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The word queer has traditionally meant "strange" or "unusual," but its use in reference to LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex) communities, as well as those perceived to be members of those communities, has replaced the traditional definition and application. Its usage is considered controversial and underwent substantial changes over the course of the 20th Century with some LGBT re-claiming the term as a means of self-empowerment. The term is still considered by some to be offensive and derisive, and by others 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.

Traditional usage Edit

Since its emergence in the English language in the 16th century (related to the German quer, meaning 'across, at right angle, diagonally or transverse'), queer has generally meant 'strange', 'unusual', or 'out of alignment'. It might refer to something suspicious or 'not quite right', or to a person with mild insanity or who exhibits socially inappropriate behavior. The expression 'in Queer Street' was used in the United Kingdom as of the 1811 edition of Francis Grose's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue for someone in financial trouble.[1]

In the 1904 Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Second Stain the term is still used in a completely non-sexual context (Inspector Lestrade is threatening a misbehaving constable with "finding himself in Queer Street", i.e., in this context, being severely punished).

By that time that story was published, however, the term was already starting to gain its implication of sexual deviance (especially that of homosexual and/or effeminate males), which is already known in the late 19th century; an early recorded usage of the word in this sense was in a letter by John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry to his son Lord Alfred Douglas.

Subsequently, for most of the 20th century, 'queer' was frequently used as a derogatory term for effeminate and/or gay males, and others exhibiting untraditional gender behavior.

The first time it was used in print in America in the modern era was in Variety magazine.

As a contemporary antonym of heteronormative Edit

In contemporary usage, some use queer as an inclusive, unifying sociopolitical umbrella term for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, intersexual, genderqueer, or of any other non-heterosexual sexuality, sexual anatomy, or gender identity. 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 (e.g. BDSM practitioners, or polyamorous persons). Queer in this sense (depending on how broadly it is defined) is commonly used as a synonym for such terms as LGBT.

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" is not a synonym for LGBT as it creates a space for "queer" heterosexuals as well as "non-queer" ("straight-acting") homosexuals.

For some queer-identified people, part of the point of the term 'queer' is that it simultaneously builds up and tears down boundaries of identity. For instance, among genderqueer people, who do not solidly identify with one particular gender, once solid gender roles have been torn down, it becomes difficult to situate sexual identity. For some people, the non-specificity of the term is liberating. Queerness becomes a way to simultaneously make a political move against heteronormativity while simultaneously refusing to engage in traditional essentialist identity politics.

Several television shows, including Queer Eye, the cartoon Queer Duck and the British and American versions of Queer as Folk, have also used the term in their titles to reinforce their positive self-identification message. This commonplace usage has, especially in the American colloquial culture, has recently led to the more hip and iconic abbreviation "Q".

The term is sometimes capitalized when referring to an identity or community, rather than merely a sexual fact (cf. the capitalized use of Deaf).

Queers Without Borders, a network of queer activists that opposes border regimes while supporting those people oppressed by them.

Queer Mutiny North, a D-I-Y non-hierarchical collective that aims to create politically motivated queer alternatives to the commercial and non-representative gay scene in the north of England.

Cardiff Queer Mutiny, A not-for-profit collective inspired by queer activism/philosophy, DIY punk ethics, creativity, and political activist movements. (These groups put on much more regular activity but are smaller in size.)

See also Edit

References Edit

Notes Edit

  1. The Telegraph If one is bankrupt, one is in Queer Street. This originates from the word query which tradesmen and merchants would write against the names of persons who were late in paying. Another theory relates it to Carey Street off Chancery Lane in London which housed the bankruptcy courts.

Bibliography Edit

  • Anon. "Queercore". i-D magazine No. 110; the sexuality issue. (1992).
  • Crimp, D. AIDS DemoGraphics. (1990).
  • Katlin, T. "Slant: Queer Nation". Artforum, November 1990. pp. 21-23.
  • Tucker, S. "Gender, Fucking & Utopia". Social text, Vol.9, No.1. (1992).

External links Edit


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Wikipedialogo This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Queer. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with LGBT Info, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.

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