Queer: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The pink triangle was originally used (pointing down) by the Nazis to denote homosexuality in male concentration camp prisoners. It has since been reclaimed; many LGBT-related organizations use either point-upward or point-downward depictions as a symbol of queer resistance, gay pride and gay rights.[1]

Queer has traditionally meant odd or unusual, though modern use often pertains to LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and non-normative heterosexual) people. Its usage is considered controversial and underwent substantial changes over the course of the 20th Century with some LGBT people re-claiming the term as a means of self-empowerment. The term is still considered by some to be offensive and derisive, and by others as a re-appropriated term used to describe a sexual orientation and/or gender identity or gender expression that does not conform to heteronormative society.


Traditional usage

Since its emergence in the English language in the 16th Century (related to the German quer, meaning "across, at right angle, diagonally or transverse"), queer has generally meant "strange," "unusual," or "out of alignment." It might refer to something suspicious or "not quite right," or to a person with mild derangement or who exhibits socially inappropriate behavior. The expression "in Queer Street" was used in the UK as of the 1811 edition of Francis Grose's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue for someone in financial trouble.[2]

In the 1904 Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Second Stain, the term is still used in a completely non-sexual context (Inspector Lestrade is threatening a misbehaving constable with "finding himself in Queer Street", i.e., in this context, being severely punished). By that time that story was published, however, the term was already starting to gain its implication of sexual deviance (especially that of homosexual and/or effeminate males), which is already known in the late 19th century; an early recorded usage of the word in this sense was in a letter by John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry to his son Lord Alfred Douglas.

Subsequently, for most of the 20th Century, "queer" was frequently used as a derogatory term for effeminate gay males who were believed to engage in receptive or passive anal/oral sex with men, and others exhibiting untraditional gender behavior. Furthermore, masculine males, who performed the role of the 'penetrator' were in some cases considered 'straights'. [3] The first time it was used in print in America in the modern era was in Variety magazine.

As a contemporary antonym of heteronormative

Peter Paige, one of the out stars of the North American version of Queer as Folk, at a 2008 publicity event for the series.

In contemporary usage, some use queer as an inclusive, unifying sociopolitical umbrella term for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, transsexual, intersexual, genderqueer, or of any other non-heterosexual sexuality, sexual anatomy, or gender identity. It can also include asexual and autosexual people, as well as gender normative heterosexuals whose sexual orientations or activities place them outside the heterosexual-defined mainstream (e.g. BDSM practitioners, or polyamorous persons). Queer in this sense (depending on how broadly it is defined) is commonly used as a synonym for such terms as LGBT.

Because of the context in which it was reclaimed, queer has sociopolitical connotations, and is often preferred by those who are activists, by those who strongly reject traditional gender identities, by those who reject distinct sexual identities such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight, and by those who see themselves as oppressed by the heteronormativity of the larger culture. In this usage it retains the historical connotation of "outside the bounds of normal society" and can be construed as "breaking the rules for sex and gender." It can be preferred because of its ambiguity, which allows "queer"-identifying people to avoid the sometimes strict boundaries that surround other labels. In this context, "queer" is not a synonym for LGBT as it creates a space for "queer" heterosexuals as well as "non-queer" ("straight-acting") homosexuals.

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. For instance, among genderqueer people, who do not solidly identify with one particular gender, once solid gender roles have been torn down, it becomes difficult to situate sexual identity. For some people, the non-specificity of the term is liberating. Queerness becomes a way to simultaneously make a political move against heteronormativity while simultaneously refusing to engage in traditional essentialist identity politics.

Several television shows, including Queer Eye, the cartoon Queer Duck and the British and American versions of Queer as Folk, have also used the term in their titles to reinforce their positive self-identification message. This commonplace usage has, especially in the American colloquial culture, has recently led to the more hip and iconic abbreviation "Q".

The term is sometimes capitalized when referring to an identity or community, rather than merely a sexual fact (cf. the capitalized use of Deaf).

See also



  1. ^ Haggerty, George E. (2000, page 691). "Gay Histories and Cultures: an Encyclopedia". Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0815318804. http://books.google.com/books?id=L9Mj7oHEwVoC&dq=%22pink+triangle%22+queer+symbol&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0. Retrieved 2008-06-30.  
  2. ^ The Telegraph If one is bankrupt, one is in Queer Street. This originates from the word query which tradesmen and merchants would write against the names of persons who were late in paying. Another theory relates it to Carey Street off Chancery Lane in London which housed the bankruptcy courts.
  3. ^ A TALE OF TWO SEXUAL REVOLUTIONS; STEPHEN ROBERTSON AUSTRALASIAN JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES Quote: The most striking addition to the picture offered by D’Emilio and Freedman is a working-class sexual culture in which only those men who took the passive or feminine role were considered ‘queer.’ A man who took the ‘active role,’ who inserted his penis into another man, remained a ‘straight’ man, even when he had an on-going relationship with a man who took the passive role.


  • Anon. "Queercore". i-D magazine No. 110; the sexuality issue. (1992).
  • Crimp, D. AIDS DemoGraphics. (1990).
  • Katlin, T. "Slant: Queer Nation". Artforum, November 1990. pp. 21-23.
  • Tucker, S. "Gender, Fucking & Utopia". Social text, Vol.9, No.1. (1992).

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote


  • Andrew Parker (1994), among others, defines queer as, "a non-gender-specific rubric that defines itself diacritically not against heterosexuality but against the normative,"
    • Parker, Andrew (Fall 1994). "Foucault's Tongues", Mediations 18:2: 80.
  • while Michael Warner (1993) defines queer as "resistance to regimes of the normal."
    • Warner, Michael (1993). "Introduction", Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory, p.xxvii. Ed. Michael Warner. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner (1995) suggest that participation in "queer publics," is, "more a matter of aspiration than it is the expression of an identity or a history,"
    • Berlant, Lauren and Warner, Michael (May 1995). "What Does Queer Theory Teach Us about X?" PMLA 110:3:343.
  • "Queerness...[is] more a posture of opposition than a simple statement about sexuality. It [is] about principles, not particularities. 'To me,' explained [Queer Nation/San Francisco activist Karl] Knapper, 'queerness is about acknowledging and celebrating difference, embracing wha sets you apart. A straight person can't be gay, but a straight person can be queer."
    • L.A. Kauffman (1992). "Radical Change: The Left Attacks Identity Politics", Village Voice 30 June, 20.
  • "[There are] cases of straight queerness, and of other forms of queerness that might not be contained within existing categories or have reference to only one established category...new queer spaces open up (or are revealed) whenever someone moves away from using only one specific sexual identity category--gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight--to understand and to describe mass culture, and recognizes that texts and people's responses to them are more sexually transmutable than any one category could signify--excepting, perhaps, that of 'queer.'"
    • Alexander Doty (1993). Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture, p.xvii-xix. Minneapolis: University of Minneasota Press.
  • "The preference for 'queer' represents, among other things, an aggresive impulse of generalizations; it rejects a minoritizing logic of toleration or simple political interest-representation in favor of a more thorough resistance to regimes of the normal. For academics, being interested in queer theory is a way to mess up the desexualized spaces of the academy, exude some rut, reimaging the public from and for which academic intellectuals write, dress, and perform....For both academics and activists, 'queer' gets a critical edge by defining itself against the normal rather than the heterosexual....The insistence on 'queer'...has the effect of pointing out a wide field of normalization, rather than simple intolerance, as the site of violence."
    • Warner, Michael (1993). "Introduction", Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory, p.xxvi. Ed. Michael Warner. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • "Queer" involves "the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning [that occur] when the consituent elements of anyone's gender, of anyone's sexuality aren't made (or can't be made) to signifying monolithically... [including] drags, clones, leatherfolk...fantasists...feminist men...masturbators...people able to relish, learn from, or identify with such." She praises, "work around 'queer' [which] spins the term outward along dimensions that can't be subsumed under gender and sexuality at all." However, queer must denote "almost simply, same-sex sexual object choice, lesbian or gay...given the historical and contemporary force of the prohibitions against every same-sex sexual expression, for anyone to disavow those meanings, or to displace them from the term's definitional center, would be to dematerialize any possiblity of queerness itself."
    • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1993). Tendencies, p.8. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
  • Queer has become "the discursive rallying point for younger lesbians and gay men and, in yet other contexts, for lesbian interventions and, in yet other contexts, for bisexuals and straights for whom the term expresses an affiliation with antihomophobic politics. That it can become such a discursive site whose uses are not fully constrained in advance ought to be safe-guarded not only for the purposes of continuing to democratize queer politics, but also to expose, affirm, and rework the specific historicity of the term."
    • Judith Butler (1993). Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex", p.230. New York: Routledge.
  • "'Queer' derives its force precisely through the repeated invocation by which it has become linked to accusation, pathologization, insult. This is an invocation by which a social bond among homophobic communities is formed through time. The interpellation echoes past interpellations, and binds the speakers, as if they spoke in unison across time. In this sense, it is always an imaginary chorus that taunts 'queer'".
    • Butler, Judith (1993). Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex", p.226. New York: Routledge.


Thomas, Calvin, ed. (2000). "Introduction: Identification, Appropriation, Proliferation", Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252068130.

See also

Simple English

Redirecting to Homosexuality

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