Intergenerational Learning

father daughterBackground info: my dad is a judge. A few days ago we were talking on the phone, and I told him about an interesting article I’d read for class, on the criminalization of sex work in the U.S., and how the women’s purity movement white gals got screwed over by the state-serving medical expert white dudes in the 1920’s social hygiene movement. From there, dad and I started thinking up connections between sexuality and prisons. I don’t remember how it came up, but at some point he asked me about the word “queer,” and whether or not it would be appropriate for him to use in his courtroom if the occasion arose.

A few aspects of this conversation just melted my little heart. As an old-timer, my dad tends to defer to me on the LGBTQ youth stuff: he grew up at a time when “queer” was almost universally used as a slur, so to hear younger people say it casually or proudly these days strikes him as odd. Not only does my dad look to me for advice, but he does it in order to make marginalized folks in his courtroom feel comfortable and respected. At the same time, he wasn’t the only one learning here.

When I explained that I prefer the word queer partly because it’s an umbrella term that captures multiple sexualities and (sometimes) gender i.d.’s/expressions, he murmured appreciatively. But he said he often prefers to use “gay” when he’s on the bench out of concern that he might offend people of his generation who are uncomfortable with “queer” language. That problem hadn’t occured to me. Living in largely queer circles and reading queer theory for my courses, it’s easy to forget that for some people, the word still smacks of bigotry and malice. By the time dad and I had moved on to discussing gender segregation in prisons, I wasn’t sure what the right tact on gay/queer was. But I sure liked the joint thought process.

Open minds: equally terrific at 21 and 67. Best when combined.

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2 responses to “Intergenerational Learning

  1. i think this is as much about intergenerational learning as it is about dialogue.

    especially across difference. actually, dialogue implies the presence of at least some difference, i’m pretty sure.

  2. I work in a criminal courtroom and would be shocked to hear a judge use the word “queer.”

    I do agree with you that it works as an umbrella term but I also usually hear it used in a politicized way – a term of resistance.

    I wouldn’t expect to hear a judge use a term that is that clearly politicized.

    I think it is in part because a judge is often involved in enforcing a racist, classest, anti-trans/anti-gay system of law that it is so easy to assume that a judge is racist, homophobic, or transphobic. If I heard the word “queer” out of a judge’s mouth, I would first assume bad intentions.

    However, he is your dad so I am betting that he is as fabulous as you are so maybe I would come into it already with a context that he was progressive.

    Just putting it out there. The intergenerational conversations are great.

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