what being queer
means to me
written by Kyle William Urban
Let’s first look at the history behind the word.
The official meaning of queer is ‘denoting or relating to a sexual or gender identity that does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality and gender, especially heterosexual norms.’
The word queer first showed up in the early 16th century, and it was used as a way to describe something that wasn’t normal or that was peculiar. Fake money was described as something that was queer, feeling unwell was described as feeling queer. But like all words, they often evolve over time to mean something different.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century that it was used to describe someone that was homosexual, but not always in a positive way.
Towards the end of the 20th century, queer was adopted by some people within the gay community as a way to ‘reclaim’ the word, therefore taking it away from homophobes. It was used as a way to try and make the word less hateful towards the LGBT community. When someone calls you a queer to try and offend you, and you turn around and say ‘I know.’ that is some huge power move that often stuns the other person, rendering the word useless in the way they meant it.
Today, queer doesn’t have a single meaning. It no longer means someone who is just homosexual, it’s used in so many different ways. Some people who identify within, or outside, of the gender binary sometimes call themselves genderqueer, the same way some people use gender-fluid or non-binary.
Today, the definition relates to anything that is outside of the cisgender and/or heterosexual norm.
However, it is still considered a slur to some, while others use it as a way to describe themselves. Some people find it offensive, some people find it empowering, it’s always better to check with someone first before you refer to them as queer.
The ‘Q’ in LGBTQIA+ means queer and/or questioning. But again, some people don’t like to be called queer, and that’s completely okay. The word still stings for some people.
For me, a transgender gay man, queer is a word that I have slowly become comfortable with. I use it as a way to describe my link with the LGBT+ community without outing the fact that I’m trans. I can say I’m queer, and most people just assume that I’m a cis gay man, and to me, that’s okay. Sometimes that’s all I wish to be seen as, so queer is an umbrella term for me, that covers being trans, without publicly announcing it, while also not ignoring it.
There is a lot of prejudice towards transgender people, within and outside of the LGBT+ community, so sometimes it’s just a lot safer for me to say that I am queer. If I say that I’m just gay, I feel like I’m ignoring a part of my identity by not including that I’m transgender, but by saying I’m queer, I’m covering everything.
I’m also still questioning some of my identity. I know I like boys, I know I’m transgender, but there are also some parts that I’m still trying to understand. I’m not ready to discuss it with friends and family just yet, however, by using the word queer, for me, that covers everything, including the parts I’m still questioning.
I feel like there is a lot of pressure to find out which part of the LGBT+ community you identify with, and there is also a lot of backlash for people who identify with one part and then later find out they actually identify with another instead. Queer is a safe way to cover everything, especially within the early questioning stages.
Queer is used by many who identify with multiple parts of the LGBTQIA+ acronym, but is also used by people who relate to only one part. It’s a very personal label that means so many things to different people.
Queer is either an identity or a slur to people. A word either loved or hated, and it’s something that you should check with first before referring to someone. It’s had a complicated history and it’s only fairly recently that it’s been reclaimed by some. But not all.
In conclusion, queer is a very queer word indeed.