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Queer Nation

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Queer Nation was an organization founded in March 1990 in New York City, USA by AIDS activists from ACT UP.[1] The four founders were outraged at the escalation of anti-gay and lesbian violence on the streets and prejudice in the arts and media. The group is known for its confrontational tactics, its slogans, and for the practice of outing.

History Edit

On March 20, 1990, sixty LGBT people gathered at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Services Center in New York's Greenwich Village to create a direct-action organization. The goal of the unnamed organization was the elimination of homophobia, and the increase of gay, lesbian and bisexual visibility through a variety of tactics.

The direct-action group's inaugural action took place at Flutie's Bar, a straight hangout at the South Street Sea Port on April 13, 1990. The goal: to make clear to patrons that queers will not be restricted to gay bars for socializing and for public displays of affection. More visibility actions like this one became known as "Queer Nights Out."

Although the name Queer Nation had been used casually since the group’s inception, it was officially approved at the group's general meeting on May 17, 1990.

Queer Nation's popular slogan "We're here. We're queer. Get used to it." was adopted and used by many in the LGBT community.

The militant protest style of the group contrasted with more assimilationist gay rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign or the Log Cabin Republicans. Queer Nation was most effective and powerful in the early 1990s in the USA, and used direct action to fight for gay rights. They also worked with AIDS organization ACT-UP as well as WHAM! Even though never officially disbanded, many of the local groups did so in the mid to late 1990s.[2][3][4]

Queer Nation is credited with starting the process of reclaiming the word queer, which, previously, was only used in a pejorative sense. The group's use of it in their name and slogan was at first considered shocking, though the reclamation has been called a success,[5] used in relatively mainstream television programs such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Queer as Folk.

Queer Nation is also linked to several controversial incidents in which closeted public figures were outed. Queer Nation's reasoning was that ending the "hypocrisy" benefited gays as a group because it let them know there actually were gay people in influential places, and promoted gay rights by forcing the outed and the organizations they belonged to take a stance on issues concerning gays. Many in the gay community did not agree with Queer Nation's radical tactics and favored a less confrontational course of action.

Other slogans used by Queer Nation include "Two, Four, Six, Eight! How Do You Know Your Kids Are Straight?" and "Out of the Closets and into the Streets".

Early timeline Edit

Here are some of Queer Nation's first actions:

Queer Nation members show up en masse at Macy's department store where Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis is promoting a new swimsuit line. Queers arrive with WHEATIES cereal boxes with swimmer’s picture pasted on front, to recall the time the cereal maker rejected Louganis as a spokesperson, ostensibly because he is gay.

Responding to the 120% increase in violence against queers, Queer Nation climbs to the roof of Badlands, a Greenwich Village bar and hangs a 40-foot banner that reads: "Dykes and Fags Bash Back!"

A pipe bomb explodes in Uncle Charlie’s, a Greenwich Village gay bar, injuring three. In protest, Queer Nation mobilizes 1000 queers in a matter of hours. Angry marchers fill the streets, carrying the banner “Dykes and Fags Bash Back.”

The inauguration of "Queer Shopping Network." Members of Queer Nation travel from New York City to the Newport Mall in Jersey City with leaflets offering information about queers, safe sex tips, and a list of famous queers throughout history. The leaflets are titled "We're here, we're queer and we'd like to say hello!"

Legacy Edit

A television program of the same name with a focus on gay current events and issues regularly aired in New Zealand for eleven years until 2004, by which time it claimed to be the world's longest running LGBT television show.[citation needed]

Queer Nation in other locales Edit

File:QN Faggot.jpg

Queer Nation chapters were founded in dozens of other cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Columbia, S.C., Minneapolis, Montreal (known as Queer Nation Rose), Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto.

Queer Nation/San Francisco was active from the spring of 1990 to about 1993. In the fall of 1990 the group helped organize a protest against a visiting televangelist who vowed to "exorcise the demons" from San Francisco on Halloween.[6] An offshoot, the San Francisco Street Patrol, was a neighborhood safety patrol in the Castro District, outliving QN-SF itself by a year.

The Queer Nation chapters in Atlanta, Columbia, and Nashville were active in protesting homophobic policies of the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain.[7]

Queer Nation/Portland generated many original and popular sticker designs and slogans, including "Fuck Your Gender," "Bend Over Pretty," and a series of stickers interpolating Madonna lyrics, as "Strike a Pose, Not a Fag."

References Edit

  1. Seidman, Steven, Queer Theory/sociology, Blackwell Publishing, p. 414, ISBN 1557867402 
  2. Queer Nation/Seattle Disbands, February 5, 1995, <>. Retrieved on 29 March 2008 
  3. Sadownick, Doug (October 1 1993), “We're Here, We're Queer, We're Finish – Maybe”, LA Weekly, <>. Retrieved on 29 March 2008 
  4. Bell, David & Valentine, Gill, Mapping Desire: Geographies of Sexualities, Routledge, p. 295, ISBN 0415111633 
  5. Bernstein, Robin, Cast Out: Queer Lives in Theater, University of Michigan Press, ISBN 0472069330 
  6. Johnson, Chip (30 October 1990), “The Devil, You Say? San Francisco Faces Halloween Exorcism”, Wall Street Journal, <>. Retrieved on 29 March 2008 
  7. Noble, Barbara Presley (November 25 1992), “COMPANY NEWS; Gay Group Asks Accord In Job Dispute”, New York Times, <>. Retrieved on 29 March 2008 

See also Edit

External links Edit

Outside ReadingEdit

"The Case For and Against Queer Nation," pp.256-66, Johansson, Warren & Percy, William A. Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence. Harrington Park Press, 1994.

Family Values: Two Moms and Their Son by Phyllis Burke. New York: Random House, 1993. ISBN 0-679-42188-2. In this nonfiction book, the author recounts her struggle to adopt her domestic partner's son, a drama that is set against a backdrop of Queer Nation actions in San Francisco in 1990-1992.

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