Queer Definition

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The Term “Queer” and Its Strange, Odd, Peculiar, Gay Definitions The revival of the term “queer” as used in LGBT spaces has been puzzling for many. Today, the word is still controversial; who uses queer, in what contexts, and why, can be elusive subjects, especially for those outside the LGBT community. Queer, as defined by Merriam-Webster, means “differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal.” Dictionary.com provides its informal meaning, as well. It defines queer as “disparaging and offensive” slang: “a contemptuous term used to refer to a homosexual, especially a male homosexual.” However, PFLAG, the United States’ largest LGBT advocacy and activism group, has a far different definition. PFLAG states on their website: “Think of…show more content…
This usage was most prevalent until the 1980’s and 1990’s. It was in this era that the LGBT community began to reclaim the slur. One prominent example is the activist organization Queer Nation, founded in 1990, in New York. Regarding their name, Queer Nation had this to say in a leaflet distributed at a New York pride march: “We use queer as gay men loving lesbians and lesbians loving being queer. Queer, unlike GAY, doesn't mean MALE. And when spoken to other gays and lesbians it's a way of suggesting we close ranks, and forget (temporarily) our individual differences because we face a more insidious common enemy. Yeah, QUEER can be a rough word but it is also a sly and ironic weapon we can steal from the homophobe's hands and use against him.” The pamphlet’s call for unity among LGBT identities becomes clearer with context. What we call the LGBT community was not actually a united movement until the late 1980’s. Before this period, bisexuals and transgender people were largely closeted and silent, while gay men and lesbians often waged war against each other about gender differences and political priorities. It was during the AIDS crisis that homophobia swelled in America, and the sexual and gender minorities realized that cooperation was in their best interest. Out magazine writer Michael Musto recalls this: “In 1987, when I went to my first meeting of ACT UP [an AIDS activist group] . . . I was amazed to see a room without gender barriers. The group furiously brought gay men, lesbians, and others together, all united in the war against the powers-that-be for ignoring the horror of the AIDS epidemic. There wasn’t time to second-guess who you were fighting alongside—you just held hands and dove right in, anxious to make a difference.” It was from this unity that the use for an umbrella term was born. Coupled with a need for

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