What is Queer?

Essay by ballsarefreeUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2004

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The word queer has made an interesting journey, since although most people realize that the adjective was originally just a synonym for strange or abnormal, now, it is rarely used in that context. Today, the term is used to describe not only people who are gay (which is another fascinating example of a word transformation), but their lifestyles, attitudes, and behaviors as well. It may be unfair to make such a broad generalization, for I rarely here the term used to describe lesbians, but it has become fairly mainstream for the term to be used when describing the lives of gay men.

It is probably safe to say, that the term queer was first conformed to describe gays in a insulting manner since it equates homosexuality to abnormality. Moreover, I can remember many instances where I have heard term used in an insulting manner. However, in contemporary America, the term is no longer held exclusively to a negative context.

Gay men, and sometimes women, refer to themselves as queer and it is showing up more and more frequently in movies on television. Was this adoption of the term by the gay community a means to control the term and remove a part of the offensiveness? Although I am not an expert in the field, I would expect this is at least partially true.

We now hear the word on television programs like Will and Grace and even in the title of the smash hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but it is still not acceptable for people, especially heterosexuals, to use this term to describe gay people. Nevertheless, some of the power of the word was removed when the gay community embraced the word. Now, it is less appealing for those who would have used the word as...