When brainstorming the name for our obviously Queer publication, one of our editors decided to ask the most outrageous but very understandable question; “What does Queer even mean? What is the difference from Queer and Gay?”
Queer is a reclaimed anti-gay slur describing people whose sexual or gender identities aren’t just cisgender, heterosexual or otherwise “mainstream.”
In the English language, Queer originated during 16th century as a synonym for strange and illegitimate. In the 19th century, it meant odd, and by the end of that century people used it as a slur against effeminate men and men who slept with other men. In the 1980s, gay and lesbian activists began reclaiming Queer as an empowering self-designation. In other words, all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people fit this queer definition because their sexual orientation and/or gender identity falls outside of different-sex attraction and the traditional male-female binary.
With that being said, the Q in LGBTQ also applies other sexual orientations and gender identities not covered by the acronym’s preceding letters. If you’re gender-neutral, non-binary, agender, genderfluid, pansexual, asexual, solosexual or something else not covered by LGBT, the Q applies to you as well.
With regards to the difference between Queer and Gay, yes homosexual individuals can be referred to as Queer but for some queerness refers to those whose identities, lived experiences, or outlooks fall out of the mainstream. Put simply, a Gay male growing up in a place of privilege or as the racial majority would experience life differently than someone growing up in poverty or as the racial minority in a particular city. Because of such, that individual living in poverty or as the racial minority may see themselves as Queer rather than Gay.