What does queer mean?
The current mainstream understanding of the word “queer” is that of a broad umbrella term for those who do not fit into traditional romantic/sexual orientations, gender identities and/or gender expressions. As some people who identify with the word may be both a gender minority and a minority in their sexual orientation, the word’s breadth addresses both identities together.
Despite this positive, empowered version of the word, many know its other unfortunate meaning, tied to a heavy stigma: strange, different, weird. It has served as a homophobic/transphobic slur leading to physical and emotional harassment and bullying. Because of this, not everyone is comfortable using the word “queer” interchangeably when referencing the self, gay community or LGBTIQ+ community. Thankfully, the reclamation of the term by gay activists in the 1980s has allowed people to embrace being different, and to define it on their own terms.
LGBT vs. LGBTIQ+
Both serve to represent the community of folks who are not heterosexual, not cisgender or neither. LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender. LGBTIQ+ means the same but adds Intersex, Queer/Questioning and a plus sign, emphasizing the often forgotten other minority identities in this community. The letters could go on a while! In fact, the full official current acronym is LGBTTQQIAAP (standing for, wait for it… Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally, Pansexual) and has sparked controversy over the identities represented in this extended version, and even the role of “Ally” being there. No need to say that this isn’t a practical way of referring to a group.
That’s why there have been changes in referencing the community in order to keep inclusivity and diversity at the forefront. The plus is a symbolic way of recognizing the other identities not mentioned. Other acronyms have emerged to try to combat this problem too, such as QUILTBAG (queer & questioning, undecided, intersex, lesbian, transgender, Bisexual, Asexual, Gay & Genderqueer) and GSM (gender and sexual minorities). The latter tackles the variety of identities far better, but the common usage of LGBT+ is already mainstream. It may take time to adapt to a more inclusive term.
Why is LGBT Pride important?
A Pride parade is a public demonstration to show support and visibility of the LGBTIQ+ community. It is both an act of protest and of celebration, sometimes with a political bent to advocate for equal civil rights (such as same-sex marriage and adoption). Pride takes place in June to commemorate its first installment: the 1968 Stonewall Riots, in which a violent police raid in a gay bar called The Stonewall Inn triggered a week-long set of riots to fight for equality.
Pride is as important now as it was in 1968. When in most countries, LGBTIQ+ individuals do not share the same rights as their counterparts, Pride reunites the community to demonstrate its needs. It serves to make visible political inequality and actions in favor of social justice, as well as show support for different identities that need it. Pride, despite its bubbly appeal in many cities, is a protest. It is in solidarity for those who have suffered from discrimination based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation, whether it be themselves, others in their city, in their country or abroad. Some cities have never had a Pride march. In others, it is physically dangerous and becomes a riot. While the mainstream representation of Pride is a fun, open, loving celebration, it takes a lot of work to make it feel and look that way. And if you didn’t know, allies are invited to Pride too! Just be thoughtful of the space you are in.
Issues that LGBTIQ+ people face
Although an unfortunate amount of countries still criminalize being LGBTIQ+, or aspects of it, the most news representation on the fight for equal rights have been around the legalization of same-sex marriage in various nations. Along with this topic goes adoption and raising a family as a LGBTIQ+ couple, a barrier that must still be broken through. Lastly, discrimination and proper laws/resources to aid the precarious situations that LGBTIQ+ youth may find themselves in, such as bullying, harassment, substance abuse, poor mental health or homelessness. Beyond these general issues, there are topics sensitive to identities more specifically that take precedence. The LGBTIQ+ community is not homogeneous either; people’s needs vary, even within a shared identity.
What is the status of queer representation? Is it good or bad?
The visibility of queer people in media has increased significantly over the past thirty years, in political fights, in arts, in advertisements, in products, coming a long way from invisibility or offensive stereotypes as the norm. That said, the type of representation has been questioned in this recent surge. Just as Pride’s commercial sponsorships by large corporations have been called out for “Pinkwashing”, a term referring to when a company shows support to queer audiences for increased consumerism but not by any meaningful LGBTIQ+ advocating contributions, queer-baiting has been a way to attract the same population into various artforms. Queer-baiting is the act of either putting in ambiguously homosexual relationship between characters without ever actualizing, or eventually doing so poorly and unnaturally, the attraction.
Despite these marketing techniques into increased consumption into products, very real representations have been made about LGBTIQ+ characters in media, a great step forward from invisibility to ambiguous representation. That said, who is being represented? Intersectionality, meaning how several identities interact with one another, is a key to the critique: it seems that mostly white LGBTIQ+ in a comfortable amount of wealth are mostly represented (think Modern Family), while LGBTIQ+ folks of color, disabled, poor and/or gender non-conforming is far more rare. In our selection of projects showcasing the beautiful queer community, we have made it a top priority to be sensitive to this disparity in representation by featuring queer creators with intersectional diversity.