Opinion: Eliminating the term “queer” encourages harmful narratives
Quitting use of the term snubs LGBTQ+ history and isolates our community
After a long history as an excuse for emboldening physical violence, the term “queer” has only recently begun its journey to reclamation as a cushion for anyone challenging societal norms regarding sexuality and gender. In tandem with its reclamation, pockets of protest have shot up in support of censoring the umbrella term ‘queer’ from the LGBTQ+ community.
Personally, I see this as detrimental and encouraging a harmful narrative of forgetting history. Instead of another step towards healing, potentially eliminating a term that is representative of us all is a step back.
Some may see my youth as a disqualifier to enter a debate with such heavy connotations, but as a lesbian, I feel I can safely comment on the disturbing nature of eliminating the cushion of umbrella terms from our language.
The argument behind restricting use of the term “queer” is two-fold: People feel swallowed up by its all-encompassing design and the history that precedes it isn’t endearing. While this argument is valid and easy to empathize with, I’d like to address both parts.
Sometimes, the broadness of a label can feel too vague and ultimately leads to feeling lost; this is where the positive side of micro-labeling comes in handy. On the flip side, expansive labels such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer provide security because of their fluidity and broad scope. With them, you can either stress your identity or be as unspecified as you want.
Because of its nonspecificity, queer is a term that provides a special kind of cushioning for people across all spectrums. Queer challenges sexual and gender norms, it is fluid and allows for mobility that exists outside of social mandates.
Reclamation is a powerful event that some are rightfully reluctant or unwilling to participate in. Those who lived through harsher eras of legal and societal discrimination are reluctant to reclaim the slur. Supposed harmless comments such as “don’t be such a queer” and childhood games like “smear the queer,” where the designated queer was baited and chased all promoted abuse against the LGBTQ+ community.
It is important to remember the viciousness of the trials that previous generations of LGBTQ+ people endured, and it is the right of anyone to not want anything to do with a pejorative tool of homophobia.
This doesn’t excuse eliminating the term altogether. Queer is far too ingrained in our history to banish it from any LGBTQ+ spaces, and the progression has been a long time coming. From its use describing oddities, to its time as a weapon against anyone different from the norm, to its current use as a verbal welcome mat by a community that refuses to fit with cookie-cutter traditional ideals.
Queer is deeply associated with all the suffering and empowerment of LGBTQ+ history, and it is nearly impossible to ignore. Excluding “queer” from our vocabularies erases a major part of our history and effectively isolates parts of our community. Shutting out a label that many are ready to reclaim and use as a comprehensive alternative to other umbrella terms will only have detrimental effects for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community.
Samantha Margot is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences and a staff columnist for The Eagle.