By ‘Queer people’ we mean people who self-identify with the label ‘Queer’. There are multiple ways to define exactly what Queer means; however, both the subjects of the academic discipline of Queer Studies and the non-academic Queer community typically consist of people who do not fit with the gender and sexuality norms of society. This covers people who are not heterosexual and/or do not entirely identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, such as lesbians and transgender people.
The term Queer is often used in preference to an acronym such as LGBT for a number of reasons. Firstly, the term ‘LGBT’ and other acronyms are lists of discrete identities, such that some people who fit into the term queer are necessarily excluded (Jakobsen, 1998). For example, those identifying as ‘intersex’, ‘asexual’ and ‘agender’ are not covered by the LGBT acronym. Secondly, the Queer community has strong ties to political goals beyond traditional gender and sexuality issues. Many major groups organising under the word Queer in the UK come together to fight government spending cuts and to push for wider political and social change (Queer Resistance, 2015; Queers Against the Cuts, 2015; Queer Mutiny Brighton, 2015).
Since we’ve been meeting, we’ve put on a variety of events that don’t revolve around mindless consumption, where community matters more than what we’re wearing, and where people talk about politics, the planet and stuff beyond gay life and fashion.
– Queer Mutiny Brighton (2015)
In the academic world, Queer is often defined as resistance to norms and normativity (Jakobsen, 1998). It can be a verb, (although it is certainly also used as a noun), therefore it is active, it is about making the world ‘queerer’ (Berlant and Warner, 1995, p. 347). Queer people, therefore, do not fit with society’s view of what is ‘normal’ and through their actions they resist this normal and make their environment queerer.
‘Queer is a political identity, it is not just being homosexual or bi, so to miss out politics would be to completely miss the point.’
– Sarah (Cryptographer and language designer)
Queer references people who experience oppression and do not fit within ‘straight’ culture (Warner, 2000, pp. 38-39). It is recognised within this that for some people this oppression means more than it does for others. Queer people who also belong to other marginalised groups are more likely to experience more negative consequences (Warner, 2000, p. 40). For example a queer disabled asylum seeker is more likely to be oppressed based on being queer than a queer non-disabled UK citizen.