The LGBT community is embracing the term queer as a broad identity label.
The term queer is on the rise.
When, in February of 2016, Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” vertical rebranded itself as Huffington Post “Queer Voices”, readers’ responses were mixed. The post announcing the change acknowledged that when the “Gay Voices” section was first launched in 2011, the site’s editors had consciously decided against using the term “queer” because of its historical connotation as a slur. But as time passed, the team concluded that “Gay Voices” was insufficient in encapsulating a broad spectrum of sexual and gender identities, and that “queer” functioned as a more inclusive term.
Today, more and more LGBTQ individuals are adopting queer as a label in an increasingly intersectional era. The term’s rapidly growing popularity sends a compelling message of inclusivity — one with the potential to mitigate longstanding divisions within the LGBTQ community.
A Politicized Past
The force behind this semantic shift has roots in the 1980s and 90s, during which time queer was politicized within the context of the AIDS crisis and ultimately used by a number of groups and individuals to express disagreement with mainstream sexual politics in America. At the time, the idea was to repurpose a word that had at one point been used to alienate LGBTQ groups and instead wear it proudly — leveraging it to increase political visibility and improved legislative outcomes.
A Shift Toward Inclusivity
Today’s proponents of the term are less concerned with neutralizing negative connotations than they are with combatting cisnormativity.
While terms like “gay,” “lesbian,” or “bisexual” may be sufficient in describing the sexual orientation of cisgendered individuals, these terms fail to refer to people whose identities do not conform with essentialist conceptions of gender. Under the banner of queer, trans, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, asexual, pansexual, and intersex people can become commonly associated with the LGBTQ community in a way traditional terms and acronyms do not allow. This transition also allows questions like “Can straight men love gay sex?” to have a place in a larger LGBT conversation.
A Word On the Rise – What Does Queer Mean Now?
With young celebrities like Rowan Blanchard, Ezra Miller, and Mara Wilson proudly identifying as queer and mainstream media outlets increasingly incorporating the term into their style guides, it’s clear that this attitude of inclusivity is resonating. A quick look at Google Trends confirms the people’s growing curiosity about the word; the popularity index for the query “What is Queer?” has jumped from 6 to 70 over the past 3 years.
As the LGBTQ population continues to grow and recognize all genders and sexualities, the queer movement empowers us to come together, support one another, and celebrate our differences.
Queer is powerful. Let’s embrace it.