The difficult task of picking a name for a column about queer culture
Can't Think Straight
What’s in a name? It turns out, a whole hell of a lot more than Shakespeare initially thought.
When Carillon editor-in-chief John Cameron assigned us section editors the assignment of a weekly column, the problem that most of us struggled with was not content, but what the hell to call the damn thing.
Edward Dodd, the op-ed editor, immediately jumped to politics; Autumn McDowell, our sports editor, went for hockey. I initially hopped over to film and was just going to use the column as a study tool to write about all of the films I would have watched in my various film classes. But in the end I chose queer culture.
These columns all focus on areas we are interested in, but when it came to naming the damn thing, we were at a loss.
Autumn came up with a name first: her hockey column would be called What the Puck. At the time of this writing (which is on Saturday at about 3 p.m.), I don’t think Ed has come up with a title for his yet.
I can’t speak to how difficult or how easy it was for them to name their column, but I know I had one helluva a time trying to come up with a name for a column that focused on queer culture.
It wasn’t easy, let me tell you. Cultures of queer are vast, varying, and plagued with conflicting interests and ideas. This is probably true of most cultures. But the problem with writing about queer culture is that we ourselves haven’t even agreed on a name for it, which may have contributed to my difficulty in naming the column.
When you’re a member of a religious culture or a national culture, its name is picked for you – these are old, established institutions that have had hundreds, if not thousands, of years to solidify themselves in what they believe in and who they represent. To be sure, no culture is perfect, but there is something about what you should call or name queer culture that seems to be a particular bone of contention in the queer community.
Indeed, even my use of the term queer to discuss the community will be the ire of some readers and some folk in the community. Some folk prefer the acronym LGBT or LGBTQ, or even LGBTI. There are other folk who like the term LGBTIQ?2A, and in theory, this acronym could go on forever into infinity in an attempt to encapsulate every sexual and gender group that falls under the sexual minority banner. But these attempts at naming the community with an acronym are incredibly limiting and inevitably exclude other gender and sexual identities that do not easily fit within one of the letters of the acronym.
So, how do you name a column that talks about such a culture without marginalizing and excluding groups within the community that you call yourself a member of?
The simple answer is that you can’t. I believe that queer is the best term we have to encapsulate every member of the community, but I know others take issue with the negative connotations of the term. But coming up with a title using the word queer is a difficult thing to do. I did banter the title InQueery around for a moment, but ultimately I settled on Can’t Think Straight.
I’m not entirely sure, really. Sure, there are problems with Can’t Think Straight. Potential marginalization could occur and it could alienate more people than InQueery, Gaydar, or Big Gay Jon’s Big Gay Column ever would.
But in the end, no matter how imperfect Can’t Think Straight is, it allows the greatest number of entrances for queer and straight readers into the column. It’s controversial without being exclusionary, fun without being kitschy.
And come on, who would read a column called Big Gay Jon’s Big Gay Column anyway?