Every week, Daniel Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Am I queer enough?: I am a woman who enjoys sleeping with both men and women, but so far I’ve only been interested in romantic relationships with men. Romantically I identify as straight, but sexually I do not. I’ve felt like that meant I couldn’t use terms like queer, even though some of my friends who do use those terms have told me I could. This has never been that much of an issue, except now I am applying to grad school and many of the applications ask questions like, “Do you identify as part of the LGBT community?” I’m really not sure what to put. I have a lot of heterosexual privilege since I exclusively date men, but I also do things that do fall outside of the realm of straight. Is it OK to answer yes? I know the programs I’m looking at want more diversity, so I am also aware if I say yes it could maybe marginally increase my chances of getting in. “Yes” sort of feels like cheating, but also kind of feels accurate. What do you think?
A: This is an interesting opportunity for reflection, I think! Would you be inclined to write “yes” if you thought it marginally decreased your chances of getting in? Why are you only considering this question now, when it’s showing up on a grad school application, and are there ways in which you’d like to consider it more fully outside of this particular context? If you’re simply looking for technical advice, then I think the key might lie in the phrasing of the question “Do you identify as part of the LGBT community?” They’re not asking whether you have heterosexual privilege, they’re asking whether you consider yourself to be a part of the LGBT community, and it sounds like—so far, at least—you haven’t, and that the most accurate answer right now would be “No.” That’s not to say that you have to abide by my instincts, or that anyone’s going to try to demand further explanation from you, but I think that if this is the first time you’ve seriously considered identifying with the queer community, and it’s in the hopes of getting a boost in a grad school application, then it’s not coming from a place of carefully considered personal desire. For what it’s worth, I think it might be worth asking yourself if you’d like the answer to be “Yes” in the future.