The Word is Queer

Several people have asked why Folx with Faith uses the word “queer.” Recently, I was in a meeting where I used the term “queer-centric faith-based affinity groups,” and the person I was speaking with said, “Every time you use that word, I cringe.” This reaction is totally understandable. Here at Folx with Faith, we often use both LGBTQIA+ and queer to describe our community. However, we tend to lean more towards the term “queer” more frequently than we use LGBTQIA+. After giving her a detailed explanation on why we use this term, I realized it might be useful to write something about it here on the Folx with Faith website.

Negative Associations with the Word Queer

The word “queer” has a complex history. Originally, it entered the English language in the early 16th century, meaning “strange” or “peculiar.” However, over time, it became a derogatory term used to demean LGBTQIA+ individuals. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “queer” was commonly used as a pejorative against sexual and gender minorities. This usage carried negative connotations and was often employed to shame and marginalize those who did not conform to societal norms of gender and sexuality.


It’s important to acknowledge and affirm the feelings of those who still experience discomfort with the term. Given its historical context, it makes complete sense why some people might cringe or feel uneasy when they hear “queer.” This word has been used to insult, belittle, and stigmatize members of the LGBTQIA+ community for many years. Understanding this history is crucial in validating the emotional responses people may have to its usage.

At Folx with Faith, we want our language to be inclusive and healing. We do not use the word “queer” to disregard the validity of people’s emotions related to the word. Instead, we hope this post will help people realign their relationship with the word “queer” and gain a better understanding of why we use this term in our work developing and supporting affinity groups that honor the spiritual side of the queer-human experience.

The Alphabet Challenge: An Ever-Growing Acronym vs. the Word Queer

As our understanding of human sexuality and gender diversity continues to grow, so does the list of terms we use to describe these diverse experiences. Initially, the acronym LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) was widely adopted. Over time, additional letters were added to include Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and others, and became LGBTQIA+. However, even this expanded acronym doesn’t fully capture the entire spectrum of identities.

Imagine trying to create an acronym that includes every possible identity: Nonbinary, Polygender, Third Gender, Two-Spirit, Trigender, Agender, Bigender, Gender Apathetic, Genderfluid, Genderqueer, Autigender, Androsexual, Asexual, Bisexual, Pansexual, Skoliosexual, Sapiosexual, Demiromantic, Demisexual. The resulting acronym might look something like this:


That’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? It’s not just impractical but nearly impossible to remember and use consistently. Every time we expand our awareness about sexual and gender diversity, we would need to add another letter, turning the acronym into a veritable alphabet soup. As you can see, I’ve kept the (+) in, because I am certain that I’ve left someone out.

Using the acronym system can become quite overwhelming for some people. Trying to keep up with the latest additions. This ever-expanding acronym can also feel exclusionary to those whose identities aren’t explicitly mentioned or represented by a (+).

Embracing “Queer”: An Inclusive Term for All

The complexity of expanding acronyms like LGBTQIA+ can make it challenging to ensure everyone feels included. The ever-growing list of letters aims to represent the diverse spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations, but it can still leave some feeling like afterthoughts with the addition of a simple “+” sign. This is where the term “queer” steps in as a more inclusive and encompassing solution.

A person draping the inclusive LGBTQI+ flag around their shoulders as a cape.

Using “queer” does not leave anyone out. Unlike the lengthy and ever-expanding acronym, “queer” serves as a single, unifying term that can include everyone. It avoids turning identity markers into afterthoughts and ensures that every individual within the LGBTQIANPT2SGABGGAAAPSDDS+ community feels recognized and validated.

This inclusivity is one reason why many, including us at Folx with Faith, prefer to use the term “queer.” It acknowledges the vast diversity within our community without the need for an exhaustive and complicated acronym. “Queer” is a broad, flexible term that captures the essence of the various identities and experiences within the community. It has been reclaimed and is now widely accepted as a positive and empowering identifier.


“We have to stop being ashamed of being black. A broad nose, a thick lip, and nappy hair is us, and we are going to call that beautiful whether they like it or not. We are not going to fry our hair anymore.”
~ Stokely Carmichael


Reclaiming Words: Lessons from the Civil Rights Movement

The concept of reclaiming words with historically negative connotations is not new. One of the most significant examples comes from the Civil Rights Movement and more specifically the Black Power Movement, where the word “black” was reclaimed and transformed into a symbol of pride and solidarity.

Historically, the term “black” was used pejoratively to demean people of African descent. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, the Black Power movement played a crucial role in reclaiming the term. Activists like Stokely Carmichael urged the African American community to embrace “black” as a positive identity marker, encapsulating strength, beauty, and cultural heritage. The slogan “Black is beautiful” emerged during this time, challenging negative stereotypes and promoting a positive self-image among African Americans.

Stokely Carmichael, one of the leaders of the Black Power movement, famously said, “We have to stop being ashamed of being black. A broad nose, a thick lip, and nappy hair is us, and we are going to call that beautiful whether they like it or not. We are not going to fry our hair anymore.”​

The reclamation of “black” was not just about language; it was about asserting dignity and demanding equal rights. It paralleled other global liberation movements and was instrumental in reshaping public perception and fostering a sense of unity and pride within the African American community.

This reclamation mirrors the queer community’s efforts to reclaim the word “queer.” Both movements seek to transform derogatory terms into symbols of pride and resilience. The reclamation of a term like “queer” or “black” is empowering. It is saying to bigots, “You don’t get to define us. You don’t get to determine our worth. We define ourselves and we know our worth.” By reclaiming these words, marginalized communities can subvert their negative connotations and use them to empower and unite their members.

The Positive Power of “Queer”

The term “queer” has undergone transformations over the centuries. From its origins as a word meaning “strange” or “peculiar” in the early 16th century to its derogatory use against LGBTQIANPT2SGABGGAAAPSDDS+ individuals in the late 19th and 20th centuries, “queer” has been both a term of derision and empowerment. Today, “queer” is embraced by many as a broad, inclusive term that represents a wide spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities​ (Columbia Journalism Review)​​ (Home)​.

At Folx with Faith, we use “queer” as a positive, inclusive term. Here’s why we believe using “queer” is beneficial:

  • Inclusivity: “Queer” encompasses all identities within the LGBTQIANPT2SGABGGAAAPSDDS+ spectrum, ensuring that no one feels excluded or like an afterthought.
  • Simplicity: It avoids the complexity and impracticality of an ever-expanding acronym, making it easier for everyone to remember and use.
  • Empowerment: Reclaiming “queer” turns a historically derogatory term into a source of pride and unity, asserting our right to define our own identities and worth.
  • Fluidity: The term allows for a fluid understanding of gender and sexuality, accommodating the evolving nature of these identities without the constraints of specific labels.

Positive Definition of “Queer”

When we use the term “queer,” we mean it in the most inclusive and empowering sense possible. For Folx with Faith, “queer” is synonymous with our viewpoint that all people are “expressions of divine love.” This definition underscores our commitment to recognizing and celebrating the diverse expressions of love and identity within our communities.

“Queer” is not a bad word. It is a term that we have reclaimed and redefined to be inclusive, empowering, and reflective of our values. By using “queer,” we honor the rich diversity of experiences and identities within our community, fostering a space where everyone can feel seen, valued, and loved.

Folx with Faith’s Queer Communities

At Folx with Faith, we are dedicated to establishing queer-centric faith-based affinity groups. We provide organizations and individuals with the tools they need to create and facilitate successful groups in their local communities. These groups serve as safe spaces where queer people can share their faith journeys, explore their spirituality, and discuss their experiences in traditional religious settings.

By fostering these inclusive environments, we aim to support and uplift our community, ensuring that everyone feels seen, heard, and valued. We believe that these affinity groups are vital in helping queer individuals connect with their faith and spirituality in meaningful ways.

Our commitment to these efforts is rooted in our belief that every person’s spiritual journey is unique and sacred. We strive to create spaces where all expressions of divine love are honored and celebrated.

As we continue this important work, we invite you to join us in building a world where every queer person can freely explore their spirituality and faith. Together, we can create a community that truly embodies expressions of divine love. Check out our events page to find out when we are holding our next leadership inquiry meeting, if you would like to know more about the work we do in supporting groups all over the world.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Get the latest insights and stories.

Newsletter Sign Up

Upcoming Events

Join us for upcoming events.

Event Registration

Find or Start a Group

Find or start a local Folx with Faith Chapter.

Folx with Faith Groups

By embracing the term “queer” and committing to our mission, we at Folx with Faith are dedicated to fostering a more inclusive and loving world. Join us in this journey of expressions of divine love.

Resources & Blog References for “Queer & Proud”

This is a list of references and resources to further explore this topic and the reclamation of the word “black” within the civil rights movement.


History of the Word Queer | La Trobe University

This piece explores the etymology and evolving usage of the word “queer,” highlighting its journey from a term of derision to one of empowerment within the LGBTQ community.
For more details, read the full article here.


Is “Queer” OK To Say? Here’s Why We Use It | Learning for Justice

This article discusses the nuances and complexities of using the word “queer,” addressing both its historical baggage and its contemporary reclamation as a positive, inclusive term.
For more details, read the full article here.


How the word ‘queer’ was adopted by the LGBTQ community | Columbia Journalism Review

In this article, you will learn about the history of the word “queer,” its derogatory origins, and how it was reclaimed by the LGBTQ community to become a term of pride and inclusivity.
For more details, read the full article here.


Black Joy: Resistance, Resilience and Reclamation | National Museum of African American History and Culture

This article explores the resilience and joy that have characterized the Black experience in America, highlighting how cultural reclamation plays a role in the community’s strength.
For more details, read the full article here.

Leave a Reply