Members of the LGBT community expressed their outrage on Sunday after they discovered that the word “queer” was banned by Twitter.
User “@theb00kwitch” posted a screenshot that showed Twitter had limited her social media account because she had used the word “queer” in a reply to a tweet.
This meant that @theb00kwitch could only send direct messages to her followers and browse Twitter and could not tweet, retweet, or like any post on the platform.
Although the phrase used in the tweet @theb00kwitch sent out was not derogatory, Twitter claimed it was against their hateful content rules. This would suggest Twitter considers “queer” to be a slur, regardless of the context it is used in.
However, Twitter policy insists that it places importance on context. “Some Tweets may seem to be abusive when viewed in isolation, but may not be when viewed in the context of a larger conversation. While we accept reports of violations from anyone, sometimes we also need to hear directly from the target to ensure that we have proper context,” it reads.
So is the word “queer” actually offensive? It was once, but at present, wholly depends on the context it is being used in and the perspective of the person using it.
The usage of the word can be traced back to the 16th century in Scottish and German languages when it was not linked in any way to the LGBT community. It was simply used to describe something that is “odd,” “strange,” “peculiar,” “eccentric,” or something out of the ordinary.
It was only in the 1900s that people started using it in a derogatory manner when addressing a person who was not or perhaps did not seem to be straight or heterosexual. Hence, it quickly became a homophobic slur, akin to insults like “f—-t” used against gay men and “n—-r” used against African-American people, Bustle reported.
However, soon the LGBT community rose up to protest against the term being used in a negative light. In the 1980s members of the community began using it as an umbrella term in their fight for equality. The idea behind using the term in their everyday discourse was to bring down its strength and lessen the shock value when used in a derogatory context by hate groups.
According to Live About, one of the fliers that helped re-introduce the term “queer” in the society with a fresh outlook during the 1990s read:
“Ah, do we really have to use that word? It’s trouble. Every gay person has his or her own take on it. For some it means strange and eccentric and kind of mysterious… And for others “queer” conjures up those awful memories of adolescent suffering… Well, yes, ‘gay’ is great. It has its place. But when a lot of lesbians and gay men wake up in the morning we feel angry and disgusted, not gay. So we’ve chosen to call ourselves queer. Using ‘queer’ is a way of reminding us how we are perceived by the rest of the world.”
In today’s society, the word “queer” is viewed in a number of ways. Most young people whose mindsets have been influenced by the movement of inclusivity going on in social media nowadays have adopted the term as a perfectly accepted way to refer to people with non-normative gender identity. Some others, however, who belong to an older generation still regard “queer” in a negative light.
There are also those who dislike the term “queer” because of its generalized meaning, which often extends to anyone with a less-than-common sexual orientation.
Hence, people who often used the term as a form of self-description, did not take lightly to the fact that Twitter punished “@theb00kwitch” for tweeting the word “queer” in a positive context. Here are some of the reactions: