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Usages of "Queer," "Community" and "'Queer Community"

From the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "queer" in adjectival form, sense 3, is listed as:

  3. colloq. (orig. U.S.). Of a person: homosexual. Hence: of or relating to homosexuals or homosexuality. Cf. earlier 

QUEER n.2 2.

 Although originally chiefly derogatory (and still widely considered offensive, esp. when used by heterosexual people), from

the late 1980s it began to be used as a neutral or positive term (originally of self-reference, by some homosexuals; cf. QUEER

NATION n.) in place of gay or homosexual, without regard to, or in implicit denial of, its negative connotations. In some

academic contexts it is the preferred adjective in the study of issues relating to homosexuality (cf. queer theory n. at Special

uses 2); it is also sometimes used of sexual lifestyles that do not conform to conventional heterosexual behaviour, such as

bisexuality or transgenderism.

Also from the OED, the word "community" can be defined (in a rather simplified manner) as:

   I. As a quality or state. 1. a. The quality of appertaining to or being held by all in common; joint or common ownership, 

tenure, liability, etc.; as in community of goods. 2. Common character; quality in common; commonness, agreement, identity.

{dag}nothing of community: nothing in common. community of interest: identity of interest, interests in common (spec. in

Finance). 3. Social intercourse; fellowship, communion. 4. Life in association with others; society, the social state. 5. a.

Commonness, ordinary occurrence. Obs. b. Common character, vulgarity. Obs.

   II. A body of individuals. 6. The body of those having common or equal rights or rank, as distinguished from the privileged 

classes; the body of commons; the commonalty. 7. A body of people organized into a political, municipal, or social unity

(In the above definitions, I chose to exclude the listing of usages as they were not applicable to my point.)

While my understanding of the word queer is broader than the OED's explanation in Usage number 3 quoted above, I am interested in what happens when the word is paired with the second entry for "community" as body of individuals having common or equal rights, organized into a social unity.

Based on the fact that queer is seen historically by many as a having emerged as a reaction to the exclusivity of gay and lesbian communities that in some ways limited (and/or continue to limit) membership to those that identify as "gay," "lesbian" or both, but not those that fall outside of those groups, which could include bisexual, transgender or other sexual orientations and identities that for personal reasons one may choose not to label or identify.

Unlike the terms "the gay community" or "the lesbian community" the use of the term "the queer community" has issues because the article "the" implies that there is only one queer community. By definition, queer is a

Critical Genealogies of the terms "queer" and "community"

In his entry on "Community" with in Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, Raymond Williams says that

    “Community,” “Private,” and “Culture”

Miranda Joseph discusses Community in her entry on the word within Keywords for American Cultural Studies and Against the Romance of Community in which she offers a critique of community, specifically

She states that "community is almost always invoked as an unequivocal good, an indicator of a high quality of life, a life of human understanding, caring, selflessness, belonging...Communities are frequently said to emerge in times of crisis or tragedy, when people imagine themselves bound together by a common grief or joined through some extraordinary effort.

Therefore it is important to analyzes the places, spaces and people that choose to use the term "queer community" and their reasons for doing so.

Words that constellate around "queer" "community":

It is interesting and important to note which labels particular advertising companies chose to use to refer to LGBTQI people that are their target audiences.




Media Logo Although Logo does not use the word "queer" in it's marketing materials, and bills itself as the "new lesbian & gay network from MTV Networks," they also state that the "LGBT world has a place all its own with Logo," and that "Logo brings you the stories, shows and news you won't see anywhere else. From original series and films to groundbreaking documentaries to LGBT news and more." They do however use "queer" as the title of shows and specials such as "Queer Year," "Queer Music Mix" and airings of the syndicated show "Queer as Folk."

Other programs that explicitly use the term "queer community" include:

In the Life: Building Safe Havens "This episode features topics including reports on gays and lesbians in the military, lesbian art in America, domestic violence within the queer community, the "Common Threads" Youth Empowerment Program where straight and gay youth focus on increasing safety and respect in their schools and communities, and photographer John Dugdale."

/ Stolichnaya presents Be Real: Stories from Queer America "This documentary takes a close look at the real lives of the LGBT community around the country. Addressing a wide range of issues including religion, race, sexual violence, and illness, these people dispel stereotypes and live their lives unapologetically and with authenticity. "

Note the brand-name, for alcohol no less, in the title of the program. Also, note the change from Queer in the title to LGBT in the description.




Place-based Websites Related to "Queer Community" in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, USA

Seattle Pride parade's website The largest event of it's kind in the Seattle area, which takes place annually, interestingly enough does not use the does not list the words "gay," "lesbian," or "queer" or "community." Without understanding of the history of this event and the connotation of the rainbow design on their logos, one may not even know this was an event to show the pride of LGBTQI people. Page on Seattle

Bent Writing Institute The mission of the Bent Writing Institute is to "promote and encourage written and spoken word among LGBTIQ people and in our communities. Bent began as the dream of a queer poet longing for a bigger community of queer writers. Tara Hardy took action and in August of 2000 the first queer writer's class began in her living room. The supportive and empowering collective has blossomed ever since." "Bent classes are designed for writers, beginning to advanced. The low-impact, supportive environment encourages participants to take the risks necessary for their writing to grow. Classes are offered in poetry, fiction, memoir, performance, and more."


Seattle Young People's Project Queer Youth Rights (QYR) initiative One of SYPP's oldest projects is the Queer Youth Rights (QYR) initiative, a youth leadership, social support, and political action group led by and for high school age queer youth and allies. QYR is a supportive group for youth that not only works to meet various needs of the queer youth community but is also very beneficial for all the youth involved.

Lambert House Lambert House is a safe place for queer youth ages 22 and under. Our calendar is packed with fun activities, support groups, planning meetings, dances, and other events. We are here to make life better for each other as GLBTQ youth.

From Lambert House's Resource List:

"Queercore is a group affiliated with Gay City. Queercore is aimed at gay and bi guys in their late teens and early 20s. They do all kinds of neat things that are all about preventing HIV through building community."

"Seattle's Commission for Sexual Minorities. They advise the city council on queer-friendly policies and work on projects for the queer community."

Yet when you go the SCSM website they say that "The Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities advise the Mayor, Council and departments about sexual minority issues, recommend policies and legislation, bring the sexual minority communities and the larger Seattle community together through long-ranged projects, and ensure that City departments fairly and equitably address sexual minority concerns as individuals and as a protected class.

The Commission for Sexual Minorities consists of 15 representative citizens of Seattle appointed by the Mayor and City Council to serve in an advisory capacity to the Mayor, City Council, Seattle Office for Civil Rights, and other Seattle City departments. Seven commissioners are appointed by the Mayor, and seven appointments are made by the City Council. The Commission appoints the 15th member. Commissioners are appointed to a two year term of office and serve without pay. "

Note the change from "queer community" on Lambert House's site to the term "sexual minority" on the city's website. This discrepancy is interesting for a variety of reasons.

File:House 1b.jpg File:House 2.jpg

Place-based Websites Related to "Queer Community" elsewhere:

Queer Community Project also known as QCP is a volunteer-led organization based in Brattleboro, Vermont which serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities in our tri-state area. QCP sponsors or co-sponsors many events locally including dance parties throughout the year, Pride festivities and other occasional events as opportunities present themselves. QCP also sponsors an ongoing monthly transgender support group.

Queer Community Alliance Center at Hampshire College. The QCA in composed of individuals who support sexual diversity. We seek to foster awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, pan, and queer issues and create a comfortable space for their discussion through social events and political activism at Hampshire and in the community at large. The QCA is a safe place of confidentiality and respect. People of all sexual preferences are welcome and encouraged to attend our meetings as long as the safe space is respected. The QCA also advocates resisting ALL systems of oppression to ensure freedom for all."

RU12? Community Center The RU12? Community Center celebrates, educates and advocates with and for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Vermonters. RU12? is now the largest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) organization in Vermont, and the only LGBTQ Community Center in the state. While our physical location is in downtown Burlington, we have many statewide programs and services. We work in close coalition with many other organizations including Outright Vermont, the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, and the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence." There programing includes hosting an Annual Queer Community Dinner.

During the EuroPride Parade and surrounding events held in Stockholm, Sweden in August of 2008 displayed banners that said Gay and "queercommunity":


Non-place-based Websites Related to "Queer Community":

"Queers United is the blog uniting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexual, & Asexual communities in an effort of education and activism on issues of importance to sexual/gender minorities. We believe in the vision and greatness of former civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King J.R., Mahatmas Gandhi, and those who seek to topple oppression through activism and non-violence. The blog will seek to put out action alerts to hold those who have a homophobic, transphobic, or deal unfairly with the LGBTQAI community responsible for their unfair and discriminatory actions. It is our belief that through a united voice of all sexual/gender minorities that we can be a powerful force to lobby with and to bring equality to all!"