how gen-z gave 'queer' a new meaning

"Gay" has fallen out of fashion.

by André-Naquian Wheeler
23 April 2018, 6:18pm

“Queer” is a queer word. On the spectrum of tear-inducing insults, I remember feeling like it was one step below “faggot” as a kid. “Stop acting like a queer,” classmates would say to me in the fifth grade, usually right after I talked excitedly about Destiny’s Child newest video. Today, queer is more empowering than it is demeaning. It has become a disruptive sexual identity. To be clear: queer is not just another way of saying “I’m gay.” Being queer means existing outside of the sometimes simplistic labels of gay, straight, and bi, because sexuality is a lot more complicated than that. Openly queer Gen-Z celebrities like Rowan Blanchard and Amandla Stenberg have led the charge in educating the public about what exactly queer means nowadays. “Yes open to liking any gender in future is why I identify as queer,” Rowan told a fan on Twitter, explaining her personal relationship to the word. Rowan is not alone in her openness, either. It’s estimated that over half of American teens do not identify as straight. However, these teens are not using labels like “gay” and ‘bi” to describe themselves. So we wonder: Will Generation Z come to be known as Generation Q(ueer)?

“It's generational in the way that [queer] is newly available in a certain way…,” actor Ezra Miller explained of preferring the word queer over gay in 2013. “I think it feels the most open and inclusive… My friends and I use that word as an all-encompassing banner and for every human being. There should be an ongoing question and investigation of who you love and everything that's involved with that very tricky and beautiful thing.”

Each day, more and more celebrities are casually coming out as queer. Kehlani recently elaborated on her queer identity on Twitter, sharing, “I felt gay always insisted there was still a line drawn as to which ‘label’ of human I was attracted when I really just be walking around thinking ERRYBODY FINE. [sic]” Meanwhile, Love, Simon star Keiynan Lonsdale took the time out to explain his varying attraction to boys and girls, providing much-need representation for sexual fluidity. “I could wake up and I might have no attraction to guys that day or that week, for whatever reason,” he said in an interview, “or then for three months, I may not be interested in a girl at all, or I may not be interested in anyone. For any kind of label, you then feel like if you do wake [up] and you do feel different, but you've boxed yourself in and everyone is saying you have to be this way.”

The word also acts as extremely useful umbrella term for the LGBT community. In an age where the stickiness and fluidity of gender and sexualities is finally being acknowledged, the word queer allows us to reference members without sticking a confining label on them. This is especially helpful for trans and non-binary folx. It may be surprising, but queer’s myriad meanings are exactly what makes it so specific.