Wednesday, 17 February 2016

To queer or not to queer?

News blog the Huffington Post has rebranded its "Gay Voices" sections as "Queer" rather than gay.

Just in the time I've been around the LGBT+ scene, Queer has an interesting history.

A lot of people - mostly older than me - hate it. Understandably so, it was one of the sticks people were hit with time and time again. All LGBT words have that for some people and some contexts; just look at the gap between being bisexual and owning the label, or the use of gay as a playground slur, perhaps best challenged in a deconstructy way by the "homophobia is gay" campaign.

About the time I first came out, queer was being touted in some quarters as the "avoid saying LGBT cos it's got no vowels" word.

Then it became a corporate branding word for a trendy pink pound end of the scene. Queer as a synonym for under 25, white, cis, able-bodied, homosexual and at the gym every morning to keep yourself a buffly honed gay thing.

Later it popped up again as seeing your sexuality and gender as part of another narrowly conforming monoculture, this time tied together with other attitudes like v*ganism and anticapitalism.  Again, and for all its rhetoric, it was a "you're young or you're invisible" scene.

And now somewhat back to where we started. Or rather, where I came in.

Queer is, in the round, more inclusive than Gay. So this is a good step forward.

The qualm I have about queer replacing the "alphabet soup" is one I set out here a few years ago: by combining all the labels into one generic term we lose some of the strength of voice for the different strands that are submerged. If an LGBT group is kind of spelling LGBT as GGGG or LGGG, does changing to queer make the multitudinous identities of today feel more included, or mean the hierarchy of inclusion and action is harder to challenge?

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