After using the term queer in my last post about the It Gets Better Project, I paused for second. Would all of my readers (hey guys!) get what I mean when I refer to “queer adults”. Do I even fully grasp what queer means?
The term queer has a a complex history, with a meaning that’s bended and buckled over time. After it’s origin in the 16th century from the German root Quer, queer was mostly an adjective that meant strange or unusual. Towards the end of the 19th century and most of the 20th the word served as a derogatory slur for (usually effeminate) gay or transgendered individuals. Merriam Webster captures it's various meanings nicely.
While it still can be (and is) used as slur, it has been mostly reclaimed (beginning in the mid 90s) by many in the LGBT community to mean pretty much anyone who’s gender and/or sexual identity isn’t “normative”.
The term queer covers people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, pansexual, pomosexual, intersexual, genderqueer, two-spirit and even asexual or heterosexual individuals who view themselves as not heteronormative, as well as others individuals who don’t fall into any of these boxes*.
Today, the term queer is pretty widely accepted in the LGBT community. It pops up in popular television shows like “Queer Eye”, popular blogs like Queerty and in respected universities in the form of Queer Studies.
The term Queer is important to the LGBT community today for a few different reasons.
1. It’s much more practical as an umbrella term than the common practice of adding more and more letters onto LGBT. The term LGBT was originally coined with the intention of representing a variety of people with varying sexualities and genders. But today? It’s not cutting with all of the differing identities people have. Some people try and fix that by adding more and more letters onto LGBT, but then you just end up with something like LGBTTTIQQAA, an acronym so long it’s almost unusable. Queer is a lot more practical, and frankly less intimidating, especially to those outside the LGBT community.
2. With more and more people identifying as genderqueer or other identities that fall outside of the traditional gender binary, terms like gay or straight don’t quite work. If you identify as somewhere in-between male and female, or another gender entirely, and you’re attracted to guys, what does that make your sexuality? Queer seems to work nicely for many.
3. It’s an inclusive term. Like I mentioned in my 1st point, LGBT just doesn’t cut it any more when referring to all people with sexual and/or gender identities that don’t quite fit the norm. While some in the LGBT community complain about the addition of more and more communities, I disagree. So many of the goals are connected. Hate crime legislation, the right to marry regardless of gender, to adopt, an end to bullying and persecution just for being different. These are not small fights, and excluding people who want to help is not going to make it any easier. To garner support from everyone, its necessary to use terminology that includes them.
Queer is here to stay, and its usage will likely only increase from here. And to me, that’s a good thing.
*Confused about some of these terms? No worries, one of them (pomosexual) even threw me for a loop ! There are a lot of terms out there, and it seems like more pop up everyday! That’s what makes wikipedia and google such great resources, and queer such a great umbrella term =].