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As an individual who is not okay with the word 'queer' being used to describe me, what is the most socially acceptable and sensitive way to communicate that to individuals who are?

To rephrase - if I am in a social situation with casual acquaintances or friends who use the word 'queer', how can I sensitively explain to them that I am not comfortable with the word and request that they don't use it to describe me? I would like to preserve our friendship and respect their decision to reclaim the slur, but I would also like to respect my own boundaries and make it known that I am not comfortable hearing it and don't wish to reclaim it myself.

Question asked in response to this thread, but this is also a problem that I experience.

To provide cultural context, I am in my 20s in the UK, gay and gender nonconforming but I prefer she/her pronouns.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Catija Dec 21 '17 at 21:05
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Yeah, and, by the way, not sure why but I don't really like the term "queer". Probably it's just me, or maybe I personally disagree to a certain extent, anyway... mind if you skip that word?

The "Yeah, and, by the way" part lets you enter the conversation by following the flow without making it sound like an interruption/counter-argument. This, already, will serve to keep the interlocutor defense shields down.

The "not sure why", "like", "probably it's just me" and "personally disagree" parts serve to keep the discussion heat level low, you sound non-aggressive and the interlocutor will not feel attacked.

The "mind if you skip" is a polite request that a nice/polite interlocutor can accept.

At this point, should the interlocutor continue, I'd reach the conclusion that you're dealing with someone not nice/polite and you might want to stop sharing time with them.

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Asking people not to use the word "queer" to describe you personally is a completely reasonable thing to do, but I would caution you about asking people not to use it when describing themselves.

I understand that some people are uncomfortable with the word, many people have some really rough memories tied to the word being used as a slur against them, and it's understandable that the word still carries those connotations.

So if you need to ask someone not to use it to describe you, simply explaining your experience with the word, how it makes you feel, and what words you want them to use instead, should solve the problem for you.

I mentioned that you should be cautious about asking other people to not use the word because it's a word that has been somewhat reclaimed or reappropriated

In sociology and cultural studies, reappropriation or reclamation is the cultural process by which a group reclaims terms or artifacts that were previously used in a way disparaging of that group.

It's worth mentioning that reappropriating/reclaiming a word has a way of taking its power. You're not only reclaiming the word itself, but you slowly end up taking control of its power to hurt you. Admittedly I still get pissed when people use it as a slur, but reclaiming it allows me to laugh in their face when they do. Sort of a:

That was the most hateful thing you could think to say, and it's a word me and my friends embrace. You've got nothing...

Believe it or not I have friends that use "fag" for the same reasons. Once you own it, they can't use it against you.

I personally use the word "queer" because I'm not straight, gay, or bisexual. I'm pansexual and a lot of people aren't familiar with that term. The term "queer" also feels a little more inclusive, to me personally, than a lot of the other options, because it speaks to the common experience of being ostracized and/or bashed for being different that many LGBT+ people share. Basically while LGBT+ people may not all have the same sexual orientation, we all share some similar experiences, we face many of the same hardships, and I tend to think we should come together as a community because of that, and to fight against it.


I just stumbled upon a relevant post on imgur, screen shots from a Tumblr thread where people were discussing this exact issue: https://imgur.com/r/lgbt/ZM8FH

"Queer" apparently has a much longer history of reclamation than I originally thought. One could argue, and few folks did in that thread, that queer has been used as an umbrella term since the start of the LGBT rights movement, it significantly predates "LGBT".

A few even questioned whether it was really a reclaimed term at all. According to one source, gay men were using the term for themselves in 1910, so it's worth noting that this may have been our word to begin with and that it may have been co-opted and used as a slur later.

"We're here, we're queer, get used to it!"

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Catija Dec 20 '17 at 16:23
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I don't know how old you are, but I know people my age who hate the term. While this is not universal, GenX (people born before 1980 or so)and older tend to dislike it, while people who are younger do not.

The best way to politely steer people away from that is to simply tell them that you're uncomfortable with that term and you prefer {fill in the blank} Do it in a quiet, non-offended way because you don't want them to think THEY did something wrong.

The important thing to remember is the interpersonal skill of giving someone an opportunity to "save face" and avoid embarrassment on their part, so you may want to phrase it like "By the way, while there is nothing wrong with that term, I prefer" or "I'm not offended or anything, but I prefer"... et cetera.

Phrase it in such a fashion to let them know that they haven't hurt or offended you first, then say what you'd prefer that they do. That puts them at ease and defuses a potentially awkward moment.

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The best thing you can do with your own sexuality and how you feel about it is to be yourself and be honest. I know so many people who've tried to just adapt to what's normal in the LGBT+ scene and ended up quite unhappy people in the end as it wasn't really them.

Just be honest with your friends/acquaintances. Next time they use the word don't make a massive deal about it but just mention to them that you don't really like that word when referring to you and just ask politely if they'd try not to.

Something like :

I hope you guys don't mind, I'm not a massive fan of the word 'queer', would it be ok if we didn't use it if that's ok? It's just me.

Just as long as you come off in a non-confrontational way it should be fine. You have to remember too though at the end of the day if they want to use it to refer to themselves when you're around you can't really stop them doing that.

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Just say 'that term makes me feel uncomfortable'. But don't be too hard on your friends and collegues. You have stated that YOU used to consider 'Queer' OK, and have only recently changed your mind. Their only sin may be a failure to keep up with fashion. Also consider this: WHATEVER word you decide is acceptable, some people will use it negatively. The attitude is the problem, not the word.

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I would be direct, but put it in terms of your own personal preference, e.g. "I know the term 'queer' has been reclaimed to some extent, but I don't like it personally." I would avoid being confrontational or preachy if no offence was intended as you cannot expect people to be aware of your preferences until you express them, however if they continue I would repeat your preference but in increasingly more forceful terms, e.g. "I said I don't like that term, could you please not use it about me", and if they continue still "I find you continuing to use that term about me after I have asked you not to insulting".

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