‘Queer’ used today for those ‘in need of flexible term’

By Gabriella Blanco

The last decade has shown great strides in history for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, yet there is still some debate about what terms can or cannot be used.

In this specific case, it is the word queer.

Terminologically speaking, “queer” dates all the way back to sixteenth century German, according to an article written by Gisela P. Vega, associate director of the Multicultural Programs and Services at FIU. The term was originally a synonym for “odd” or “strange,” but it didn’t get its current meaning relating to sexualities or gender until the nineteenth century.

From then on until the late-twentieth century, queer was seen as a derogatory term since it would be used to insult people based on the relations or desires they had.

It was a way to isolate.

It was a way to other.

In dire moments, it was a way to paint an invisible target on someone’s back and leave them vulnerable.

Knowing that, it makes sense why some may still be uncomfortable with the term; whether it be labeling themselves as queer when they mean to say they are gay, bisexual, pansexual or a lesbian, or calling the LGBTQ community the “queer community.”

Queer is a very heavy word because of the hardships of LGBTQ people in society over the years, which explains why it’s sparsely used today in certain crowds, according to FIU graduate assistant and LGBTQ advocate, Richard Moreno.

“[Not using “queer”] can be a form of respect for those who may have not healed from whatever negative connotations they have with the word,” he said. “Being a part of today’s world, I don’t see queer as something derogatory at all. I see it as empowering. But older generations who did not have the acceptance we have today will disagree, and I completely respect that.”

Today, queer is used as an umbrella term for the multitude of LGBTQ identities there are, and  in academic settings especially, as a way to describe the community.

As both Vega and Moreno agree, the versatility of “queer” is what makes it special.

“Sometimes a person does not fit neatly into a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender box, and they are in need of a flexible term,” said Vega.

Sexuality and gender has been noted for being fluid and complex, with some people having complex identities that change over time. By using “queer,” people have the power of belonging no matter which way life takes them when labeling themselves.

“[The word] queer unites us,” said Moreno. “With this word, people don’t have to feel alone because now, they see the people around them who are just like them.”

And in a more inclusive world, a sense of belonging and acceptance is something to have a lot of pride for.

Photo retrieved by Flickr.

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