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The Umbrella Term “Queer”: Restrictive Or Liberating?



Source: Gaelx

This past pride month, no matter where you were, you most certainly came across the term “queer.”

It seems like every company and drugstore from New York to Omaha is sporting rainbow colors, and there’s a parade somewhere every weekend. But what does “queer” really mean?

Queer has been embraced by the LGBTQ community as an umbrella term for any and all identities that encompasses and formerly used as a derogatory term used against mostly effeminate men.

However, the broad nature of the term creates both friction within the community, as well as a chance for others who don’t feel they belong to a more specific community—one of the letters in LGBTQ—to give a name to their identity.

Source: Japrea

“Over the years of using various terms to describe myself, I found that there is not just one to fully encapsulate the fluidity of my being other than the umbrella term of ‘queer.’”

Savy, 22 and living in Brooklyn, has come to identify as queer, after searching herself for the right word to describe her sexuality.

“‘Queer’ has held this negative connotation for most of my life, so I avoided the use of it among friends and family as much as I could. In a setting of initial judgement and skepticism, it has proven to be less useful, but after moving to New York, it has been a relief to not have to explain those things and just simply say ‘I’m queer,’” Savy continues.

Yet, umbrella terms, by their nature, can also present problems within the community as well as outside. There is no monolithic “queerness,” as one new to LGBTQ vocabulary might think.

To belong to the queer community, one needs only to feel they identify that way. This raises the question: if everyone can be queer, is anyone really queer?

Source: Anna-Stina Takala

“Like plenty of the names marginalized people call themselves, queer has a fraught history of reclamation, many controversial political implications, and a universalizing aspect that is too contradictory for some,” Hari Ziyad writes.

Many members of queers community have felt at times liberated by the word and at times confused and afraid that they are not queer “enough.” Additionally, the word queer, as it is used now, is rooted deeply in Western perceptions of gender and sexuality, perceptions which are not always shared by other cultures.

Saoirse, 20, explains, “I have experienced cases of being labelled as “not queer enough” which reflects the varying definitions of the word, even within Western culture and that takes away from it as a useful classifier if it is used by different people to mean different things.

I have found it to be problematic, particularly when used in non-Western contexts as other societies have different constructions of gender and sexuality, and language from the West can problematize the situation.”

“Queer” might be the closest thing the LGBTQ community has to no label at all. However, it is still a label. Many people who identify as queer do so because they simply know that they are not straight.

“I choose to identify as queer because I realize that my identity does not necessarily fit into what the society considers “normal,” and the word “queer” with its etymological meaning of “strange” encapsulates the fact that how I choose to identify it is at odds with what society tells me I should identify as,” Saorise notes.

More people identify as queer now than ever before. Awareness around queer identities has risen considerably as a result of many celebrities coming out as queer—including Miley Cyrus and Amandla Stenberg—and discussing their experiences with self-identification.

There are still debates as to what is the most precise and encompassing term to use for the queer community, and whether “queer” itself has completely thrown its history as a demeaning term. But for many, being able to identify as “queer” has been a source of joy and liberation.

Source: Ted Eytan

Qixuan Wang, 24, says her favorite thing about being queer is:

“No matter you are Lesbian, Gay, questioning, non-binary, bisexuals, transgender people, etc. We are all queer and we are in one community. I love the sense of NO LABELS.”

By: Emily Odion

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