ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What about queer?

Updated on June 4, 2015

Queer is much more than LGBT

It seems to me that the word "queer" has become more evident nowadays. It's being widely used by people both in popular and academic contexts, in different perspectives and with different meanings.

Unfortunately, even within academic discourse, "queer" is usually explained as a short-handed word for LGBT, as only another way to call LGBT people in general. Sometimes, this meaning is stated by people who are only too lazy to explain how can "queer" be perceived as a disruptive term, or who simply presume the general public won't understand the complexity that surrounds the contemporary use of this word anyway.

After sending a proposal to an event on diversity, organized by the local university, aiming to offer a lecture on Queer Studies and the word "queer" itself, I was surprised by the fact that, among the students who showed up, there were post-graduates and people who already were developing studies in the field, looking for some clarification.

In fact, what attracts me in Queer Studies is exactly its lack of a precise definition for the object it claims to study. "Queer" is such a polysemic word it allows us to put inumerous discourses into question, without limiting us to issues regarding gender and sexuality - although those are the major focus of those studies.

As a descendant from Portuguese, Italian, African, and "only-God-knows-what-other-ethnicity" born in Brazil, genderqueer, and polysexual individual with a slight tendency to be seen as a freak (with my tattoos, scarifications, and stretchers), I believe my "queerness" comes from intersecting aspects of my identity.

Thus, for me, "queer" is a self-description I use in order to avoid the need of multiple labels given to me by other people. Because I'm somehow "strange" to society as a subject in different aspects, I believe the term suits me well.

Multiple definitions

In a single book one can find multiple definitions of what is "queer" and what can be considered as "Queer Theory", all of them open to interpretation. Nikki Sullivan, in A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory (2003) argues on how it is a result on a growing "emphasis on difference that seemed to pervade sexual, gender, rance and/or class politics in the 1980s, and the cocomitant turning away from grand-scale utopian visions".

Brazilian academic Guacira Lopes Louro considers queer a form of "post-identity"; a deconstruction of a fixed and universal homosexual identity coined by mainstream LGBT movements which have actually failed in giving visibility to minorities such as bisexuals and transgendered people.

In June 1990, an anonymous manifesto distributed during the NYC Pride, with the title "Queers Read This!" exposed frustration and indignation concerning the escalation of gay bashing and homophobia in cities. The authorship of the manifesto was later claimed by a movement called Queer Nation, which became known by its direct actions, using civil disobedience as political strategy. Here is how they explained their use of the word "queer":


Ah, do we really have to use that word? It's trouble. Every gay person has his or her own take on it. For some it means strange and eccentric and kind of mysterious. That's okay; we like that. But some gay girls and boys don't. They think they're more normal than strange. And for others "queer" conjures up those awful memories of adolescent suffering. Queer. It's forcibly bittersweet and quaint at best - weakening and painful at worst. Couldn't we just use "gay" instead? It's a much brighter word. And isn't it synonymous with "happy"? When will you militants grow up and get over the novelty of being different?

Why Queer ...

Well, yes, "gay" is great. It has its place. But when a lot of lesbians and gay men wake up in the morning we feel angry and disgusted, not gay. So we've chosen to call ourselves queer. Using "queer" is a way of reminding us how we are perceived by the rest of the world. It's a way of telling ourselves we don't have to be witty and charming people who keep our lives discreet and marginalized in the straight world. We use queer as gay men loving lesbians and lesbians loving being queer. Queer, unlike gay, doesn't mean male.

For Queer Nation, like other movements at the time, it was outrageous that queer people should force themselves to be "discrete" in order to live their lives, avoiding to call attention to their queerness to escape violence.

According to Annamarie Jagose, queer effects a rupture, being meaningful in the context of its historical development, embodying ambivalence and discontinuities, and avoiding precise definitions and assimilation. What is more, similarly to the third-wave feminist idea of reclaiming negative/pejorative terms associated with women - like "bitch", "cunt", etc. -, the choice to use "queer" is based on reclaiming a negative term and subverting its usage.

Queer Nation Houston
Queer Nation Houston

What about theory?

In the academy, post-structuralist thought is Queer Theory's major influence, particularly regarding theories of subjectivity and discourse. The subject is, then, fragmented and multiple - instead of unified and self-knowing. Identity is not static nor self-evident; rather it is an effect of discursive elements within a culture.

This view of the subject is evident within post-modernism, composed by various identities, some of then showing contradictions and tensions in comparisson to one another. Its transience admits fluidity and multiplicity, becoming unstable and, therefore, questioning meanings such as essence, being natural, genuine, and original. Thus, individuals who transgress boundaries of gender and sexuality might be seen as symptomatic of the post-modern view of the subject, expressing the constructed, cultural, and unstable character of sexual identities as a whole.

Those transgressive individuals put into question the homossexual model defended by most activist movements. During the end of the 1970s, the consolidation of a mainstream homosexual movement was responsible for repeating the very same centralization and marginalization processes which led to the own homosexuals' social exclusion before. In fact, in the beginning of the 1980s there were already some academic authors recognizing that the meaning and the experience of homosexuality are based in a sociocultural logic rather than in universal elements shared by every homosexual person.

Two of the most important post-structuralist theorists for the development of Queer Theory are Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. The first was responsible for, among other things, a genealogical account of how sexuality has been produced by discourse, in historically and culturally specific ways, so that some specific sexual behaviours became traits of determined identities (such as the homosexual identity). The latter argued on the performative nature of gender, claiming that what we understand and naturalize as gender is a result of repetition of acts that acquire the impression of being real.

In this sense, there's a heterosexual matrix guiding society in terms of sex/gender/sexuality; it works around binary oppositions of male/female and heterosexual/homosexual in what is called heteronormativity. This heteronormative axis represents a set of values besides the view of hetero as the default sexuality, including the Christian model of marriage, the traditional notion of family, monogamy, etc.

Queer Theory problematizes all those institutionalized notions, contesting dominant knowledges and social hierarchies, as well as criticizing all kinds of norms. That's why we often characterize queer as anti-assimilationist.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)