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Queer, originally meaning strange or unusual, came during the 19th century and most of the 20th century to be a general term for homosexuality, and was generally used in a pejorative sense, especially after the word "gay" took over as the term most used by gay people themselves and then the general public.

Subsequently, as with certain other terms for racial and other minorities, it has been to a certain extent reclaimed by some people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, and is sometimes used to cover a wide spectrum of LGBT people, or indeed anyone falling outside the heterosexual or gender-binary norm. Its use in this sense is however still controversial, and many LGBT people may still regard its use as offensive. In 2005, the Chief Constable of North Wales apologised after calling homosexuals "queer".[1] So called Queer Theory promotes belief that 'To be queer is inherently to exist on the margins; to be odd, peculiar, weird, queer, hated, oppressed, and in revolt and rebellion. To be queer is to be dedicated to subversion, to mock conventions, to deconstruct language, to dismantle the human body, to defy “nature” and, above all, to liberate humankind from the prison of gender' [2].

Queer has figured in a positive sense in the names of a number of LGBT organisations, groups, or events, for instance:

It has also appeared in the titles of books and other resources about the LGBT community, for instance:

In academic circles, Queer Studies is a general name for the study of issues relating to gender identity and sexual orientation, while Queer Theory is an approach that rejects traditional heteronormative thinking.


  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west/4343017.stm
  2. 'The Queers Versus The Homosexuals We are in a new era. And the erasure of gay men and lesbians is intensifying'.Blog by Andrew Sullivan (accessed 18 July 2023)