PSA – Not Everyone Is Okay With The Term “Queer”

PSA – Not Everyone Is Okay With The Term “Queer” July 29, 2016

TW:  Homophobic slurs, brief description of homophobic violence and rape threats.


In the past few years there is an increasing tendency of the “LGBT community,” as it was formerly known, to be grouped under the umbrella term “queer” (or, often, LGBTQ, LGBTQA, LGBTIQA, LGBTQQIAAP, LGBTQQIAAPABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ, etc).  Earlier this year, the Huffington Post (to which I am a contributor) changed the name of their “Gay Voices” channel to “Queer Voices,” because, as they put it:  “we believe that word is the most inclusive and empowering one available to us to speak to and about the community.”

Surely there is much to be said for an inclusive umbrella term that is ambiguous enough for everyone to relate to (and helps avoid those absurd acronyms).  Since I am not a member of the LGBT+ community (which is the acronym I will use for the sake of convenience and clarity just for the rest of this post) I am not going to  offer my unwanted opinion about how the community, or individuals, should identify themselves.

Rather, I want to take a moment to speak to the progressive Christian denominations, clergy, and thinkers who are engaged in outreach towards the LGBT+ community.  It is an honorable mission, and one of the most important ones there is in modern American Christianity.

However, I would suggest that using the term “queer” in such outreach efforts is not only not our place, but is actively detrimental to the mission itself.  Unfortunately, I’ve been seeing a lot of it.

See, not everyone in the LGBT+ community is actually okay with reclamation of the word.  No, I don’t have numbers or statistics for you; what I have is anecdotal and based on research on the internet.  Still, the fact that there is even still a debate around this issue should give us pause.

A friend of mine, who is a millennial (despite what some of the counterpoint articles online might have you think, not even all millennial members of the LGBT+ community are happy with the word) put it pointedly when she said:

 “Queer is a shitty umbrella term and ignores those of us with PTSD associated with the word…the fact that cishet people now think it’s okay for them to refer to us as that word makes me sick to my stomach.  They were calling me that word when they pounded my head into a brick wall and asked if they could ‘fuck the queer outta me.'”

I can attest to the fact that growing up, I heard the Q-word used as a slur many, many times.  In my straight-male experience, it was often used as an insult to emasculate boys who did not live up to the patriarchy’s traditional “male” gender roles, barely a step below “faggot.”  This tendency may be geographical; the friend I quoted above certainly thinks so:  “Most of the people I know from small Midwestern towns only experienced it as a slur…I had no idea it had been reclaimed by anyone till I was in college.”

Of course I believe there should be a word that all members of the LGBT+ community can be comfortable with, that is empowering and helpful.  “Queer” may or may not be it; that is not for me to decide.

My concern is that, as Christians preaching the gospel of love and acceptance, we need to remember that there are many, many people out there who are still left out by that word.  More than left out, even; there are people who have extreme trauma associated with that word and may find it triggering.  Combined with the fact that the word’s use as a slur is almost certainly associated in many cases with Christian homophobia, you can see why our use of the term might be a terrible idea.

If you personally identify as queer, this is not meant for you.  I would never tell someone how to identify themselves.  But if you are a cis-het Christian concerned with bringing members of the LGBT+ community into the Church (whichever church you belong to), I strongly suggest you stay away from the Q-word.

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  • Brandon Roberts

    if the word queer upsets you tell people most of the times they’ll avoid it. and who even uses the word queer regularly anymore?

    • Christian Chiakulas

      A lot of people. Did you read the article? I linked to several examples.

      • Brandon Roberts

        i meant as a slur

        • Christian Chiakulas

          Again, read the quote from my friend (who wanted to remain anonymous). I know it’s anecdotal but I personally grew up hearing it as a slur as well.

          • Christian Chiakulas

            Where are you from, Brandon Roberts? My friend seems to think that it’s used as a slur still mostly in the Midwest. I’m curious about that but have no real way of finding out how accurate it is.

  • I pretty much think the notion of ‘reclaiming’ slurs is a mistake in general. These terms mean something, and they have baggage. As philosophers of the likes of Wittgenstein and others have pointed out many times, mere words pack a great deal of punch due to their reflection of realities– actual, lived experiences– and their usage reflects so much about civilizations as a whole.

    It’s not my place, I suppose, but I feel the same way about the n-word as well. Both the n-word and what I guess you can call ‘the q-word’ have been shouted into people’s faces as a weapon of raw hatred for decades upon decades. That can’t be denied. I’m, of course, not going to tell someone who’s African-American that for valid, reasonable reasons believes in ‘reclamation’ to stop in terms of the n-word– they’re doing what they think is right following their conscience. As an LGBT person in my own life, though, I’m not doing the same thing for the q-word.

  • Barb

    Exactly. Some women call themselves the “B” word. I’m thinking that no thinking man would suggest that because he heard them say it he should use it. There are lots of beautiful and uplifting words– let’s use them.

  • Wow. I’m an old school, middle aged gay person. I still use gay to describe all sexual minorities. Are you going to criticize me for that? This objection to queer is a ridiculous perversion of political correctness. If a queer consumer can’t see past the word usage in context, they are no better than religious zealots who look at gay couples and see nothing but sexual sin.

    • Christian Chiakulas

      My issue is not that people are “offended” by it, my issue is that there are people who are actually triggered by it because of their own experiences, and people OUTSIDE the community should avoid the word.

    • JustThink

      An old pedophile f-rt, in other words.