Explaining Queer to Kids

PFLAG: Definition of Queer


Umbrella Term for Sexual Minorities


The word "queer" has traditionally meant odd 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.

Its usage is considered controversial and underwent substantial changes over the course of the 20th century with some gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people 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, transgender, transsexual, intersexual, genderqueer, or of any other non-heterosexual sexuality, sexual anatomy, gender identity, or gender expression.

It can also include asexual and autosexual people, as well as gender normative heterosexuals whose sexual orientations or activities place them outside the heterosexual-defined mainstream (BDSM practitioners, polyamorous persons). "Queer" in this sense (depending on how broadly it is defined) is commonly used as a simpler synonym for the ever-expanding LGBTQQIIAA+ acronym.

Explaining Queer to Kids

PFLAG: Definition of Queer


Queer Definition

According to Merriam-Webster, "queer" as a term referring to homosexuals or gay and lesbian people was often disparaging and sometimes offensive.

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. This development is most noticeable in the adjective but is reflected in the corresponding noun as well.


The newer use is sometimes taken to be offensive, especially by older gay men who fostered the acceptance of gay in these uses and still have a strong preference for it.

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.


Explaining Queer to Kids

PFLAG: Definition of Queer


The Q Word

Several television shows, including British and American versions of 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 than 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.




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