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Introduction Why queer? More than a decade ago, I went with a good friend to visit a photographer she was checking out for her wedding. I was dressed in my usual T-shirt, shorts, and sandals, with my long hair loose and no makeup. As my friend and the photographer discussed the calendar, I was standing in the waiting room with my back turned to them, looking at the photographs on the wall. At one point, I heard the photographer say to my friend, “Do you want to ask your fiancé if he wants to come and look at these samples?” I turned around and looked at her quizzically. When she realized she had made a mistake, she turned bright red with embarrassment and apologized profusely to both of us. Though I laughed awkwardly, I was devastated and ashamed, because this misunderstanding wasn’t new to me. I have often felt a disconnect between the internal and external —emotionally, physically, even spiritually—between my internal experience of myself and the way others perceived 1 me as I interacted and connected with them. For a long while, I had experienced the incongruity that what I felt on the inside didn’t always match what people read, saw, interpreted , or understood on the surface of my life. These days, for the most part, to the world I read cisgender (identifying with the gender that was assigned at birth) and heterosexual. I intentionally fulfilled those scripts in adulthood by getting an education, getting a job, getting married (to a man), having kids, and getting a house. I grew up in the most traditional and conventional Korean immigrant family —Christian, hardworking, morally upstanding, and hardly making any waves. On the surface, I appear to be very clear on my identity, my ministry and work, my faith, and my passions and desires. So why does queerness matter to me? I have to confess the privileges I have because of my status. I’ve never experienced discrimination, harassment, or violence because of my sexual identity in the way many LGBTQIA people—especially LGBTQIA people of color —have suffered abuse, violence, oppression, prejudice, and persecution. The number of deaths of transgender women of color around the world is increasing every day. As I write this, LGBTQIA youth make up a large percentage of the homeless population across the country, and that statistic increases every day. Queerness matters because it is a matter of life and death. Growing up, I never made the word queer a part of my vocabulary. It felt like a word that belonged in Shakespearean times, a word that my friends’ grandmothers would use to Outside the Lines 2 describe anything strange and peculiar. In high school, I would hear it used interchangeably with gay. People would say, “That’s gay!” or, “Don’t be so queer!” to express discomfort and judgment of anything that was strange—especially something that deviated from norms around gender and sexual identity. When said out loud, the word was colored with streaks of contempt. It sounded like a curse word. To be queer was to be undesirable. Yet, like so much that is dismissed or rejected, queerness found a way to take root and grow. The people who first started talking about queerness didn’t do so in ivory towers. Concepts of queerness came out of flesh-and-blood lives, from broken hearts and crushed spirits, from the ordinary material of everyday life. So it is the streets and neighborhoods , workplaces and schools, parks and playgrounds, courthouses and churches that I’m concerned with in this project. It is where people reside and, in those spaces, how people interact and comprehend one another, reading bodies, lives, and stories. Of course, concepts of queerness have been explored by scholars, and I am deeply indebted to their work, especially After Sex: On Writing since Queer Theory.1 As with any theoretical framework, there are limitations to how we can define queerness, and the concept is shifting all the time. Queerness has undergone numerous challenges and transformations. It began as a way to describe certain expressions of sexuality and gender, and now it includes other markers of identity, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, ability, and more. Yes, it’s rooted Introduction 3 in matters of gender and sexuality, but queerness is not meant to be exclusionary. In fact, any kind of exclusion would be counter to queerness, because queerness is about bodies, and we all have bodies. We move through this...


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