Embracing queer: redefining what it means to be LGBTQIA+.
By Cyrus Jarvis.
As a pre-teen, I struggled to understand LGBTQIA+ culture. It seemed dazzlingly camp, full of glitter, and over the top. It was also largely popular with straight girls, some of whom would go down to their local annual pride and walk laps around the event in hopes of attracting a ‘gay best friend’ to pick their outfits and braid their hair. Any representation seemed to consist entirely of excessively glamorous, larger-than-life drag queens and stereotypical ‘gay best friend’ personalities. It was strangely niche, and ruled by a binary paradigm of gender and sexuality – you were either a boy or girl, gay or straight.
Back then, LGBTQIA+ people were considered a minority. Now, our generation has grown up and started to change things. A 2016 report by J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group found that at least 52% of Generation Z consider themselves to be something other than ‘exclusively heterosexual,’ and only 44% always buy clothes designed for their gender. Many now see gender and sexuality as fluid and ever-changing, rejecting the usual constraints of having to label yourself as gay, bi, or straight, instead opting for the word ‘queer.’ Even celebrities have embraced the change of tide and come out as queer in recent years.
The word ‘queer’ was widely used as a homophobic slur in the 20th century, reinforcing the misconception that being LGBTQIA+ was negative and wrong in mainstream society. By the 1960s, the gay rights movement had begun in America, after police raids on the community became more violent. The reclamation of the word ‘queer’ eventually began in the early ‘90s, with fringes of the community beginning to identify as queer instead of lesbian or gay, as a middle finger to the heteronormative society that had been using the word to oppress them. ‘Queer’ began to be seen in more positive context over ensuing decades, and is now commonly used as a word that is often considered more inclusive and representative of the community than gay or LGBT. A new culture of collective appreciation for the differences among us is taking hold, with Gen Z leading the way toward a society where we are open and authentic in how we think, feel, and act.
In today’s queer culture, I don’t feel the same way I did when I was younger. It is much more inclusive, characterized by a diverse variety of personalities, one that no longer accepts fetishization. Despite lingering issues outside of our generational bubble (like the rampant racism among older gay white men), I feel confident in knowing a revolution is underway – and that we’re steering toward a society where kids on the playground may no longer have to worry about labels pertaining to sexuality.