Words and their meanings are always evolving. You have probably heard of LGBTQ, and may have a rough, if not clear, idea about what the letter stands for, and mean, especially the L and G.
The thing is that the LGBT acronym is not cutting it anymore, people are freely expressing their sexual and gender identities like never before. That's why we have LGBTI, LGBTQI, LGBTQIA+, etc.
Today, we will focus on the Q.
The Q stands for ‘Queer’
If a person’s gender identity does not conform to what is perceived as ‘normal’ in society, they may identify as queer. This means anyone who does not identify as heterosexual or cisgender can be considered queer.
Side note: cisgender is used to refer to someone whose gender identity is the same as their sex assigned at birth. i.e if your parents said you're boy or girl, you still consider yourself as such.
Therefore, queer is a word used to refer to sexual and gender identities other than heterosexual or persons whose gender does not fall in the binary of male or female.
Lesbian Gays, Bisexual Transgender, and Intersex persons may choose to identify as queer. A person still figuring out how to identify can as well prefer to be referred to as queer. Remember that one can identify as both Gay and queer.
Queer didn’t have a rosy beginning
The word queer was historically used to shame members of the LGBT community. The members were considered either 'strange' or 'peculiar.' This affected some of them negatively and most were afraid to freely express themselves for a long time.
LGBT members started embracing the word queer and over years’ lemonade came out of the lemons.
Today in many regions of the world the word queer is used positively and to bring a sense of inclusivity, many individuals who do not want to specify their orientation & gender identity (LGBT) prefer to identify as queer, someone who is still questioning or unsure about their sexual orientation and gender identity may as well prefer the use of queer.
While queer is now embraced, be careful as you interact with people especially for the first time, as some still relate the word queer with attack or insult.
Do not assume...
While the labeling of queer people as strange stopped, many older queers still associate the word with insult.
Therefore, even though the word queer has been embraced and accepted widely with pride, do not assume that a colleague, new friend, or probably a distant family member will be excited when referred to as queer just because he/she/they/them identify as an LGBTQIA+ person.
It is important to ask the pronoun, orientation, and if one is okay being referred to as queer. This will ensure you respect people’s orientation, gender identity & expression and have healthy interactions while creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ persons everywhere.
Do you have questions about queer identity?