Don posted earlier today that he doesn't care much for the word "queer". I completely respect his position, but you can't really have a con without a pro. That's like having a defense without a prosecution. Or the other way around since he's indicting the word. I wouldn't know; I'm not a lawyer, I only play one on the internet.
It's no secret that I like the word "queer". I post something every other day on here with that word in the title. I've been doing the "Friday night fix of queer music" posts and trying to do more "100% badass queer people" posts. I do the "Qomics for Queers" Sunday posts as well as maintain another blog by that same name. I was doing Q-Bomb before Bil signed me up to blog here, even though that wasn't really a reference to "queer", it was more of a reference to everything else being taken already on Blogger.
I think one of the things that attracts me to that word is that there really isn't any other like it. I would describe myself as queer, and I can simultaneously describe anyone who's not heterosexual as queer. "Gay" doesn't quite slice it since it excludes oh so many people: bisexuals, trans folk, people who play with gender or sexuality but don't really define themselves, and, to some, lesbian women. LGBT or GLBT or LGBTQ or LGBTTQISQ or whatever alphabet soup also doesn't always work since it again will always exclude someone. Moreover, they're a bit cumbersome in speech, and while I'll use it at times for variety on the blog, I don't really even identify as LGBT since I'm not trans, bisexual, or lesbian.
The next obvious choice is queer. Now that's a whole lot easier than alphabet soup! Instead of focusing on the divisions between various non-heterosexual communities, queer unites us all with what makes us different. It's easy to chop off a letter in a string, or a segment of our communities because we feel that they're too different, but it's hard to ignore someone who's being discriminated against because of the very same thing you are.
That's part of what "queer" means to me.
Another part of it is the fact that my background has made me far less sensitive to it than Don's background has to him. I don't remember it being used as an insult all that much in school. Really, next to the number of times that I heard "faggot" or "that's so gay", "queer" is nearly invisible. Where I do know I've seen "queer" is in my refuge of academia. "Queer theory" describes some academics' attempts to break down barriers between sexualities and categories in a post-industrial, check off the box age. It traces a good part of its beginning to French philosopher Michel Foucault's seminal yet never completed work This History of Sexuality and was followed by many others, including the amazing Judith Butler. "Queer liberation theology" refers to the intersection of religion and sexuality and is where a whole lot of pro-gay Bible interpretation has been coming from. "Queer studies" in general is, well, just that.
A few books use "queer" as well. Queering Christ, by Robert Goss, is a book that attempts to do just that. The Material Queer is a great reader on the relationship between Marxism and sexual expression. I never finished reading it, but Fear of a Queer Planet tried to take queer theory to its limit in rejecting categories, something which the author obviously thought people feared.
I even took a class in college called "Queer religiosities", taught by a very aware lesbian, on queer people's relationship to religions throughout the world. It wouldn't have made sense to call it "gay religiosities" or "LGBT religiosties" when some of the cultures covered didn't recognize sexuality as a monolithic identity as we do today. Native two-spirit people, while definitely not heterosexual in any way James Dobson would buy, were also not simply gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. But how can we identify them and with them without a word creating that possibility?
And yes, the etymology of the word is "strange". But that's a whole lot better than "normal"! It serves as a reminder to us that attempting to assimilate and erase our difference will not only never happen but is also undersirable. Every now and then I use the phrases "establishment queers" and "assimilationist queers" as very intended oxymorons.
Don says that there's a difference between spaces with exclusively LGBTQ people and places, like Bilerico, that are mixed. I absolutely agree, and I'm sure that anyone who identifies as not-straight in any way would as well. We act differently when a straight person is in the room or out in a public space that isn't designated queer in some way. And that can be a little tiring, knowing that a straight person entering a space occupied by queer people has the power and often the entitlement to make that space straight.
I think that it's great that many heterosexually identified people read this website. I really do. And I encourage all you heterosexuals to leave comments so that I can talk with you all a bit. But, when I sit down to write a post here, I write as if I'm addressing an all-queer audience. It completely changes the way that I speak and frees me to say what I think. So yes, I'll say the word "queer" in this context. If our peoples can't even have this space, a mere blog with the phrase "LGBT" up at the top, then where can we go for an open dialogue?
While all this change has occurred regarding the word queer, I realize that the biggest indicator of differing opinions on the word is not how well-read or comfortable with being queer one is, but of what generation one is. Don also acknowledged that. I completely respect his opinion on the word and would never call him that now that I know his feelings on it, but I just don't see a substitute for it. And that's not even getting into "queer" as a verb.