February 15, 2011

Queer Issue: Queering the Meaning of Queer

Let me start by saying that this article was inspired by a comment a friend left on my Facebook page. The point that my friend made was that the term "queer" is potentially offensive as it essentially means "strange" or "different".

I have to say that this person raised a good point. I can remember a somewhat painful episode in high-school involving me being called queer. A few years after that incident, I was at an event at SUNY Oneonta for Coming Out day. As people were going around and sharing their coming out stories, I was surprised by one individual saying that she identified as "queer". I can remember thinking to myself, "what? but isn't queer an insult, just like 'faggot'?"

Over the years since then, I've reconsidered my view on the term queer and today have no problem in identifying as queer.

My reasoning is as follows. The acronym LGBT was originally developed to describe Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans individuals. However, over the years many other ways of identifying individuals who were not straight came into existence. Terms such as omnisexual, pansexual, genderfucks, questioning, intersex, asexual, etc. To put it one way, diversity can best be seen on a spectrum, not in an acronym.

Since there is no alphabet soup that can be entirely inclusive, the term queer can be used as broad descriptor of anyone who is not straight. It is also used in an attempt to show contempt for boundaries. My use of the term queer though is nothing more than the result of pure laziness.

Something else I want to point while I'm on this topic, is that my boyfriend, sociology professor Dr. Jeffery Dennis, recently did a presentation on the history of the term queer. In one poll that he did, he found that most people who identified as queer were upper middle class professionals, while most blue collar workers identified as either gay or lesbian.

This of course then raises the question of whether or not the term "queer" is as boundary destroying as those who use it think it is. However, that's a much larger and more complicated issue than I intend to address right now.

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