Is it okay to say “queer”? My opinion on it.

Someone, after watching my It Gets Better video, asked me if it was okay to use the word queer. I appreciated the question. I know it’s not always easy to know what is “right” or politically okay–AND it also varies from person to person, depending, of course, on their experiences, their backgrounds, their ways of thinking.

I self-identify as a lesbian woman, as queer, as a dyke. I’ve preferred “lesbian” for a lot of years. I am lesbian. I don’t identify as “gay” because to me that means a gay man–and I feel like, as so often happens in our society, women are left out of the picture. It took me many years, but I finally reclaimed the word “dyke”, and, years after that, “queer.” I think of it as reclaiming–loving and embracing words that other people have used to hurt me (and others). Knowing that if, to me, they simply mean I’m a woman who loves women (or one woman) then it doesn’t have the same power to hurt me, and can be healing. They feel like positive words to me now–and I’m glad of that.

That’s my personal take on it. It will vary among others.

What’s your take on it?

P.S. Thank you so much everyone who’s been sharing my It Gets Better video! It’s very important to me, and I really appreciate your helping to spread the word!

About Cheryl Rainfield

I write the books I needed and couldn't find as a teen. I write teen fiction--paranormal fantasy and gritty realistic fiction. I'm the author of SCARS (WestSide Books, 2010) #1 ALA QuickPicks, and Governor General Literary Award Finalist, HUNTED (WestSide Books, Oct 2011), STAINED (Harcourt, 2013), The Last Dragon (HIP Books, Sept 2009), and Walking Both Sides (HIP Books, 2011). I also enjoy drawing, surfing the web, connecting with people I like, doing crafts, and being with my dog.
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3 Responses to Is it okay to say “queer”? My opinion on it.

  1. Martine Joelle says:

    I appreciated you using queer in your video and inferred it was inclusive of other ways of naming yourself. I don’t know what teens use now.

    I notice my language changes with audience. In mixed company with not very political straight friends I’ll say “as a gay woman I think…” when responding to what they ask re. DADT or marriage whositswhatchamacallit pundit people. With hipster (not that I’m that, lol) LGBT friends and radical allies I’ll use queer because I am mindful to be inclusive of gender queer and trans friends. When talking with older lesbian mentors 50+ I’ll only use lesbian in reference to reading or others. When checking a box I’m lesbian but feel funny saying that word to say this is what I am because for some reason it tangles and connects to coming out re. race, too. So I could say I’m biracial and also black but some would challenge that but no one could challenge my queerness. I fit because I say I do and we all cocreate queer culture without third party narrative. I use dyke only very rarely in relation to style and self conciously because of historical use.

    Soo maybe that is way too long and confusing answer, but thanks for posing question. I’m not in queer community right now and it was nice to think about when/how we name.

  2. Martine, thanks so much for your thoughtful answer! I liked reading what you had to say. I don’t use dyke very much myself, either–but I actually like it in the Dyke March (separate march from Gay Pride Day), and sometimes as a strong word.

    Reading over what you said, I think I sometimes, too, change what I call myself according to the audience. I also feel that more hip, aware people are open to/understand/like “queer”. And I like what you said about it including gender queer and trans friends. I like lesbian a lot, too.

    And–that sucks that anyone would question black! I think how we self-identify is important and should be respected (unless we’re putting ourselves down….)

  3. Sarah Parks says:

    Great question to put out there!
    It’s up to the individual to self identify with whichever word they want. For example I usually go with “bent” or “gay”.
    Never cared for “lesbian” and I dislike the word “queer” though respect those that use it and will use it from time to time in regards to the community as a whole. Straight people shouldn’t use the word “queer”- the word is reserved for those of us in the community. I prefer it is they used “LGBT” or “gay”.

    Yup I agree- how we self identify is important and should be respected…. and I love your little aside “unless we are putting ourselves down”.. I laughed as my LGBT friends and I can use some non PC words to describe ourselves and the community from time to time. All in good fun and because we all speak the same language! 🙂

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