OpEd: The problem with the word “Queer”
There seems to be yet another controversy in our community this week. The issue du jour is The Huffington Post changing its dedicated LGBT site’s name fromGay Voices to Queer Voices. While there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue, when I heard about it, it brought a smile to my face.
Since the beginning of my activism back in 1969, I’ve witnessed our community’s attempts to unite over a word or term to define ourselves. There was “homosexual,” “homophile,” “gay,” “gay and lesbian,” and most recently, and most accepted, “LGBT.” So what about “queer”?
HuffPost’s reasoning? “We, like many others before us, have chosen to reclaim ‘queer.’ ‘Queer’ functions as an umbrella term that includes not only the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people of ‘LGBT,’ but also those whose identities fall in between, outside of or stretch beyond those categories, including genderqueer people, intersex people, asexual people, pansexual people, polyamorous people and those questioning their sexuality or gender, to name just a few.”
While the word “queer” is popular with young LGBT activists, many in our community detest it. Reclaiming a derogatory word is not a new trend. Some of us used to use the word “faggot.”
It’s popular with only one segment of our population, and that segment is overwhelmingly activist-driven. Most in our community do not consider themselves activists and still feel hurt when they hear that word. Are we trying to teach our own community, or are we trying to fight for equality? Are we trying to hurt the seniors in our community who suffered harassment by the use of that word and give them another barrier to overcome?
Maybe we should attempt to solve some of the hard-core issues in our community rather then spending time debating semantics. While all individuals have the right to identify with whatever term or image they wish for themselves, and that should be respected, the word-reclaiming, like that in the black community, will eventually be passé.
So if you spend any capital or time on this, you’re ignoring issues such as homelessness, poverty, employment discrimination, the need for housing to protect our seniors, and anti-trans violence. Those are problems I’d rather address, not a word — and especially not one that some of the most endangered people in our community see as another barrier.
I hope Huffington Post will rethink its idiocy. Many of us have worked hard for changed attitudes and put ourselves on the line socially and at work and do not need to be labeled by a derogatory term. As for organizations that are stupid enough to adopt the term, they can plan on seeing a stop in the flow of checks from me!!
Michael Hamar is an out gay attorney in a committed relationship; formerly married and father of three wonderful children; sometime activist and political/news junkie; survived coming out in mid-life and hope to share my experiences and reflections with others. Follow him at Michael In Norfolk.
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