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What does queer mean?

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

We decided this week to break down a word that reflects us and our work: Queer! (When used as a noun!)

Queer is becoming more and more commonly used among our community, but do folks know why we use it? What does it mean? Who uses it? And how can we be respectful of folks in our community who may not use the word queer to describe themselves?

The term queer has a long and complicated history. The origins of its definition tell us that "queer" means other, strange, or weird. Until recently, the term was used offensively, to insult or stigmatized LGBTQIA+ people. “Queer” was thrown around in cafeterias and online to harass anyone who seemed other, strange, or weird. So how did “queer” come to be a term that people ascribe to with pride?

This week, we discuss the definition and history of this umbrella term. To begin, let’s think about what it means to be queer.

“Queer” is a radical, political identity.

As a noun it is used an umbrella term identity category for folks who are a part of the LGTBQI+ community. “Queer” is also a reclaimed term, meaning at one point the term was a slur meaning “odd,” “strange,” and/or “other,” used against members of the LGBTQI+ community. Reclamation of the term queer began in the 1980’s as a way to push back against conservatism within, and outside of the LGBTQI+ community.

So who is “queer,” and who isn’t?

Anyone who identifies as “queer” is queer! No proof is ever needed. This means queerness should always be a self-identified label

Does everyone who’s in the LGBTQI+ community identify as/use the term queer?

No! Not everyone in the LGBTQI+ community identifies with the word “queer” and that’s okay, when in doubt, ask to make sure folks are comfortable with the terminology you’re using for them. Remember: Just because folks don’t use the word “queer” to self describe does not mean they are straight or cisgender.

The word queer has political social roots which means people in the same communities may feel different ways about it, and that’s okay! Respect everyone’s right to self-identify with the terms that feel good to them!

For us, queer means liberation, community, and self-identification. There is no one definition of Queer, but we did our best to explain it in our own way! Let’s be inclusive in our language by knowing the roots of our terms and respecting everyone’s self-identification.

What does queer mean to you?

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