What does “queer” mean today?

“That’s the beauty of queer. More options, more perspectives, more possibilities, and you can keep changing.” Dr. Chris Donaghue explains what the term “queer” means in 2020.

What does the term mean in 2020?

Dr. Chris Donaghue, a sex therapist, talks to Brut about the evolution of the term.

Not a confining identity

“Some people collapse the term into the LGBTQIA identity, meaning that they think "queer" inherently always means gay, but the whole purpose of identifying as queer is to sit outside of that confining identity.”, he shares. Queerness is about non-normativity. It’s an identity that normalizes living outside the lines of standard culture. He continues, “The reason why a lot of people identify as queer is because they don't feel like they live up to the norms and the standards and expectations of people that are gay identified. They don't feel accepted sometimes.Homonormativity —the standard gay identity — carries with it often a lot of body shaming, problematic politics, and can be very insulated and closed-ended.”

Now, more celebrities are coming out as queer

“And the problem with some of that is that it legitimizes and normalizes the queer identity. And queerness — for those of us like myself that identify as queer — it's about us living outside of those expectations. And so, although the celebrities coming out as queer, it gives more people access and familiarity to that identity. For those of us on the inside that are trying to radicalize and not assimilate and normalize. It really takes away the power of that identity for us.”, Dr Donaghue states.

Historically, the word queer was used pejoratively, to shame people

The word came out in the 50s and 60s. Back then, it was illegal to present as the gender opposite of yours. In the 80s, the ACT UP community — the people that were fighting for HIV rights and then the AIDS crisis — started to bring queer into the dialog. Now, we see "queer" more used again for those that live non-normatively. People that don't want to be confined. People who don't have a term that really describes them.

Queerness is also a label that is disruptive and fluid

The queer identity also shows that there's health in being diverse and creative and that you don't have to be conformist and look like everyone else. You can live your life and have a different relational structure: non-monogamous, poly, open, or you can have your gender expression look different than the way you were diagnosed at birth.