I have always hated the word “queer.” In my mind it is something akin to a racial slur, and just as bad as being called a “sissy” or “fag.” Growing up, I don’t think I ever heard it used in a positive manner. It seems things have changed.
Even though the word is still considered offensive to some, it has gained popularity over the past several years as a descriptor for anyone who doesn’t identify as heterosexual. Actor Ezra Miller recently came out in a magazine interview by saying, “I’m queer.” The word appears fifteen times in an article on Huffington Post written by Noah Michelson (who also identifies as queer). Popular television shows over the past several years have included Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Queer as Folk.
Wikipedia describes it this way:
Queer is an umbrella term for sexual minorities that are not heterosexual, heteronormative, or gender-binary. In the context of Western identity politics the term also acts as a label setting queer-identifying people apart from discourse, ideologies, and lifestyles that typify mainstream LGBT (lesbian, gay,bisexual, and transsexual) communities as being oppressive or assimilationist.
This term is controversial because it was reappropriated only two decades ago from its use as an anti-gay epithet. Furthermore, some LGBT people disapprove of using queer as a catch-all because they consider it offensive, derisive or self-deprecating given its continuous use as a form of hate speech. Other LGBT people may avoid queer because they associate it with political radicalism, or simply because they perceive it as the faddish slang of a “younger generation.”
I understand the desire to strip words of their power. The black community has tried to do the same with another particularly offensive word, but it still gets used by racist and bigoted people. I rarely ever hear the word “queer” used by straight people when it isn’t tainted with homophobia. Perhaps that will change over time.
I suppose in a world where sexuality is becoming more fluid and people don’t necessarily want to label themselves as gay, straight, or bisexual, identifying as “queer” makes sense. Author Laurence Cole’s book titled Dusty Springfield: In the Middle of Nowhere describes the word in the following way:
Because “queer” is more inclusive of potentials and open to possibilities than “gay,” “lesbian,” “heterosexual” or even the more open-ended “bisexual,” as well as uninterested in promoting identity categories and disrespectful of boundary markers, it welcomes the broader crossings of those who feel they don’t easily fit into these types of socially constructed sexuality groupings – people otherwise ignored or invisiblised such as: transgendered, intersexed, asexual, celibate, and sexually self-contained people; those who sense they slip and slide – at different stages of their lives and in varying moods – from one thing to another but don’t consider themselves bisexual; or people who say they are “lesbian” or “bi” or “gay” for reasons of social expediency. Even people who are “straightforwardly heterosexual” in their patterns of thought and choice of partners may consider themselves as functioning queerly if they feel capable – even if only imaginatively – of moving anywhere along the sex and gender, or even class and race, lines of inquiry, and choose to align themselves with those who do so in practice. “Queer” and “straight” are not necessarily incompatible bedfellows.
In the end, we are all queer in some sexual way or other for, whatever our object of choice during sexual activity, there may be an incongruity between the events taking place in the bedroom and the pictures which form on our heads. About masturbation fantasy scenarios we know next to nothing. How many of us, indeed, are fully aware of what is happening in our psyches during any kind of sexual arousal, never mind in the shifts and turns of our emotional involvement with others? The inner realm of sexual fantasy – what is going on in our minds when we get turned on – is likely to be almost as queer as subatomic movements at the quantum level. And we probably know and understand as little, or even less, about the material scurrying around in those dark and inaccessible recesses of desire.
If Mr. Cole is correct, apparently we are all queer.