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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.[citation needed]

As a contemporary antonym of heteronormative

, 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, 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

File:Portal LGBT portal



  1. ^ Haggerty, George E. (2000, page 691). "Gay Histories and Cultures: an Encyclopedia". Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0815318804. Retrieved on 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 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



From Scottish, perhaps from Low German (Brunswick dialect) queer "oblique, off-center", related to German quer = "oblique, perverse, odd", from Old High German twerh = "oblique," from PIE stem *twerk- = "to turn, twist, wind" (related to thwart).


  • enPR: kwîr, IPA: /kwir/, SAMPA: /kwir/ (for both noun and adjective; but see usage note on pronunciation)
  •  Audio (US)help, file
  • Rhymes: -ɪə(r)


queer (comparative queerer, superlative queerest)

  1. (somewhat old-fashioned) weird, odd or different.
  2. (somewhat old-fashioned) slightly unwell (mainly in to feel queer).
  3. (slang) homosexual.
  4. (slang) having to do with homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism etc.


Derived terms





queer (plural queers)

  1. (Derogatory, slang) A person who is or appears homosexual, or who has homosexual qualities.
  2. (slang) A person of atypical sexuality or sexual identity.

Usage notes

  • The use of this word to mean "homosexual" was formerly, and is often still, considered pejorative. However, in the way that all language is dynamic and pliable, the word is also sometimes now used (primarily as adjective) as a neutral or even positive descriptive term, including by some (primarily younger) homosexuals. In its pejorative use, it is applied almost solely to males. In its modern neutral use, it can be applied to all genders.
Some GLBT youth now use the term as an "all-inclusive" term for the GLBTIQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Intersex, Queer) etc. community.
'Queer' is also used as a positive term for people who reject mainstream-gay values and culture. People who identify with this version of queer distance themselves from the commercialisation and (relatively) conformist values of the gay mainstream and embrace fluid and unconstrained definitions of sexuality and gender. There is some common ground between this definition of queer and the punk and DIY scenes. See also "genderqueer".
  • In the English dialect of the southern United States, the two senses of the adjective queer (homosexual and weird, odd, different, or unwell) are sometimes distinguished by pronunciation. Queer (homosexual) is pronounced (kwîr), queer (weird, odd, different, or unwell) is pronounced (kwär). This is generally considered old-fashioned and is only used when the word is emphasized, as in the phrase "that's awful queer" (pronounced THăts ôr'fəl kwär). The distinction is dying out as that latter sense of the word dies out.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.


to queer

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to queer (third-person singular simple present queers, present participle queering, simple past and past participle queered)


  1. To render an endeavor or agreement ineffective or null.
  2. To reevaluate or reinterpret a work with an eye to sexual orientation and/or to gender, as by applying queer theory.




queer (comparative more queer, superlative most queer)


more queer

most queer

  1. queerly


Simple English

Redirecting to Homosexuality

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