Reclaiming LGBTQ+ Slurs

In the past five years or so “Queer” has become an increasing popular label for many people to describe their gender and/or sexuality. However not that long ago it was widely used as slur to harm the community. Is it okay to “reclaim” slurs?

I’m coming from the stand point of someone who has never been called a slur. Sure I’ve heard them many times, in both positive and negative ways, but no one was referring to me. Queer is a word I sometimes use to describe myself and the community. When writing “Queer community” I often wonder if that phrase is offensive to some people in the community. To be honest I use it mostly because saying LGBTQIA+ community over and over is long, and begins to feel repetitive. I would never mean for it to make someone feel uncomfortable or bring back bad memories for them.

For many people like me, we’ve never heard “queer” used in a negative connotation so it doesn’t seem like a negative thing. Recently I was watching Ash Hardell’s video about this topic and they had some really great things to say. Ash talked about how “Queer” is not commonly used as a slur anymore, and they felt that in order to reclaim a slur is shouldn’t be commonly used. Maybe it’s just the area I live in but I’ve never heard someone say “queer” as a slur. They also brought up the point that “Queer” originally meant “peculiar or odd” and didn’t have a violent background like some of the other slurs.

There are other slurs like the f word, or the d word, or the t word that haven’t been completely reclaimed. A handful of of people will use the word to describe themselves in order to try and take back the power from the bullies and hateful people who have used it towards them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing this, but using the word to describe a whole group of people can be problematic. Some people who have been deeply hurt by a certain word do not want to be called that in way, shape, or form. Labels are all about personal preference, and some words shouldn’t be used to describe a group of people as a whole.

How to you feel about reclaiming slurs?

Do you use any reclaimed slurs to describe yourself?

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16 thoughts on “Reclaiming LGBTQ+ Slurs

  1. I think it’s completely acceptable to use “queer” as a personal identifier, but I know so many people who don’t like it used for themselves that I don’t really think it’s appropriate to use as a catch-all term or to use for someone whose identity one isn’t sure of. Basically, it’s only really cool to call someone queer if they call themselves queer. I self-ID as queer, so I’m totally okay with anyone using that term for me!! It just rubs me the wrong way to hear people use a slur for an entire group of people. I did hear “queer” slung around as a slur a lot in my younger days so I can completely understand why people don’t want it used to refer to them. It’s tough because lgbtqia+ is imperfect, but that’s what I turn to the most at the moment because I think it’s the most well-known and inclusive descriptor we have for now.

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    1. I totally understand why someone wouldn’t want to be referred to as queer. I think we often forget to step back and think about the history of the word, and take other people’s past into consideration before using the word for a group as a whole. I personally don’t like hearing dyke or fag used as an umbrella term for all gay women or all gay men, although a don’t have a specific negative experience with either of those words. I hope in the future the community comes up with a better acronym or descriptor that is all-inclusive. Thank you for reading!

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  2. Like you said, I’m all for reclaiming slurs, as long as we’re aware of the implications of assuming *everyone* is okay with reclaiming the slur. Basically my thoughts are take the power back and use the word for yourself, but be cautious about it when referring to a whole community. Although I think “queer” is pretty common around the LGBTQIA+ now. I personally have been trying to use it more in regards to myself, which is a long and complicated battle. 😬

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  3. This is such a complex topic. I personally use the term queer more often than LGBTQIA. Acronyms get on my nerves, and I feel that they separate us more than bring us together. I’m also fortunate in that I’ve never had the word queer used against me. Like you said, I like queer because it also means “weird” which, ironically, is a word that’s been used against me in the past that I’ve reclaimed.

    I also wonder how much of my opinion on the word queer has been shaped by my environment. For one thing, I’m a millennial; for another, I’ve spent the past 5 years on the (fairly accepting) east coast. I’ve heard a lot of LGBTQIA people use queer to describe themselves, the community, and the movement. I suppose you could say I’ve taken my cue from other queer people I admire and who’ve influenced me. But, as always, if it makes someone uncomfortable, I would try to not use it around that person. It’s hard, though. It really is. I also know a lot of people who are non-binary or ace-spectrum in particular who don’t like the acronym because so many people leave it at LGBT and don’t acknowledge other queerness. In fact, a lot of people don’t even acknowledge the B and T.

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    1. I also feel like LGBTQIA+ isn’t all inclusive, which is one of the biggest reasons I like the term queer. I never thought about using that term coming from other queer people who use it and I look up to, but that’s totally true. Good point!

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      1. Obviously I can’t in any way speak for all millennials or all young people (if 27 can be considered young anymore) but I know I can’t be the only one who has learned how to think/speak/talk about queer stuff from watching others (especially online). It’s not a flawless method of education, but for a lot of us the internet is the only reasonably safe space to find mentors or even just people we admire.

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        1. The internet is definitely the way main I learned anything about queer culture. Living in the suburbs of Texas, that kind of information isn’t exactly readily available. That’s why representation is so important and non-sexualized queer spaces!

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  4. I think it’s very important to reclaim slurs, to make them harmless. Not only in the LGBTQ+ community but in general. Slut, prude… All those words should be made less painful at least. Nobody is a slut, being prude isn’t a bad thing, being queer isn’t awful.
    Let’s reclaim all the slurs, make them powerful for US.

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  5. I firmly believe everyone is entitled to describe themselves with whatever language they choose to use. It can be jarring to hear a reclaimed slur but context is everything and I would never tell someone not to call themselves something.
    I call myself queer because I am not L, G, B, or T but I am also not straight and not cis. I have a minority sexuality and a minority gender identity and I have specific words for those that I do use too, but too often that turns into having to provide an explanation and/or justification. Queer is my umbrella and my connection to the larger LGBTQ community.
    A week or so ago I heard “queer” used as a slur out loud for the first time. Not online, not in a book, but aloud, two feet away from me, in a tone of furious disgust. And it hurt. But the way he used it and the way I use it are not the same. And other people use the word “gay” as a slur but no one would dream of telling people they can’t call themselves gay. Context is everything.

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    1. So true, context is everything! I see a lot of people who identify as a lesser known sexuality use queer. I like queer because it’s ambiguous and doesn’t give away much information. I also like that it’s all inclusive, and can describe the whole community. I’m sorry you had to hear someone use queer as a slur. I hear gay as a slur all the time, and you’re right no one would tell a gay person to not use the word. I don’t think we should tell people what they can and can’t call themselves, we can only tell others what we identify with and what we don’t.

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  6. Personally, I think I’d fight to the death for the right to “reclaim” the word queer. Not that it’d come to that, but I’ve definitely waded into plenty of arguments online about who can reclaim the word and who can not. (Spoiler alert: I think anyone in the community can)

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