Many LGBTQ+ individuals have strong feelings about the debate over the word queer. For many, queer is a term of radical acceptance and Pride, but for others, the word still exists as a slur carrying harmful connotations.
The word was likely first used to identify LGBTQ+ people in 1895 when Irish writer Oscar Wilde was being tried for homosexuality. Its usage gradually increased over time, and by the early 1910s, the word ‘queer’ became a widely used derogatory slur against gay people.
The term was reclaimed by many LGBTQ+ individuals as early as 1930, and more widely circulated in the 1980s and 1990s when activist groups began using the famous “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” anthem during Pride marches and events.
In more recent years, younger LGBTQ+ generations have adopted the term as an inclusive, umbrella term representing all LGBTQ+ identities. For many, queer is an identity that differentiates us from mainstream cis-heteronormativity and recognises all non-heterosexual identities.
Why “queer”? Because queer takes up space. Queer is unapologetic. Queer doesn’t promise assimilation. Queer includes, and makes it harder to drop a letter off the acronym when it’s politically convenient. Queer reminds us to not get complacent. Queer is solidarity.
— SJ Sindu 💙 Shakti available for pre-order 💙 (@SJSindu) January 15, 2023
Queer has also entered mainstream culture with shows like Queer Eye gaining international recognition, and it’s common to see banners, badges, and clothing proudly highlighting the word as a way to increase LGBTQ+ visibility.
I see the queer debate making its rounds and I should say I'm queer af. 💖 pic.twitter.com/aDRXlORXUP
— kami🔜TFF (@blue_bun) January 18, 2023
In a letter published in The Guardian earlier this month, 66-year-old openly gay Brighton resident, Karl Lockwood, criticised the use of the word ‘queer’ saying, “I suspect that many of the others, like me, consider the term to be insulting… and certainly not ‘reclaimed”.
His words sparked discussions around the appropriateness of the term and opened a viral debate in recent days, with LGBTQ+ voices weighing in on Twitter.
Yeah, I hate that word! It was a derogative word towards gays originally, but the LGBT community (or rather those who think they run it) decided to adopt it. Don’t know why, no one asked my opinion on the matter and there certainly wasn’t a vote!
— MontyMcKinnen (@MontyMcKinnen) January 8, 2023
I've seen it said before but it's worth repeating, most of the "Stop calling Gay people Queer" people are from an older demographic who don't realise most people my age and younger were bullied not with the word "queer" but the word "gay"…
— Owen J Hurcum 🏴🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈🟠🌤 (@OwenJHurcum) January 8, 2023
Queer Nation was founded in 1990 by activists from ACT-UP. Many of the people who call themselves queer are in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. It is ahistorical to say that older people in general and gay men who survived AIDS in particular hate in-community usage of “queer”
— Racheline Maltese (@racheline_m) January 15, 2023
It’s important to recognise this history of the word queer and why it’s up for debate. While it can certainly mean different things to different people, it’s not a recent trend that was adopted lightly. LGBTQ+ people have been proudly self-identifying as ‘queer’ well before the 1980s.
Ultimately, everyone gets to decide which terms to use when describing their LGBTQ+ identities. It’s always best practice to ask people in the LGBTQ+ community what labels and pronouns they use before you label anyone with a particular identity.
Some folks like the word queer, some folks don’t – it’s okay to be either of these people but we should not be reducing queerness to a word that is hushed in private or reduced to a singular letter.
Just as ‘gay’ was a slur & reclaimed, so is/was ‘queer’.
I’m queer & proud https://t.co/CYJdA7Zy12
— Dee 🌈✨🐸🐛They/Them (@S3xTheoryDemi) January 14, 2023
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