What is the Difference Between Gay and Queer?

You like it, or you hate it, you cannot ignore it- the time has finally come for the LGBTQ community to assert and exert its rights. We are living in an era of awareness, of acceptance, or inclusion. Not only our gender but our sexual orientation too is an integral part of our identity. Irrespective of whether you belong to that community, you should get the facts right, for, gone are the times, when those that do not conform to the idea of “normal” by societal standards, was not given enough validation.

Image: The Austin Chronicle

To many out there, the terms’ gay’ and ‘queer’ probably mean the same thing. Well, they do not.

To look at both the terms from a fundamental point of view, “gay,” in most cultural settings, is a term used to represent men who are attracted to men in a romantic, erotic, and emotional way. However, such labels should be used with caution since all men exhibiting same-gender sexual preferences may not identify as gay. “Queer,” on the other hand, can be touted as more of a political statement, which is concerned with breaking binary thinking and understanding the essential fluidity of sexual orientation as well as gender identity. The term is used to define a complex set of sexual behaviors and desires. For example, if you are attracted to multiple genders, you may identify yourself as “queer.”

Image: slate.com

‘Queer,’ in fact, does not fall under any stable identification and was earlier viewed in a derogatory sense. However, in the present-day context, “queer” has come to be identified with many different facets. It is often used to refer to all non-heterosexual, non-cis gender identities. So, from a particular perspective, it is partially about allowing some space to explore gender and sexuality, without being forced into stability. You may not be gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender, and may choose to think of yourself as “queer.” Backed by a history of reclamation along with several political controversies and implications, ‘queer’ has a particular essence of universalization, which might not be acceptable to one and all. Even till very recent times, the term “queer” was used as a slur, which explains the resistance of many towards this term.

Image: am New York

Though both the terms “gay” and “queer” are still used interchangeably by many, it is essential to distinguish them; just as it is essential to understand that they can sometimes overlap. The work of French philosopher Michel Foucault has, over the years, greatly influenced queer theorists, who deal with sexuality not wholly dissociated from gender but question them both. Interestingly, many people also prefer the label of “queer,” since it is not confined to the boundaries of lesbian or transgender. It is more ambiguous, and hence, not rigid. It neither reveals your gender nor gives away the gender of your partner.

Image: slideplayer.com

Basically, “queer” has emerged to be a useful umbrella term for some sexual and gender minorities who do not fit into the conventional categories centered around gender identity and sexual orientation. Your being “queer” is not limited to only the sexual angle. Gay, homosexual, and other similar terms ultimately boil down only to one’s sexuality. For queerness too, sexuality is an important dimension. Just that it’s not the only dimension. As a ‘queer’ person, you may not understand what your gender is. You may not even know what gender actually is. Come to think of it, the ideas of “sex,” “attraction,” “intimacy” are all so blended together as well as detached from each other, that they cannot be defined in clear terms.

Image: The Telegraph

You may be ‘gay’ one day, and ‘queer’ on the next, and on days, you may identify as both. There is no specificity to what and who you are or can be, and you need not continue being only that forever. The most important thing is to be oneself, without attaching any fixed tags or labels, to retain the fluidity of identity. As an individual, sexually or otherwise, we all have our own peculiar journeys to be chartered, and we can choose not to limit ourselves to the mainstream.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *