June is LGBTQ Pride Month, a time when queer people across the country celebrate their identity and honor the sacrifice it took to gain the rights we have today. With those rights have come more acceptance and understanding of each letter of the acronym. Still, many might have questions about the word “queer.” If you’re wondering what does queer mean, or looking for a queer definition, we’ve got you covered.
Generally, queer is an umbrella term that encompasses any identity that isn’t straight. Previously, queer was a pejorative term, something used to degrade LGBTQ people. But after reclaiming the word, “queer” has been used both as a catchall term and by people who don’t feel labels like “lesbian,” “gay,” or others quite fit them.
Identifying as queer is a way to describe one’s sexuality without limitations or even strict definitions. That’s really the beauty of being queer — that there’s no one definition. Being queer might mean something different for everyone.
To celebrate Pride Month, Teen Vogue asked 11 young people what their queer identity means to them.
It means I can feel like an alien and it’s okay. I don’t have to be one thing or another because someone else says so. I can live up to my own desires.
It means being able to wake up every day content in my body. Accepting I’ll always defy societal norms and that makes me feel super powerful.
Being gay to me means being different — in all the best ways. It means being myself, unapologetically. It takes incredible strength to live authentically without worrying about the opinions of others.
My queerness has little to do with those I’m sexually attracted to, ironically enough, and everything to do with the way I move through this world with a grace, music, culture, and power that exists in fundamental contradiction to the white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy.
Violet Venus, 22
I often say that being trans is antithetical to being anxious. I exist to excise myself of all of those anxieties [that] plagued me from the closet. It’s power in compelling people towards acceptance (I’m not an argument, or a tricky bit of grammar: I am). It’s artistry in sculpting a new me out of bioidentical hormones and Pinterest boards. Being queer on top of that means living a life with the people who can understand and love all this about me, even if I don’t spell it out for them so explicitly.
I think that it means acceptance of yourself and truly being who you are. It’s a major part of my identity that I love, but [am] also conflicted against because of society’s views on it, especially since I am young.
Kais Boukthir, 25
To me, queerness means standing for inclusivity and celebrating members of your community as they are. I grew up in the small town of Gafsa in Tunisia, where it is illegal to be gay. I had to make a choice between living a life where I could be myself or give up my country, friends, loved ones, and a bright future I would’ve had in my own country if I was born straight. I chose a life where I was free to be me and claimed asylum in the U.S. It was particularly hard leaving my mother; she is the most important person to me in this world. My goal is to fight so that the next generation won’t have to make this decision.
Wednesday Holmes, 28
My illustrations seek to spread kindness, empathy, and support for anyone who needs it. No matter how you identify or where you are in your journey, I want people to know that someone sees them and stands with them. For me, being queer means being a friend.
I think that one quote from bell hooks says it so well – “queer not as being about who you are having sex with, that can be a dimension of it, but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”
Being queer, to me, means I don’t have to be straight, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or asexual, I can just not know and be queer. I mean, as a girl and liking girls, at the least I know I’m not straight. I’ve struggled with the above terms throughout early adulthood and I still haven’t found my ‘label’ but I’ve realized I don’t need to and I don’t care to.
Being queer, to me, means that I am able to continue forward with the day to day routines and be thankful to be apart of such a warm welcome community known as the LGBTQ+. I never really knew what queer completely meant until I came out in 2019.