Not when used as a self-identification, and not when used as an umbrella term within the community, at least.
See, here’s the thing: The most common identifier used by bi, pan, and trans people to describe their sexuality? Queer.
Given that multiple studies have shown that bi people alone comprise about half the community, that makes it by f
ar the most common term we use to describe ourselves.
What’s more, it’s not just an identifier: it’s a rallying cry. It’s a banner the whole community has assembled under forever. “We’re here, we’re queer” is a cliché for a reason. It’s a statement of power, and of pride - yes, we’re weird. We don’t fit into the “acceptable” categories cisheteronormative society gives us. And that’s a good thing. It’s a call to demolish those “acceptable” boxes, to build a world we’re all part of.
Its rejection is a relatively recent move by the same homonationalism that brought us “Bi people don’t belong,” the thrilling sequel “Trans people don’t belong,” and the stunning conclusion “Ace people don’t belong.” It’s a deliberate strategy employed by respectability politi
cians seeking a seat at the table - taking the work we’ve put in and distancing themselves from us so they can tell the straights “We deserve your respect because we’re just like you! We even hate queers!”
(And don’t think it’s a coincidence that the community suddenly forgot the massive, massive overlap between “queer” and “poly” when building the very self-conscious image of two clean-cut upper-middle-class smiling young professional men or women either. Anything that wasn’t “respectable” enough had to go. My deepest thanks to the person who pointed this out.)
In the rush for our place in an oppressive hell, we’ve lost our revolutionary edge, lost our fire, and lost a lot of what drove us in the first place. Fuck. That.
I’m queer, and you will never take that away from me.
It’s nice being
Tumblr Old and having some recollection of the self-identifiers we
used before this website. The slogans alone should tell you the
motivators behind using “queer” as opposed to other terms. There
was “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” There was “queer
rage”. There was “not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you.”
That last one especially shows rejection of any neat essentialist
boxes – go away with your binaries, your easy categorization, and
last but not least your respectability politics.
I’ve never seen “q
slur” used before Tumblr, and even that only in the last maybe two
years. I’m not playing the whole “you kids turn everything into a
trigger” game, that’s not the point. My point is that almost
uniformly older LGBTQ+ people on this website associate “queer”
with empowerment, and it’s teenagers and early 20-somethings (who are
almost the same age group as me, I’m 27) constructing this idea that
it has always only been a slur, that it’s more prevalent than any
other slurs still in use, and that this is somehow the “historically
correct” view of the term and everyone using queer is ignorant of
history. Which is just not true.
So anyway, here are
some great functions of “queer” that aren’t replicated by any
1) Wide relevance.
Queer can be related to gender, sexuality, or both.
2) Opacity. It can
be a stand-in for some other term (gay, bisexual, trans, etc), or it
can actually mean something else altogether! Something that isn’t
fully covered by any of those categories!
3) Queer could,
therefore, actually function as an umbrella term (yeah, I know I
can’t get away with that in the present climate, thanks for that).
Calling everything gay, as has become the norm on Tumblr, isn’t only
sticking it to The Straights ™; it’s also sticking it to all
the LGBTQ+ people who don’t identify as gay specifically (not to mention
straight trans people), and who never see ourselves brought up in
casual conversation anymore. It’s back to “gay rights” style
And you know what,
of course it is, because “LGBTQ+” and other versions of the
abbreviation aren’t catchy. “Gay” is catchy. “Queer” is
catchy. But for some reason, gee I wonder why it could be, “the
community” has decided to eliminate precisely the term that does
actually by default encompass a wide range of identities. And replace
it with one that again gives primacy to “gay” as the default
descriptor, as if the rest of us just don’t matter or should be happy
with being “obliquely included” (that is to say, erased). We’ve
come up with all this specialized terminology for gender and
sexuality, but when it comes to being actually talked about aside
from specifically describing yourself in an intro to your blog, it’s underused.
I could go on about
how targeting “queer” disproportionately affects MGA and trans/nb
people, including people with multiple marginalizations, who
especially are likely to have a problem with all these discrete
one-dimensional categories and feel that “queer” expresses something
the other terms can’t. But that’s already covered in the OP under
good old respectability politics.
TL;DR: You can’t
just take away a term that many, many people in the
community have been actively using for decades before your latest
iteration of SGA discourse and expect no meaning to be lost or
This. Learn your history.
I was at the 1993 March on Washington, where we had over a million signatures to prove how many of us there were and the national park service still “estimated” we were 500,000. I can remember chanting until we were hoarse: “We’re here, we’re queer!” (What do we want?) “We’re here, we’re queer!” (Equal rights now!) And that was at the height of the AIDs epidemic, when being out could lose you your job, and when a woman I’d met was murdered by her ex-husband after she came out.
Being queer was a matter of life and death. Yet lately I’ve seen some posts dismissing the term as “cute.” I find that attitude mildly insulting, not to mention clueless.
Only within the last year have I started seeing young people on Tumblr policing our language, telling us we shouldn’t use it because it’s a slur. But it was no more and no le
ss a slur than gay. You’ve reclaimed that, right? Even though it’s still used perjoratively. Why?
For the same reason we wore pink and black triangles (Google it) to denote gay and lesbian, before the rainbow flag caught on: they were a symbol that had meant death for us, for being what we were, and we claimed and took them back in defiance. We were standing up to be counted: “You can’t smear all of us. You can’t kill all of us. WE ARE HERE.”
I’ve tried to be patient with those who say they dislike the term. But attacking us for using it really is problematic, for all the reasons the posts above mine have explained. Now, more than ever, we need to hang onto our history, our insistence that we are here and we’re not going away.
Don’t erase us. Don’t take that away from generations who marched before some of you were born. Don’t exclude those of us who are queer but not gay.