Defining – and reaching – my specific audience.

“What’s your name when you’re at home?”  -Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Apologies for disappearing last week; I’m beginning work on a total revamp of the materials I use to reach the people I want to help.  In the course of this transition, I may be blogging here a bit less, but I’m hoping to keep it up at least once a week.

The thing that I’m recognizing is that while I am open to helping just about anyone who comes through my door, I really need to focus on reaching those people I enjoy working with the most, and whom I can most effectively help.  Over and over, I’m finding both that the people who reach out to me, and the people I enjoy working with, are people who have sexualities, gender presentations/identities, or relationship styles that are non-standard to the mainstream.

I am fortunate enough to live in a community of people who are open and accepting, and who both have and offer support to one another.  Included in this community are gays and lesbians and bisexual/pansexual folks, transgender and genderqueer people, polyamorous individuals, couples and families, and people into alternative expressions of sexuality like BDSM or “kink.”  It’s a loving network of human beings who have proved to be invaluable resources to one another, countless times in my experience, while they’re busy having regular lives – jobs, houses, kids, pets, family members who get sick and die, celebrations and tragedies.

Often, though, I realize how spoiled I am by this abundance.  People have contacted me who aren’t living openly, who don’t have this kind of community, who are scared of who they are, of their desires, and have not received the kind of loving support they need.

I want to help these people connect to their true selves, to their authentic and unique beauty, so they can experience the loving connection they desire and deserve.

So, having set this intention: the search for these clients begins.  But I want your help.

If you are reading this, and you identify yourself as falling into the population I describe above: how do you describe yourself?  Particularly to people outside of your immediate circles.  For instance: many people I know are comfortable using the word “queer” and throw it around amongst themselves.  However, I’m unsure to what degree those same people would use that terminology when attempting to describe themselves to someone who was outside of that group.

So: what do you call yourself to your community, and what do you call yourself when you’re identifying your sexuality outside of your community?

Finally: can you think of an umbrella term that covers everyone I’m talking about?  The LGBTQI label is nice, but seems not to include poly or kinky people per se.  Are there terms for this that you enjoy?  That you find insulting?  That you identify with, or strongly do not?

Your comments wanted.

Published by Kamela Dolinova

Expressive arts adventuress: writing, performing, healing, loving.

15 thoughts on “Defining – and reaching – my specific audience.

  1. Good question. *thinks* At this point, honestly, anyone I can’t use the word “queer” with doesn’t get to see the big picture. I can’t really think of any exceptions, though it’s not like that’s a rubric I’ve used in my own head before now. I’ll give individual details about particular situations, but I think “nontraditional” is as close as I come to a sweeping term to describe it, especially to people who don’t have “queer” available as an inclusive, descriptive and basically nonthreatening sort of concept. I’ve thought a lot about similar things as I also see myself moving towards work with a population that clearly exists as a discrete group but doesn’t have a word to describe it. I wonder if maybe metaphors like “people who have forged their own path” or something like that might accomplish what you’re going for? Please keep me posted.

    1. Thinking about this more, I realize that I also do a *lot* with paralinguistics. So, like, I don’t really say “nontraditional”, I say “kind of…” [trail off, pause, smile] “nontraditional.” [Graceful sweep of the hand, ingratiating nonthreatening posture]. Can’t really do that on a website so much.

      1. (blinks, as though faced with a potentially brilliant and potentially inane idea)
        Well, perhaps we can?
        I mean, I recognize that writing that way is kind of (pauses, frowns, tilts head to one side)… unconventional? for a blog, but… (shrugs a little helplessly) maybe it’s the best way to go.

      2. Ha! Yeah, it’s difficult. A lot of people are saying they use the word “queer,” and I love it too, to describe myself. But I’m reaching out to people who not only might not have that word available to them…they might not want to identify that way even if they did. Like, I doubt a straight male dom/female sub couple would identify as queer. Neither would the many straight men I’ve spoken to who like to cross-dress, or poly people who only figured it out after being in a monogamous marriage, or…So it’s something I want people to be able to see and think, “Hm, that could be me,” or “That sounds like me,” without it being something they have to claim as an identity.

  2. I use “queer” to describe my sexual identity in most contexts, both in-group and out-group. E.g., I talk about being queer at work.

    I do it for two major reasons.

    First (and probably foremost), because I’m attracted to both men and women but there’s all kinds of tribal politics that come along with the “bisexual” label that I mostly can’t be bothered with, but don’t want to explicitly disassociate myself from either. If someone asks me if I’m gay I’ll usually say “yes,” because for all practical purposes I am (I’m in a monogamous relationship with a man, after all). If someone asks me if I’m bi I will also say “yes,” because I am. If someone says “well, which is it?” (which some people have) I will usually answer that I’m attracted to both men and women.

    Second, because I’m often talking about my sexual identity in the context of social and legal equality, and in that context there’s always the risk of being perceived as advocating such equality solely for people-like-me. Getting into the habit of using a broader term mitigates that risk.

    Relatedly, if someone calls me queer in a neutral context, I’m fine with that.

    All of that said, I am more reluctant to describe other people as “queer” if I don’t know them well enough to predict how they’ll react, because it does have a history of being derogatory. And I don’t have a solution to the general problem.

    I find “alternative sexuality” and similar phrases irritating. I haven’t explored the reasons for that in any depth, but I assume it’s because I react to it as marginalizing. (One might ask why I don’t react to “queer sexuality” the same way; here too I haven’t thought a lot about it but I assume it’s because it is more often used by the queer community to refer to itself than used by the mainstream community to refer to outsiders.)

    1. I should add to this that I sometimes feel a little sheepish describing myself as queer within the queer community, because I am just about the most boring, vanilla, traditionalist queer man you will ever meet, and it sort of feels like I’m bragging. But I suspect that’s just my own shit; there’s all kinds of labels I feel sheepish about using to describe myself in this way.

    2. “All of that said, I am more reluctant to describe other people as “queer” if I don’t know them well enough to predict how they’ll react, because it does have a history of being derogatory. And I don’t have a solution to the general problem.”

      YES. Many people I know are willing to self-apply the term, but when I’m trying to help people who maybe aren’t even out, or clearly have discomfort with who they are…clearly they’re not going to have claimed the term, at least not all of them.

      “I find “alternative sexuality” and similar phrases irritating. I haven’t explored the reasons for that in any depth, but I assume it’s because I react to it as marginalizing.”

      I’m with you; I actually have come to sort of hate the word “alternative” in general, but especially when used with the word “lifestyle.” Yeeeech. Maybe because it makes it sound too much like a choice, which this stuff generally isn’t, and as if that choice were sitting on the shelf equally with straight, heterosexual, cisgender vanilla. Like, “A healthy alternative!” It seems a bit smug, I guess.

      How do you feel about the word “minority”? That’s the current one I’m working with…and it has the advantage of being true. But I wonder what the connotation is to queer ears.

      1. > How do you feel about the word “minority”?

        That’s… interesting.
        I don’t have an immediate emotional reaction to phrases like “minority sexualities” at all, which I’d say is a good sign.
        That said, I’d recommend running it by some POCs for their input as well. (There’s a very theoretical sense in which I qualify, but I wouldn’t rely on it.)

  3. Add me to the “queer” camp. Academia seems to have adopted it as the default, and I’ve found it works vastly better for me than the ever-expanding alphabet soup. (My current favorite was from an anthology call for submissions seeking “QUILTBAG” stories. Watch for the silent “P” to get added any day now.)

    Part of it is the simplicity and the power of word reclamation. Mostly though, it’s an answer that it requires someone to think. They have to decide how much they need to know about my sexuality and how much right they have to ask for clarification. Even though I fall within many of the categories in theory (poly, bi, kinky) none of them have ever felt like they defined me personally. They’re labels that other people have created and built social and cultural expectations upon; even when I’ve used them they’ve felt like an ill-fitting suit of clothes. If I have to wrestle with those definitions in an attempt to map them onto my life and eros, it seems fair that anyone asking should have to do likewise. Otherwise whatever impression they get from being provided with the fast and easy answer is most likely to be wrong.

    1. What does the ‘U’ stand for in QUILTBAG??

      🙂

      I like this take on the word ‘queer,’ and yes, I think both the reclamation aspect and the “force people to engage” aspect are both useful. But I don’t know that it’s useful for people who don’t identify that way, or don’t want to, or aren’t ready to, and these are all people I’m looking to reach.

  4. Hi, I most definitely fit the described demographic. I’ve been very deeply closeted my whole life and really took that much time to come to terms with the fact that I was still a good person despite all of my desires and tendencies. I recognize that I am still influenced by how I might be perceived and despite my own internal growth there is still some shame that rears its head from time to time. So while internally I think of myself as genderqueer and take some pride in that, externally I’m less comfortable with being labeled and feel the need to be who people around my expect me to be. The thing about being closeted for so long is that the stakes get higher for coming out. So I guess the reconciliation of the internal and the external is still a work in progress.

    1. Thanks for sharing this; it’s very brave.

      Given your remarks here, you would probably be a great person to ask: what wording drew you to my work? What was it that made you feel comfortable to reach out, that made you feel “That’s me, and maybe she can help?”

  5. I guess it was that you enjoyed working with people who are questioning sexuality and gender. I don’t recall what the exact wording was. It was also a feeling I had after reading about your work that you could be someone I could connect with on these topics. As much as the terminology for kinks or lifestyle it was more some of the other aspects in your self-description that made you sound like a well-rounded and interesting person that drew me. You involvement in the arts specifically, I could really connect with beyond just the stuff that I am struggling with.

    I’m not sure how much sense that makes or if it is that helpful. I may have to think about it a little more 🙂

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