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Written by Isa Schulting

I have to admit that Queer, or being Queer, was not in my vocabulary until recently. I had certainly heard of it but my understanding of this word was minimal. Besides myself, very few people I knew from high school identified with the LGBT+ community. Unfortunately, in my case, there was little exposure to further related terminology such as Queer, now more often included in an expanded version of LGBTQIA+. Queerness of identity, sexuality, in arts, or say academics was largely unknown to me up until joining the QueerCollective. Curious to discover more, my article explores the origins of the word Queer and its many meanings.

Historically Queer was first used as an adjective circa 1513. At this time up until the late 19th century, the word's meaning was odd, strange, or peculiar. The use thereof was much like the common day ‘weird’. When applied to describe people, the word adopted a derogatory intention.

Only much later in 1894, Queer definitions elaborated as a noun to describe a person who is not heterosexual and/or cisgender. Although this definition was neutral in theory, in being connoted with the older definition it was predominantly pejorative to call someone Queer. Towards the LGBT+ community, Queer was used as an insult of sexual deviance.

The late 19th century was simultaneously a revolutionary time for the word Queer. Queer activists, the organisation Queer Nation in New York being a notable example, began to reclaim the word. To counter the degrading intention, using Queer reinforced it is an umbrella term of non-normative or binary sexualities and gender identities. This politically radical stance and embrace of a word used against them, further complexified public understanding.

protest banner, source

Different from LGBTQIA+, Queer as a label encapsulates an inclusive undefined broadness. An interview article by them. explores the diversity of defining Queer. An interviewee mentions how being Queer means to rebuke heteronormative privilege. Another described Queer as representing an undefinable nuance of sexuality and creative freedom. Identifying as Queer, in being so expansive, also stresses there is no right way to be Queer. Important to consider is the uncertainty of being able to categorize our preferences. Within LGBTQIA+ the Q can stand for Queer but also Questioning.

With the use of Queer becoming more prevalent, this limited historic insight offers a base of understanding. Both word definition and the Queer community itself, are continuously undergoing dynamic evolution.

Check out this video below to see some student testimonties of the meaning of Queerness!

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