Queer is the word I use to define…

Heidi Carrington Heath
2 min readMay 29, 2021

I can remember so clearly the first time someone said it.

I said: I use the word queer to define myself.
They said: I could never call you that! Queer is a bad word! I won’t use a slur to identify you.

It’s a well-intentioned response, but one that misses the mark.

Both my spouse and I identify as queer. That’s not the same as gay or lesbian. It is not synonymous with pansexual, or bisexual. It’s also intentional. None of those labels fit for us. It’s awesome if they fit for you though. Because we see and honor you. I hope you will see and honor us too.

I know and appreciate that queer has a painful history as a slur. I do not discount that. If it was used to cause you harm, I’m so sorry. That’s true even for some of us who identify as queer. Our identity does not protect us. Know I see and love you. I’m also going to gently ask you not to critique or otherwise discount those of us who ID as queer, because it is a hard word for you. Similarly, please don’t ask us to defend our identities just because they challenge you. We’ve had our own painful experiences, and our identities are hard won.

Queer is also a widely accepted academic category and descriptor. See: queer theology, queer studies etc. It can also be used as a shorthand umbrella term: queer kids, the queer community etc. Its uses are myriad.

LGBTQ+ is the most inclusive acronym for the broader community. MANY of us are not represented in LGBT. I share that in the spirit of broad community and inclusion.

Lastly, please remember that the first pride was a riot. It was led by trans women of color standing up against police brutality. Pride is inherently radical and revolutionary. It is at its core about pushing the boundaries of what is comfortable and socially acceptable. If you want to celebrate with us, be willing to push your own comfortable limits a little.

Mostly though, this pride I want to encourage you to reflect back the language that other people use to define themselves. Doing so is an exercise in demonstrating you see us, and understand that language matters and words mean things. It’s small, but important. Our words and identities are part of the revolution.

Cheers, queers. Happy almost pride.

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Heidi Carrington Heath

The Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath (she/her/hers) is a preacher, teacher, activist, writer, holy mischief maker, and proud queer femme.