What does queer mean?
Historically, queer is negative term used against people perceived to be GLBT, but queer has more recently been reclaimed by some people as a positive term describing all those who do not conform to rigid notions of gender and sexuality.
Queer is often used in a political context and in academic settings to challenge traditional ideas about identity. More and more college and universities have courses on queer theory and degrees in queer studies.
Also, queer is used as an umbrella identity term encompassing lesbian, gay, bisexual, non-labeling, trans* people, and anyone else who does not strictly identify as heterosexual or cisgender. It takes the focus away from behavior to identity. It requires us to only acknowledge that we’re different without specifying how or in what context.
Lastly, queer is a fluid label as opposed to a fixed label. It is also a concise word that people may use because their gender, politics, or sexuality can shift and evolve over time.
I don’t like the word queer.
You’re not alone. Lots of people do not feel comfortable with the word queer. That is in part the wonderful thing about our communities – we’re all so different and beautiful! If queer doesn’t feel like the right word for you, don’t use it.
In many places it’s still used to offend people, so feeling uncomfortable makes sense. But that is starting to change. The most important thing to remember is to respect how people describe their identities, and not refrain from respecting other people's identities because it makes us uncomfortable.
What kinds of people are queer?
ALL kinds of people across race, ethnicity, religion, profession, age, gender, ability, etc! Queer is often preferred by people who are activists, by people who strongly reject traditional gender identities, by people who reject distinct sexual identities such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight, and by people who see themselves as oppressed by the heteronormativity of the larger culture.