Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CWU chapter.

When I first heard the term ‘Queer’ as an identity, I knew it only as an umbrella term for the community that gave me the room to question and change without feeling the need to change my label. Long story short, I fell in love. I felt the connection that I’ve heard others talk about when they found their label – and even now, that is still true, but I had no idea what being queer meant.

            On the first day of my Queer theory class, I was asked what my definition of Queer was, as was most of the class, and as we shared, there was one piece no one could properly articulate. That piece was about how Queer is not just a sexuality but a political ideology focused on the liberation of all oppressed groups.

            While most people in the LGBTQIAA+ community may immediately assume the community would agree on most things, especially politically, that is simply not the case; to be gay, bi, a lesbian does not dictate your political affiliations being Queer however does.

            The reclaiming of Queer from a slur to an identity came from the AIDs epidemic, a time where liberation was linked to life. It was – and still is extremely important to recognize the Queer movement is not a movement of assimilation but one of destroying systems and recreating them to be inclusive and supportive of all intersections.

         In 1997 Cathy Cohen wrote “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?”  in this she wrote on reclaiming queer and what that meant. Cohen explains queer as something that transcends sexual practices; it’s an identity – poor, disabled, LGBTQIA, Black, POC, trans, etc. that is seen as socially deviant. It is an identity rooted in being seen as less than by society for any reason, and shouldn’t be taken as an individual label but as a way to say you are about the fight for equal liberation.

“Punks,” individuals like Michael Brown and Rekia Boyd are important queer subjects not because of their sexual practice, identity, or performance but because they, as well as other young and poor folks of color, operate in the world as queer subjects: the targets of racial normalizing projects intent on pathologizing them across the dimensions of race, class, gender, and sexuality, simultaneously making them into deviants while normalizing their degradation and marginalization until it becomes what we expect—the norm—until it becomes something that we no longer pay attention to.

Cathy Cohen, 1997

As Queer becomes more popular, we must remember the roots or contribute to the whitewashing of this identity and ultimately lose the goal of liberation for all deviants and create an individual identity from one that used to represent the whole community. As I’ve put in the effort to educate myself and recognize the privilege of being able to identify as Queer today, and the responsibility to continue to push for liberation over assimilation I see how easy it is for the history of Queer to be boiled down to an umbrella term instead of a term with a rich and important history.

Pisces ❀ cwu '23 avid feminist