A special episode of the Think Queerly Podcast — TQ107
Recently, I was a guest on the radio show, Rainbow Country on CIUT 89.5 FM. The creator and host, Mark Tara invited me back for a second show to talk about various aspects of gender identity along with my colleague, scholar and activist, Jeffry J. Iovannone. We discuss the history, definitions, and societal progress for how we understand gender in modern-day terms.
What We Cover in the Episode
Starting at 7m 05s we begin by looking backwards with a brief review of the history of gender identity, LGBTQ — and specifically transgender activism — and how society seems to have changed with the advent of the internet.
We then delve into the definitions, political, social, and linguistic history of terms like biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, cis-gender, transgender, intersex, gender non-binary, genderqueer, and more.
Finally, we discuss where progress is happening in the world, from changes to medical terms at the World Health Organization, some of the simple shifts in certain languages that can make trans and gender non-conforming people feel more welcome in everyday situations, and the different ways we could consider identity that has nothing to do with gender.
I had to ask myself, why. Why do people think like this? What is the cause of this? I realized it is nothing more complicated than the various stages of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I think the core issues that are bothering people are a lack of control and a lack of belonging; specifically, how do I feel safe, secure, supported, loved, and respected.
In this episode I discuss:
When you feel like you have no control over your ability to earn enough income to keep a roof over your head, or when you feel like you have no control of your physical safety as an LGBTQ person, what is life like for you?
Why belonging is a far more complex issue but still has connections to a lack of control.
Why the practice in seeking first to understand before reacting is very challenging.
How you can challenge yourself to be the change you want to see in the world.
If we continue to argue against each other from completely opposite ends of the spectrum, one person firmly on the left and the other on the right — one person on the right side of the equation, the other on the wrong side — we will be forever stuck, unable to affect progressive, evolutionary change to social diversity and LGBTQ equality. We will remain in a stalemate or destroy ourselves and the planet completely.
Seeing the world through a queer perspective helps us understand that there is no real living, breathing binary.
Rather, the binary is a way for us to describe something that we observe, to articulate something that is not exact. Exactness in and of itself is an intellectual construct, a product of the mind in an attempt to describe what the mind observes. The binary is a relation, neither a finite description or something that takes form in existence.
Read the complete post at Th-Ink Queerly on Medium:
How does internalized homophobia in gay men affect other LBTQ individuals?
We are taught that we are other, that we don’t belong, that we can’t cross the gender divide. To do so is a form of weakness. Straight-acting gay men are struggling with self-acceptance and personal forgiveness, but they are trapped on the surface level of both physical appearance and mannerisms.
I don’t believe that straight-acting gay men don’t have the desire to be authentic, instead, they are ignorant or fearful of that possibility. They haven’t been given the freedom to let themselves fully out, to express what scares the crap out of them and wholly own it without shame or compression of self-expression.
Diversity may be initially uncomfortable, and that’s okay.
Discomfort means you are challenging the status quo, which is paradoxically never fixed, as much as hegemonic ideologies would prefer it be stuck in time and place.
Read the complete post at Th-Ink Queerly on Medium:
In today’s show, I explain the reason for changing the show’s name from the Living OUT Podcast to the Think Queerly Podcast. Then I continue with my on-going discussion/living document about the “Way of Queer Leadership”. I ask the core question,
How can we create communities of LGBTQ leadership, which includes our allies, to work together to improve humanity – a humanity of belonging?
Brené Brown defines a leader as,
“… anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.”
While traditional leadership is often framed within the container of one person at the top leading or directing others, or people choosing to follow a single leader for the leader’s teachings or philosophy, a queer leadership seeks to be self-serving for the betterment of humanity.
By self-serving I do not mean selfish or self-centred in a negative sense. I mean that you lead yourself first, which requires deep self-awareness so that you can create the potential for the changes you wish to see in the world. Queer leadership seeks to demonstrate a collective self-leadership that reinforces a community and a politics of belonging.
In-fighting only strengthens those who seek to silence us.
Have you ever seen this happen? Queers come together at a large event like Pride where everyone wants to have their voice heard, their opinions honoured and recognized as having value. Sometimes this leads to division or in-fighting within a specific group, like gay male “bitchiness” or one part of the community against another.
There are many reasons for the causes of such division. It may involve personal emotions, shame, not knowing oneself well-enough, or something situational. Within the politics of leadership and working to improve humanity and make the world a better place, we may have conflicting needs as a group or a collective of LGBTQ people, but not necessarily conflicting values.
In this episode, I share a story from my early foray into leading (or my inability at that time) and my involvement with Queer Nation in Ottawa, Canada. I talk about the relationship between leadership and influence, and it’s opposite – recruitment and persuasion. The later is the very human challenge of the ego unchecked, blinded by our fears and defensiveness, which leads to many of the challenges we are facing in the world today, including climate change, toxic capitalism, neoliberalism, the demise of democracy, populism, and the silencing and scapegoating of the “other” in society.
For some time I’ve been pondering the question, “What is queer leadership — and does it even exist?”
It would be easier to ask, “What is Gay Leadership?” because we have witnessed gay leadership work to usher in many of the rights, freedoms, and acceptance that we enjoy — albeit precariously — in much of North America and many parts of Europe.
However, this is not to negate the leadership of Lesbians, Trans people and more recently the work of people challenging sexual and gender binary labels, as well as the very labels that make up the ever-changing LGBTQ acronym. In the larger sense, the word gay was historically used to include everyone before we had our current, expansive, and fluid acronym. However, gay has also excluded those who were conveniently overlooked, because they didn’t have a unique label to express their unique identity.
Which brings me back to my opening question, to which I will add,
How can we all work together as a collective of queer thinkers to embrace, demonstrate, and advocate a humanitarian leadership of belonging? How can we — collectively as queer people — lead from the margins to metaphorically corral the disparate fractions of humanity, so that divisiveness between peoples may become less in proximity to create and foster a genuine diversity.
There doesn’t yet exist a so-called “queer leadership” per se, or that I know of, but I am working on developing this new style of leadership that our world desperately needs. That starts here, with this “Living Document”, which I will continually add to, modify, and come back to as the foundations for what I hope to co-create with many other like-minded, queer thinkers.
A New, Queer Path
In early 2018, I read Ray Rigoglioso’s book, “Gay Men And The New Way Forward”, followed by his five-month Gay Men of Wisdom program. Rigoglioso discusses what he has determined to be 14 distinct gifts that are unique to many gay men. These are qualities and characteristics that any human being can have, but how and the propensity to which they show up indicates unique perspectives, insights, and behaviours demonstrated primarily by gay men.
Rigoglioso does the gay male community a tremendous service in demonstrating how many gay men practice these unique gifts, and how they can be used in various ways to improve society. What’s missing, but not absent, is the larger discussion of the strategies and methods for how gay men can use those gifts to lead others, as Rigoglioso writes, to “create evolutionary change in the world.”
Rigoglioso’s work is deliberately focused on gay men:
As a self-identified gay, cis-male, I have learned much more about who I am as a gay man and even experienced a “paradigm shift” in my understanding of forgiveness and empathy as the result of working with Ray, and the other gay men in the Gay Men of Wisdom program. I can both specifically and broadly share my experiences (my narrative) as a gay man, but I cannot assume to speak for a lesbian, a trans person, or however anyone else may choose to self-label.
I also identify as queer — not as a genderqueer man — in my politics and social justice views. This is how I feel connected to something bigger than me though my friendships and support of anyone within the scope of LGBTQ+.
Definition and etymology of the word, queer
c. 1500, “strange, peculiar, eccentric,” from Scottish, perhaps from Low German (Brunswick dialect) queer “oblique, off-center,” related to German quer “oblique, perverse, odd,” from Old High German twerh “oblique,” from PIE root terkw- “to twist.”
“to spoil, ruin,” 1812, from queer (adj.). Related: Queered; queering. Earlier it meant “to puzzle, ridicule, cheat” (1790). — source
What these etymological definitions show is that being a consciously queer person is radically different from the status quo. Being queer is what the dominant hegemonic culture and patriarchy attempt to control and suppress.
I’m a strong proponent and defender of the words gay and queer to indicate identity and acceptance, not exclusion. We can use these words to incorporate variation and we can use them to sharpen our focus. What matters is allowing the individual to choose how they wish to be labelled (if at all), to understand what these words mean in the larger semantic field, and to embrace or reclaim words that others have used to harm and disenfranchise us.
When it comes to using someone’s preferred gender pronouns, often the new and different labels can be confusing. But for now, we need these labels. We need these ways of describing ourselves to be visible and to be included. Until we live in a world where asking first how someone wishes to be addressed is “normal”, or we use they/them as default pronouns, just because someone doesn’t understand the importance of this semantic and linguistics shift does not mean they deserve to be disrespectful or hateful of others self-identification.
The Queer is Political
Looping back to my original question, I feel it’s important to add that we need to queer our current politics, specifically to change from a politics of division to a politics of belonging. We need to recognize that difference does not need to equate with divisiveness.
How ironic — how queer — that LGBTQ people may someday create a political movement for the betterment of humanity, to lay the path for,
Here we begin to realize that our so-called difference — our “otherness” — is our greatest strength. Our difference is our uniqueness and our source of insight — the gift of deep introspection (due in part to various forms and duration of having lived in the closet). As queer people, we can use our unique gifts to make a profound, humanitarian difference in the world.
Evolution is a seed waiting to be planted. You must have faith that the seed will take root, but you also have to water and care for it.
What is integrity and why is it the most important and vital quality in leadership?
We demonstrate individual integrity with honesty and strong moral principles to guide our choices and actions. What happens when you make a decision based on strong moral principles but you have to conceal part of the reason for your decision? Is that wrong? Is that dishonest? Or is that one of the many challenges that make leadership fluid and diverse?
Rarely are any of our choices perfect, but in leadership, misunderstandings happen only when there isn’t complete and honest disclosure. Sometimes withholding information is a necessary part of leadership, if the choice was well-intentioned and not morally unjustified.
In this episode, I share a story about a time I had to make a tough decision that I thought was right, but others perceived as wrong. I share my ideas on what I consider to be the foundational qualities of evolutionary, humanitarian leadership. Finally, I suggest that as LGBTQ people, because of our deep introspection and insights, we can think queerly and lead the status quo in thinking outside the narrow confines of how they think they’re supposed to think.
This episode is part of, “The Way of Living OUT Leadership: A Queer Path Forward”, and builds upon the ideas discussed in LOP099, “How can we work together as a collective of queer thinkers to embrace, demonstrate, and advocate a humanitarian leadership of belonging?”
I had no idea at that time what the show might become. Certainly, I have expanded the breadth of what I talk about since episode 001. Currently, I am focused on sharing The Way of Living OUT Leadership: a new way forward for LGBTQ people – while I’m creating it. Putting that in writing scares me a bit, which is a good sign. This is not a bad or an irrational fear, instead it’s the healthy trepidation that I am creating something new and willing to be open with my process as I develop my “method”.
On today’s show, I speak about why and how the show has become a place for me to share queer thought leadership, and why your difference as an LGBTQ person in this world makes a valuable difference. I also talk briefly about some of my favourite and most downloaded episodes, namely:
How can we work together as a collective of queer thinkers to embrace, demonstrate, and advocate a humanitarian leadership of belonging?
How can we – collectively as queer people – lead from the margins to metaphorically corral the disparate fractions of humanity, so that divisiveness between peoples may become less in proximity to create and foster a genuine diversity.
There doesn’t yet exist a so-called “queer leadership” per se, or that I know of, but I am working on developing this new style of leadership that our world desperately needs. That starts here, with this “Living Document”, which I will continually add to, modify, and come back to as the foundations for what I hope to co-create with many other like-minded, queer thinkers. (If you would like to receive a copy of this document as soon as it’s available, subscribe to my newsletter so that I can send it to you.)
What do we need to create evolutionary change in the world?
What does “queer” mean and why is it vital that we embrace and reclaim the word.
Embracing and honouring all the letters that make up our fluid “LGBTQ+” acronym.
Making the pronouns, they/them the linguistic default.
Moving from a politics of division to a politics of belonging.
If you’re a creative person – a scholar, writer, or an artist – but you’re stuck trying to start or complete a project, maybe because you think that you don’t know enough, that you’re an imposter pretending to be an expert, then we should talk.
Let’s discover how to use your insights, talents, and uniqueness to make a difference in the world and to Live OUT your mission. Find out more at DarrenStehle.com/coaching.