios and chao baby to "bisexual" which some have insisted I am because I was once - in another planet on another galaxy far, far away - married. To a man. And had children. Two. With him. Which I don't regret.
This woman is naming and claiming her own identity.
I am a Queer woman.
Don't like it? Don't have to. Tell me what you want to be called and I'll use that word just for you. I promise. Even if you want to be called a "cis-gender pansexual woman." Fine with me.
As Shakespeare once said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
At the end of the day, I'm still just Elizabeth, child of God, citizen of the universe, lover of mercy, doer of justice and someone who seeks always to walk attentively with God.