The Re-Claiming of the Word Queer

Define Queer:  Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities [1] that are not heterosexual, heteronormative, or gender-binary. In the context of Western identity politicsthe term also acts as a label setting queer-identifying people apart from discourse, ideologies, and lifestylesthat typify mainstreamLGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual) communities as being oppressive or assimilationist.  Since its emergence in the English language in the 16th century (related to the German quer, meaning “across, at right angle, diagonally or transverse”), queer has generally meant “strange”, “unusual”, or “out of alignment”.


Working as an out activist in our world today is very different, terminology is constantly changing and it is important that we all do our best to keep up on this state of growth.  It is irrelevant whether we agree with it or not,  the fact is that if we want to be able to reach and communicate with various generations we have to be open to change while being respectful where others come from.  This movement to take back the word Queer is like women taking back the word Slut.  The word Queer for many was used in the past in a very derogatory fashion as a slam and to oppress.  Why should we keep giving people that much power over us as a community?   I like the idea of taking the word back and defining it and making it our own.  It gives us the power.  As Harvey Fierstein   said, “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”  Now the word Queer is very trendy, especially with younger generations and I personally like the reasons that it is so popular.   People are tired of being boxed into binary sexuality, sexual orientation and gender roles.  Queer openly states that one does not buy into this binary system.  Both sexual orientation and gender spectrums are on a vast scale.  

Let’s talk about sexual orientation first.  The word queer in the context of sexual orientation covers, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, pomosexual, asexual, autosexual, heteroflexable and heterosexual people who’s sexual activity is considered out of the “norm”, like polyamory, BDSM and S&M.  Now that the book “50 Shades of Gray” is such a hit, there may be many more people joining in the group of those of us who identify outside of  what society considers the “norm.”  Those of us who would not be considered “vanilla” or even “beige” in most groups just because we are considered different from “mainstream.”  

Now to tackle the Queer part about gender identity, gender expression and gender roles.  This goes even deeper in our society then sexual orientation.  We are so brainwashed from the minute we come out of the womb that there are only two sides to who we are.   And we have to choose between the “Pink” team and the “Blue” team.  The term Queer says I do not buy this binary gender theology our society tries to force feed us.  It says there is a scale to gender and I will not pick a side.  It also challenges the gender roles that are ingrained in our culture in a way that is scary to many. 

Basically the word Queer tears down boundaries.  Boundaries that make some people feel safe and comfortable.  Boundaries that identify everyone, puts them (and many hope keeps them) in their neat little boxes. Reclaiming the word Queer is a political statement and it is liberating.  It is also more inclusive of our entire community.  So I challenge those over 40 to try and let go of the old stigma that the word Queer brings up and take the power back.  For the younger “Queers”, I challenge you help tear down these boundaries and I request that you be compassionate and patient with your predecessors as this may take some time to get used to.  Anytime we can re-claim something that anyone used against us or to hurt us with we regain our power and confidence.  The world is changing in a positive way for civil rights.  Let’s be open to ways we can step forward with an openness to learn from one another and educate in a compassionate way.

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin