Whilst an abundance of new descriptors have been coined and accepted in recent years, many individuals are leaning on original terms to describe themselves and their community, and there’s no better example than the term ‘Queer’.
The Q in LGBTQ + referring to Queer or occasionally Questioning was added to the acronym to promote inclusion. Queer is an umbrella term that refers to individuals that do not describe themselves as heterosexual or cisgender. However, the chequered history of ‘Queer’ has sparked debate in recent years. Whilst previously the term has been, and still is by many, considered a slur, many members of the LGBTQ + community, and indeed scholars, observe usage of the word Queer as Reclamation.
But why the controversial history, and what can we be doing to support queer communities?
The term Queer is first used in relation to an individual’s identity.
During the 1895 Trial of Oscar Wilde, the 9th Marquis of Queensberry, John Douglas, used the term when describing the relationship between his son and Wilde. In his prose he penned the term ‘Snob Queers’ to describe gay men, establishing Queer as a dirty slur.
The press began to use ‘Queer’ as a slur almost instantaneously, emphasising the idea that to be gay was abnormal.
1980s – 1990’s
During the Aids epidemic, Queer was reclaimed and utilised as a symbol as anarchy. Organisations such as Queer Nation, and Cult Publication were established, aiming to eradicate hate crime and creatively express queerness. The 90’s was established as the decade Queer was reclaimed, whereby what was once an insult became a symbol of anti-homophobia.
Despite still being occasionally used in a derogatory manner, work throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s queer had been linked to anarchy and rebellion. However, in 1999 ‘Queer as Folk’ was aired, a show on channel 4 documenting the lives and experiences of three men in Manchester’s Gay Village. The show brought a mass of complaints, with initial shots depicting scenes that should not be aired at prime-time television.
The show was critiqued with the mass arguing it failed to portray an accurate representation of Queer, or an inclusivity for minorities.
‘Queer visibility’ catapulted over the past two decades, with discussions of genderqueer identities being discussed in the mainstream. Many are still offended by the word queer, and it’s important to emphasize the generational divide. Queer is generally more accepted by younger individuals that view Queer as inclusive and useful to describe all non-binary identities, whereas people of an older generation often still view the word as a dirty slur.
In recent years many events and spaces have been established over the years to celebrate the community, predominantly spurred by the younger generation that celebrates the umbrella term. Support for the LGBTQ+ community is imperative, below we have listed some events in London that do just that:
- Flare– London’s LGBTQ+ Film Festival 15th-26th March 2023 https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/flare/Online/default.asp
- Pride in London is taking place on 1 July 2023. The march is the main event and starts at Hyde Park. This is where the first Pride picnic was held in 1972. https://prideinlondon.org/
- The Mighty Hoopla Festival is taking place on the 3rd June to 4th June 2023 at Brockwell Park, Brixton. The line up so far includes Kelly Rowland, Years and Years, Beverly Knight, Vengaboys and Natasha Bedingfield. https://mightyhoopla.com/
- Drag Fest London 2023 is being held on the 19th August 2023 at Studio 338. If anyone has watched RuPaul’s Drag Race or is a fan of the London Drag scene you will recognise names such as Lawrence Chaney, Baga Chipz, Ellie Diamond and Tayce. https://klubkids.co.uk/drag-fest-2023/
- Heaven is probably one of the most famous queer clubs in the UK with celebrities regularly making appearances, such as Graham Norton and Elton John. Often the line is very long to get in but still worth visiting.
- Friendly Society is located off Old Compton Street.
- The Glory is on Kingsland Road and hosts London Drag Legends such as Jonny Woo and John Sizzle.
- Two Brewers is located down the road from the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
- Royal Vauxhall Tavern is the city’s oldest gay bar.
- Village Drinks are a monthly social event for gay professionals to meet up, socialize and network. https://www.villagedrinks.com/
- Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion– Venue Design Museum. 15th September 2023 to Sunday 11th Feb 2024
- We Are Queer Britain– Venue Queer Britain Museum. 20th July 2022 to Spring 2023
Museums and Galleries:
- Bishopsgate Institute LQBTQ+ Archives– Near Liverpool Street Station
- Queer Britain Museum, King’s Cross
- Gay’s the Word is a queer owned bookstore located in Bloomsbury.
- Barber shops: Open barbers (Hoxton) Open Barbers, Tutti Frutti (Deptford) https://www.tuttiifruittiilondon.com/ , Blade (Soho) https://www.bladesoho.co.uk/
- Dalston Superstore https://dalstonsuperstore.com/
The past decade has also seen a mass increase in organisations being established to support the LGBTQ+ community. However, recently a lot of companies have come under fire for ‘pinkwashing’. This is where organisations adopt imagery to appear as if they are supporting LGBTQ+ rights without actually contributing to LGBTQ+ community through donating to charities and championing LGBTQ+ rights within their workforce. In some cases, companies may adopt rainbow flag imagery during Pride Month, while supporting political or economic organisations that threaten LGBTQ+ communities.
- IBM historically has supported LGBTQ+ rights. It provided Domestic Partner Benefits in 1996 and in 1984 added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy. Also, in 2002 it added “gender identity or expression” to its Equal Opportunity Policy.
- PayPal supports LGBTQ+ workers through offering benefits such as adoption and surrogacy help and has a benefits package specifically for transgender employees.
A few LGBTQ+ organisations and charities to support:
- Out for Sport: Represents all LGBTQ sports clubs.
- Stonewall: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/ This charitable organisation ranks the top 100 LGBTQ+ employers every year. Clifford Chance ranked highest for the top 100 LGBTQ+ employers 2023 and Citi made it into the top 10.
- Galop was created to stop police violence towards LGBTQ+ people and now offers services to LGBTQ+ people who are victims of hate crime, domestic abuse, or sexual violence. https://galop.org.uk/
- Black Trans alliance supports Black Trans and Non-Binary people in London. https://www.blacktransalliance.org/
- AKT provides support to LGBTQ+ youth who are homeless or living in dangerous environments. https://www.akt.org.uk/
- GLAAD is a New York based media monitoring organisation that highlights discriminatory coverage of LGBTQ+ individuals.
- Rainbow Round Table was the United States’ first LGBT professional organisation, founded in 1970, and is part of the American Library Association.