Article originally published on the Slutbox Blog.
SlutBox is all about reclaiming slurs that have been used to shame, control, demonize and hurt women and femmes, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, PoC, and marginalized groups and communities across the globe. We believe in taking the power away from derogatory labels, and reclaiming these words for ourselves. We are all sluts, and we’re here to reclaim queer.
Herstory of the Word
The term “queer” is a prime example of the successful reappropriation of a once-derogatory term. The word entered the English language in the 16th century, originally meaning “strange,” “odd,” “peculiar,” “eccentric” or even something suspicious or “not quite right.” The old Northern English expression, “There’s nowt so queer as folk,” meaning “There is nothing as strange as people,” illustrates this. By the late 1800s, the word began to gain a connotation of sexual deviance. At this time, the word referred to feminine men, or men who engaged in sex acts or sexual relationships with other men.
By the 20th century, “Queer” was widely used as a pejorative and dehumanizing slur used against LGBTQIA+ folx. In the 1980s, the term began to be reclaimed from its derogatory use to a neutral or even proud self-identifier by LGBTQIA+ people. Today, Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual and/or not cisgender (meaning a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their sex assigned at birth).
Queer people and particularly QPoC (Queer People of Color) have been adopting the term in response to a perceived shift in the gay community toward liberal conservatism and assimilation with heteronormativity (such as marriage, military inclusion and adoption). Today, people all over the world who reject traditional gender identities and who seek a more inclusive alternative to LGBT labels proudly call themselves Queers.
Many antiquated anti-gay slurs have lost their power over time (eg: fairy, fruit, pansy, queen, twink, etc.). As with all reclaimed slurs, some words and terms still sting. The word “queer” has a complex history. We use it today because it is inclusive to all members of the LGBTQIA+ community. It encompasses all gender expressions and sexualities. The word “queer” also implies fluidity, and it creates space for individuals who are still questioning their identity.
Why Reclamation Matters
There still remain hostilities, misconceptions and divisions between subgroups within the LGBTQIA+ community. Despite this, we still remember that we are part of a larger community. And it is the term “Queer” that unites us.
There is great power in reclaiming a word that was once hurtful, and taking that power for yourself. Reclaiming slurs is an act of resistance. The radical reclamation of the word “queer” was a great feat of our LGBTQIA+ elders and ancestors. We believe that work should be celebrated.
This article was originally published on the Slutbox Blog.