More Than Words: Queer, Part 1 (The Early Years)

Welcome to the seventh installment of More Than Words, where I take queer words of all sorts and smash them apart and see what makes them tick. Every week I’ll be dissecting a different word, trying to figure out where it came from, how it has evolved, where it might be going, and what it all means. It’s like reading the dictionary through a prism. Feel free to send word suggestions to [email protected].

Header by Rory Midhani

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I have to admit something: there are days when etymology research drives me nuts. All those well-meaning sources starting out so strong, with their bold type and firm pronunciation instructions, dissolving into hems and haws when it comes to specifics. “JUST DEFINE YOURSELF,” I want to yell, sometimes. But then I realize I would never yell that at my friends, you know? And this week’s word is a good friend – and a better one when it stays hazy! – because this week’s word is “queer.”

“Queer” has a particularly messy history. Right now I have a headache from squinting at dates and my tongue’s angry with me because I’ve ridden it roughshod over Scottish sentences. It’s hard to get mad, though – if any word is going to consistently duck the butterfly net, it should be this one, right? In the first few hundred years of its existence, “queer” changed costumes countless times. It hopped nationalities and met and merged with its doppelganger. It stretched out and became several parts of speech. It has been co-opted into countless rhyming slogans (“WE’RE HERE . . .”) and derogatory phrases (anyone down for a game of “Smear the Queer”?). Its current role, as the star of a decades-long reclamation campaign, is only the latest in a long history of adventures. And I would argue that before we can properly identify as it, make hilarious and useful compound words with it, or shout it from the rooftops, it helps to learn where it came from.

EVENTS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE LETTER "QUEER"

BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE LETTER “QUEER”

This is easier said than done. No one can even agree on where “queer” was born, or its parents. The predominant theory holds that it’s a descendant of the Proto-Indo-European morpheme “*twerk,” which means “to twist, turn, wind, or cut,” and is also likely the root of several other vocabulary staples, including “thwart” and “sarcasm.” “Twerk” led to Old High German’s “twerh,” which means “oblique,” and then to German, where it morphed to “quer” and picked up associations of strangeness and eccentricity. By 1500, it had stretched out to “queer” and could be heard around Scotland.

A competing theory, presented by the well-named word detective William Sayers, says that “queer” comes instead from the morpheme “*keu,” which denotes a bow, arch, or incurvation. “Keu” became the Middle Irish “cúar,” an adjective meaning bent, or a noun denoting a twisted thing (often a catenary, or the curve of a rope that’s been hung at both ends and is pulled down in the center by its own gravity). This became “quair,” or “misaligned,” and finally the Scottish “queer.” Whichever theory you prefer, “queer” set itself up as “not straight” centuries before “straight” had even thought about being a sexual identity.

THIS WOULD BE A CATENARY IF NOT FOR THE CAT

THIS WOULD BE A CATENARY IF NOT FOR THE CAT

According to the OED, “queer” first showed up on paper in 1508, in a transcription of “The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie.” Flyting, very popular in early 16th-century Scotland, was a public entertainment in which bards “would engage in verbal contests of provocative, often sexual and scatological but highly poetic abuse;” royalty would sometimes set them up as court entertainment, and at least one academic considers flyting the direct ancestor of modern rap battles. King James IV hired William Dunbar and Walter Kennedy to flyt over him, and the result contains not only a takedown of “our awin queer Clerk” but is also home to the first written examples of the word “cunt” (“cuntbitten crawdon” = “coward with an STD”) and the use of “shit” as a personal insult (“a shit but wit”). It’s overdue for a complete translation, but in the meantime if you read it out loud its general vibe is clear.

After its illustrious debut, “queer” began popping up in various places. Chronological lists of the word in context show it evolving over the course of the next few centuries, modifying concrete and abstract nouns (“queer pranks”; “queer substance”; “a queer lot”).   Lillian Faderman lists some more pairings: “In the 1600s, a “queer mort” was a syphilitic harlot. A 1796 “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” lists 23 uses of the word “queer,” all of them negative . . . In the 19th century, “queer bub” was bad liquor, a “queer chant” was a false name or address. To “shove the queer” meant to pass counterfeit money.”

Along the way, the word gained secondary definitions – it started to mean out-of-sorts, giddy, or drunk, leading to more occasions for immature and fun exercises in linguistic hindsight (“The more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask.” – Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; “I am so very queer that I must ask you for a morsel of that cake” – Dickens again). It was also making cameos that, to me at least, seem increasingly actually queer – it showed up everywhere from a 17th century biography of Oliver Cromwell (Cromwell’s doctors are described as “queer hypocrites . . . [full of] pious nonsense and most blasphemous flattery”) to Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge, from 1840, in which someone named “Mr. Tappertit” describes a man’s desire to devote the last moments of his life to carving a likeness of his [male] friend as “a queer fancy.”

SOMEONE PLEASE JUST GET HIM SOME CAKE

SOMEONE PLEASE JUST GET HIM SOME CAKE

The first person to use “queer” to refer derogatorily to a gay person was John Sholto Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry in Scotland. Douglas’s son Francis was the private secretary to Archibald Primose, aka Lord Rosebery, and it was rumored that the two were romantically involved. After Francis died mysteriously, Douglas wrote a letter to his other son, Lord Alfred Douglas, denouncing “Snob Queers like Rosebery” and blaming said snob queers for Francis’s death. Alfred may not have agreed with his dad, as he was busy receiving sexy letters from the one and only Oscar Wilde. Douglas found out about that, too, and would later threaten to out Rosebery unless Rosebery vigorously prosecuted Wilde for sodomy; the rest is history.

By 1914, “queer” in the near-modern sense had swam across the ocean bearing scare quotes. It appeared first in the society pages of the LA Times, which wrote on “‘drags’ where the ‘queer people’ have a good time;” a year later Arnold Bennett of England described “an immense reunion of art students, painters, and queer people. Girls in fancy male costume, queer dancing, etc.” Some embraced the term as a coded self-identifier (such as one of Gertrude Stein’s characters in her 1903 book QED, which was based on Stein’s own life), but that usage never took off. By the late 1920s the term was barbed enough that Dorothy Parker tapped it for a line-ender in a jabby New Yorker poem.  The sense of “other” and “bent” and “bad” followed the word “queer” for decades, and it got lumped in with other pejoratives: Lillian Faderman remembers that when she was growing up in the 1950s, “queer” was “interchangeable with other homophobic words such as “fairy” and “bulldyke.” It even had a variety of forms . . . Linguistics researcher Julia Penelope, in a 1970 article for American Speech, said that the gays and lesbians she interviewed all knew the term but felt it was only used by heterosexuals to express their disdain for homosexuals.”

GERTRUDE STEIN LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

GERTRUDE STEIN LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

So there you have it – the long and winding lingustic-historical journey of “queer,” from “not straight” to “not straight AND BAD” via swaying ropes, royal feuds, LA parties, and famous authors. But this is not, of course, the end. We can’t leave it with Dorothy Parker this time, or else we’d never be queering our tech with fun, guiding each other around queer girl cities, or being queer Lisa Frank enthusiasts. Tune in next time to read about how we got here, got queer, and got used to it.

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Cara is a writing reading bicycling fiend and a lab mouse to the world. Sometimes she's also Hat Benatar. She lives in Jamaica Plain with five cool roommates and an ice cream machine, and is generally thinking about gender, words, sustainable biodiversity, and/or electric guitars. You can follow her on twitter @cjgiaimo if you want.

Cara has written 111 articles for us.

51 Comments

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    I just wish more people who self-ID’d as queer would understand how loaded a word it still is to many gay people who were spat upon or beaten with that word and that people have a right to choose to “reclaim” words or not (and I’m highly dubious about the entire practice of word reclamation itself). Moreover, that not everyone in the LGBTQI community feels as if queer is a good fit for them or even at all appropriate for who they are… so maybe queer isn’t quite the umbrella term or power-identity many assume. Also, that “queer,” all too often, is coded with race (mostly white) education privilege (college educated) and class (not always but overwhelmingly middle/upper middle class) and that is a problem. And that statements like “young people ID as queer while older people ID as lesbian, gay or transsexual” are really dismissive, ageist and reductive. Yes, some of us have a perfect right to ID as queer, faggot or tranny, but just understand that doing as much carries a lot of baggage in terms of history, entitlement and often ignoring others pain… and that isn’t quite the reclamation or liberation you might have thought it was.

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      I agree that queer is a very coded word (especially in terms of education privilege), and blanket statements like the one that you mentioned is harmful. As for the reclamation of words, as someone who has been pretty heavily bullied to words like ‘dyke,’ and has been the queer in games of ‘smear the queer’ (yes they actually used that phrase) and IDs as primarily as ‘queer’ (and often as a ‘dyke’)I really disagree with you about the reclamation of words. I can’t speak about the historical baggage (and I am always pretty sensitive with who I ID as queer around) but I know that reclamation has helped me take a very painful part of my past and turn it into something I can a) acknowledge and b) overcome. For example, i no longer have panic attacks when I hear people use those words (or read them–here’s looking at you, Frances Hodgson Burnet!) And it reminds me that there is an entire community out there that has had similar ex(queer)iences as I have.

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        Reclamation, IMO, is highly situational and context driven (and often works in much narrower contexts than assumed). If a young gay man is “fag-bashed” (as it used to be called in the 70s-80s) and has queer screamed at him while it’s happening, it’s hard for me to believe he’ll be okay with queer even if he’s referred to himself previously that way. If a young femme boy were called a queer by a teacher at his school, would he feel better because the word “queer” has supposedly been reclaimed? Notice I’m focusing on MAAB people because I honestly feel the term queer has been most frequently and violently used against that group of people, especially MAAB gender-variant persons (which is not to say FAAB people haven’t had homophobia focused on them as well… I’m talking about one word here). I am old enough (and lived in the Castro) to remember arguments between older gay men who had been “fag-rolled” (the other term most commonly used for anti-gay violence) and never wanted to hear the term queer again, and younger gay men who were rolling their eyes at them for being so ‘backward.’ I’m not saying that’s what Queer-ID’d people are doing now, but I do hear a lot from young queer people really discounting (or just not caring about) those older community experiences. How is that empowering?

        It’s also highly important that the people most impacted by the term are the one’s doing the reclaiming. And I don’t see a lot of awareness about that in the queer community nor a tremendous amount of thoughtfulness about who deals with the brunt of a word’s abuse and impact. Anyone who’s been directly impacted by a word has a right to protest its wider use or, to decide to use themselves if that helps them deal with their history. But it doesn’t give them global labeling rights. That’s what I’m saying.

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      I think these are really important points and ones I will always try to keep in mind when claiming an identity as queer or identifying myself as queer to other people. I see it as more accurate for me than other terms commonly in use, but that’s obviously not the case for everyone. I think “you do you – with a healthy dose of understanding and respecting history and other people’s experiences and feelings” is called for.

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      I would have to argue that at least linguistically, some of us have chosen it because it codes as less “white”-exclusive than some terms.
      Technically a lot of the English language codes as white, primarily on account that England is pretty white… Oops.
      However, when an alternative is lesbian: that’s for sure white and privileged… so, I dunno.
      Otherwise, point taken: Think about the history and be sensitive. Thanks for the reminder: really.

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      I think this is an interesting discussion, but leaves out the fact that for some of us, there is no other word that describes our sexualities. Queer isn’t just an alternative to gay, and I’m not gay so I’m not going to call myself that.

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      “Moreover, that not everyone in the LGBTQI community feels as if queer is a good fit for them or even at all appropriate for who they are… so maybe queer isn’t quite the umbrella term or power-identity many assume.” YES YES YES.

      I personally identify as gay and HATE being labeled as “queer”. I don’t have a problem with the term itself- people should use whatever word they want to identify themselves. But I emphatically do not want to be referred to as queer. For me, it’s not the fact that it was used as a slur as much as it is the literal definition of the word: my sexuality is not strange, odd, or unusual.

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        Then just say “I’m bisexual”. I don’t get this “queer” thing. Is it just about being picky with labels or wanting to group everyone together? Just seems unnecessary.

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          Well, in the field of diversity affairs, which I work in, we oftern find it nice to have a word that can be explained as an umbrella term, which is handier than using the whole alphabet to recognize all sexual and gender minorities and allies. It has also functioned well to create a sense of community and a particular sort of identity affiliation which is political and values based for many people, in my experience.

          Similarly, being picky with labels has a bad connotation and is rather dismissive. There is a ridiculous amount of power in language, both for those using it to self identify and for those hearing it.

          Also, some of us aren’t gay or bisexual and feel that we exist in a different space than those labels provide and that they don’t accurately reflect our experience.

          In short, it’s important. And I could take hours to explain why, but there’s an overview.

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          Samantha, I understand the need for shorthand umbrella terms in some circumstances, but when you say it functions well… functions well for whom, by who, for what purpose? I get that it feels right for many people. But there are entire ethnic groups of gender variant people who don’t use or connect with the term queer as any kind of umbrella term. Does it work for them? Does it really work for many trans people, especially those who aren’t into same sex relationships (but are often the very ones who get murdered and discriminated against the most for being who they are)? Yes, there is a LOT of power in language. In many ways language and who gets to control it can impact entire groups being marginalized and subgroups made invisible. Which is exactly why I am concerned about queer as a supposedly inclusive term. Also, I have to mention that I’ve seen too much of the queer community revolving around FAAB people (with little though about why that even might be a problem). I also see some attempts to change that, but too still too many assumptions about “who’s a cool or good queer and who isn’t” and even designated queer uniforms. I guess I don’t see the radical reformation of orientation and gender that queer promises, and more of the same old same old just repackaged.

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          Tiara,

          That’s exactly my issue about using queer as an umbrella term. I won’t speak for you, but please don’t speak for me or other groups. I was alluding to trans-spectrum groups in a wide variety of world communities who I follow who don’t use the term “queer” in a community sense (or in much of any sense) nor seem to have an equivalent of it in their own languages. If you wish to be specific about which groups I’m incorrectly speaking for, please do so. Otherwise, you don’t get to speak for all “ethnic” LGBTQ people either. You’re completely in your rights to ID as queer if that feels right to you.

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          Just to clarify, I was referring to an increasing number of academic ‘queer studies’ books about different gender variant communities around the world applying queer theory and terminology to them (the Muxes, Waria, Hijra, various communities in Thailand, Brazil and native North American cultures). The groups are ascribed various characteristics using the filter of western queer theory… a really problematic practice I think. Yes, the world “ethnic” is a loaded (and potentially racist) term, but it is the language of a lot of those books.

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          You brought up “ethnic groups” in the specific as groups that don’t identify as ‘queer’, which seemed to me to be:

          a) So the only groups who identify as queer are White?
          b) Ethnic people can’t possibly identify as queer?
          c) There are no gender-specific “white” groups?
          d) Why is a White person making this pronouncement?

          I speak for no one and I resent being spoken for without my consent, as someone who is almost always forcibly assigned “ethnic” regardless of situation and yet isn’t often allowed to claim “queer” because I never fit anyone’s standards of “queer” – which includes this prevailing idea that having a marked ethnicity means you can’t possibly have a sexuality.

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          My point (maybe badly expressed) was that

          1) Queer academics are tagging gender variance in many different cultural/ethnically diverse groups around the world as Queer and filtering the experience of such groups through Queer theory. I don’t support that process.

          2) That Queer (in this country) is overwhelmingly terminology used by educated, FAAB white persons and that there is a strong coding as to what a self-ID Queer looks like in the US. Did I ever say that means no one of color gets to ID themselves as Queer if they want to… of course not. It does mean that, in this country, there are still relatively few members of communities of color who do ID as Queer.

          3) That communities (like trans people) shouldn’t be globally tagged as Queer or assumed to be part of a Queer Umbrella if many members of that group don’t feel comfortable with that. People who are members of those groups who do ID as Queer should certainly do so and not be judged for it.

          4) I don’t recall my posts every being all about you Tiara nor do I ever recall speaking for you (and if I did, that would be wrong of me). What you’re encountering about IDing as Queer is, IMO, some of the inherent coded racism which surrounds the Queer community (which is overwhelmingly white). I can only speak for what I’ve seen in the trans community that there is sadly still a large degree of race and economic privilege when it comes to terminology and who gets to frame it.

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          Something besides “gay” and “bisexual” seems necessary to me. I have a hard time identifying myself as bisexual because in addition to cis-men and cis-women, I have also been attracted to and involved with people who are trans* and genderqueer. I take “bisexual” to mean “men and women,” which feels inaccurate for me. “Not straight” does sometimes feel like the most I can say about my sexuality if you want me to pin myself with a label. I like that queer is ambiguous, as sometimes what I want to say is I may not be what I at first appear to be.

          I like the connotations I feel like queer has of challenging norms and I like the way queer is an umbrella term and so I am linking myself with the gamut of not-straight. I have to think some more about the history and coding latent in the word. It’s just, personally, “bisexual” feels like a not-quite-truth for me.

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          Robin, I get what you mean about bisexual not really covering your orientation when it comes to being involved with genderqueer people. Bisexual kind of (by association) forces your partners into an unasked for binary. But including trans people in that seems not entirely fair. Most trans people I know are actually quite binary ID’d and even people who specifically ID as transgender or transsexual often also ID as a man or a woman. So, isn’t calling oneself queer by virtue of having involvements with trans persons (other than GQ), by association, putting them into a third gender box? (I get the label is about you, not them, but if one’s partners in some way identify your orientation, that what’s going on here?) In other words, trans people are not “other” unless that’s how they specifically identify. I’ve actually heard a lot of pain among couples which include a trans partner surrounding this issue.

          Yes, as a trans woman I’ve had a lot of body modification, “extreme surgery,” cross gender hormones, and a certain amount of time in what others might call “androgyny land” blah, blah, blah and some people might hear that and say I have a queer body… but I don’t think of myself that way. Really, my concern is not that any individual ID themselves as queer or not, but that entire classifications of people, by virtue of their history and supposed “otherness” are assumed queer whether it fits or not. Unfortunately, “you do you” kind of falls apart when we’re suddenly “the gay community” or “the queer community.”

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          Thank you for pointing that out and articulating it so clearly. It was a mistake to include my attraction to trans* people in my reasoning why “bisexual” doesn’t feel like a fit for me. I apologize for that. I agree we do have to think about more than our own druthers when trying to build and nurture community.

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          Yeah, I recently read a very interesting article that someone else on Autostraddle had posted addressing the idea that identifying as bisexual when attracted to trans*, binary-identified people is not transphobic and that making that distinction between trans* and cis binary-identified people is what is problematic. I tend to agree. I’ve been involved with trans* people who identify very strongly as trans*, but it can be problematic and disrespectful to other people who are binary-identified to separate them into a “third gender box” as Gina notes.

          I also like the contemporary connotations of queer, but I agree that those of us using it need to be very careful and self-reflective in thinking about the history and coding of it.

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          Here with ya – I started using queer in the sense of ‘not-straight’ whilst at university, but have come to realise since, it is a word few people know, and generally people think it just means lesbian, which I don’t ID as.

          I tend to use ‘homoflexible’ these days, although I still don’t feel it quite fits. Its also not a word a lot of people know, but its not hard to work out its meaning, surely?

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          At least you asked. Some people don’t even care enough to try that.

          To me, identifying as queer is the most accurate way to describe my sexuality. Many people hear me call myself “queer” and assume that I’m gay. Then, when they hear the simplified “Oh, no, I like boys and girls” correction, they generally respond with “So, you’re bisexual.”

          No. No, no, no. I am not gay, I am not straight, and I am not bisexual. These are things that I know, even if I sometimes have a hard time telling where I end up on the spectrum.

          After a lot of thinking, I came up with the following as a description of myeslf: I’m a cis-gendered, sometimes-masculine-sometimes-feminine presenting female who prefers more masculine presenting partners, regardless of gender.

          See? Queer.

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    Fascinating as always!

    I always thought Chaucer had the first written use of cunt, although he probs spelled it funny, however wiki reckons it’s some manuscript of the Proverbs of Alfred from before 1325.

    It would be nice if it was the latter, because I live near a big statue of King Alf and I would like to imagine him secretly shouting “cunt!” at passersby.

    I suppose, technically, the first written use would have been whoever wrote the first letter to someone that lived on Gropecunt Lane

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    In Germany and German we use the word “queer”, too. But not many people outside the scene know it, and I’m not sure how many gay people even know it. And there is the german word “quer” which is, how you can easily see, very similar by writing. it means across, cross, crossways. what I think is a nice similarity. i found out about “queer” maybe 2 years ago. it hepls me a lot because i have a name for my sexuality without that i need to know more than that i am not heterosexual. if i’m lesbian or bi or pan or whatever is not important if i call myself queer (at least in the german way of using it). it does not have the negative side from historical usage you mentioned.

    another thing in german language is that we have the word “homosexual”. “lesbian” is for girl-on-girl and the english “gay” is in 99% translate for man-on-man and not for other constellations. as far as i know there is no word only for man-on-man in english? please correct me if i’m wrong, i was always wondering!

    for one self it can be tough enough trying to define who one is. dealing with the right definition of vocabulary in the own language and then trying to translate feelings and definitions to another language is a hell more difficult.

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        I was actually told by a gay man once that I couldn’t call myself “gay,” I had to use “lesbian,” because gay was for men only. And that while “gay rights” might include gay women on the surface, mostly it was for gay men because gay women fell more under “women’s rights” which was totally separate. Oh, the anger.

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          What an arsehole. I generally ID as gay first off because I like that it is an adjective instead of a noun, so it just describes an aspect of me rather than being THE THING THAT I AM. But I don’t really care what people want to call me or even what I call myself sometimes, I think these names only mean what whoever uses them wants them to mean. A bit like riese’s piece from a couple of years ago about what to call her sexuality, the labels are for other people to know what I am… I already know!

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          That’s why I prefer gay to lesbian, too! I just was never able to verbalize why to myself that clearly. Can you link me that piece? It sounds interesting.

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    This was fascinating. Truly.

    I still don’t particularly like using ‘queer’ as a way to identify myself, though.

    There is nothing ‘queer’ -not to me anyway- about me. Well other than my bisexuality. Which I will continue to define as such, thank you.

    It was amazing to read the history of the word though. I had no idea how much history there is behind it.

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    I kind of like queer as an identity and as a label. There’s a saying going around, “not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you.” And I love that. I identify as queer because I am not “just like you.” Our community has its own history, its own language, its own tv shows and movies and artists and writers, styles coming in and out of fashion. I am proud that we’re different.
    Arguing for gay rights on the basis of normalcy, with depictions of white cis abled gay men and maybe white cis abled femme gay women leaves out so many people. I like “queer rights” because it groups all of us as a community, trans* people, people who’s gender presentation is outside of the norm, bi, pan, or otherwise not strictly homosexual people, polyamorous people… That is why I identify as queer, why I prefer “queer rights.”
    And yes, the word “queer” has a painful history, and is still hurtful to many people. I understand and respect that. I will try to minimize my use of the word if asked. And it can stil be used as a slur. There are only certain contexts in which I am okay with straight people using it, just like my friends and I may toss “dyke” or “dykey” around as a compliment, but if a straight person calls me a dyke, they’re stepping onto some damn thin ice.
    But in the end, identifying as queer is empowering to me. Saying “queer rights” feels more inclusive to me. LGBT is better than gay, but no acronym could encompass every identity, or encompass people who don’t like to identify. Queer does.
    And that is why I choose to personally identify as queer, why I use the term queer rights, why I think the word can overcome its roots and be reclaimed to something empowering, something unifying and wonderful.

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        I agree, and I definitely like queer rights as a more inclusive term for the political side of things. That being said, while no acronym is going to include everyone, I think that LGBT, LGBTQIA, or my personal favorite QUILTBAG are useful and important labels. They are there for the same reason that this discussion is here – not everyone wants to be called queer, and that is cool too. All of the identities that fall under these acronym have different needs, sometimes opposing ones, and the LGBT community has definitely had problems actually including trans people and people of color. However, as a medical student in the Southern US, it has been important for our student group to bring together these diverse communities because there just aren’t all that many of us.

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          I do love QUILTBAG, haha. But I stand by what I said about LGBT not encompassing certain identities, and the fact that it is important to include every part of our community because there aren’t that many of us is exactly *why* queer is useful. But you’re right about certain people not wanting to be included under the term queer, which is completely okay as well. Goddamn identities are complicated.

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          I’ve starting seeing another one around lately – diverse gender and sexuality (DGS? Or was it DSG? One of those.). I think I can get behind that.

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    I tend to use ‘queer’ to refer to myself mainly because it’s convenient and somewhat ambiguous and so it seems to help prevent irritating questions from being asked.

    Now if only I knew a way to do that in Hungarian (in which you can’t even differentiate between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’…)

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    Very interesting discussion. I am not a proponent of the word queer simply because of its confused use. For example, I am a gay man; I do not identify as queer for a number of reasons:

    1) I lived through the period where this was the pejorative of choice to malign gay people

    2) The word’s use to denote things abnormal

    Personally, I find the word offensive when applied to me however I do not object to anyone else using queer if it works for them.

    Where I strongly object is in its use as a umbrella term. There are many who state that queer denotes gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendred. I’ve always felt that queer is much larger than lgbt and the discussion on this page confirms my thinking.

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