March 1, 2023

What is Queer?

LGBTQ+ individuals identify as queer when their sexual orientation and/or gender identity fall outside of established norms.

LGBT communities rely on this word to find belonging, yet its history is complex.


Many have come to view "queer" as an umbrella term that encompasses various sexualities and genders. For some, it's a derogatory label they would never use; while for others it serves as their preferred way of describing their identity and community.

This term has been around for some time, though its exact origins remain uncertain. It has been associated with various critical and cultural contexts throughout history such as feminism, gay/lesbian movements, AIDS activism and many sexual subcultural practices.

Theories have been proposed about homosexuality's origins, with some believing it to be caused by inborn or constitutional factors. Conversely, some have argued that homosexuality can be the result of social influences and physiological events during fetal development.

In the 19th century, psychologists such as Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Sigmund Freud classified homosexuality as a mental illness due to conflicts in psychosexual development that resulted in identification with one's opposite sex partner.

Though this theory is widely accepted, it has been criticized as naive and insufficient to account for the vast array of sexualities in modern society. Additionally, some believe that many homosexuals have experienced psychosexual trauma during their lives which may have contributed to their decision to become homosexuals.

Homophobia is often believed to be caused by institutional arrangements and accepted norms that make heterosexuality the standard sexual orientation. These power structures and expectations are the main reasons people feel pressured into adhering to what society deems acceptable in society.

However, there is an increasingly vocal group of individuals who believe the terms "queer" and "genderqueer" should be widely used; these terms help identify diverse sexualities and genders while drawing attention to how heteronormative cultures do not accept them as "normal."

These terms may include "genderqueer," which refers to someone who is attracted to women, men, or any gender non-conforming individual; and "queer," which refers to someone who does not fit into the "heteronormative" category of straight or heterosexual individuals.


The term "queer" is often used by members of the LGBT community to refer to their sexual and gender identities. It can also refer to a specific cultural or political movement.

Queerness is an idea that emphasizes that human sexuality can be fluid and ambiguous. In a world dominated by the male-female gender system, this term can be useful to those who wish to break away from this structure and live their lives according to their own rules rather than those set by society.

Though the term is sometimes seen as an insult, many in the LGBTQIA+ community are now championing its use. This movement can make it easier to discuss your sexuality in a respectful and understanding manner.

Dr. Wise believes that using the term "queer" helps those unfamiliar with the LGBT community understand there are various sexualities and genders available. She adds that using this label helps individuals recognize and celebrate this diversity within our culture.

Individuals identifying as queer can be classified as either cisgender (born with the genetic trait of one gender) or transgender (transsexual, bisexual, or homosexual). It's also possible to be both gay and straight - this would be known as heterosexuality.

Queerness has several subcultures and sub-movements within it, such as queercore - a punk culture and social movement - and queer nationalism which advocates that LGBT individuals belong in their own distinct group based on their cultural practices.

These offshoots of queer culture each have their own political objectives. Queercore advocates strive for acceptance by society and resist assimilation into heterosexual norms. Furthermore, queer nationalism advocates for a more autonomous and self-identified community.

Queer nationalists tend to believe that the LGBT community is unique, though this idea is not universal; some critics contend it can alienate those who do not share the same opinions.

It is essential to be aware of the history of this word, especially if you identify as LGBTQIA+. In some contexts, it can still be an offensive slur, so avoid using it unless you feel comfortable doing so.


Queerness is a term used to describe someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes individuals who identify as bisexual, lesbian, gay, bi-gender, transgender, intersex or asexual.

Queer is often associated with social movements and political activism, but the term can also serve as a self-affirming umbrella term. For LGBTQ+ individuals, its use can be an expression of pride that helps unify a diverse community.

Reclaiming queer identity has been used as an effective strategy to combat oppression and promote social justice. It helps break down sex and gender norms, creating a space where people of all identities can feel heard and seen.

The term "queer" has become increasingly popular among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals as an affirming way to express their identity. However, it should be remembered that not everyone who uses the term will identify as queer; so ultimately it is up to each individual whether they wish to use this label.

However, it is essential to recognize that the word has a complicated history and some still use it as an offensive slur. Therefore, many will associate the term with its previous negative connotations; therefore, if you feel uncomfortable using the term then it would be best not to.

Many community activists and organizations oppose the term for various reasons. Some feel it has a cisgendered history and is too closely connected with political activism; others contend it's racially divided, not fitting well in modern day society.

Opponents of the term queer view it as an outdated and restricting slur that should be avoided by all. Although it can be a powerful tool for empowerment, it should never be taken for granted.

The term was initially used as a derogatory description of lesbian and gay people, but after the Stonewall Inn riots of 1969 it was reclaimed by LGBTQ+ supporters and activists.

This reclaimed slur has been around for centuries, its roots being traced back to Middle English words such as "faggot" and "flamer," which were used as derogatory terms against gay men.


The term queer can have many different connotations and interpretations. One common interpretation is that it implies something unusual or out of the ordinary; for instance, someone who is sick or has some sort of disability might be described as queer.

A person with a nontraditional sexual orientation is known as an intersexual. This could include individuals who identify as asexual, genderqueer, intersexual and/or other types of sexualities.

This is a much more radical and liberatory use of the word than its original pejorative sense, yet it still isn't widely accepted. That's why it's essential to be conscious when using this expression.

In academia, "queer" refers to an interpretation of a text from a non-normative point of view. This can be done as an attempt to challenge traditional understandings on certain topics or introduce fresh viewpoints on them. For instance, literary critics might interpret fiction works by including perspectives from people with disabilities or people of color.

It can also be used to describe an artwork designed or created with a non-traditional aesthetic. Furthermore, it could refer to an image or idea that expresses how someone feels.

Danny Nett, 24, an engagement editor at NPR, views the word as an essential part of his identity. It allows him to step outside the box and express who he truly is.

At his start with NPR, he didn't know much about the term, but has since grown to love it. He finds power in its fluidity and hopes to see NPR use it more often.

Mallory Yu, a producer at All Things Considered in her late 20s, is another fan of the phrase. She believes it can be an effective tool for those who struggle with expressing themselves verbally to find new ways of expressing their ideas and emotions.

For those unfamiliar with the term, it can be difficult to comprehend its enigmatic connotations and implications. But those who understand its history will gain insight into its many layers and potential uses.

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