Queer students

Fake Gay History:

recent video of a young teacher…shows her awkwardly speaking into a camera: “There is a way to be sneaky about supporting, say, queer students in your classroom, and I want to show you it.”

The camera pans to a homemade-looking pink triangle on her dry-erase board. The teacher continues, “The pink triangle was used in concentration camps to identify gay women and also people who were asexual and now has been co-opted by the queer community to be a symbol of a safe space. Dropping a pink triangle somewhere in your room makes a huge difference, because kids look for that.”

No it wasn’t. The pink triangle was the equivalent of the yellow star, and it was for gay men.

The Nazis didn’t, in fact, systematically persecute lesbians. Nor did they target “asexuals,” who didn’t claim their status as a distinct sexual identity until well after World War II. Homosexual men were persecuted, and the pink triangle was used to designate them as such within the camps. Before the symbol was apparently co-opted by the generalized “queer community,” it was used by AIDS activists at the height of the crisis to symbolize the US government’s perceived silence and indifference, which they believed was tantamount to a state-imposed “death sentence” against patients.

The video’s one true statement—that some ambiguous “queer community” has co-opted the pink triangle—reinforces the general trend of writing gay people, usually men, out of their own history and expanding it to include all “queer people.” The modern use of the term queer itself represents this flattening phenomenon well. It is a “reclaimed slur,” used increasingly by people who would have never had it hurled at them as an insult, and who never claimed it back when it would have resulted in social condemnation, rather than celebration. The term’s vagueness allows it to be used by virtually anyone—including, apparently, the journalist Terrell Jermaine Starr, who recently “came out,” stating he was “attracted to a wide range of women, but not men at all.”

In other words like most men, so what’s “queer” about him? Not one thing.

The problem precedes the march of apparent heterosexuals into the “queer community.” Overstating or outright fabricating the place of minorities within the community happens often. And these “histories” are often written like mad libs: Insert the name of a group, add an adjective, a verb, and a place, until somebody’s son comes home from school asking about the asexuals at Treblinka.

In short, the Nazis were not queerphobic. Next?

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