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Explaining Queer to Kids

Info: Sex and Gender

PFLAG: Definition of Queer

Huff Post: What it Means to be Queer

 

Umbrella Term for Sexual Minorities

 

The word "queer" has traditionally meant odd, strange, peculiar, or unusual, though in modern use it often pertains to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Additionally, it is being applied more and more to a broader category of sexual minorities, including a range of gender variant and non-normative heterosexual people. People who reject traditional gender identities and seek a more fluid and deliberately ambiguous alternative to the label LGBT may describe themselves as queer.

 

 Its usage is considered controversial and underwent substantial changes over the course of the 20th century with some gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people reclaiming the term as a means of self-empowerment.

 

 

The term is still considered by some to be offensive and derisive. Certainly, there are those who recall past experiences of harassment in which they were called "queer" as an insult or putdown. Others regard it as a re-appropriated term used to describe a sexual orientation and/or gender identity or gender expression that does not conform to heteronormative society.

 

In contemporary usage, some use "queer" as an inclusive, unifying sociopolitical, self-affirming umbrella term for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, transgender, transsexual, intersexual, genderqueer, or of any other non-heterosexual sexuality, sexual anatomy, gender identity, or gender expression. "Queer" in this sense (depending on how broadly it is defined) is commonly used as a simpler synonym for the ever-expanding LGBTQQIIAA+ acronym.

 

Within the community, the term "queer" has come to mean anyone who doesn’t identify under rigid binaries of either straight/gay or male/female, an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities. The term can represent a kind of freedom and acceptance which allows space for individuality and acknowledges that each person’s sexuality and identity is distinct from every other.

 

Info: Gender Queer

Explaining Queer to Kids

Queer 101: Identity and Inclusion

PFLAG: Definition of Queer

Info: Origins of Homosexuality

 

Queer Definition

According to typical dictionary definitions, “queer” is a slang expression, usually disparaging and offensive, used to refer to a person who is homosexual, gay or lesbian, or a person whose sexual orientation or gender identity falls outside the heterosexual mainstream or the gender binary.

 

Over the past two decades, an important change has occurred in the use of the word "queer". The older, strongly pejorative use has certainly not vanished, but a use by some gay people and some academics as a neutral or even positive term has established itself.

 

 
 

The newer use is sometimes taken to be offensive, especially by older gay men who recall its more nefarious use as a putdown and insult.

 

The pink triangle was originally used by the Nazis to denote homosexuality in male concentration camp prisoners. It has since been reclaimed. Many LGBTQ-related organizations use the inverted pink triangle as a symbol of queer resistance, gay pride and gay rights.

 

Because of the context in which it was reclaimed, "queer" has sociopolitical connotations, and is often preferred by those who are activists, by those who strongly reject traditional gender identities, by those who reject distinct sexual identities such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight, and by those who see themselves as oppressed by the heteronormativity of the larger culture.

 

In this usage it retains the historical connotation of "outside the bounds of normal society" and can be construed as "breaking the rules for sex and gender." It can be preferred because of its ambiguity, which allows queer-identifying people to avoid the sometimes strict boundaries that surround other labels. In this context, "queer" creates a space for a wider range of sexual minorities.

 

Huff Post: What it Means to be Queer

Explaining Queer to Kids

PFLAG: Definition of Queer

 

Reclaiming Queer

 

Beginning in the late-1980s, the label queer began to be reclaimed from its pejorative use as a neutral or positive self-identifier by LGBT people. An early example of this usage by the LGBT community was by an organization called Queer Nation, which was formed in March 1990 and circulated an anonymous flier at the New York Gay Pride Parade in June 1990 titled "Queers Read This". The flier included a passage explaining their adoption of the label queer:

 

“Ah, do we really have to use that word? It's trouble. Every gay person has his or her own take on it. For some it means strange and eccentric and kind of mysterious. And for others queer conjures up those awful memories of adolescent suffering. Well, yes, gay is great. It has its place. But when a lot of lesbians and gay men wake up in the morning we feel angry and disgusted, not gay. So we've chosen to call ourselves queer. Using queer is a way of reminding us how we are perceived by the rest of the world.”

 

 

What Does Queer Mean?

 

The term queer can include a variety of sexual identities and gender identities that are anything other than straight and cisgender.

 

In the past, “queer” was a word used to hurt and insult people. Some people still find it offensive, particularly those who remember when that word was used in a painful way. Others now use the word with pride to identify themselves.

 

You may not want to refer to someone as “queer” unless you know that’s how they identify themselves. When talking to someone about their sexual orientation, use the terms that they use. It’s okay (and often encouraged) to ask what labels folks prefer.


[Source: Planned Parenthood]

 

Info: Sex and Gender

Explaining Queer to Kids

PFLAG: Definition of Queer

Info: Sexual Orientation

 

 

The Q Word
 

Several television shows, including Queer as Folk, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, and the cartoon Queer Duck, have also used the term "queer" in their titles. This commonplace usage has, especially in the American colloquial culture, led to a more positive connotation of the word "queer" and has recently led to the more hip and iconic abbreviation "Q".

 

There has sprung up a variety of special interest categories and subject matter that employ the positive use of the term "queer."

 

Queer Studies as an academic discipline is now established at many universities. There is a sociological perspective known as Queer Theory.

 

You can also find Queer Culture, Queer Nation, Queer Cinema, Queer Lounge, Queer Theology, Queer Nationalism, Queer Literature, Queer Art, Queer History, Career Careers, and Queer Youth.

 

 

Queer Academia

 

In academia, the term “queer” and the related verb “queering” broadly indicate the study of literature, discourse, academic fields, and other social and cultural areas from a non-heteronormative perspective. It often means studying a subject against the grain from the perspective of gender studies.

 

Queer Studies is the study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity usually focusing on LGBTQ people and cultures. Originally centered on LGBTQ history and literary theory, the field has expanded to include the academic study of issues raised in biology, sociology, anthropology, history of science, philosophy, psychology, sexology, political science, ethics, and other fields by an examination of the identity, lives, history, and perception of queer people.

 

 

Queer Insight

 

Over the last 50 years, language around sexuality and gender has shifted and changed in incredible ways. New words have been born. Other words have changed meanings and usages. One of the more complex of these words is “queer,” a word that entered the language of sexuality and gender as a derogatory term but is now worn and embraced with pride by many.

 

“Queer” is a multi-faceted word that is used in different ways and means different things to different people. Here are some ways that queer is used today:

 

--Attracted to people of many genders.  Although dominant culture tends to dictate that there are only two genders, gender is actually far more complex. “Queer” can be a label claimed by a person who is attracted to men, women, genderqueer people, and/or other gender nonconforming people.

 

--Not fitting cultural norms around sexuality and/or gender identity/expression. “Queer” can be a label claimed by a person who feels that they personally don’t fit into dominant norms, due to their own gender identity/expression, their sexual practices, and their relationship style.

 

--Non-heterosexual. “Queer” is sometimes used as an umbrella term to refer to all people with non-heterosexual sexual orientations or all people who are marginalized on the basis of sexual orientation.

 

--Transgressive, revolutionary, anti-assimilation, challenging of the status quo.  Many people claim the label queer as a badge of honor that has a radical, political edge. “Queer,” for many folks, is about resistance—resisting dominant culture’s ideas of normal, rejoicing in transgression, celebrating the margins, reveling in difference, blessing ourselves.

 

--An epithet or slur for someone perceived to be gay or lesbian. “Queer” is still sometimes used as a derogatory term. Many people who have had the word queer used against them are understandably very uncomfortable with the word.

 

[Source: Unitarian Universalist Church]

 

 

Being More Welcoming and Inclusive of Queer People

 

--Respect queer as a valid sexual orientation and identity label.

 

--If you personally have negative associations with the word queer, find ways to open yourself to new understandings of the word. Do personal, gentle, deep work in order to honor and respect those who use queer to describe themselves.

 

--Include the word “queer” in the language you use to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity: “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer” or “LGBTQ.”

 

--Avoid making assumptions based on your perceptions of a person’s gender or the gender of the people they partner with—open yourself to the possibility that any person, of any age, might identify as queer.

 

--Learn more about queer identity on your own. You might start by reading at least two articles or books that increase your understanding of queer identity.

 

 

--Dominant culture teaches us to depend on dualisms.  Challenge yourself to eradicate dualisms from your language and your understanding of the world. Gay and straight, masculine and feminine, black and white: all dualisms obscure so many shades of grey, shades of queer, shades of androgyny and fluidity. Open yourself to this infinite variety.

 

--Use terms that encompass all genders rather than only two (“children” instead of “boys and girls,” “people” instead of “women and men,” “siblings” or “kindred,” or “brothers and sisters and siblings of all genders” instead of “brothers and sisters”).

 

--Expand the ways that sexual orientation is understood and discussed in your circle of influence beyond the idea that sexual orientation is a born-in, static trait. Although many people believe themselves to have been born lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or straight, others experience sexuality as fluid and changing throughout their lifetime. Honor this diversity of experience through the ways you talk and teach about sexual orientation.

 

--Do continuing education among your friends and colleagues on bisexual and queer issues.

 

--Queerness is often located at the margins. Consider how your group or organization’s welcome, advocacy, and service around LGBTQ issues can be more grounded in the experiences and needs of those who are most marginalized, such as queer and trans youth, queer and trans people of color, and undocumented queer and trans immigrants.

 

[Source: Unitarian Universalist Church]

 


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