"Queers. Because I'm queer. I'm gay. I'm homosexual. I'm a poof, I'm a poofter, I'm a ponce. I'm a bumboy, baddieboy, backside artist, bugger. I'm bent. I am that arsebandit. I lift those shirts. I'm a faggot-ass, fudge-packing, shit-stabbing uphill gardener. I dine at the downstairs restaurant, I dance at the other end of the ballroom. I'm Moses and the parting of the red cheeks..."
...Stuart Jones in Queer as Folk (Russell T Davis/Red Productions/ 2000)
He tackles the negatives head on in a scene that, despite being 12 years old, is still as powerful now as it was then. I was called 'Lemon' throughout my high school years. I have been called poof, lezzer and dyke since coming out. At the time, I laughed off the comments as I recognised the idiocy and the sad lives of the people saying them. That doesn't mean they didn't hurt. My name is not lemon, not puff, not lezzer, not dyke, it's Clare. The easiest way for someone to express their homophobia is to call someone a derogatory name. It may be lazy but it is a rather effective weapon in belittling someone.
I have a question. Has the word Queer been reclaimed as a positive word to represent LGBT interest?
I have never really had cause to think about this until recently. I have spent the last few months in the Czech Republic and while searching the internet for suggestions of things to see and do in Prague I came across a website called www.praguewelcome.com which is 'Prague's official tourist portal'. My first instinct was to browse the gay pages. I was taken aback when I saw that the gay section was headlined 'Queer'. Queer activities, Queer community, queer, queer, queer. My first and what I assumed was my natural instinct was to be insulted. Queer is a homophobic term surely? I was outraged but then I started to think about it a bit more logically There is a bar on Manchester's Canal Street called Queer. I have referred to myself as Queer. I have friends who use the term Queer instead of Gay. Peter Tatchell hashtags #Queer in his posts. Is Prague's tourist portal actually more modern and relevant than I give them credit for? Is Queer the accepted translation for homosexuality in the Czech Republic? Have I become Mary Whitehouse in my prudishness?
I emailed praguewelcome.com asking them why they chose the word Queer for their subtitle? I got a response confirming what I was dreading. I really have become old and behind the times! It was actually a brilliant email. They told me that Queer was recommended by the Czech Gay and Lesbian Society in Prague as it is an 'umbrella term' for sexual and gender minorities used all over Europe. They even signposted me to the website for the Czech Gay and Lesbian film festival which was taking place at the time. It's actually called the Mezipatra Queer Film Festival.
So my initial reaction of insult and anger has now turned into pride (and slight embarrassment). A nation that still plays Chumbawamba on their airwaves has taught me a valuable lesson in being more willing to question my opinions. I now believe it is possible to successfully reclaim a word that has previously been used to inflict so much distress and pain. Still, if I ever hear Ann Widdecombe say Queer I will still take it as an insult!
How do you feel when you hear the word Queer? Do you think that it is possible for groups to reclaim words that have previously been used to insult them? Is language even important?
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If you wanted to revisit the amazing Queer As Folk you can buy the DVDs here on Amazon.