At a talk on Tuesday, a filmmaker and activist argued that straight people can identify as queer.
Jamal T. Lewis’s talk was sponsored by the Center for Identity and Inclusion as well as the Office of LGBTQ Student Life, and promoted Lewis’s debut documentary film No Fats, No Femmes.
Lewis structured their talk around the question of what it means to identify as queer. They began by reading selections from articles about whether heterosexual people can identify as queer.
Among the articles Lewis highlighted was Dora Mortimer’s Vice article “Can Straight People be Queer?” In that piece, Mortimer wrote, “A straight person identifying as queer can feel like choosing to appropriate the good bits…of gay culture, without the laugh riot of gay-bashing, teen shame, adult shame, shame-shame, and the internalized homophobia of lived gay experience.”
Lewis said that, although they understood the perspectives of those who believe queerness is inherently tied to sexuality ultimately, they believe that the queer identity transcends categories of gender and sexuality.
“Queer means lots of different things for lots of people. Its definition defies any meaning that is pinned to it,” Lewis said.
Lewis argued that any person or act that directly challenges the normative culture can be queer. They cited their black, gender-nonconforming, and fat identities as an integral part of their queer identity.
As an example of heterosexual queerness, Lewis shared a still from their upcoming film that showed a black man embracing his son. “I think this is queer in a way, because we are told that black men are not affectionate with their children,” Lewis said.
Conversely, Lewis argued that not all homosexual and bisexual people are queer. They cited gay white men who refuse to date “fats, femmes, or Asians” as an example.
Lewis concluded by saying, “If queerness means that we are working out what ourselves are [sic], then I think…there will be abundant queer futures.”