Intro: I once happened to mention to a millennial friend that I tended to avoid arts circles and discussion groups with the word ‘queer’ in the title. Not because it offended me but because I noticed that these events tended to be steeped in the organisers’ own unearened sense of self-importance. and mostly, weren't very good. His response was “Queer – own the word!” This is what I wrote back to him. Although it might seem angry, it was meant with love and humour. And, well ok, just a smidgen of irritation.
So here’s the thing. I (or at least my generation) already own that word. We owned it every time it was spat into our faces. We owned it when it was the last thing we heard while being kicked into unconsciousness. We owned it when it was being carved into our skin with a knife. We owned it when it was spray painted across our front doors.
It is our nigger. And yes we tried to ‘reclaim’ it just as some in the black community tried to reclaim nigger. But we gave up because it hurt too much. Nigger by the way has never been successfully reclaimed. Just because a bunch of black hoodlums go around using it, does not lessen it’s ability to hurt in any way. There are no Nigger Arts Clubs. No Nigger Lives Matter.
So why are there a new generation of self-proclaimed queers? Because my generation and, more importantly the generation before mine (most of whom got wiped out by AIDS having fought all their lives for our sexual freedom and for our right to be proud and not queer) do not complain much.
We’re not the generation that find words ‘problematic’, that think they can erase bullying by changing the words they use, that need clearly defined rules as to what is acceptable behaviour, what is funny and what is bigoted - all because they lack the emotional intelligence to actually know these things for themselves.
So it doesn’t hurt. That, in the comfy-safe privilege that we fought to provide you, you think it’s rather fun to embrace a word that caused us so much pain. It doesn’t trigger us. Because we chose not to let it. But it does rather rankle to be told that we’re the insensitive ones.