pick of the twitter

‘Gay’ or ‘queer’? On Twitter, the word debate rages on

Person in front of pride flag

As we’ve covered before, some gays aren’t fans of the word “queer”… and some queer folk aren’t so hot about the word “gay.” The two words aren’t as synonymous as homophobes would have you believe, but that hasn’t stopped those bullies from slinging both words as slurs.

Twitter user @CoolRiderr recently sparked a debate over the two terms on Twitter, tweeting on January 5, “Quit calling gay people queer, we don’t like it.”

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Television writer Bryan Fuller, mastermind of the TV shows Pushing Daisies and Hannibal, was one of the famous figures who responded. “Queer is an inclusive word—that is the reason toxic white gay jocks don’t like it,” Fuller tweeted (in all caps, for emphasis).

Preston Mitchum, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project, observed that the “we” in @CoolRiderr’s post “is doing a lot of work.”

And singer-songwriter Simon Curtis tweeted, “A lot of us enjoy being as inclusive as possible and lean into language that fosters a more welcoming community. Gayness is queerness.”

The debate also played out in the pages of The Guardian last weekend, after the newspaper reported that 15,000 people identified as queer in England and Wales’ latest census. In a letter to the editor published on January 13, reader Karl Lockwood of Brighton objected to that self-classification and said that he finds the term “insulting and derogatory, and certainly not ‘reclaimed.’”

“I am a gay man of 66 years with many friends and acquaintances, and know no one who would refer to themselves as queer,” Lockwood added. “It would seem a small minority of activists has encouraged the media to use the word without considering its offensiveness to many people.”

(Lockwood also likened what he called the “Q word” to the “N word,” which seems like a false equivalence, to put it mildly.)

In a letter sent in response, reader Emma Joliffe of East Sussex pointed out that the word “queer” has been “reclaimed by members of our community since the 1970s,” citing the popular “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” as an example.

“We use [‘queer’] to signify our pride, power, and resistance,” Joliffe wrote. “Personally, as a woman married to a woman, and as a feminist, socialist and believer in challenging and changing the status quo, I think ‘queer’ represents me, my life, and my politics better than any other term I might use.

“Rather than policing the terms used by others—especially considering that for millennials, the word they were most likely to hear as a term of abuse was ‘gay’ in the early ‘00s—perhaps Karl should accept that the word, and the world, has moved on.”

The back-and-forth about “gay” vs. “queer” has been all over Twitter in the past two weeks. Here’s a sampling of the discourse (capped off by a zinger from perennial Queerty favorite Jaboukie Young-White).

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Related: David Sedaris ignites a firestorm by saying he dislikes the term “queer” and is now “straight”