04.12.14 Queer

04.12.14 Queer

This is a note specifically about our use of the word “queer.” More detailed discussions of QOHP’s use of labels and taxonomy are here (from David) and here (from Jed).

I’ve been asked a few times about the use of the word “queer” in our name. Here’s my viewpoint on why we are using that particular word. I’ll begin with definitions from two sources, followed by a short description of some of our intentions in choosing that word.

First, a narrowly-written definition from the Oxford English Dictionaries website:

“The word queer was first used to mean ‘homosexual’ in the early 20th century: it was originally, and usually still is, a deliberately offensive and aggressive term when used by heterosexual people. In recent years, however, some gay people have taken the word queer and deliberately used it in place of gay or homosexual, in an attempt, by using the word positively, to deprive it of its negative power. This use of queer is now well established and widely used among gay people (especially as an adjective or noun modifier, as in queer rights; queer-bashing) and at present exists alongside the other use.” (Source:  oxforddictionaries.com, retrieved April 13, 2014)

Here’s a broader definition from the University of Michigan:

“[Queer is used] as an umbrella identity term encompassing lesbian, questioning people, gay men, bisexuals, non-labeling people, transgender folks, and anyone else who does not strictly identify as heterosexual. ‘Queer’ originated as a derogatory word. Currently, it is being reclaimed by some people and used as a statement of empowerment. Some people identify as ‘queer’ to distance themselves from the rigid categorization of ‘straight’ and ‘gay’.” (Source: internationalspectrum.umich.edu, retrieved April 13, 2014)

The second definition is closer to the way we are using the word here at QOHP. I like to think of queer as meaning “unusual, rare, odd, special,” an acknowledgement that queer people possess certain unique qualities, by virtue of their specific experiences as those who until recently have led their lives outside of the typical norms of society, but who exist in every part of that society.

While speaking of spirituality and what he calls “living out the call,” Jok Church, in his interview here on our site, says “I think we’re called upon to be honest ambassadors and witnesses. That’s what queers are called upon to do.”

What do you think? Add your voice in the comments below.

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