Lilian Faderman’s main argument centered on the thesis that some members of the gay and lesbian community “have realized the political power that is inherent in renaming oneself, and the effectiveness of taking a word and diffusing its sting through claiming it as your own” (Faderman, 2004, p.543). She was referring to the word “queer” and how it had evolved as a pejorative term hurled at gays and lesbians to a term that was accepted by the gay and lesbian community.
The first time Faderman heard the word queer, she was still in elementary school. She did not know its meaning. But when she embraced the lesbian lifestyle, she learned to hate the significance of this word in her life. The reason of her annoyance is linked to the fact that “queer” was a term used as an insult. She was also offended because the word had nonsexual connotations that exemplified concepts related to the terms weird, eccentric and suspicious.
The gay and lesbian community was not the first to use this strategy. Faderman acknowledged the fact that it was the African-American community who first utilized this tactic when they adopted the term “black” and coined slogans to diffuse the negative impact of the above mentioned word.
A good example of the slogan was a phrase “Black is beautiful.” Faderman added that by using this stratagem, the aggrieved party was able to take the power of the pejorative term to hurt and transform it into a mechanism used to heal wounded feelings and injured pride.
Faderman also pointed out that the lesbian and gay communities were not limited to the word queer when it came to the need to transform the meaning of a derogatory word. In the past, there were other labels that gay and lesbian attempted to redefine and finally succeeded to do.
However, Faderman said that even if many claimed victory in this subject matter, it must have been made clear that there were other members of the gay and lesbian community who objected to the use of the term. The impact of the word created a discomfort within them, and they argued that they still considered the term as an insult to themselves and their identity.
Faderman, however, made the testimony that for those who embraced the word queer, the reaction could be divided into two different groups. The first group reacted in a way that resulted in lessening the impact of the pejorative term. The second group, on the other hand, used the term as a battle cry.
With regards to the second group, they created a new community with an advocacy. They named their organization Queer Nation. It was reminiscent of the radical militant tactics of the 1960s. Representatives of the second group argued that there was a need to replace the term gay. In the past, the word gay was used as defiant label, but today, its meaning and connotation have changed to suggest that the term exclude blacks, poor people and women.
Faderman ended the article by saying that the new term became a fighting word. The intended effect is not only to mitigate the negative impact of the pejorative word. In some quarters, the word queer was not just a battle cry but became a word of pride and a warning to heterosexuals that members of the gay and lesbian community are not going to compromise what they believe in.
Faderman, L. (2004). Exploring language. PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.