Full description of the graphics related to “What’s in a Word: Queer?”:
Five graphics share the radical copyeditor’s dos and don’ts for how to use the word queer (three dos and two don’ts)—shortened versions of the dos and don’ts that are part of the full blog post linked above. At the top of each graphic appear the words “The word queer is widely misunderstood. Using it with care requires understanding and respecting what it means today.”
DO #1: DO use queer in reference to people who describe themselves as queer. Recognize queer as a valid identity.
Queer is a unique identity. Many people use this word to represent who they are in terms of sexuality and/or gender. These folks aren’t lesbian, gay, or bisexual people who call themselves queer—they are queer people. More trans people identify as queer than any other sexual orientation. It is never okay to “correct” the language that people use to describe themselves. Respect queer as a legitimate identity, include it as an option on surveys that ask about sexual orientation, and properly define it as the Q in LGBTQ.
DO #2: DO use queer in reference to people and things that are aligned with the politics of queerness.
In its simplest form, queer means upending mainstream norms of sexuality and gender. It also speaks to solidarity across lines of difference as part of a radical politics of transforming the status quo and working toward collective liberation. Scholarly fields like queer theory “queer” their topic of focus, meaning they interpret things in a way that upends sexual/gender norms and engage with how different identities intersect and affect each other. It’s important to use queer in ways that honor this modern meaning.
DO #3: DO use queer to describe groups that resist gender/sexual norms in diverse and mutually supportive ways.
Queer often stands for difference rather than sameness. It speaks to the vast diversity of people who defy or deviate from sexual and gender norms and also to solidarity between these folks. In the words of Shiloh Morrison, “Queer isn’t about who you fuck, it’s about who you are accountable to.” Queer is an umbrella term, but not for everyone who isn’t cis and straight; rather, for everyone whose resistance to gender/sexual norms leads them to align themselves with other gender/sexual outlaws and outsiders.
DON’T #1: DON’T use queer as a synonym for gay or to refer to non-queer LGBT people.
Queer and gay are not interchangeable. Queer isn’t shorthand or a hip way to avoid a long list of identities; it has a unique meaning, one that’s about subverting norms and challenging the status quo. So don’t use queer as a shortcut, don’t use it to refer to people who actively don’t identify with it, and don’t use it to refer to LGBT people who don’t believe in what queer stands for, such as affluent assimilationist gay men, anti-trans lesbian separatists, and trans Trump-lovers.
DON’T #2: DON’T use queer pejoratively.
Queer is still sometimes used as a violent slur. Don’t do this. Remember that what makes a word a slur is its usage and context. No word means the same thing to all people in all contexts. Queer is not an inherently violent word, despite the fact that it has been used in harmful ways. Respecting self-identity language is essential; this means not calling people queer if they don’t want to be referred to that way and calling people queer if that’s how they describe themselves. Both are equally important.
At the bottom of the graphic, the paper the words appear on emerges from a typewriter. Above the typewriter ribbon is the black text www. copyeditor. com with the red word “radical” inserted so that, edited, it reads www. radicalcopyeditor. com.
Note: Why does this page exist? Because folks who are blind and depend on screen readers can’t tell what’s in an image without a description, and images like these deserve a more thorough description than can be provided via alt text. Learn more about web accessibility from WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind.