From the moment I first heard the rather splendid Garbage song of the same name, I have become somewhat fascinated by the word queer. Originally meaning strange, odd or different, the word was adopted in the early 20th century as a pejorative slang term for homosexuals but, in recent decades, has been reclaimed by the LGBT community. However, despite having many friends who identify as queer, I have come to realise that I don’t really know what they mean by that. Wikipedia’s entry on queer went some way to clarifying things:
The range of what “queer” includes varies. In addition to referring to LGBT-identifying people, it can also encompass: pansexual, pomosexual, intersexual, genderqueer, asexual and autosexual people, and even gender normative heterosexuals whose sexual orientations or activities place them outside the heterosexual-defined mainstream, e.g. BDSM practitioners, or polyamorous persons.
For some queer-identified people, part of the point of the term “queer” is that it simultaneously builds up and tears down boundaries of identity.
So, perhaps I’m queer? After writing recently about the need (or not) to label our sexuality, I realised just how limiting most labels can be. Even if you select them yourself, other people already have preconceived ideas of what those words mean, which they will then attach to you whether they intend to or not. Label yourself queer, and it might mean that people pop you in the box marked ‘different’ at the very worst… or maybe they’ll just go and look the word up.