The problem with a lot of the people I’ve personally encountered that reclaim the q slur is that they never just reclaim it for themselves. They range from denying it’s a slur at all, to refusing to care about LGBT people who feel threatened by it, to making words like q***rphobia, to using it on people without permission, etcetera.
for me being hiv+ has resulted in friendships with a lot of older lgbt folks. the ones who survived the epidemic but lost partners, family, friends. the ones who experienced abusive shock and aversive therapy. the ones who have folders upon folders of funeral pamphlets and obituaries, often where the gender and/or sexuality of the deceased was rewritten and buried in words written by their unsupportive family. the ones who can name people memorialized on the aids quilt.
i’ve learned a lot from them about what it means to be lgbt from them and i wanted to share an experience with the q slur.
my school’s gay-straight alliance started meetings with joking about the “queer agenda”. i had “queer and proud” in my then tumblr bio. the word felt radical and i would have shouted it from the rooftops, although i wasn’t necessarily certain of its meaning.
but when i reclaimed a slur, not only applying it to myself but also for my friends, they recoiled. a few of them did their best to reassure me but i could tell that referring to them as “queer” had hurt, that in that moment i had replicated the exact language of slur-hurling americans who told them they deserved to die - on the senate floor and in the streets. they survived a state-sponsored plague, not to mention complicated intersections of transmisogyny and racism within lgbt communities meant to assist them, often failing to do so.
i’m very small, soft-spoken, and at the time only 17 years old. but when i applied that word to the group of them in a coffee shop parking lot they looked scared.
it is my word to reclaim as a nonbinary lesbian if i choose to but i urge you to think long and hard before making generalizations about “the queer community”, before encouraging cis hets to use it as if it’s their word, as if it’s their history, as if it’s their pain to understand and shoulder. it can obviously be joyously or tentatively reclaimed by members of the lgbt community, at each individual’s discretion, but first and foremost, at face value, queer is a slur.