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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Resistance to the word "queer" is building in the gay community.

Don’t Call Me “Queer”!

To the Editor:
         Since you devoted a whole issue [March-April 2019] to the labels we use for our community, let me address the resurgence of the use of the word “queer.” Self-hatred is not something to celebrate; it is something to overcome. Any use of the “Q” word actively promotes self-hatred. Of course the word is all over the Internet, but when I now see it in the New York Times, I feel deeply threatened and offended.
         Surely some people must be wondering whether the gay community has lost its collective mind. Has some kind of toxic groupthink established itself? Throughout history, minorities have made terrible political mistakes and found themselves in a backward spiral. “Queer” makes me feel that the rug we have so carefully woven over the years is being pulled out from under us. The fact that no one is sounding the alarm bell about the casual use of this word in the mainstream press is deeply disturbing. Has the ubiquity of “queer” given people the false impression that the expression is de rigueur? Has the constant repetition of the word brainwashed people into thinking that it is the new normal?
         Many greet this development with puzzlement. Serious writers and thinkers who care about gay civil rights, dignity, and equality will have to look under this rock that has so suddenly been placed in our midst. I don’t think they will like what they see. This may seem like only a word or a trend, but it is in fact an agenda that we must all resist. A future that is “queer” is not one that we who have fought for five decades are ready to permit without some kind of serious inquiry and opposition. I knew some of the pioneers of the modern gay movement, and those who have passed on must be rolling in their graves every time they hear “queer.” We must fight this verbal atrocity for them.
         Do you really want to live in a world of “queer” husbands and wives, doctors and nurses referring to you as a “queer?” Must celebrities like Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen, Elton John, and Ellen DeGeneres be labeled “queer?” Writers like Gore Vidal, Walt Whitman, James Baldwin, and Gertrude Stein referred to as “queer writers?” Can anyone call Harvey Milk a “queer?” Do we really think that anyone in his or her right mind would come out to parents by saying, “Mom and Dad, I have some news for you. I am a queer”? Does anyone believe that “Queer Rights” is an inspiring banner that anyone with a modicum of self-respect would march behind?
         Years ago, leaders in the African-American community took a stand against the use of “the N word” in the media. Today it is generally agreed that this word is extremely offensive. Gay leaders need to sound the alarm to make sure the media understand that “queer” is our N word and always will be.
         One of the most noble gay endeavors in recent years has been the “It Gets Better Project,” which was devised to send a message of hope to young gay people. But telling them that they will be “queers” when they grow up and come out should be called the “It Gets Worse Project.” Promoters of “queer” are creating a potentially catastrophic political future for them.
         Luckily, many others, including most of my friends and family members, are horrified by this development, and they have the common sense not to fall for the bogus claim that gay people are “reclaiming the word.” When we hear that cult-like lame rationale, we must in turn reclaim the words “not in our lifetime.”
Tom Steele, New York City  

Opposition to “Queer” Seconded

To the Editor:
         I could not agree more with Tom Steele’s letter to the Editor (“Don’t Call Me Queer”) in the September-October issue. The increasingly widespread use of this term as a catch-all for our community is deplorable and must be resisted. The term “queer” is an insult and it is deeply offensive. It is a judgment. It is the language of the oppressor. Any attempt to embrace or “reclaim” this term is wrong-headed and destined to fail. Would anyone in their right mind think of defending the use of terms like “Spic art,” “Kike art,” or the like? Using “queer” as a descriptor amounts to the same thing, and is, quite simply, indefensible.
         My guess is that people are resorting to its use because it’s a lot easier to say “queer” than to use “lgbtqia” or similar abbreviations. So, how about adopting a more positive term such as “Rainbow” to define our community instead? I don’t think anyone would mind being referred to as being a member of the “rainbow community.” But please don’t call me “queer”!

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