We asked our community how they feel about the word, and whether or not they choose to self identify as such, and all of the quotes in this article are directly from our community.
I use it for myself as I think it encapsulates my vibe and identity, but understand that it’s been a weapon against many in the lgbtq+ community so not everyone is comfortable with it so try not to umbrella term everyone in it. I own it for me.
History behind the word ‘queer’
Does the phrase “queer as a 9 bob note” ring a bell? Because that was one of the original uses of the word queer. It has always been used to signify something different or outside of normal conventions. Oh, and it was (and still is) a slur.
It was only with the advent of the various recent gay rights movements that the word was first used as a slur, primarily used as an insult to homosexual men, and then it expanded outwards to include more identities within the LGBTQIA+ community. It has been used as an insult for several years.
I like it for myself but I don’t like it when people use it to refer to LGBTQIA+ people as a whole. For many it is still a slur (especially the older generations) and to use it alienates them.
Taking a nuanced approach
Queer, is a divisive label. There are people within the LGBT community who still remember its use as a slur, or they feel it doesn’t represent them at all.
There are others who have embraced its history as a slur, and used that as a way of refusing conventional norms. For instance Queer House Party, a DJ collective who run accessible clubnights embrace the word, and wear it with pride. Neither of these uses is the right or wrong way to use it.
This is a particularly important conversation to have because of the increasing awareness of the LGBTQIA+ community in recent years, and there are many organisations that are using the word queer to refer to the entire LGBT+ community, and I can understand why they are doing so.
It’s a word that is much less clunky than the phrase ‘LGBT+ community’ and because of its historical usage, there is an immediate recognition of who the user is referring to.
However, as a person who uses the label queer, I feel as if this approach is lacking in nuance. Groups have the right to label themselves, and those labels have meaning to those who used them, also (and this is important) those who don’t use them. Words, as it turns out, have meaning.
“If someone identifies themselves as queer of course I will refer to them as such, I’m not here to dictate how people identify, but I find it really quite offensive and triggering when people refer to me as queer due to my experiences of that word used in a violent context.”
Why shouldn’t ‘queer’ be used?
What is the queer community anyway? Does it refer to people who identify as queer, but not to those who don’t? Does it refer to people who dress outside of the normal, but are sexually straight? Does it refer to drag queens/kings? Does it refer to people who are closeted?
The word ‘queer’ cannot be used in the place of LGBTQIA+ community. There are people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Questioning, Intersex or Asexual who wouldn’t identify themselves as part of the LGBTQIA+ community because they have issues with that term as well.
“Reclaiming a slur is a deeply personal thing. individuals can reclaim a slur, but communities cannot, so claiming that it’s been “reclaimed by the community” is both false and offensive”
So, how do you refer to everyone within a community of people that you aren’t a part of? Especially if you’re a marketing executive during pride month and you want to sell your rainbow merch to all of the gays, queers, alphabet mafia, rainbow people?
“I dislike it intensely when non-LGBTQIA+ people / orgs / companies use it, it actually makes me want to avoid them.”
There isn’t really an answer to this question, especially if you’re selling or appealing to a minority of people that you aren’t a part of. This community is diverse, just like any other minority community and trying to fit every single person into a box is the last thing you should be trying to do. Each subset of the community has its own language and slang used for a variety of terms, and then if you go down another layer it depends on that group’s geography, use of language, socio-economic status and so much more.
I guess, if you want to be appealing to the community at large, you should be very careful with your messaging and language used. Or better yet, ask us. We are more than happy to tell you all of this. Do your research, and if you don’t, don’t expect us to buy your tacky merch.
What is the current feeling on the word ‘queer’ in the Kalda community?
It is a slur, and for myself I’ve always ended up reclaiming words and throwing them back out there as something positive, but that doesn’t mean I would use it for someone else unless they asked me to, and I wouldn’t use it for the whole community.
I use it for myself . It feels like it’s become synonymous with LGBTI but it’s a lot shorter … and it’s original meaning a “sort or peculiar” (I think) also resonates with me
I like it as a descriptive term for my sexuality, gender identity (I much prefer the term ‘genderqueer’ to ‘non-binary’, I actually kinda hate nb as it defines my identity by what I’m not rather than what I am), and general identity.
Queer is the best and only term I have found that embodies all the aspects of my relational, political, sexual and romantic identities. It is, for me, a radical identity.
I identify as queer. To me, it’s freedom. I’ve shared the word to many young and questioning people, who have found comfort in it.
I think to accept that queer is not synonymous with LGBT should mean to acknowledge that it’s meaning is in fact broader than that.
In summary, the word queer is divisive. There are people who actively wish to reclaim the word for themselves (myself included), but it is not a catch-all term. Much like personal pronouns, don’t assume anything.
Inevitably there are people who will try to use the word without thinking about it and they only understand the word in its more modern usage. It is still used as a slur, and it still stings. So, best idea when you’re talking about or to someone who you might think is ‘queer’, ask them if they want to identify as such.
We are people after all.
This post was written by the wonderful Boris Shoalwise (they/them). You can see more about Boris here and here. Boris does the marketing for Kalda, and when they’re not doing that they enjoy making art and eating too much ice cream.