Queer People Can Call Ourselves Whatever We Want, Thanks

the guardian q word queer

A letter submitted to The Guardian and unfortunately published for all of us to read has gone viral online as it posits a question no queer person has ever asked themselves: “is the language we use to describe ourselves… homophobic?”

“You wouldn’t use the N-word, so don’t use the Q-word,” ends the controversial letter, which argues that the word “queer” is “insulting and derogatory, and certainly not ‘reclaimed’.”

I could spend my entire afternoon combatting how this argument (and the points the writer uses to get it across) are quite backward, but that would be a waste of my queer energy.

Alas, The Guardian decided to publish this individual’s letter and so I shall attempt to respond to it without exerting myself too much.


“I am a gay man of 66 years with many friends and acquaintances, and know no one who would refer to themselves as queer,” writes Karl Lockwood from Brighton.

“It would seem a small minority of activists has encouraged the media to use the word without considering its offensiveness to many people.”

I believe the use of the word “activists” here is used to separate the writer from other queer people who may not identify solely as gay. There are the “polite” and “quiet” queers and then there are the nasty little queers who encourage the media to be “woke”. It’s a rhetoric we’ve heard so many times before, and frankly, it’s often spouted by white gay men who are usually racist and transphobic. Of course, I’m not at all implying this man is. What I am noting though is criticism of queer activists often comes with other bigotries.

Queer is a word that members of the LGBTQIA+ community use to dissolve the barriers between us and create a verbal safe space where everyone can be included. You see, there’s a difference between the “gay community” and the “queer community”. Queer is all of us. It’s a shared struggle. It’s saying: “if I’m gay and you’re trans, my experiences are different to yours but I’m here for you. I’m here to aid you in your fight however I can, as it’s our fight now.”

Queer is inclusive and beautiful. Quite frankly, if you see the way the word has evolved and have a problem with it, it just says more about you than the word. What’s so scary about you identifying yourself with the same term used by your trans, non-binary, bisexual, lesbian (and more) friends? Do you just want it to be about you? A gay man?

The argument that there’s a generational divide between queers of today and queers of the past has some validity, and everyone has the right to feel a certain type of way about the word “queer”, but to deny everyone usage of the word is a bit extreme.

We know exactly what is being implied when you say “other” gays shouldn’t use the word queer, and The Guardian publishing this letter so close to Pride Month seems suss AF. You can’t hear me right now, but I’m sighing out all of my queer exhaustion.

I could continue my rant with an entire history of the word (which has been used as a self-identifier since the 1930s and was a huge part of queer protests in the 80s and onwards) but there’s no point. The idea that “queer” has evolved from a slur into a powerful word LGBTQIA+ people can use has already been spoken about time and time again.

I don’t need to repeat the words of the intelligent queers before me, but I will say that we don’t need “hot takes” at this time that seek to divide the LGBTQIA+ community even further. This should be a time of collective unity and celebration. I’d hazard a guess The Guardian knew that when it encouraged this discussion.

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