Why Say “Queer” ?

Mighty Queer T-shirt in HRC store windowWe received a polite question from a visitor asking why we used the term “queer” for the people we helped when historically that word has been used as a homophobic taunt.

We are not arbitrators of good taste or cultural terminology, but we’ve seen over the past years gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex… sexual minority… people have worked to reclaim the word “queer”. Younger people first started using it to describe their community, and it is preferred — or at least accepted — by most LGBTQI people now.

The danger in listing LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTQ, or whatever specific set of initials you choose is that you will inadvertently leave out a letter that someone will say is who they are. Using a generic term like “queer” finesses the problem of leaving someone out.

It’s likely that there are some LGBTIQ people from an older generation (like me) who still feel uncomfortable about the word “queer” because it was used against them. However, I hope that the general wide acceptance and the context we use the term in will make the most people possible feel included and respected.

I snapped this photo of the clothing for sale in the Castro Human Right’s Campaign window. They’re a pretty conservative LGBT rights organization, and even they are selling t-shirts for proud queers!

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