December 26, 2019 – By Gregory Franklyn
I’m Gay, but please don’t call me a QUEER! I just want to get that out to preface what I want to talk about today. I am not a QUEER! I find the term offensive, and according to the dictionary, the term IS offensive. Here are some definitions I’ve found in On-Line Dictionaries:
Free Dictionary – “queer has been used as an adjective and noun meaning respectively “homosexual” and “a homosexual” since the 1920s, and for much of the time has been used in a disparaging manner.”
Dictionary.com – “strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; unusually different; of a questionable nature or character; suspicious; shady. verb (used with object) to spoil; ruin. to put (a person) in a hopeless or disadvantageous situation as to success, favor, etc. noun Slang. Disparaging and Offensive. a term used to refer to a person who is gay or lesbian.”
Words like “Odd, strange, weird, suspicious, shady, spoil, ruin, hopeless, disadvantageous, disparaging and offensive, are offensive when applied to people. I consider them attack words meant to cause harm. Notice, linguistically, the hard, percussive, sound of the letter “Q” in Queer. Hard or percussive sounds are designed to alert, or draw attention. T, P, K and sometimes C are a few other examples of letters that have percussive sounds. They sound sharp, pointed!
Some uses of Queer when applied to one’s self is indicative of self-hatred, internalized homophobia. It’s as if the person using it this way is announcing their acquiescence to its pejorative meaning. Self-hatred is a condition Gay people, particularly older Gay people, have had to deal with throughout the last few hundred years because of the tremendous social pressure against our understanding and actualization of our own humanity.
I get that many in my community, particularly younger folks, want to “Reclaim” the term Queer; to discharge the negative intent of the word. What they tend to gloss over is the REASON the term might need to be “Reclaimed” in the first place. It needs to be reclaimed because it’s offensive. I have a similar reaction to the word “Faggot” when used by ANYONE, including another Gay person, to describe me.
The idea of reclaiming these two words is to change the meaning of the words to something positive or loving through its usage, and I get the logic. But, I disagree with the choice of hard-sounding, aggressive words rather than soft sounding ones to accomplish that.
Like, “Gay” for instance. The letter G has a softer and less percussive, or less attacking sound and it has the benefit of being in common use to describe us already. Let’s look at some definitions of the word Gay:
Merriam Webster – “GAY – 1a: happily excited : MERRY b: keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits 2a: BRIGHT, LIVELY b: brilliant in color 3: given to social pleasures 4a: of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex : HOMOSEXUAL gay men b: of, relating to, or intended for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. the gay rights movement.”
The words in this definition are NOT intended to cause harm, to attack or make one feel less than. They are positive, affirming and friendly. Notice the last definition is inclusive of people OTHER than men. And, “Gay” is still commonly used in reference to us already. It was a word, at the time, we could all get behind because it was hard to use pejoratively and it didn’t have a history of viciousness.
What happened next is where we, as a community, stepped on to a slippery slope. The public face of the people who founded the Gay Movement were mostly men and Gay women began to feel excluded by it. They were every bit as much a part of the movement as men were and wanted to be specifically included ON the label.
So then we were, Gay and Lesbian. Bisexual people were also part of the movement and wanted to be specified like lesbians were. For a quick minute, we were Gay, Lesbian and Bi. Next up was Transgender people and we became GLBT. Then that got changed to LGBT to move women up to the front. Mainly, I imagine, because women have traditionally been oppressed by men and the community wanted to make a statement about equity.
Then we started adding letters as subgroups of what was to be included in Gay began to come forward to assert their presence. “Questioning” people, who were also part of the movement, were next, so Q was added to our new alphabet moniker. Q, later evolved onto indicating Queer as well as Questioning, and the race to specify each of a rainbow of identities was on.
Last time I checked, the alphabet was LGBTQSII2A+, with the “+” referring to (To be added as groups come forward). The problem with this slope is that there is no way to get to the bottom of it without mentioning each member of the community by name. Because we are all different and deserve our presence to be included.
This is where we get into trouble. We are, then, no longer flying under the same banner. We have become diffused. That’s a GOOD thing for our opponents. The more we are squabbling over monikers and divisions, the less effective/unified we are as the movement.
This is exactly what happened to the Occupy Movement. In fact, I think they learned it from us. The Occupy Movement started out with a simple and direct message, “Wealth Disparity is a bad thing,” end of story! As time went by, and it wanted to include everyone and every issue, it became diffused and eventually evaporated altogether. That’s a GOOD thing for the oppressors. They didn’t end up with unified resistance and now we’re still here, in even worse condition, 10 years later.
To achieve unity, people must be willing to align behind an idea. To “JOIN” if you will. To fly under a banner, to become a part of something bigger than themselves. The demand to be recognized for it, individually, should be of little concern to someone seeking unity of purpose. So, I’m Gay, please don’t call me a queer unless your intent is to offend me. Because you WILL!