Katie Gilmartin

Katie Gilmartin

Artist Statement for The Queer Words

When I titled this collection “Queer” words, I meant it in both senses of the term: these are words used in queer communities, and in many cases they are words that are odd or bent in some way.  Several (dyke, fag, faerie) remain venomous epithets in some contexts, while simultaneously functioning as fiercely chosen and hard-won terms of pride.  To the extent that they become the latter, their power to function as slurs diminishes: in this sense they have, quite literally, been bent to serve our purposes

I’ve long had a particular fondness for the term “friends of Dorothy,” which appears to have emerged during World War.  “Are you a friend of Dorothy?” would sound perfectly innocuous to those not in the know, while providing those wise to the term’s implications with an opportunity to identify themselves.  It is such a gentle weapon of self-defense, it seems to me, that our predecessors crafted in response to extreme and legally sanctioned homophobia.  My fondness for the term increased exponentially upon learning that it played a role in a Navel investigation of homosexuality in the Chicago area during the early 1980s.  When they discovered that gay men referred to themselves as “friends of Dorothy,” intrepid Naval investigators launched a massive hunt for this Dorothy, hoping to persuade her to reveal the names of the gay service members.

Our queer words are a record of creative resistance.  Whether retooled epithets, secret codes, or witticisms, each in some way carries the traces of our collective struggles.  Our queer words are, in that sense, the fruits of our resistance.  So consider this collection a bouquet – to our fabulousness.