What does queer mean?
The word “queer” remains controversial, but while some still do find the term derogatory, most LGBTQ+ people have proudly reclaimed the anti-gay slur and use it in a positive light.
In the English language, queer dates back to the 16th century, and was possibly derived from the German word ‘quer’, which translates as ‘oblique’ or ‘perverse’.
Originally defined as “odd”, “strange” or “peculiar”, the term “queer” took on a more sordid meaning from the mid-20th century when it was used to pejoratively refer to those with same-sex desires, especially gay men.
But, with the rise of LGBTQ+ activism in the 1970s and 1980s, some gay rights campaigners positively reclaimed the word “queer” as an umbrella term for gender and sexual minorities.
Today, queer is widely used by millennials as an inclusive term to refer to anyone who is not straight and/or not cisgender.
But, for some people, particularly older generations, “queer” still carries negative connotations.
Just last month, Twitter banned some users who had described themselves as “queer,” facing a backlash from those who had reclaimed the term.
According to Brian Lewis, whose book British Queer History was published in 2013, the word “queer” today has three primary uses.
He explains: “’Queer’ is used in three main ways: as an act of reclamation from homophobes; as an umbrella term for the micro divisions of the LGBT+ community; and as a marker of sexual fluidity in opposition to heterosexual and homosexual binaries and identities.”
For Lewis, the term “queer” is “one of the most useful—and controversial—categories of analysis in the study of sexuality.”
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