I recently asked my Facebook community what queer meant to them. I was saddened by some of their answers.
Some recounted the times it was used to taunt. Others talked about it’s older meaning of being odd and didn’t feel that was appropriate for someone who is gay.
I put “definition of queer” into Google and this is their definition: “strange; odd. “she had a queer feeling that they were being watched”
Looking further I see its definition in more common use. The Urban Dictionary has a long list of meanings. Here are a couple.
- an identity in which Gay and Lesbian individuals have taken back so they could take the negativity away from the word and use it to say they were proud
- an identity that has been taken back as a word to be more inclusive, incorporating all of the LGBTQIA community (the queer community)
- an identity used to be vague or non-specific about a person’s sexual orientation, identifying with the LGBT community as a whole. Also a description of people’s non-heterosexual sexual orientations in a non-specific and unbiased manner
Wikipedia says “Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or cisgender. Originally meaning “strange” or “peculiar”, queer came to be used pejoratively against those with same-sex desires or relationships in the late 19th century. Beginning in the late 1980s, queer activists, such as the members of Queer Nation, began to reclaim the word as a deliberately provocative and politically radical alternative to the more assimilationist branches of the LGBT community.”
I know people who proudly use the term queer to identify. And I know people who hate it because they grew up in a time when it was used as a slur. And there are people from my generation on both sides of the debate.
I found it hard to use when I first met people who called themselves queer. But I have learned to not only accept it as an individual’s right to self-identify but I’ve embraced it. And I respect those who find it offensive. The bottom line is I identify someone as they wish to be identified when talking about their sexual orientation or gender identity. I’m not in the business of deciding that for anyone else.
Some people wish we didn’t have to use labels at all and I get that. But we have names and in a way, that is a label. We are wives, husbands, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons. I don’t object to being called a wife or a mother. My name is Susan and I object to being called something else like Sue. I’m not Sue, I’m Susan.
So, if someone wants to identify as queer, yay! So long as they don’t expect everyone else to embrace that term if it doesn’t fit for them.