Who are the Tom Girls and where did this appellation originate from? In 1985, G. B. Jones began a series of drawings appropriated from the works of Finnish artist, Tom of Finland. By the time New York art dealer and gallerist Hudson began showing these works, art critics and journalists had started referring to the series as the “Tom Girls,” in reference to the works of Tom of Finland, itself a semantic appropriation as much as the drawings themselves are. These were the first recorded instances of the term tom girl entering into use, a fact which has yet to be acknowledged by cultural critics and etymology experts. This lack of acknowledgement and giving credit where credit is due mirrors the widespread cultural ignorance concerning the reclamation of the term queer, which first began in full force with J.D.s, a zine published and edited by G. B. Jones and Bruce La Bruce in the eighties, which not only led directly to the widespread semantic and cultural reclamation of the originally derogatory term “queer,” but also triggered the queercore art and music movement, occurring at the same time that the riot grrrl movement, inspired by the aesthetics and attitude of post-punk band Fifth Column (Caroline Azar, G. B. Jones, Beverly Breckenridge), began to spread like wildfire with Kathleen Hanna’s band, Bikini Kill.
The importance of semantics—the way we use words and express language—cannot be overstated. The term queer, originally a derogatory slur used against sexual minorities who did not conform to heteronormative standards (not just gay men and lesbian women, but also bisexuals and gender minorities), was reclaimed by G. B. Jones and Bruce La Bruce in response to the narrow defiitions and standards of the mainstream gay and lesbian community which not only often excluded straights, bisexuals and gender minorities from their exclusive circles, but also especially discriminated against gender minorities, often in just as vicious a manner as second-wave feminists the 1960s and 1970s.
The proper reclaimed definition of the term queer refers to all those who do not conform to heterosexual or heteronormative standards. This includes gay men, lesbian women, bisexuals, gender minorities (transgendered and intersexed individuals), asexuals, nonheteronormative heterosexuals, and any and all who resist being pigeonholed into any single category.
This reclaimed definition, which began with J.D.s, acknowledges the fact that human sexuality and sexual orientation are not set in stone or genetically defined, but rather that human sexuality is fluid and subject to change and evolution throughout our lives.