The last week of classes last year witnessed a heated debate over the B.G.L.T.U. listserver. This time it was not about the utility and appropriateness of chalkings at Williams. It was about whether we should rename our organization. The idea had been floating around the gay community, probably ever since the “T” was added to the already tongue-twisting list of initials identifying us as a group of non-straights.
It seemed a good idea to many to do away with the four letters that supposedly represent all possible sexualities that aren’t straight. We wanted an all-encompassing term, since trying to include every sexuality necessarily excludes someone. After throwing around a few names, including the popular “Dairy Fairies,” we voted on Queer Student Union. The term “queer” was adopted about ten years ago by much of the national gay community after a few radical groups employed it as an in-your-face approach to political activism. Its common use on college campuses and other liberal environments has caused the term to lose some of its inital intended shock-value, so now the word is thrown around as much as “gay,” at least within the queer community.
Our new name allows for a wide interpretation of the membership of the group, in some ways enhancing the new image we are intending to put forth. As an umbrella term, “queer” not only includes gay and lesbian, but also bisexual, transgender, questioning and even straights. Basically, it labels us broadly as a group focusing on sexual identity. Although controversial, we chose not to include the word straight in our name. While straight-identified students are completely welcome, the Q.S.U. is primarily a group for gays. However, since straight students don’t necessarily know that the “S” doesn’t stand for “straight,” the name may seem safer for closeted students who were afraid to attend meetings when the name conspicuously lacked the “S”.
So, despite some dissention, we made the switch. Although not everyone likes the word “queer,” those of us in favor of the new name chose it because it’s sleek, attention-grabbing, all-inclusive and not quite out-dated, yet. And let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to say.