At Target 10, we are often asked questions about LGBTQ culture. Our culture, which is predicated off of being forward thinking, is constantly at work looking for ways in which our world can be a better, safer place for everyone. One development from that mentality which is beginning to touch the mainstream world is the word queer. Many people, LGBTQs and heterosexuals alike, are already familiar with the word in one context. Originally meaning strange or odd, it has been as an insult to describe gender and sexual minorities. As our community has reclaimed it, the meaning behind queer has evolved and rather than being an insult it is now a word used by many people to describe their own, unique experience with gender and sexuality.
In the simplest terms, the word queer describes an identity which transcends normative gender and sexuality. It is an umbrella term, applying to everyone from gay men and lesbian women, to our trans brothers and sisters, to the agender, gender nonconforming, and genderqueer members of the family — and really everything else in between. Queer is the label without labels and it offers those of us along the LGBTQ spectrum the freedom to identify by something that leaves room for fluidity and openness. This freedom is very useful when dealing with issues like gender and sexuality, which vary significantly from one individual to another. There is an incredible amount of diversity that exists apart from what we have for many years considered to be normal and the queer identity supports and affirms all of those people outside the norm.
It is also a political identity for some people. Running through queer culture is a strong awareness of the social structures that suppress who we really are inside, i.e., compulsory heterosexuality and heteronormative, binary gender that is assigned at birth based on assumed biological sex. As much as queer is a word for people to use to identify their own gender and sexuality, it is also a movement aimed at making the world an easier place to live for people who exist outside of the norm. This political identity layered onto queer is a expansion of the movement gays and lesbians began against heterosexism and the homophobia the members of the community were experiencing in their daily lives.
It is important to note that queer is, in many ways, amorphous. Because it is so open and fluid, there are many ways to look at and interpret what it means to be queer. I, being but one person, cannot encompass what queer means to each person who identities by it. My attempt here, rather, is to illuminate the basic tenants of what the word means and how it is used by LGBTQs. As you might expect with a single word to describe a world of individual variance, there is great nuance to the way one person might use it versus another. And that, in essence, is what queer is all about.
– Aaron Robets