“If that's being queer, then we could do with a bit more queerness in these parts.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
Queer is a loaded word. For some, it's an ugly slur. For others, it's a reclaimed and broadly inclusive way to refer to those of us who aren't heterosexual and/or cisgender.
I consider myself part of the latter group.
As I say on the About Me page I have a love/hate relationship with labels. They are a two-edged sword and as such can be used to help or hurt. But when you exist outside of certain societal expectations chosen labels can be a godsend.
Cis/hetero folks sometimes don't realize how beneficial labels can be for the rest of us, largely because for a long time the word that described them, if anything, has been 'normal'. They haven't needed to use clinical terms to defend their existence or find community. Some even resist being referred to as cisgender at all.
There's a discomfort with having that identity dissected the way marginalized groups are used to having our identities dissected. As a result some perceive all labels as a negative thing. It can be like white people claiming not to see color; a way of politely avoiding introspection. But labels can help us understand ourselves in a world that politely avoids introspection.
I can't think of many LGBTQIA+ identifiers that haven't been used by bullies and oppressors as a negative. In my own life I was bullied more with the word 'gay' (which is not considered a slur) to my face than I ever have been via 'queer' but it's very much still in use by friends and foes alike. In fact all of the umbrella terms have been identifiers from the outside and never originally intended to be flattering. But then they were reclaimed and taken away from our abusers. Vicious weapons turned into rainbow shields.
As society and science understand more about the gender spectrum and orientation the alphabet soup of LGBTQIA+ gets unwieldy and I find 'queer' far less of a mouthful. The old guard chant of "We're Here, We're Queer, Get Used To It!" speaks to me. I even enjoy the quaint old-time-y sound of the word. "How queer." Like Alice in Wonderland. It doesn't hurt me, it empowers me. It gives me strength and comfort where other words feel limiting and slightly inaccurate.
My personal relationship with the word 'queer' is a cozy one. It just so neatly describes so much of me all at once in a quaint and radical way.
It describes my orientation as a nonbinary/agender individual, since gay or bi don't quite feel accurate these days (although I will sometimes default to gay to save time in explaining this). It describes my interests and aesthetics- I adore surrealism, mythic cryptids, people dressing flamboyantly, eccentricity, human absurdity, dandyism, magical realism, folk horror, practical effects, reptiles, etc. Much of the media I enjoy and consume could be referred to as some definition of 'queer'.
Queer can mean weird and off-kilter and, having shed being ashamed of the harmlessly 'weird' things I love and am, I've embraced my own queerness. It's been enormously freeing and good for my well being. I no longer care if someone thinks I'm strange, flamboyant, and a weirdo. I am! And I love it. I finally love me. It's hard to express what a long hard road it's been to be able to say that.
Queerness embodies that love and acceptance of my authentic self. As such, it's not a word I can be hurt by anymore. It's helped me. It's mine. It's beautiful. I've become immune.
Embracing my queerness has been life saving. It's changed my life for the better and the word cannot be used as a slur toward me. It's not my sword, it's my shield.
An aegis, if you will.
I thought I wouldn't bring mythology into this one yet here we are.
Now, all that being said, I wouldn't refer to another person as queer unless they explicitly had a similar comfort level with the word. I respect the feelings and personal traumas of people who've been abused by it and don't feel the empowering connection to it that I do. Words are powerful and the impact they have can be deeply individual.
If someone doesn't want to be called something, then don't call them that. Full stop. I get why people are reticent to use the q-word. That bit just comes down to respect and common courtesy. It's understandable to err on the side of caution.
But when someone identifies as queer? It's not a self-dis or a lack of self esteem. For us, it's concise, beautiful, and valid.
We're here. We're queer.
Get used to it.